Sunday, March 26, 2006

The Rest of the McKenzie Scott Saga (Updated 3/31/2013)

Update 6: See latest legal actions.

It's been a while since I posted - things have been busy... The incident I describe below happened about a month ago...

So after playing a little email tag, Brian and I finally hooked up again on the phone to talk about the next steps. Again, I have to say how impressed I've been with their sales job - Brian came across as available and helpful, but not over eager or pushy (yet).

We talked more about how to market my skills (or should I say skilz?) and the timelines involved. Brian layed out a very aggressive and ambitious approach about how we could proceed. At the end of the call, he agreed to point me a copy of their work agreement that outlined the financial details of how work would proceed (HERE'S THE LINK AT THE TIME [ed: this link is broken, if someone sends me a new link i'll update it. in the meantime, this post has a scanned copy of the agreement]) Up to this point, there still had been no discussion as to price...

As I read through this agreement I was struck by three things. The first was something I expected - the entry price was 8K and stretched up to 25K. Realistically you would have to spend at least 12K. That's a lot of money to pay up-front, but if the stuff really works, it's obviously worth it. Of course they have all these statements about "guarantees" but if you read the details of the guarantees, they don't really provide that much protection for the client (see below).

The second thing that struck me was in a section innocuously titled: How Long We Will Serve You...and the Completeness of This Agreement It said: "This agreement, along with our service guide, set forth our entire agreement. It supersedes any prior written or verbal understandings with any party, including any verbal understandings with any employee or agent of the firm or with third parties." WTF, did I read that correctly? It basically says that regardless of what Brian has told me, this agreement and the service guide are all I can rely upon in terms of expectations of service and outcomes. In other words, Brian can promise me whatever, but McKenzie Scott doesn't have to do what he says they'll do. (Not being a lawyer, I have no idea if this is a legal way to get out of fraud, but it seems pretty sleazy & questionable to me... And of course that this language is buried in a section that talks about how long McKenzie will keep working on my behalf makes it seem like a bait-and-switch even more.

The third piece is in a section titled: Mutual Confidentiality Regarding
This AgreementÂ… and Your Search. It has this preamble: "A certain percentage of the firm as clients are senior executives who are sometimes concerned that we not divulge anything about this agreement or our work for them, that would lead to commentary in the print, broadcast or internet media." It then goes onto say: "For this reason, the firm and all clients mutually agree that this agreement shall be kept confidential, and comments of any kind regarding it, our services and our clients, shall not be initiated or released to the print, broadcast or internet media, either anonymously, through a third party, or on a direct basis." And then as a kicker, they describe the penalty for violating this restriction: "In the rare event
that a breach should lead to public commentary, both parties agree that because of the difficulty of assessing damages… that a penalty will be due which is equal to the base executive service charge in this agreement, as stated on page 6." That's 8.5K.

This also has the effect preventing people from posting complaints about the service provided. Nice. The part of this that seems so duplicitious (ingeniously so) is that they state this as though it's to help protect their famous client rather than to cover their asses. To belabor the point (although it's probably obvious to anyone with even an ounce of skepticism) if they wanted to protect their clients names and reputation, they could do it in a much more narrow way then this restriction.

Sooooooo.... having read through the agreement, i was ready to Brian's call the next day. I suppose I could have pointed out all the issues above to him, But i didn't really see the point. What i said was basically that
1. they seemed like a company that really understood the market and had the capability to help out a lot in a job search but,
2. a deal like this that was structured with all the payments up front creates too much inventive for a good sales job and not enough for follow through. (And this really is my fundamental objection whIch i repeated consistently through the rest of the call...)

Well, Brian was pretty prepared for this objection. He quickly responded that even though the payment was up-front, the "money back guarantee" meant that the money would be given back if they didn't deliver. To that i pointed him to the service agreement which outlines the various gaurantees. The money back gaurantee is only valid at a very early point in the process after they have created a bunch of marketing material for you (but before you've had a chance to use it to search for jobs or McKenzie Scott find openings for you.) The point I made was that I'm already admitting that i don't know what the best marketing material/resumes look like - that's why I'm interested in hiring someone. And without being able to test the market with them, I really couldn't make an informed decision.

The other guarantees really only say that if you are unsatisfied with your "campaign," they'll assign a new team and redo it. And while on paper this seems like something they'd want to avoid and hence provide some disincentive, it's not nearly the same as cold hard cash. Or to paraphrase Dennis Miller about the K-mart blue-light special - "Two of shit is shit. If they really want to fuck you they'll give you three of them." Or a joke my dad used to tell about a lottery where the first prize was a week of vacation in Philadelphia. Second prize - two weeks vacation in Philadelphia. (I didn't reference these jokes to Brian - i didn't think he'd laugh...)

This seemed to knock Brian a little off his game. He continued to repeat the mantra that the need to redo a campaign was a disincentive enough. When this didn't seem to make any headway, he switched to giving me a some inside information. Apparently, he told McKenzie Scott has been working on a new agreement that would provide exactly the kind of arrangement where they were paid only when the candidate was placed. But, he lamented, it's being held up by the legal department and he didn't know when it would be available.

The call lasted about 45 minutes. I told Brian that when they got the new agreement that provided a different payment structure, to please call me back as i'd be very interested. He told me he would.

That evening I recieved an email from Brian with a bunch of testimonials about what job's they found and how much McKenzie Scott helped them. Of course, the company names were ommitted as well as the last names of the people. All completely unverifiable.

That was the last i ever heard from Brian.

Draw you own conclusions - obviously you know what i think.

Update: see new posting
Update 2: see new posting with copy of the agreement you sign
Update 3: Guess ITS et al got tired of people finding out about them. So what to do? Send in the lawyers. Here's their salvo and my response.

Update 4: If you've been a customer of ITS/McKenzie Scott, see this post.
Update 5: See breaking news...
UPDATE 6 (3/31/2013):See latest legal actions.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Back to the grindstone...

Just got back from vacation. Dropped the kids off with the grandparents and took a 5 day Caribbean cruise. If you've never done a cruise, I highly recommend it. Start small - 3 - 5 days. I think it's more fun to cruise with a group of friends...
At any rate, it really is good value for money.
Here are my hints for good cruising.
1. If you have any ability to get around on your own, don't bother with the "excursions." I've always been disappointed and found that I could do the same if I made my own arrangements with a lot less waiting around and way less standing in line. E.g. on this last cruise you could get a island bus tour (probaby an old beat up van) for $100/person and it took 6 hours. Instead, our group of 4 rented a car for $55 and visited everywhere we wanted in 4 hours (with 2 of those hours being at a bar on the beach...)
2. Don't pay for the outside cabins, balconies, etc. Buy the cheapest indoor room - you won't spend much time in there anyways, and when the lack of windows is a big benefit if you want to sleep late (it is vacation after all).
3. (this probably varies from line to line - my experience is limited to Royal Caribbean and Carnival so far) the buffet food is the best food on the ship. The dishes are all designed for mass feeding and there are so many choices. The dinner in the main dining room is more hit and miss. And while I've never had a "bad" meal on a cruise, there were some in the main hall that were just "ok." On the other hand, the main dinner is usually a more intimate atmosphere, and some people (like my wife) put a lot of value in that. So we do dinner in the main hall, but go to the buffet for all other meals. (No, not just 3 meals a day, rather 4 - 6 - kinda like hobbits...)

Thursday, February 02, 2006

so i got a call from Brian (the McKensie Scott dude) who's title is Managing Partner today. I have to say - these guys are good! We talked for 30 minutes and it was one of the best soft-sells i've ever heard. And what made it all the more impressive is that i know what's coming, but it still sounds good. His whole pitch was about "here's what you gotta do - whether we help you or you do it on your own." Then he had me watch an online presentation - also very well put together. Finally i filled out a questionaire. Brian is going to review my answers and figure out how they can help - if i want them to help.
In short, the whole sell is based on the premise that if you can talk-the-talk, then you can walk-the-walk. And based on what i've seen so far i have no doubt that they are capable of delivering. But the way the business is structured creates the incentive to do a good job selling, but not necessarily a good job delivering.
That said, i am curious to see how they continue the pitch - it should be very instructive.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

I've posted my resume on a couple of sites (Monster, CareerBuilder, etc.) I'm really amazed at how a whole ecosystem has developed around these operations. It's a very different setup than when I was involved 4 years ago (both as a recruiter and then looking for a new job.)
I've got lot's of emails generated from the posts - unfortunately only a few are from people who think I might be candidate for a job. In addition to these expected contacts, I've got contacts from financial institutions looking to see if I have a 401K to roll-over as well as personal marketing consultants. This last species is like an agent. Unlike the recruiters who get paid by the company that hires you, these agents get paid by you for their services to fix up your resume, polish you up, and get you in front of people who will hire you. A lot of them seem to want the money up front too.
Today I got an email from one that I'd been expecting - some friends had been contacted too. The company in question is McKenzie Scott and they do have slick marcom. They had previously sent me brochures, pamphlets and even a book on how helpful they can be.
Now anyone who knows me will tell you that I'm the suspicious type - I smell a scam cooking a mile away (probably even when it's just someone doing a little old sales spinning - nothing harmful.) So my radar is way up when I've heard that they charge 5 - 25K to campaign for you.
Since I've agreed to talk to them tomorrow, I figure I should do some research on them. Thank god for the internet - I ran across this. You gotta love google - just needed to enter "McKenzie Scott" bad as my google search. First hit.
So, armed with this information (and of course I have to consider that this information isn't guaranteed either) I'm going to listen with a very skeptical ear to the pitch and ask lots of pointed (polite) questions. In fact, these experience so much match my expectations, that I wouldn't even do the call if things were at all busy at work tomorrow... But, I think it should be an entertaining talk if nothing else - maybe good fodder for blogging.

In the beginning...

OK, so I'm starting a blog tonight. Why - who knows. I guess everyone else is doing it & I wanted to see what it's about.
I can think of 2 other (good?) reasons. The first is that I'm starting to look for a new job - the one I'm in has been eliminated due to a merger (OmniCare buys NeighborCare - boring SEC filing ) I've known my position was going away for a while (6 months) but have had golden handcuffs on till now, so I've just started looking). The short of it is that the job market seems really weird to me now and it struck me that blogging my experience might be interesting (to whom, I don't know, but just maybe...) And if I can add some tidbits that will help others along they way, then great (I think the search engines hit blogs, right ;-) )
The second is that from time to time I come across bits of arcane knowledge. Stuff that I search and search for on the web and am shocked that I can't find an answer. So then I invest time and find the answer. Seems a shame for it to disappear into the ether, so I figure capturing it in a blog for the bots and spiders to find might help some other poor soul out there. (again, I hope they look at blogs...)
So, whatever, it seems at least that this all created enough inertia to get me started.
Also inspiring was my brother who started blogging his trip to India - I found it interesting at least. Check it out!
So this is the start. We'll see how it goes.

Question: Am i the only one who thinks it's ironic that the spell-checker on this site doesn't know the word "blog."