We talked to Juliette Lim of Opus Search on how the firm connects consultants, bankers, and operators to startups and tech companies.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Juliette Lim: Thanks for asking. Everyone is doing fine, thankfully. I’m used to traveling around a good amount, so it’s been an adjustment having to stay put in one place for so long, but it’s been nice to discover new hobbies or activities to keep busy with.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Opus Search.
Juliette Lim: I started Opus with a good friend of mine, Janice, whom I met while I was previously working as a management consultant at McKinsey. I knew I wanted to try my hand at building something from the ground up and owning my own business, and there was no better time nor person to do it with.
When we first started, Opus was going to be a rotational program that allowed experienced professionals to work in different business functions across different startups for a set period of time. A cool idea in concept and one that many candidates got excited about, but it was tough to actualize from a financial standpoint. That eventually led to a pivot into the Opus we know today: a boutique search firm that helps strategy, finance, and operations talent find opportunities in the startup and tech space.
How does Opus Search innovate?
Juliette Lim: Recruiting is interesting because it’s an industry that’s been around for decades. A lot of the modern approaches to recruiting, like a fully tech-enabled recruiting model, often compromise on the people-first aspects of recruiting that are required to see success in the field.
At Opus, we’re always trying to think about what the right balance is: We want to build genuine relationships and deeply rooted connections with the candidates and clients we’re interacting with, but we also want to try to leverage technology as much as we can to make our jobs more efficient and work more scalable.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Juliette Lim: We were hit very hard in March and April when the pandemic first hit the US. Two-thirds of our client base had stopped all hiring activities almost overnight. The uncertainty of not knowing when recruiting would resume and, consequently, the implications for our team was the worst part of it all, but thankfully things have picked up considerably since then.
As business initially picked up, we saw slight changes to the composition of our client base. Historically, we did a lot of work with the Series A-C stage of startups. We now were doing more work with earlier stage companies and very established large tech ones. I think the A-C range was just more cautious to get back to regular high-speed growth and hiring for a bit. It’s December now, and everything has started to even out again.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Juliette Lim: Yes, mostly around reconciling money with relationships. Do we overlook it if a client isn’t paying their bills on time? Can we afford to give out extensions on invoices to clients who have been hit equally hard by the pandemic – if not harder? A lot of the work we do is with startups whose business livelihoods were also on the line. Likewise, with our team: If this lasts longer than expected, do we furlough? Or pump some money back in ourselves?
At the end of the day, we tried to always prioritize people and relationships first. For us, it felt like the right thing to do, and I think it set the tone that that was what we were about at Opus.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and Opus Search in the future?
Juliette Lim: I don’t think about stress and anxiety, per se. Instead, if there’s a problem or something that needs fixing, I just set time aside to take care of it. Any given day is a mix of working in the weeds and thinking long term about where we want to be in X years and whether or not the things we’re spending most of today are helping us get there.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Juliette Lim: Recruiting is extremely fragmented, and there are many firms that exist. We view our competitors as any other firm or individual specializing in our niche: Ex-consultants agency, Argyle/Guild Talent, Hiperpool, Golden Gate Recruits started by my good friend Phil, etc.
We pride ourselves on adopting a highly strategic mindset toward building a recruiting firm: I am adamant about optimizing for efficiency without compromising on quality, service, and the relationship. I think you’ll see that in the quality of our work and service, I think it’s why most of our clients keep coming back to us for more when they can easily go elsewhere.
Your final thoughts?
Juliette Lim: I’m always a huge advocate for anyone trying to go out and start your own thing – if you’re thinking about it, do it! It’s hard work but fulfilling.
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