‘AND ANOTHER THING, KAPPEL . . .’ : Top Echelon Network Charter Member Mark Suss, right, chats with Top Echelon Network founder Mike Kappel during a Network conference. Suss retired from the recruiting industry earlier this year after 30 years in the industry.
After 30 years, including 25 years as a Preferred Member recruiter in Top Echelon Network, Mark Suss has retired from the recruiting industry
Suss celebrated his 30th year in the business in July. Since then, he’s officially exited the recruiting profession. However, he leaves behind a long and storied career as a recruiter, much of it in the Retail Industry but also covering Advertising, Technology, Banking and Hospitality not to mention a successful tenure as a Network Member and as president of the Maryland Recruiters Association for 10 years. (He was initially supposed to be president for a term of two years.)
As with most recruiters, Suss entered the profession after transitioning from another career. In his case, Suss worked for Bloomingdale’s Department Stores for 15 years before becoming an Executive Recruiter. According to Suss, while Bloomingdale’s enjoyed healthy growth every year that he worked there, the stress level associated with achieving that growth was nearly as high.
“I saw a boss of mine flip his lid on the selling floor,” said Suss. “I had a sales person literally die in my arms of a heart attack. After my mother passed away in July of 1982, I sort of went through what most people go through. After a 15-year career at Bloomingdale’s, I started asking myself if this was really what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.”
As a result, Suss started looking for a business to buy, and he came across Retail Recruiters International, a franchise located in Providence, Rhode Island. With no real ties to the New Jersey area after his mother passed away (his father died at an early age), Suss decided to relocate to the Maryland side of the Washington, D.C. metro area.
“There was no reason to stay in New Jersey, so I thought why not be adventurous?” Suss started his recruiting business in July of 1983. Approximately five years later, he received a marketing letter in the mail from a man by the name of Mike Kappel.
“The letter was about building a split network and doing splits with other retail recruiters around the country,” said Suss. “I sort of understood the concept because I was already splitting business with other members of the Retail Recruiters national network, but I was definitely skeptical.”
However, a follow-up phone call from Kappel eventually sold him on the idea.
“One day, Mike called, and we hit it off,” said Suss. “I asked him how many retail recruiters he had in the system, and he said he had one potential, me, but that he was going to get more. Here it is, 2013, and I’m still waiting for him to get more. He did pick up a few along the way, but I was sort of like a lone ranger in the Network. But at the time, I was like, ‘What the heck? What do I have to lose?’”
And just like that, Mark Suss became a Charter Member of what was at the time called Nationwide Interchange Service. (NIS changed its name to Top Echelon Network in 1998.)
Because of the scarcity of retail recruiters in Top Echelon, Suss didn’t make many split placements himself in the Network. However, his daughter Ilissa eventually joined him in the business, started a Technology Recruiting division, and made quite a few splits with other Network recruiters, both direct hire placements and contract placements. As a matter of fact, her first six placements in Top Echelon were all splits with other recruiters and gave the Suss’s the capital needed to build that particular division.
By 2008, Contract Placement Associates was generating 50% of the total volume of the company and generating about $700,000 in business. Mark laughed while telling the story of how they had placed three contractors with a local Maryland company and generated about $30,000 each during a four-month contract.
However, 2009 brought the Great Recession and things quickly began to unravel. Ilissa was getting married, needed more income, and by 2010 had exited the business to take a position with Deloitte Consulting in their Federal Practice. Her father tried everything he could think of to turn the business around, but unfortunately, nothing seemed to work.
According to Suss, he lost his passion for recruiting during these last few years. That loss of passion, as well as his desire to spend more time with family, including his grandchildren, contributed to his decision to leave recruiting. However, he valued his time in Top Echelon Network, especially the relationships that he was able to create with other recruiters.
“I made some great friends in TE,” he said. “Of my 30 years in business there were about 25 really good years and some spectacular years in there. Thirty years is a long time for anybody to be in business. To me, it’s always been about the relationships—whether it was client-to-candidate, client-to-recruiter, or recruiter-to-recruiter.”
One of the recruiter-to-recruiter relationships that Suss treasures the most was the one he forged with Jeff Skrentny, CERS of Jefferson Group Consulting.
“I met Jeff at a [Top Echelon] meeting, and we wound up becoming personal friends,” said Suss. “As the president of the Maryland Recruiters Association , I invited Jeff to speak to our group. Jeff’s a great guy, a bit on the crazy side, but nevertheless a great guy and I learned a tremendous amount from him. He changed the way people train in the recruiting industry. He brought a different flavor to the same old recruiting methodology.”
Suss also singled out a fellow Preferred Member and the relationship he built with that recruiter.
“I went to a few National Conventions and lots of Chicago meetings, and one of the best guys I’ve met in the business is Joe Noto [of Regency Search Group],” said Suss. “He wanted to know if I could do him a favor and talk to his daughter Lori about changing jobs in the Retail industry, where she began her career. The next thing I knew, Joe and I became good friends, and he’s one of those people who, when I speak about him, a smile comes to my face.
“Top Echelon and the Recruiting industry in general allowed me to make some really great relationships. I really miss many of the wonderful people I’ve met along the way. It’s a tough thing to walk away from an industry where I’ve spent the better part of my adult years and accomplished so much, not to mention having made such a great living. I’ve always wondered how a person knows when it’s time to move on, time to go. I recently came to this decision and guess what? It’s easier than I thought. You just know! I woke up one day and said to my wife ‘I’m done.’
“The funny thing is, though, I’m not the retiring type. I still feel young, vibrant, want to be challenged, and frankly need a place to go every day. Working out of my home the last few years wasn’t for me. I need people to tell my crazy stories and jokes to. I have been extremely fortunate that even as an old guy, I found someone that respects my years in business and needs my help.
“So, even though I am on the backside of that big hill, I have a brand-new career in a new and challenging industry for me, and one that fortunately is not tied to the ups and downs of the economy. I am the Director of Human Resources and Marketing for a very large Medical practice right here in Maryland. I will do this job for as long as I can because I don’t want to be drooling in my coffee in the mo
rning. So as long as I am still looking down at the ground and not up, I’m going to continue to work.”
“I wish you all good health, safe travels, and continued success. It has been my pleasure and honor to be part of Top Echelon Network.”
HAPPY TOP ECHELON ENDING: Mark Suss poses with Top Echelon Contracting President Debbie Fledderjohann during a Network conference. Suss’s firm made quite a few contract placements during his time as a Preferred Member recruiter in the Network.