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Summer Ramblings

2018-06-26 | Blog | Bob Swidler

Change is hard. It’s even harder for a person to consider a change when things are going well. But that’s when most executives change employers, because that is when they are most in demand.

The executive search profession was formed in the 1960s to create a marketplace for executives and help companies capitalize on it when fresh talent was required.

Clients have always wanted us to find them people who are successfully employed. They have felt that they don’t need to pay our fees to produce candidates already available to them (there are exceptions to this of course when a job seeker is between positions for a valid reason). There is also a certain glamour associated with hiring an executive out of a top position elsewhere.

Employers have combatted this by making it hard for valued executives to leave through a myriad of golden handcuff arrangements. But where there is a will, there is a way. So, ironically, this profession is focused on clients who are most committed to hire and candidates who are least willing to move.

However, in many cases, there is a small vein of dissatisfaction that has to be tapped to help grease the wheels. This is where all the skill and hard work come in.

In my case, over my 46 year executive search career, I have overseen hundreds, in fact thousands, of searches, many of which thankfully have produced positive outcomes, sometimes dramatically positive ones. And this has been at all levels, from middle management roles to functional and divisional heads to CEOs, Board members and Board Chairs. This is something in which I take great pride.

There have been failures as well, because nobody can ever fully account for the human dimension. The trick in this profession is to ensure that the failures are not serious in nature, meaning that a hired candidate will stay two to five years and, despite his or her best efforts, will have to move on because the intervention has not been successful or the culture fit has not been as good as anticipated, or both.

I would love to provide a list of successes (and failures), because they are so high profile and in many cases ongoing, and we can learn so much from them. But, confidentiality prevents me from doing so.

What is the point of all of this? It is to ensure that you or those you advise can understand that moving to a new position, even when things are going well, can unlock tremendous value for someone and for his or her new employer.

I have witnessed firsthand the wealth creation and increased career satisfaction (and resulting personal happiness) that can be the outcome of a move of this nature. It is very gratifying for me personally to be thanked by an executive whose life I have helped improve or by an organization that was made better by such a person.

And the rewards just keep on coming. We have very recently completed three searches in Montreal, one for the CEO of a private institution and two for CFOs of large companies, one of which is publicly traded. We currently find ourselves searching extensively in the private equity sector for investment professionals and heads of investee companies. We all love what we do here and are psyched about carrying on into the indeterminate future.

I conclude by saying something I always say at this time of year, which I will abbreviate this time – the US is a pretty good place to visit, particularly down south in the winter, but Quebec and Canada are pretty good places to live.

Kind regards and best wishes for happy upcoming St-Jean-Baptiste and Canada Days,


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