Virtually Employed

Plano's Bill Vick runs three -- or is it five? -- businesses in cyberspace

by Hank Mishkoff (

Note: This article originally appeared in The Met on August 31, 1995.

Bill Vick lives in Plano, and he runs several incredibly successful employment-related businesses out of his home. But if you're an employer searching for an employee, or if you're trying to find a job yourself, don't bother looking for Vick in Plano. You're much more likely to find him in Cyberspace.

Vick founded Vick & Associates, an executive search firm specializing in finding sales and marketing "talent" for computer software firms, in 1986. Although he says that Vick & Associates has been recognized as one of the nation's top ten computer-related recruiting firms for much of that time, Vick now considers it to be only his "number three business." His "number two business," Solo Systems, is a company that he started three years ago to sell Macintosh-based software to other recruiters. "Solo manages the entire recruiting process," Vick tells me. "I developed it for my own use, and it worked so well for me that I figured other recruiters would want it, too." He figured right; last year, Solo was the second-best-selling software of its kind for the Mac.

Vick got the idea for his current "number one business," the Internet Professional Association (IPA), about a year ago, when he noticed that whenever he went to industry association conferences and trade shows, nobody wanted to talk about his search firm or his software. They wanted to talk about the Internet. And Vick, with his extensive experience in both recruiting and computers, was surprised to find that he was suddenly in demand as a speaker on the subject of how the Internet was changing the recruiting business. Recognizing an opportunity when he saw one, Vick launched the IPA almost exactly a year ago.

What Vick recognized was that, although recruiters were rushing to take advantage of the demographics of the Internet to hunt for prospects for technology-related positions, there was no organization specifically dedicated to the needs of firms engaged in this new kind of recruiting. So Vick created the IPA, and he organized it as a "virtual association" -- which is to say that, instead of holding annual meetings at convention centers and distributing newsletters via the U.S. Mail, the IPA exists entirely on the Internet. "We already have about 1,100 members," Vick says, proudly. "Not only is the IPA the largest virtual association in the recruiting industry, it may well be the largest virtual association of any kind, anywhere in the world."

The IPA's first project is RON, the Recruiters OnLine Network, which helps match recruiters who have "permanent" positions to fill with recruiters who have prospects to fill those positions. "The recruiters who are members of RON share leads and split the fees, just like people in the real estate business do," Vick explains. "Last year, split-fee arrangements accounted for eight percent of the $42 billion recruiting business. And RON is the first online network specifically designed to facilitate that kind of business."

Not one to rest on his laurels, Vick is finalizing plans to add two new services to the IPA. The Global Employment Network (GEN), an international recruiting association, will be introduced at a trade show in London in a couple of weeks. And StaffNet, scheduled to go online in October, will attempt to provide services to the temporary staffing industry similar to those that RON provides for "permanent" employment recruiters.

I've lost count, but I think this means that, in a couple of months, Vick's virtual "empire" will consist of at least five different businesses. But unlike the presidents of other Plano- based conglomerates like EDS and Frito-Lay, Vick can run his empire from his bedroom, dressed in a terry-cloth robe and bunny slippers.

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