Deciding whether or not to take the leap of faith to becoming a billing manager in recruitment is a dilemma faced by many successful recruiters. Equally, it can be a big challenge from the employer’s perspective too, in terms of how to ensure that employee experiences a smooth transition.
In this blog, I will assess what qualities I think a strong billing manager needs to have for it to be the right move, to help you make your own decision. As well as sharing some top tips for billing managers, I also take a look at what alternatives exist for those who have proven themselves as a successful biller but DON’T want to manage people!
Writing from experience
In terms of my own testimony, I became a billing manager in 2001. I took the reigns with little preparation; I was sent on a course which gave me the bare essentials but effectively my role was to still bill (£15k a month – as oppose to £30-40k a month as a consultant) and to feed the figures up to my Director. I had little autonomy in how I developed my team so I moved on after 10 months into my first proper “billing manager” role.
By definition, this role meant I had full P+L responsibility for the branch: I trained, managed and developed the consultants to achieve their own personal targets and career goals (training one up into a management role so that I was then managing managers too); developing opportunities for the branch. All still whilst maintaining my own personal billings too; it’s a big task. *And as an aside, as mum to two daughters, I have always joked (albeit I am serious) that “managing” two kids and a home is more than enough for me!*
What things do successful billing managers do or possess?
In order to gain the respect and kudos of those you will be managing and supporting, you will need to be a natural leader. Those who have managed externally, so for example, sports teams, tend to display this natural ability well. Do as I do, not as I just say. A strong billing manager will LEAD BY EXAMPLE. If your team doesn’t see you doing it, how can you expect them to do it?
2. Follows process
A good billing manager knows there is a method in what has made them successful. Whether it is set KPIS, a certain style. You need to use your CRM system, have consistency in your approach. Be able to characterise how you have been successful and then encourage and develop your team to follow a process to allow them to achieve success too.
3. Approachable and adaptable
Being a manager means you may have to deal with situations as they arise, often without forward planning. Showing you have the time and interest to get to know your team is something you should always be wary of.
In the truest sense, this attribute sort of goes against the premise of recruitment because of course, every action we take in recruitment is about achieving the overall goal of “profit for the business”. However, some of the best leaders I have partnered (as R2R) on behalf of are very generous in how they operate within the team. Working as a “rainmaker” for their team, creating business opportunities for everyone to generate revenue and success. A rare quality in a recruiter? Maybe, but in a good manager, essential. You have to THINK BIG as a manager, for the good of the team as a whole. A collegiate approach to creating a successful team is the ONLY way to be a good billing manager.
You can be all of the above with bells on but if your division/team is not making money (profit) it is all totally irrelevant in the long term. Therefore, a successful billing manager must be able to demonstrate commerciality. As a manager you’ll need to be capable of creating revenue streams by working strategically with their team to enhance their client proportion. Find new ways, innovate, listen, embrace and expose the team to the best commercial opportunities.
If you possess all of the above skills but ultimately you aren’t certain that managing people is a route you actually want to take, what other career paths are there?
The notion of a non billing manager is not a new one. By channelling all the ambitions of a successful recruiter yet not allowing them to progress up through a business is risky so most recruitment firms offer a hybrid route now; remuneration milestones are on parity with managers: they may champion certain clients. focus on business development. Or, simply act as the ultimate example of how to operate as a specialist recruiter. As long as the rewards are on behaviours as well as revenue, this route has become very common and creates exceptional recruiters.
Business Development Specialist
Very often, someone who has been enormously successful as a 360 recruiter has done so through exceptional business development. Another alternative route is to become 100% focused on winning new business for the company. A wise route for any company as it allows you to continually grow potentially in to new markets, thus ensuring you don’t rely on too few clients.
Client Services Manager
Similar to the BD role, except this role actually leverages existing relationships more than just winning new clients. Where else can we generate relationships and revenue within our current clients. A very strategic role and I think certainly an area that more recruitment businesses should focus on if they want longevity in their markets.
Training/ Support/ Operations
By taking a recruiter off the tools, you can utilise their skills by then training and developing new staff (and more junior existing) in how to operate within that particular niche and/or company. The top biller sat with newbies showing them how to replicate is surely a satisfying and obvious way to acknowledge the achievements of said consultants and hopefully create a culture of equally successful consultants coming through the ranks.
My advice to anyone seeking to move into a billing manager role:
- Speak to your existing boss/MD. Talk about how you can avoid reducing your own personal earnings. What support can they offer you to ensure this doesn’t happen (unless you are not money motivated at all, there is a very realistic threat that you will take a hit).
- What is your ultimate career goal? If you want to move into senior management, then your criteria is going to change. What training do you need to ensure you have the business skills to be successful as a people manager?
- Who has been a successful billing manager in the business before? Speak to these people about what issues they faced and how to overcome them.
I have always maintained that the “jump” from recruitment consultant to billing manager is the hardest one in your career, but if you can achieve it with the support of your employer, it has to be one of the most rewarding jobs in the world!