Jamie Ceglarz is the Founder and Managing Director for Guild Talent and Bay Area Operators. With over a decade of recruiting experience in the San Francisco Bay Area, Jamie has built out his company and created a name for himself within the tech / startup community.
As an expert and thought leader in the recruiting industry, as well as father, husband and friend, Jamie has many goals to not only assist companies in growing their business but also build a community where like-minded executives can collaborate. With strategies in place to grow his recruiting business, Jamie goes in detail about how he got started, lessons learned as an entrepreneur and everything in between.
Let’s get started.
How did you get started working in the industry?
Like most people in recruiting, I started right out of college and sort of fell into it. Most everyone falls into it, few people think that they want to be in recruiting when they are a child. And to boot, I graduated from college in San Diego in 2008 at the bottom of the economy.
I got a job offer from Aerotek in San Diego, and a day later my job offer got rescinded after a company wide notification that all hiring is frozen and, in fact, layoffs were coming. I waited a year to start my job with Aerotek, and in the meantime had a sweet gig selling gym memberships on the boardwalk in San Diego, and finally after months of professional persistence I got invited to interview with their office in San Francisco, which I accepted (the interview and then the job) and that was what had me move up to SF from SoCal.
Why did you decide to start the Guild Talent venture?
After a decade in recruiting in the bay area, with a healthy mix of staff-level recruiting and executive placement/search, I had seen a variety of how recruiting businesses were run, both good ones and bad ones, big ones and small ones, temp and per placement and staff level and executive.
I had a very well rounded understanding of the services/solutions in market, what people like/dislike and why. I know the recruiting space well, and I know what the right solution is for folks in different situations and in different phases of the evolution of their companies. With that, I’ve also seen an influx of competition in the space as well as the gaps for where companies still struggle to hire.
There are plenty of ‘executive recruiters’ who, in my opinion, often are drawn to being CXO level recruiters because of the ‘prestige’ that is associated with the role (“Executive Headhunter” sounds pretty sweet, doesn’t it? Not to mention that the optics of this prestige generates a marketing-spin that makes people think that it is worth $100k a pop). At the top level there are a bunch of these CXO placement firms and individuals, and everyone knows that there are equally as many (or more) staff-level contingency agencies. I saw a gap where Senior Manager/Director/VP roles aren’t getting the support they deserve, and there is a market to focus in that space and with a reasonable price point.
Describe your first 90 days with Guild Talent – the good and the bad
The highs are the highest I’ve ever seen and the lows are the lowest, and the most crazy piece is that the trip from the highest high to the lowest low can happen in a split second. Good news is that after only 90 days in we’ve made 3 placements (posts to come shortly for that!) and have offers out for #4 right now! We’ve got 2 recruiters on our staff (Rance and Ali) who are absolutely great. I lucked out in a big way finding both of them. They are the collective team that creates the rest of our engine.
The support from my personal network has been tremendous, and equally so professionally. Given my tenure in talent in the bay area, and now with the Bay Area Operators and a deep expertise across the skillsets that comprise the group (BizOps, Finance, Sales/Revenue Operations, Strategy, Growth), we’ve immediately been recognized as a preferred partner by the talent partners we know and work with, and have been asked to work on some great projects in our first quarter in business.
It’s been super humbling to be asked to support them, and after being given the opportunity we’re not taking it lightly. We’ve successfully #crushed the first wave of placements and have a growing ecosystem of early adopting happy customers. It’s been much better than I expected, and much smoother as well.
The ‘lowest lows’ comment earlier really isn’t as bad as it seems, nothing major has gone wrong. Some of the standard stuff of candidates backing out of an interview process or potential new client not engaging us for services, but that is to be expected. Mostly the first few months have been about doing the stuff we know how to do, ironing out the process and getting aligned with my team. All of which is now happening. We’re becoming a well oiled machine. I learned a lot about interviewing my team, what I’m looking for and my ‘style’ as a newly minted entrepreneur, all of which has been super positive in my quest to be my best self, the best boss, the best owner and best client-partner I can be.
What are your goals with Guild Talent?
My ultimate goal is to grow the business in whatever way brings the most value to our clients/partners, and provides opportunity for my team. I’ve been consulted by a few people (here’s looking at you Teri and Elizabeth) that taking on too many projects too soon isn’t a good idea, and that there is nothing wrong with staying small for the right amount of time. As we grow and as we build confidence (both internally and with our network) that we’re ready to grow, I imagine we’ll grow upstream as well as down stream with respect to the level of roles we’re focused on. As of now we’re largely working on ~Director level projects, there is an opportunity to support both more senior as well as more junior roles once we’re ready.
What do you love most about your job?
People. In large part when I started the definition of ‘people’ that I had around me were my network partners since I didn’t have any clients or a team. Since then I’ve had the pleasure of bringing on my first clients as well as the early team members into the org. Both sides (clients/team) have been awesome to work with and have proven to be the best part of my job so far. I’m privileged to have a great network of people around me in the Venture/startup community, the Bay Area Operators, etc. as well, which is the cherry on top.
Next best part of my job is that I’m typically a busy-bee type of person who is always looking for the next thing to do. Starting this company has been a great thing for me in that there is never a dull moment nor is there a shortage of things needing my time/attention. It’s great for my work style and helps me focus on the task at hand (grandpa told me that idle time is the devils playground). So, I feel like I’m fully optimized and able to make the most of my current skillset while simultaneously building said skillset.
I started my career in a sales role and am often told that I’ve got a ‘sales personality.’ The reality is that while I’m happy to be out selling, what I really enjoy is partnering. What I’m most looking forward to is to stop selling and to continue to double down on providing the highest level of support to our clients, building trust in our brand, and increasing the number of trusted partners, that’s the best.
You also started Bay Area Operators, tell me about that.
The OG is a professional development organization that I began ~5 years ago with my partner Casey Woo. It started with 10 people that were all startup operations & finance executives that got together for a lunch to share war stories and best practices.
As the Bay Area Operators has continued to grow I’ve been in a great position to validate my thesis (that there is a deficit of support across ~director level roles) via hundreds of conversations with our members and network partners. Being that I’m a non-technical person, and since the member base is full on non-technical people (that are hiring out their teams), there is an awesome synergy there.
The group is now comprised of 450+ Operations & finance (mostly) professionals, and now with folks all across the country. There are 6 chapters in 3 cities (SF, NYC, LA), and we’re opening up 2 more city chapters in the next couple of months (Austin and Denver here we come!). Similar to my desire to partner with my clients and overarchingly add value to them, the BAO is a professional resource for its member base.
Anything else you’d like to share!
Starting this business happened at the most intense time of my life. I had a 1 year old son, my wife and I adopted a puppy, and I was 2 months away from running an Ironman triathlon. There is/was a lot going on. The last 3 months have been action packed and stressful but awesome and rewarding, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Given the feedback thus far I’m excited to keep things going and feel validated in having taken the leap to come start this business, for sure. The Bay Area Operators continues to flourish as a resource for the community, and adding the Guild Talent layer has been a great addition. There is no shortage of opportunity to drive.
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