So you want to start your own executive search firm or recruiting company, or are curious about the steps involved.

Unlike other recruiting service companies, executive search firms focus exclusively on filling high-profile leadership jobs with highly-experienced candidates. While there are generally fewer of these high-profile positions to fill, the salaries drawn by executives and other leaders can mean a big payday for successfully facilitated hires.

That being said, the demands that clients will have for their next executive will be extensive, so prepare to work hard for those successful executive hires. Here are the requirements for starting an executive search firm.

You Need to Define your Recruiting Business

The first step to creating an executive search firm is taking care of the formalities involved with starting a business entity, securing enough funding to survive your first 6-12 months and defining the scale of your business entity.

If you intend to start a larger firm as a Corporation, LLC or Limited Liability Partnership , then you need to apply with your secretary of state’s office. If your search firm is going to be a proprietorship or partnership, you can get a business name from your local county clerk’s office. If you plan to open an office, even if this is a home office in some cases, you will need to apply for a business license with your city’s local government.

You also need a name for your executive search firm and a functional website for potential clients to evaluate. While you are welcome to go with something “safe,” like “LASTNAME and Associates,” it’s worth it to come up with a name that will be more memorable, while still maintaining the professionalism that is paramount in executive recruiting.

You Need Recruiters for Your Recruiting Business

The success of any executive search company will be determined by the recruiters working for that company. Even if you will be shouldering much of the recruiting, sourcing and networking work, you will still need skilled executive recruiters to meet the needs of new clients.

No matter the size of your executive search firm, you need executive recruiters for their expertise, connections and sourcing abilities. The executive recruiters your firm employs can be incredibly valuable for finding potential clients and poaching clients from other search firms.

It’s also good to remember that these recruiters are a direct reflection on your fledgling company. Always select recruiters who are focused on building and maintaining positive relationships with executives and client companies. Early miss-steps can spell doom for a new company, so be sure that the first few executive recruiters you employ are highly experienced, highly skilled and highly committed to doing right by your company.

You Need Clients

Every company needs clients, but how are you going to start bringing them in?

Hopefully, you’re starting this executive search firm with clients, prospective clients, connections and/or connections through your executive recruiters. No matter how many connections you have, you should begin your client search efforts by reaching out to any and all contacts that you and your recruiters have. These contacts can be former colleagues, former executive search clients and executive candidates who were successfully placed in leadership positions.

When you reach out to these contacts, be sure to communicate a few things:

You’re starting an executive search firm and are looking for clients.
You want to know how the contact is doing and where their career has taken them.
You want your contact to think of your company whenever they or a contact needs executive search services.

In addition to reaching out to contacts, you should also be building your brand with online content and paid advertising. This way, contacts, prospects and people searching for executive search services will have material to look through on your company.

It’s also a good idea to subscribe to job boards and professional groups where potential clients are advertising executive job openings. It also never hurts to research local industry events that present you with networking opportunities and the chance to spread the word about your new company.

In the early days of your executive search firm, finding clients will be of the essence. Reach out to your network, target companies hiring for executives and start spreading the word about your new company.

You Need Candidates and Recruiting Tools

Your executive search firm needs clients, but you also need connections with executives.

Just like when you began searching for clients, the first step in building your search firm’s executive contacts lists, is reaching out to your own executive contacts and the contacts of your recruiters.

When you reach out to your executive contacts, the executive contacts of your recruiters or even executives who have never met you, it’s important to communicate a few things:

You want to find the perfect leadership position for the next step in their career.
Finding the perfect fit may take some time, and you want to keep them updated on positions that could be of interest in the future.
You want to add them as a candidate contact and you want to know a “highly attractive executive role” looks like for them.

Besides investing time into nurturing relationships with executive contacts, it is also wise to invest in executive search tools, applicant tracking tools and/or CRM tools. Most all of the search firms that you compete with will have these tools, so securing your own will be important for securing your position in the market.

As your executive search firm works through its first months, remember that your company’s reputation will be based on the results of your first few client engagements. You and your executive recruiters may have a wealth of experience, but, as a new business entity, you will still need to prove yourself and the quality of your services.