Hitting the Bar on Transfer Deadline Day

A quick scan through any news channel or Social Media timeline yesterday will highlight that it was Transfer Deadline Day.

For a proportion of the population, that meant it was a day filled with constantly reloading sport website pages or even more obsessively, take the day off work to watch Sky Sports.

For the remainder, the uninitiated, it’s the annual deadline where football player transfers have to be completed by a set time on a set day – this year being 3 weeks earlier than previously to ensure it closes before the Premier League starts today.

The last hours are typically madness, rushed medicals, couriers frantically delivering paperwork to authorities and even problems caused by non-accurate timepieces, such is the frenzy to recruit talent. Sports channels clear entire schedules to give uninterrupted coverage that makes the arrival of a new royal baby look positively disinteresting.

Tempers fray inside the club(s), within the agents brokering the deals and the fan base waiting outside to see if their prayers have been answered or if they must struggle on with the inferior (£Multi multi-mullion) squad they’ve been left with.

Add in a dose of common sense, and it’s verging on farcical.

This last-minute frenzy is typically fuelled by panic buying, often by clubs with pockets deeper than the deepest parts of the Mariana Trench, mixed with boards of directors desperately seeking to appease highly paid managers, ensures an aura of desperation as the deadline approaches.

Beyond 9yr old school children doing holiday homework, who waits until the last minutes of a 2 month ‘window’ to effect a crucial appointment……?

Too many businesses is the stark reality. And businesses that don’t have the financial magnitude to afford a blithe attitude towards risk and expected returns.

For these businesses, getting recruitment right is the difference between success and failure. It’s critical, has a greater performance requirement than 38 x 90min, and seldom comes with a back-up squad.

Quality Vs Speed.

In any industry, any business, quality is critical across the organisation. It’s expected by customers, (fans in the stands or commercial customers, B2B or B2C). It’s expected of products and services, it’s expected in all team members and it’s a vital component in recruitment. If quality is present, customers are increasingly likely to repeat their custom and team members more likely to remain as team members. Quality is key objective for any business. Quality of product/service is the greatest chance of repeat and retained customer, and revenue. Quality of team members, manager and leaders is easily more important still.

Just as the football manager who enters the market on Transfer Deadline Day, unsure of exactly what he/she needs, and what will truly benefit their team, is likely to be left with the left-overs of the field and imperfect fits;…so the commercial manager/business leader who recruits with little foresight and on a minute timescale is going to face diminished quality on the job market, being left accepting the best of the first half-hearted bunch offered from that first dip in the market.

People are the most important resource in any business, The quality of those people is therefore the most important aspect of ensuring a quality business. Ensuring quality in recruitment takes an element of strategic planning, of understanding true requirements and allowing sufficient time to locate, attract, secure and welcome superlative talent into your team.

Chemistry Fit.

I’ve spoken, preached, lectured, argued (and blogged, here and was interviewed on the subject here) about the importance of Chemistry Fit. It is, and will always be the most important aspect of any hire, and the backbone of my business. Skills and experience are important, but getting that chemistry fit right is the difference between a good hire and a great hire…and the difference between someone that works for the business and with the business, influences the business and benefits the business.

Ensuring fit takes time. Time during the recruitment planning, during the recruitment process and during the assessment/interviewing process. You can hope that one of the CVs the job board (populated with desperate job-seekers) or database recruiters (ditto) fires over to you within 10 mins gives that Chemistry Fit, but as the one good thing a poor manager once told me…”Hope is not a strategy”. Hope for good weather. Hope for a sporting victory. Hope for no traffic hold-ups…..but don’t introduce hope into critical recruitment.

As with football, the new signing needs to plug into the team. Member or leader, game-maker or finisher, fit is critical. On the pitch as in the boardroom, the individuals might have all the skill in the world, but if they are not suited to how the team works, they won’t benefit it.

Ensuring Chemistry Fit needs an understanding of what the existing Chemistry is, the experience and resource to seek and search for similar Chemistry in relevant environments and the skills to assess the Chemistry Fit of each candidate interviewed – and all candidates must be criteria-based interviewed for your role….more time.

Only then can you be comfortable in ensuring Chemistry Fit (and a recruiter comfortable enough to offer a 12 month post-placement guarantee….as we do…!)

Recruitment is Expensive.

“If you think hiring a professional is expensive,

try hiring an amateur….”

Sense check….. talking about the cost of commercial recruitment in a world where footballers salaries are so large, they have to be cited as weekly wages is a little amusing (There are more footballers on a salary of over £2m per year than there are company directors – see more on Footballers Vs Executive Pay here), and no recruitment fee has ever got even close to the realms of a football transfer fee.

Even in the monopoly-money world of professional football, fees are eye-watering. This year saw a transfer fee of over a quarter of a billion dollars. Against that backdrop, 20% recruitment fees suddenly seem tame in comparison.

Fees must be taken in the context of value, opportunity cost and investment. Aside from the exposure to a far greater and higher quality talent pool, and a talent pool that has no need to be sat on an active job-seeking database, the opportunity cost of undertaking recruitment internally, and doing so with a compromised talent pool, is significant.

Choose the right Headhunter and your management(s) time spent on the process will be minimised. An hour to fully scope out the role, half a day with other members of team understanding Chemistry Fit, then just interview time…and a guaranteed result.

Beyond all of that, in a world where you can spend as much on advertising a role as you would pay for a Headhunt campaign/search, value for money is clear….especially if, as we do, your Headhunter offers a cash-refund guarantee of successful delivery.

Christmas Eve.

The drama of Transfer Deadline Day is exciting (unless your club fails to land the player that you know would propel them up the table)…but it does smack of men rushing around to buy their wives’ gifts at 4pm on Christmas Eve.

With the money and resources swishing around clubs, and the army of scouts and ever talent-searching managers, the knowledge of who exists within the other 91 clubs in the English Football League (let alone who exists in the 900+ clubs in the 32 Leagues around Europe) is huge. Beyond that, the ability to see, on a weekly basis, how these professionals play/perform/fit/interact is unparalleled, certainly in the world of business. And yet Transfer Deadline Day is still fraught up until the last-minute.

Businesses are often no better. We guarantee a delivered search in just 8 weeks (against an industry average of 24 weeks), but even that it often deemed too long for some businesses. Eight weeks in a business lifecycle? To introduce transformative management/leaders?

….but our best results come from businesses who engaged us, or started to talk to me well before that instruction about their plans, their thoughts, their thoughts on human/commercial/operational strategy. We not only get the chance to input onto the staffing/talent impact and add value to the opportunities available to compliment those plans, but get to set up a watching brief for such talent…without standing on non-league club side-lines wearing sheepskin coats.

Such an approach is provided without cost, and typically only elicits a retained search mandate in around half the instances, but the value it adds is immeasurable.

Contact me to find out more….just please don’t wait until the next Transfer Deadline Day and expect a 5pm solution.






6 Comments on “Hitting the Bar on Transfer Deadline Day”

  1. Good read as always Gary. Act In Haste, Repent At Leisure etc

    Interested to hear about what you do to input into your clients plans. Couple of things I’d like to run past you.

  2. I’m one of the uninitiated, I don’t get the obsession with the Transfer Window, it just highlights bad planning and having too much money. It’s like a teenager with a fiver in their pocket as the sales are about to end, they have to buy something. It just shows all clubs are not in the real world both financially, which is a product of their environment, but also strategically when it comes to their staffing. I’ve applied for HR roles for Premier League clubs before, but they are never interested in people that can bring proactive measure to the game (pun intended), instead just want reactive problem fixers at 35k. It becomes a turn off for people viewing these organisations as businesses.


    • I suspect it’s the tension, although yesterday being 5pm took a lot of the heat out of it.

      Much of the inner workings of top-flight clubs cannot be rationalised. I’ve had friends who have left jobs with leading clubs as they were in commercial roles, but there was no real commerciality. Before regulations made a notional difference, how do you rationales a business whose wage bill is 130% of its overall turnover? When ever I’ve put people into clubs, I’ve found it best to go for non-fans to introduce objectivity.


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