No Staff, Great Hours Just A Man And His Machine

How a headhunter downsized his payroll to one

Stanley Herz has created a lean, mean company for the 1990s. It consists solely of himself--and his computers.

Faced with a slumping business during the recession of 1990-91, he fired all seven employees of his executive-search firm in Stamford, Conn. Then, he moved the business to a small office in Somers, N.Y., a few miles from his house, and refocused on top executives at smaller companies rather than the shrinking corps of middle managers.

He now wears jeans to work, chooses his own hours, and says profit levels are approaching those of the heady 1980s.

His secret? The huge amount of information he's able to tap into online and on CD-ROMs.

Finding potential clients or job candidates no longer requires a research staff to sift through reference books and type names into a computer. It takes Herz just a few hours to sort thousands of companies and download addresses and the names of executives straight into a word-processing program. And it's a task that can be done at any time of day or night. "My online services, CD-ROM, and inhouse databases don't know it's after 5," says Herz, a 53-year-old former financial manager at Xerox Corp. who retains his Brooklyn accent.

WHOM TO RAID? Herz is a living example of how technology can hurt employment levels but boost efficiency. He's also proof that a small-business owner using a few relatively cheap information tools can compete with much larger firms. As with the big shops, clients pay Stanley Herz & Co. a flat fee to find candidates for an executive opening. If Herz places a candidate, he also gets a percentage of a sum equal to the person's first-year salary--typically 30%.

The key, then, is figuring out which companies he should raid and which candidates he should target. He relies mainly on two programs: Direct Access, a Dun & Bradstreet Corp. online service, and the Register of Corporations, Directors and Executives, a CD-ROM from Standard & Poor's Corp. (which is owned by BUSINESS WEEK's parent, The McGraw-Hill Companies). These programs allow him and his two temps to sort companies by industry, size, and location and determine which ones are sensible targets for either raids or client pitches. "The result," Herz says, "is a smaller list of more likely clients."

NO AVOIDING ERRANDS. He also uses online services and a research firm in Omaha called InfoAccess, which faxes company profiles to its customers, to run through financial data on companies. If Herz is on the phone with a candidate or a client, he often looks up information while he talks. "I get the sense he has got a database of thousands of people," says Paul Bedrin, president of Allied Strauss Office Products in Hasbrouck Heights, N.J., and a client. Another plus, says Bedrin: "When I call him, I know I'm not going to be pushed off to some junior person."

Technology has done more than cure Herz's ailing balance sheet. It has changed the rest of his life, too. He eats lunch at home rather than in bleak downtown Stamford and can go back to the office after dinner. He can be on call for an emergency house visit from the plumber and can take care of nagging errands when there are no lines. "Nothing like a haircut, dentist visit, or oil change at 10:30 a.m.," he says.

Those are just the immediate changes. The big one could come in a few years if he and his wife decide to move South to escape the snow. Herz will pack up his entire business--that is, his computers, modems, disks, and himself--and pick up wherever he left off. Not bad for a guy who, five years ago, was commuting an hour and a half every day to preside over a dying business.

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