Sonya Tkacs of Recruitlynk on why marketing and selling your business as an owner never stops
Describe your business in a few words?
The Recruitlynk mission is to recruit and source top executive and management talent with diverse backgrounds and experiences. We strive to help sustain and nurture inclusive cultures where differences drive innovative solutions and uphold diversity in the workplace. Our goal is to effectively hire leaders who care about people, not power. Our mission is to build mutual business relationships by analyzing and tailoring our approach to fit our client’s specific needs. Thus, making our recruitment methods far from standardized or uniform. We aim to know every client and candidate we work with on a deeper level.
Expertise: Human Resources | Accounting & Finance | Customer Satisfaction & Service | Operations | Sales
Recruitment Services Include: Retained & Exclusive Permanent Recruitment | Executive Search, Domestic USA
Career & Management Services Include: Coaching & Mentoring For Individual Excellence | Career Transition & Outplacement
What made you take the leap to start your own business?
The truth? The one dimensional thinking that being a strong leader is attached to a fancy college education or three letter acronym at the end of one’s name. Frankly put, I grew tired of working for people out of fancy schools who didn’t know the first thing about executing true leadership. After being fired from my previous company for speaking out against a toxic boss whose sole purpose was to selfishly advance their own career by stealing others’ ideas, that was the final straw. I realized if I couldn’t change the internal politics and poor leadership from within an organization, I might have a better chance at positively impacting leadership changes externally.
What was your background prior to starting your own business?
Psychologist. Detective. Private Investigator. Saleswoman. – Ha!
In all seriousness, I’ve spent the better part of the last 20 years in sales. I started my sales career working for The Edge Fitness, a 23 location fitness franchise located throughout the United States selling gym memberships for 4 years. From there I took on the role as an Account Executive for the number one radio station owner in the U.S., Clear Channel Communications, where I sold radio ads to local businesses in CT. Finally, about 13 years ago I was introduced to recruiting (talent acquisition). Truthfully, it was love at first learn. Recruiting combined my passion for puzzles, love for behavioral science and craving for match making. Everything I had been taught about selling prior to getting into recruiting was merely the groundwork needed to launch into my mastery.
Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
I always had an obsession for learning the mechanics of business and enjoyed the operations of how and why a system worked. However, being a poor, misguided and uneducated youth, I never thought entrepreneurship would ever be a possibility. Instead, every position I held, I went above and beyond to absorb unnecessary details of everyone else’s job and master my own. I was always looking for the next best thing, where I could make the most money, grow the fastest and be the most challenged. I worked for Walgreens, Carvel, 2 pizza restaurants, a fish fry parlor, a wholesale bakery and a liquor store all before turning 19.
I remember being 16 and getting my first “legal” job as a cashier clerk with Walgreens. We were running a contest on who could raise the most money for breast cancer awareness. You would’ve thought I was asked to fundraise for the next presidential political campaign! I was relentless, asking every single customer to donate, even if just $1. My sole purpose in life was to win that contest.
My close friends growing up, they knew. They always told me “you will own your own business one day.” When Recruitlynk launched last year, not one person who knew me was surprised. The only surprise they had was I was 36 years old launching my first business.
Take us back to when you first launched your business, what was your marketing strategy to get the word out and did it go as planned?
OH MY! I still consider myself in the beginning stages of my business launch, it’s only been a year. I was completely clueless. Sure I read articles, followed small business owners within my industry, took marketing courses, listened to hundreds of podcasts but I truly was overwhelmed. I can say confidently, I still am. I chose to become a thought leader in my space, focus on creating relatable content that is quick and concise and be as authentic as I can be.
Did it go as planned? I’m not sure, in all honesty, I’m still figuring it out.
We always learn the most from our mistakes, share a time with us that you made a mistake or had a challenging time in business and what you learned from it?
When I initially launched Recruitlynk I was met with immediate success. I had billed $69k in my first couple of months, during a pandemic with billings continuing to climb. I took a relaxed approach to the core business tactics I learned for so many years. I became lazy when it came to continuing to build my brand and cold outreach went out the door. You can imagine my dismay and concern, when out of nowhere, business stopped. Everything was going left, not right. Clients became increasingly difficult. Candidates weren’t interested in anything I had to say. I realized then all of my success was superficial and based on a string of some really good luck. I had to pivot and get back to basics quickly however not in a desperate attempt. I felt more overwhelmed and anxious than I had when I initially launched the company.
I can say that was probably the best lesson I learned. Regardless of what it seems, marketing and selling your business as an owner never stops. Being a formally trained salesperson, I knew this, I just got cocky. The universe always has a way of bringing us back to reality and humbling our hearts.
What is the accomplishment you are the most proud of to date?
Not listening to the naysayers. So many told me never to launch my own company. It would be too hard and most small businesses are not successful closing their doors within the first 5 years. The loudest killjoy was being told “you are not ready.” As if there’s a one size fits all approach to being ready to launch a business. As if that’s an actual thing. I knew that if I wasn’t ready, I better get ready because this was happening.
When hiring for your team, what is your go-to interview question? Please share any hiring tips you can share from your experience?
You can imagine why this question is my favorite. I’ll share my top 3 tips for hiring.
1. Have a realistic understanding of what priorities this person will be responsible for and be able to articulate these priorities clearly.
2. Apply the 80/20 rule as often as possible. Is the candidate technically capable of doing 80% of the job ? Will they be challenged 20% of the time? The number one goal is to make sure you are putting the right person in the right seat in the job but in the company overall.
3. Leave any preconceived notions and/or bias of the “perfect candidate” at the door. More often than not the person we are looking to hire does not exist, we’ve merely created this fictitious human in our minds. Doing this creates bias and preconceived notions which makes for a very frustrating and lengthy hiring process.
How has your business or industry been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?
Hiring and job seeking in 2021 has been heavily influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic. The ebbs and flows of hiring have always been there. Sometimes we are in a job seeker market and other times, the job market is driven by the employers. However, the 2020 pandemic added some nuances that forced companies to elevate their pitch. In the current market, employers are struggling to find able talent with hourly positions being their greatest challenge. Posting a job description and praying for the right talent to apply is a reaction of the past. If a company wants to hire strong talent, they must proactively seek them out and not only seek them out but make offers exceptional talent can’t refuse. This includes a competitive salary, work/life balance and integration, and lessened demands. The pandemic taught us that working from home and flexible work schedules can be the norm. If a company is trying to attract top professionals in their space, being competitive in those areas is going to be the best bait.
What’s next for your business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?
I’m still forming my business truthfully for now I’m enjoying the ride I’m on. The rest everyone will have to wait and see. 😉
What is the biggest lesson you have learned in 2020?
The biggest lesson I learned in 2020 is the universe has a way of slowing us down. In the Northeast where I live, we operate on one speed, FAST. Fast living, fast thinking, fast money, fast food. We tend to be a society of overweight, over indulged, over stretched and constantly living in overdrive. 2020 showed me how unhealthy that way of living can be long term. It forced me to open my eyes to what’s happening around me.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting your business?
Be selective as to who I put my trust in. Opinions are like assholes, everyone will have one about growing a business. Always listen of course and be open but just because someone makes a suggestion, does not mean I have to implement everything they say. If I don’t fully understand how I can apply to my business what an “expert” is sharing, don’t be afraid to ASK for guidance around their advice.
How have you managed to stay grounded this year?
Luckily for me, I was forced to stay grounded. Having early success be taken away as quickly as it came reminded me to stay grounded and focus on the core basics of growing a business.
Do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?
I do believe in work/life balance but as a new business owner, it’s hard to achieve. There’s a lot to be done and most entrepreneurs are doers and obsessive thinkers. We just think and execute, all hours of the night. For me, I’ll end up crashing for 2 days after being at it for 6 days straight until 2am-3am. While I absolutely believe in it, I’m not really sure I’m the best person to give tips as I’m still learning how to create it for myself.
What’s something our audience would be surprised to learn about you?
I typically get mistaken for Italian, Spanish, Portuguese or Indian but many would be surprised to know that I am actually biracial. My biological father is a dark skinned African native and my biological mother, Polish/Hungarian. Fun fact.
What are your top 3 tips to stay productive each day?
1. Have and work on your daily plan. An old boss used to tell me if you fail to plan, plan to fail.
2. Complete the most daunting tasks when you have the most energy. We are early risers in our house so I get most of the tedious, daunting tasks out of the way first thing.
3. Perfection is not your friend. This is something I am still learning and trying to understand myself but oftentimes my need for perfection in my tasks derails my overall production of the day.
What does being an Entreprenista mean to you?
Being an Entreprenista, in my opinion, means support. Whether I am being supported or supporting others, being part of this network gives me a sense of security that no Entreprenista is on this journey alone.