Greg McKinnon A recruitment professional with an eye for talent and
work habits grounded in integrity.with Billy Sharma
Once in a while I get a recommendation to interview someone. Recently, one of the names suggested was Greg McKinnon. He is someone I met years ago and so I was naturally curious to catch up with him.
Back in 1999 when I needed a break from running my own company, Designers Inc., and to rethink what I wanted to do next, Greg was responsible for placing me as managing director and creative director of a US direct marketing agency from Richmond Virginia called Response Marketing Group. At the time, it was interested in expanding in Canada since it had just won a portion of the CIBC account.
Needless to say, it was exciting for me to build an arm of the US agency here in Toronto from the ground up. The branch agency here was called ‘Interactive Marketing Group’ and we grew from a two-man outfit to over twenty people in less than two years. We also came to rely on McKinnon Management Group Inc. to find the right personnel to staff our agency. So it was nice to meet Greg once again after nine years. This time I wanted to find out more about him and the secret of his success.
Twenty years ago, Greg’s first assignment was to recruit a
product manager for the Noxzema brand at the Noxell Company.
He explains: “When I started in this business I joined what, at that time was probably the largest recruiting firm in the country, in their sales and marketing divisions. The company had excellent training and I was soon emerging as a rising star.
“Seven months into it I had a conflict with my manager and she fired me. One of the owners of the company took me aside hoping to resolve the situation and asked me to stay on. I said that I would but only on the condition that they made me a manager, which they agreed to. Eighteen months later, after building a very profitable sales and marketing division, the partners offered me a full share in the company at no cost.
“After eighteen months as a partner, my team was responsible for 40 percent more billings than the rest of the firm combined.
“These events were important because I learned not only what clients were looking for and how to source, recognize and work with talent but also how to hire, train and get the best from a team.
“Ironically, being fired had a very positive result. My failure in the music business and in a later marketing start up taught me humility and also to keep on trying until you find what works for you.”
McKinnon Management Group Inc. was established in 1992.
“I left the company and decided to work from my home for a while until I was clear on my next step. Over the next couple of weeks I received calls from a number of former co-workers asking me to start a firm and this was when I started McKinnon Management Group Inc. The recruiting division is now operating as McKinnon Targeted Recruiters. One of those people who joined me was Chris Bradshaw and I’m very happy to say that as vice president and second-in-command of the company, he runs our professional consulting practice today.
Greg realized early in his career that 1:1 marketing was where the industry was heading.
“I started placing direct marketers before the terms “database” or “relationship marketing” were being used. Client server technology was just starting to emerge at that time so client/prospect records were mostly housed in legacy based systems and this made it difficult to access and manipulate the files.
“At that time the client side pretty much relied on their agencies to develop the strategy and execute their direct marketing campaigns so I was mostly placing account services, creative and production people at the agencies and with the occasional client. I remember, early on, placing Robert Stacey (currently, executive director of the Association for the Advancement of Relationship Marketing: AARM) on contract at one of the leading banks. Bob is a DM pioneer and was one of the few people at that time who understood the big picture going forward. I remember the challenges and frustrations that he faced trying to champion the concepts.
“I believe that direct marketers like Readers Digest, Harlequin, and Amex, were ahead of the curve in terms of their level of sophistication but the banks and Telcos soon started to catch on. They had the budgets and they wanted to realize the promise of what 1:1 communication could do to build their business. This was when things finally became very busy for me.
“I am proud that I have been instrumental in helping many major organizations design and build the people side of their CRM business.
“In many cases, these large companies relied on and continue to rely on my perspective and experience to not only identify and secure talent but also to help them define the positions and skills that they required. I helped a couple of visionary people assemble the first real marketing data analytics group in the country back in the early 1990s. We were looking for data modelers/miners and there weren’t many around. When our team was built, it was composed of people from health, economics, academia and industry and it served as a template for other organizations. From there things just took off.
McKinnon has recently launched new services and rebranded its recruitment service.
“Our company has been in business for more than 15 years and it is an ongoing challenge. I feel that the biggest shift in my career is about to happen now. With the re-branding of our recruitment services, (McKinnon Targeted Recruiters) and the introduction of other new services I feel that I am building upon a solid foundation that has been established over my career to date.
“I am excited about the new directions that we are heading into now. We have established a platform from which anything is possible with a little vision, commitment and perseverance.
“Business like life is dynamic and fluid and it is necessary to adapt and evolve.
“I have never wanted to call it quits but always want to do more. At times, this has been overwhelming and I have felt that a break might be in order but learning to manage priorities and to delegate more effectively is required learning on the career path I have chosen.
“I sometimes get annoyed when I see people who fail to realize their full potential. Especially when their own insecurities are what’s holding them back. For me, so much of life centers around personal development, whether it’s playing bass with my band, riding horses, in business, or on a human level. Most of us started with a clean slate and I think that it is important to learn, grow and stay challenged throughout our entire lives,” he summarizes.
I couldn’t agree more.
Billy Sharma is president and creative director of Designers Inc., Toronto.
He can be reached at 416-203-9787.