Why We Still Exist

06/27/2016 03.48 EST

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When Sally Stetson and I started our firm 20 years ago we were full of excitement, ambition and more than a little trepidation about the path ahead.  The saying, “We didn’t know what we didn’t know” certainly applied to us, but we were convinced that a highly consultative, responsive approach to executive search – which included a major focus on assessing the cultural fit of candidates – would be a success.  I think it is fair to say that the past 20 years have shown that our belief was correct, and we believe it is even more true today.   When you deliver professional services for a living, there are some things that are always going to be true:   The quality of the people you employ will determine the quality of the work you do for clients – which will directly define your reputation in the marketplace. There is a constant, unrelenting drift toward the commoditization of professional services. As a result, one must always be adding value to service offerings to differentiate from the rest of the pack.   The other truism in retained executive search is that someone is always predicting that you are about to go out of business.   In the late 1990s, as the Internet was on the rise, there was much discussion about whether executive search firms would become obsolete.  We didn’t.  In the ensuing years, most of our clients created sophisticated internal recruitment functions so they could recruit talent...

Emerging Issues in Executive Search

04/29/2015 03.16 EST

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Last week I attended the annual Global Conference of the AESC – The Association of Executive Search and Leadership Consultants – in New York City.  This is the sole organization that represents the $11 billion global executive search industry.  The mission of the AESC is to serve as the voice of excellence for executive search and leadership consultants worldwide.  This year’s conference was attended by about 200 search professionals from 23 countries, and it was organized around three themes – innovation, inclusion and intuition.   I have attended this conference for many years and served on the Americas Council of the AESC, so I have a rather good sense of where our industry has been and where it is going.  Here are some observations about things that have changed – and some that have stayed the same – over those many years.   When I first began to attend this conference in the late 1990s, there were only a handful of participants from outside of the US, and a handful of women attendees as well. It was truly the land of old, white men.  This year, about 40 percent of the participants were women.  The average age was far younger, and I spent time with people from Brazil, Ireland, Dubai, South Africa, Venezuela, Canada and Belgium. In my 20 years in the executive search industry, the word “innovation” has rarely passed my lips when discussing our profession. Last week’s meeting didn’t change that.  The basic foundation of...

A Mid-Year Report on Executive Employment: What We Are Seeing

06/29/2011 03.11 EST

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According to most of the national press, the Great Recession of 2008 has been followed by the Great Jobless Recovery of 2011. No one seems to know when we can expect job growth significant enough to make a major dent in the current unemployment numbers, but most all agree that it will be a while before we see the unemployment rate dip to pre-recession levels. If you’re up for a particularly sobering read, check out McKinsey’s thoughts on the topic. However, based on our experience through 2011, all the news isn’t necessarily gloomy. We’ve seen an uptick in search activity from the beginning of 2010 through to the midpoint of this year and our numbers are by no means unique. The Association for Executive Search Consultants (AESC) saw a dramatic increase in search activity in 2010, reporting a 28.5 percent increase from 2009. Obviously, that’s coming off one of the worst years in this industry’s history but still ranks 2010 as executive search’s third best year… ever. AESC’s reports from the First Quarter of this year were equally promising. As to our particular experience, SSG’s search activity is up over 50 percent in the first six months of 2011 vs. the same period last year. Here are some encouraging signs we have observed over the past six months: An increased level of competition for talent – The candidates we are pursuing for our clients are telling us that calls from executive recruiters and potential employers are up...