Archive for April, 2014

Many people ask, “How did you get into recruiting bankers?” Then they say, “You must have been a banker!” The answer couldn’t be further from that…I graduated from college with a Biology degree, worked the 1996 Olympics, lived in Georgetown for a year, went through a Management training program with a rental car company, spent a year in pharmacy school, worked for an international manufacturing company, had a short stint as a Finance Manager for a car dealership, then got my job as a recruiter 11+ years ago on the beach at Sandals Negril, Jamaica. You will have to call for the details but that brings us to……

It was the Fall of 2008 when the call came in. I was sitting in a cubicle catty corner to Adam, nervous, not knowing what to say or if I should say anything. I was on a call from another recruiter trying to recruit me to start my own business. To own my own recruiting business!?!?!? I always dreamed about that and wondered how to make it work. Some time after that call, I mentioned it to Adam and he said he also got a call! HMMMMM!!! We talked about it and began to develop a trust that would eventually lead to creating A J Consultants LLC. During this time, I heard myself telling countless candidates, “keep an open mind, you never know what can happen, and it is always better to consider new opportunities when you have a job!”

Although I was a top producer annually, a very significant day came in February 2009 when I was part of a layoff. I will never forget calling my wife and telling her and then going home. When I walked in the front door and walked upstairs, I saw her lying on our living room floor with our first child who was 9 months old at the time. She was playing with him but also crying. It was a very fearful day that ultimately ended with us knowing we would be OK. I committed to moving forward with Adam and starting our own company.

At first we worked separately out of our homes for a few weeks. This really did not work with a 9 month old and my wife in the house. We were lucky enough to have a relative that had just purchased a building that was an old pharmacy. This was a great first office, a combination of coffee, energy drinks and recruiting in the beginning.

2009 was a tough year for everyone but we survived! Just about the only thing that made sense with opening a new business that focused in banking in 2009 was that we opened our doors on April 1! After a little under two years, we moved into an actual office and have grown from there.

April 1, 2014 is our 5-year anniversary! There have not only been challenges growing our business but also personal ones. But as I sit here writing this 5 years later, I have been blessed with a wonderful wife, 2 beautiful boys, (most days anyway), who are 5 & 4, tremendous friends, and a thriving business. I wouldn’t change anything to get to where we are today.

We are now a team. Adam and I run our own banking desks in the DC/VA/MD and SE PA/NJ/NY markets respectively. We have hired B J to start a new territory in New England and Rachael has grown into our Director of Research, supporting the rest of the team.

According to some statistics, well over 50% of all small businesses fail before they are 5 years old. I guess that technically puts us in the minority.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank many people, too many to name, but to the clients that have hired people through us, we are grateful for the opportunity to work with you. To the candidates that have found the next step in their career, we appreciate the trust you have placed in us. We wish everyone the very best! As I tell some of my candidates….keep my card next to your lawyer and your doctor and don’t be afraid to have a conversation.
-John Morris

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“Are you calling me from your garage?” I vividly remember a senior banker asking me. “It’s ok…” he followed up, “Bill Gates started Microsoft in a garage.”

I am not Bill Gates and A J Consultants is not Microsoft. Those are facts, however it is also a fact, that like I assured this banker, I was not calling from my garage. To this day, I am not sure if he believed me.

A J Consultants started in what was a long vacant pharmacy. The place was in pretty rough shape when my business partner John Morris and I moved in five years ago. We had to spend a week cleaning, painting, and prepping the place just so the two of us could hookup two laptops, a printer, a coffee maker and of course two phones.

A few interesting facts about our first office…

• Our conference table was formerly a kitchen table.
• The building was a large square box. Nothing was in it other than us two knuckleheads, some equipment and that table.
• For this reason, the acoustics were terrible. Our voices boomed off the walls and echoed through the building (hence the garage comparison).
• The sound was so bad, that John and I had to A.) warn people on the other end of the phone (which we were on all day) and B.) Wear a foam earplug in our open ear.
• Every time it rained, a vent on the floor and under my desk had water streaming behind it like a river.
• Today, this building is now a Subway restaurant.

As crazy as this sounds, we were blessed to have this as our original office. It fueled us. Additionally, we rented it at a great price, because John’s brother and his business partner owned the property. That was very gracious of them. We were just starting out. Not in recruiting, there we were established, but starting off as our own business and brand. We needed all the help we could get.

Our clients needed help too. I still remember when Marcus Perry, with Millennium Bank at the time, reached out to us. He needed lenders and although he Bill and Paul were doing a great job turning the bank around, gaining lending talent was tough. They had looked for months. We wrapped up the search in a couple weeks He asked for one, we found him two.

We had our ups and downs, in business you always do, but with hard work, word of mouth and our former centers of influence now calling us, things were really cooking. Soon we were signing up some of the top community, regional and money center/international banks in the marketplace.

Two years later we were moving into an actual office. A few facts on this new place…

• We have a Nerf basketball hoop in the conference room.
• Our kitchen is either stocked with health food or looks like a little league dugout it has so much junk food and sweets in it. This always depends on what mood John is in when he places the Quill order. It fluctuates.
• This office has walls, a kitchen, a real conference table, whiteboard etc.
• It is not a former pharmacy and I am fairly certain would not make a good Subway location.

When people in the market ask us how long its been, they usually have the same amazement we do. “Wow, five years already”. Two offices, a few kids, many professional conquests and a few professional missteps later…here we are.

I would venture to say just about everyone in our core market knows who we are. They read about us in the media, they get our calls, see us on the Web, have been placed by us, have friends that have been placed by us…find us annoying for contacting them at work…whatever. Bottom line, they know us. Telling them who we are is no longer necessary.

I got into this business a ways back. When I graduated from college, I wanted to write movies…in fact, I did. They just were never made, because they were terrible. Having said that, two scripts I penned made their ways into the hands of one of the biggest production heads in the industry. That wasn’t because they were good, it was because of a few things; who I knew, how hard I worked and my ability to connect.

Out of school, I didn’t make it in film, but I took that same attitude to a newspaper in my town. I did everything, from tracking down leads, to writing obituaries, grabbing supplies for people, to penning the occasional story. I also worked my tail off, connected and got to know folks.

I got my start in recruiting and left the paper a year later, because I knew people. My first boss in the headhunting world, Bill, lived five doors down from where my folks lived. When Bill’s newest hire of 4 hours went to lunch and never called back Bill and his most senior recruiter, John Morris were left wondering…”where are we going to find another guy that likes to get on the phone and talk to bankers?” Luckily, my best friend Brian worked for this firm and he recommended me. The rest, is history.

That history led me to John, led me to an old pharmacy and now has led me to the most rewarding, frustrating, satisfying and mind blowing professional experience I could ask for…being a business owner in the recruiting world.

These past five years and the next five are not solely of my design. We have a wonderful core team here that we have built. Rachael who handles so much for us, BJ who started off assisting my team and John’s (not an easy task) before growing his own market and territory for our firm, and all the others that have and will grow with us.

Additionally, so many people in the banking world have helped me. People like Jane Navarria, who helped me form key relationships. Folks like David Pijor and the recently retired Burwell Gunn at FVCbank. In all honesty, there are too many to keep naming so I will stop now, but you know who you are and our firm appreciates it.

In the end, no one was a greater help to this firm than our family. Our wives, kids, siblings, friends and in-laws stood by as we vetted going out on our own. They were as confident as we were when we made the decision to do it and have given us the support needed to sustain success. They are silent partners in this company’s mission.

Five years…doesn’t it go by in a blink?
– Adam Eckels


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