The Search Engine
The Fourth Annual Inc Web Awards: Transformations
Company: Lucas Group, in Atlanta
What we liked: An executive-search firm overcomes decades of technological conservatism to capture new revenues on-line
Stories that end in riches are more compelling when they begin in rags. Likewise, Internet success is far more impressive when it's achieved by companies that are, to put it kindly, Luddites.
Take Lucas Group, for example.
For most of its 32-year history, the Atlanta-based executive-search firm relied primarily on just one technology: the telephone. Employees spent their days with receivers pressed to their ears, tracking down candidates for corporate clients. The $41-million company, which has 260 employees in 12 cities, didn't even bother getting desktop computers until late 1998.
Meanwhile, most recruiters were perfectly happy to keep contact information in desktop card files, store paper resumes in paper folders, and, in a pinch, fax information to clients. Not surprisingly, they had no real interest in that Internet thing. "You couldn't call it resistance," recalls managing partner Alex Baxter. "They just ignored it."
But Baxter, hired in May 2000 as the company's marketing director, knew Lucas Group had fallen behind the industry curve. Despite the economic downturn, job-search sites like Monster and HotJobs were still booming, and human-resources directors increasingly preferred posting jobs and receiving resumes on-line. So Baxter convinced executives that building a world-class Web site would provide a serious competitive edge.
Baxter brought in an outside development team to build a Web site and an easily searchable in-house database. Now, instead of faxing or mailing hard-copy resumes to recruiters, job hunters simply upload them on LucasCareers.com; the site automatically forwards each application to the right recruiter.
Sounds like a headhunter's dream, but Baxter still had to persuade the company's plentiful technophobes to try the system. "Managers who had been here, say, 7 to 15 years would say, 'I really don't need that," Baxter says. "That's where the battle was."
Baxter conquered some employees with a contest offering prizes -- DVD players, personal digital assistants, airplane tickets -- for the most job placements made on-line. Others caved after he sent them Web-generated leads. "I didn't have to do a lot of arm-twisting after that," he says.
One of Baxter's converts is David Shelly, a recruiter who is so tech resistant that he still has four zeroes flashing on his home VCR. A 14-year industry veteran, Shelly worked for years with hundreds of resumes stacked on his desk. "When I had an opening, I would literally go through the piles and read resumes. That was my database," he says. "With LucasCareers.com, you can search for a candidate by job niche, degree, geographical location, and skills. You get a directory, you point and click, and there's the for you to read."
Baxter doesn't have to convince anybody that the system earns its keep. Since LucasCareers.com went live in July 2000, it has generated nearly $7 million in new revenues and more than 1,000 new corporate clients. That's a rare achievement for a search firm during a recession and an impressive return on Lucas Group's initial investment of $150,000.
Still, those results aren't entirely due to technology. As Baxter points out, it's the company's headhunters who assess those incoming resumes, match applicants to employers, and ink the final deal. "It's the perfect marriage of cyberspace and the real world," he says.
The Fourth Annual Inc Web Awards
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