7 September 2022 | by Louise Archer

With either 1 or 17 retained search assignments under your belt, there will always be bumps in the road. The support of peers is vital to staying at the top of your game. Whether it’s seeking advice, solving an issue or just keeping your ear to the ground, you need to be in a retained community.  

In the Retrained Search community, we do just this. We host weekly live Q&As, group chats and special guest workshops to give our members the resources they need to elevate their game.  

Our community is constantly evolving. Previous graduates who have sought new avenues of success in the retained space feed their knowledge back into the community directly benefitting others. 

Today, we’re sharing an insight into one of our guest sessions featuring one of our significantly successful graduates.  

Introducing Paul Press  

Paul Press is a pillar in the Retrained Community. He founded Press & Associates and revolutionised his company from 100% contingent to 100% retained, securing 6 figure fees, and placing candidates at the c-suite level. All in under 18 months.  

Paul founded his company in 2017 and placed mid-level management roles. After undergoing the Retrained Search course, he moved his company from 100% contingent to 100% retained. Paul says that ‘retained is the holy grail’ and during the course, he won his first c-suite retainer and everything else was history. The course put him on a completely different trajectory.  

Every great recruiter understands that there is more money, security and happiness to be made with securing retained search. It’s always on a recruiter’s mind to access this playing field. But there is a huge misconception that stands in the way: that retained is only for senior assignments secured by huge executives in capital cities. That’s far from the case as Paul proves in his journey.  

So, let’s get into it – how do you go from winning a few retainers to playing at the big levels with 6 figure fees and c-suite clients?  

Your guide to 6 figure fees and building a base of c-suite clients  

Paul recently featured on our Retrained Search Q&A. Our members quizzed him on his success and the best route to securing the same excellent results as him. We’ve included some key takeaways: 

How did you end up specialising in c-suite or 6 figure salaries, were you always batting at that level, or did you work your way up?  

In short: I worked my way up.  

At the start of my career, I was doing £5-6k placements with entry-level mechanical and electrical engineers. The larger fees were always of interest to me but also the idea of placing professionals who had a global and strategic role in the business. I was always inspired to recruit at the c-suite level. It went in stages.  

First– entry-level roles.  

Secondly– When I joined a boutique recruitment company, I made the role myself and started to place more senior-level engineering roles that were making good money offshore. This pulled me into mid-level searches.  

Thirdly– Starting up my own business gave me carte blanche to identify the areas that interested me, the industries, and the functions. This allowed me to go after exactly what I wanted to do.  

It was a gradual set of steppingstones which propelled me towards 100% retained. Originally, it was marketing candidates out. The SHREK firms weren’t doing any proactive work for candidates and would only call them with their “perfect” role. It was very client-centric. It perplexed me why no one was helping c-suite candidates. Not only are there good fees to be made but they become great clients down the line. The candidate-led approach is how I got into c-suite, and it built off from there.  


I’m 100% retained but struggling to move into the c-suite sector. How do I get that initial meeting? I currently connect with c-suite potential clients on LinkedIn, but it ends up as a candidate call instead of a client call.  

A lot of our conversations end up like this too. We’re building a perfect series of events to convert them through this conversation.

– Keep up to date with Press & Associates 

If you treat them like a great candidate, listen to them, appeal to what they’re looking for, and let them know you’ll keep an eye out for opportunities for them, you’ll be top of their mind when they have an assignment.  

Nurture your relationship and keep the plate spinning. It’s difficult to avoid these conversations for sake of time efficiency but treat them well and it will come around.  

If they are in your ideal market, use what we call ‘opportunistic hiring’. Say, ‘Tell me what type of opportunities you’re interested in, what companies, and we’ll market you out.’ Market them as a candidate. The candidate-led approach is key in leading to c-suite clients.  

I tried marketing a c-suite candidate to several organisations using video, email and LinkedIn, what are the techniques you use to market your candidates?  

We use Retrained Search’s approach for engaging with candidates and flip it on its head. Map out the market for all the contacts suitable for this candidate and the decision-makers in the hiring process.  

Don’t go for one point of contact, hit all the decision-makers. Identify them all. After mapping out contacts hit them up through automated software covering;  

  • Email  
  • LinkedIn  
  • Cold calling  

Aim for 5-7 touch points for each contact. Keep hammering at it. Some automation programmes I recommend are Clockwork and its plug-in Interstellar. For LinkedIn I use Dripify.  

– There is some interjection from members that the Retrained Search ‘leverage’ material gave a 60%+ response rate from prospective c-suite clients. Apply to access this resource and more 


You’re a relatively small business but are carrying out sophisticated work and sophisticated mapping both in the searches you’re handling and the capacity to carry out complex candidate maps. How are you resourcing that as a business?  

We externally resource our market mapping. Our process after winning a retained assignment is to have a kick-starter meeting to pool all the details needed together. Then we follow with a debrief to ensure that the team is crystal clear on what the client is looking for. We keep tabs on all steps and build a multi-stage approach to the assignment. Then hand it over to the delivery team.  

We have our own in-house search delivery team to carry out the candidate process with assessments and deeper analyses to ensure that they are right for the opportunity.  

What challenges do you face at this level?  

The biggest challenge is coming up against SHREK firms. It’s not necessarily because of the service they provide or getting better quality candidates or actioning within a certain timescale. We use all the tools taught from the Retrained Search course on how to pitch against SHREK firms, and how to differentiate ourselves. It’s down to ‘no one gets fired for hiring IBM’. It’s that. With Retrained Search training, your pitch is better than SHREK firms, your timeline is better, and you’ve presented a shortlist that would be awesome but the CEO wants to go with a big-name brand. Name recognition.  


Any last pieces of advice for those wanting to do more c-suite work?  

If you want to do more c-suite, you’ve got to take time, hone in on your messaging so that when clients get in touch, they know you’re a specialist. Assignments are slow burners at the c-suite level. Give it time and patience.  

How to pitch against SHREK firms  

We are holding a ‘How to pitch against SHREK firms’ workshop for our members soon. Apply now for access.  

Louise Archer

Louise Archer

Louise has worked on the front-line of recruitment for twenty years. Having been a contingent recruiter before transitioning to retained she understands the struggles that consultants and companies face, operating on a contingent basis. Louise started training Retained Search four years ago, and since then has taught hundreds of recruiters to move to Retained.

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