Within a legacy family business, it’s commonplace for members of the executive leadership team to also be members of the family. Of course, when the company board room and the family dining room overlap, it creates a unique dynamic – one that’s not typically found within other ownership structures. So, when the president of a large, family firm contacted us for help at the C-level, we accepted his invitation.
For nearly 50 years, this company built a thriving business in the industrial and protective coatings industry. We had previously worked with the second-generation leader to develop a team that supported his vision. But now he was at a leadership crossroads, and he was considering the addition of a commercial EVP. We consulted with the client, to assess the position’s parameters and over the course of months, advised him that he didn’t need an EVP or COO — he needed to replace himself.
This president was an incredibly strategic leader who excelled at new business development, but his role as president restricted him from those activities as he was forced to manage the day-to-day running of the business. He wasn’t playing to his strengths.
We had a candidate in mind who was within our industry network and ultimately, he was hired for the role. But our work didn’t stop there. We coached the family through the process of integrating this new leader from outside the family into the fold, and we coached the new president on the dynamics of working in a family business.
The results of this leadership change have been exceptional. The new president loves having the ability to make meaningful changes that impact the health and growth of the company. At the same time, the former president, who is now the CEO, is thrilled to be free from the burdens of the presidency so he can focus on what he does best.
The lesson is clear: a healthy family business makes room for others at the table.
We met at a coatings conference. At the time, this CEO had no need for a search firm, but a connection was made and, years later, he called with a request for organizational consulting. He flew out to see us in Chicago and we spent the day reviewing his vision and talent needs and reassessed his organizational structure. At the time, he was outsourcing his R&D, and didn’t know where it would fit internally. We addressed the organization’s structure and started recruiting for the company.
First, we recruited a production manager. The company makes a unique product, so it required a specialized skillset. A run of the mill candidate would not do. We nailed the placement, and the relationship was sealed.
From that point forward, every time this CEO was in a position of growth and needed the next strategic hire, he called us. We also consulted with him on an ongoing basis to continue optimizing the structure of the organization. Their growth spiked.
To date, we’ve hired 30% of the company’s team, including an executive-level scientist that has outperformed all expectations. Nicola James, Managing Partner of Thomas Brooke, attributes the hiring success and strength of the client relationship to purpose-driven recruiting. “We never try to fill a position. We assess expertise, but we also determine key attributes like whether the person is a builder or a maintainer. Do they seek autonomy? Are they comfortable with ambiguity? How do they feel about performance accountability? These are the types of qualities that can ensure a person is the right fit for a company.”
Today the business continues to grow thanks to a high-performing team. The individual employees are all exceptional at their jobs, and at the same time, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
“Thomas Brooke serves as a valued business advisor given their experience working with coatings and chemical companies,” said the CEO. “Through several offsites, they’ve helped me think through various growth paths and the staffing implications. They’ve become an indispensable part of my team.”
Back in 1996, when people were still using pagers, we executed a fax marketing campaign. Sadly, we don’t have an archived copy of our promotional fax, but nonetheless it worked, and we landed a recruiting job with a local division of a larger corporate parent. They had been struggling to fill a sales role in a backwater territory, and we cracked the code for them. That was more than 25 years ago, and in that time, we’ve sourced and placed well over 100 employees for this multi-billion-dollar, multi-national business.
Our placements have spanned everything from corporate roles to group roles to individual operating businesses. We’ve worked with individual clients from the plant to the corporate officers, all over the world. Key to our successful outcomes has been our ability to source candidates that fit the company’s culture. This firm grew through acquisition, and they are decentralized, with a highly entrepreneurial, yet complicated environment. As a result, this company seeks self-starters and doers. They don’t mesh well with highly “corporate,” bureaucratic, rigid personalities, or top-down management styles. Because we know their DNA, we can find candidates who are a culture fit in very specific technical niches and blend seamlessly into their Byzantine organization.
Our retained search model also means we can offer coaching and consulting services within the scope of an engagement. We help hiring managers shape new positions and explore alternate strategies and solutions to ensure each hire contributes toward the overarching business goals.
Managing Partner Nicola James chalks up the success of this longstanding relationship to trust. “They know we always go the extra mile,” she says. “We deliver promptly and with excellence. And we stand by our placements.”
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