Fit and Family-Owned Business

by Bruce Walton, Partner in Battalia Winston’s Family-Owned Business Practice

When I’m helping family-owned businesses find new executive leadership, I often hear the following: “We want to find someone who is the right fit.” This word—fit—is difficult to define, yet is always key to a successful hire. When assessing candidates for fit, it’s helpful to use the following questions as guiding principles:

1. Does the candidate’s leadership style align with company’s value systems?

Fit really means linking the value systems and leadership style of the executive candidate with those of the hiring company. In fact, “value systems linkage” is the best predictor of happiness, in all its dimensions, for any hire. Therefore, for a family-owned business, where hiring a non-family CEO can often feel like arranging a marriage, fit is particularly important.

Naturally, the starting point for the hiring process is understanding the Core Family Values that drive the business. Businesses that have survived across multiple generations have invested much thought in the development of family values. They are typically recorded somewhere, either in a corporate handbook, website, or other core material. If this is not the case, formalizing and recording corporate values is an important exercise to complete before starting a CEO or COO search. Since the family can never be separated from the business, these core values will drive decisions that otherwise would be hard for an outsider to understand.

2. Does the candidate possess the most important competencies for the position?

When a candidate clearly aligns with the family’s value system, it can be tempting to conclude that the candidate is automatically a great fit. However, it’s important to move the decision beyond “I like them.” This is why a position competency model, designed to measure the candidate’s specific skill set against the company’s business goals, is critical. The key is to build a competency model that helps separate and prioritize the must-haves from the nice-to-haves. Nobody will be a perfect match on every competency, but the best candidate will have successfully demonstrated the top three to five competencies in the recent past.

3. Will the candidate be a steward of the family’s success?

When I try to consolidate all of the aspects of fit for family businesses, the single word that comes to mind is “stewardship.” Good candidates understand and appreciate what the family has already built. The new CEO becomes a steward of that success, even when the mandate is to transform the company. Family members in the business, ownership or governance have their own self-images (both within the family and in the community or industry) so tightly connected to the business that outside leadership needs to account for it and factor it into the leadership process.

To be a successful steward for the company, the candidate must be a confident adult who is prepared to handle sensitive situations that will arise within family businesses. For example, a mature non-family CEO will be able to react appropriately when ownership wants to drill down into the details of the business, as they always do at some point. The mature steward will not be threatened by this, while an insecure autocrat will not react well.

Investor Relations (IR) also deserves some thought. Every CEO spends a significant amount of time caring for the company’s owners. In public or private equity owned companies, this is pretty clear. In a family-owned business IR involves multi-generational dynamics and strong emotions. It may involve dealing with a Family Council or helping educate a new generation to be successful future owners. So IR does not go away; it is just very different.

In summary, the “best fit” candidates will embrace the core family values and have the capacity and patience to deal with family dynamics without becoming embroiled in them. At the same time the non-family leader will have the right core competencies to lead the business to success, however it may be defined.

Fred Lamster Featured in Total Retail Magazine

Fred Lamster, Partner in Battalia Winston’s Consumer and Retail practice, has contributed an article entitled, “Organization Planning in a Troubled Retail Sector: 6 Keys to Success,” to Total Retail, the go-to source for executives looking for analysis on the omnichannel retail industry.

Co-written with Sharon Tunstall, former VP of Human Resources at Nike, the article shares actionable strategies for impactful organizational planning. In a time when retail is in need of more strategic leadership with greater cross-functional expertise, organization planning is more critical than ever.

Read the full article on Total Retail.

Timothy C. Luce Joins DAS Companies, Inc. as Head of Information Technology

DAS Companies, Inc. is a high growth, profitable, and privately held $350 million marketing and global supply chain portfolio company. The company has strategic goals of becoming a $1 billion organization and is in the process of implementing 21st Century leading edge technologies and streamlining supply chain cycle time. DAS designs, imports and distributes automotive accessories, travel merchandise, and mobile electronics that add safety, convenience, comfort and leisure for on-the-go consumers, through a series of channel partnerships including travel centers, heavy duty trucking centers, and electronics and specialty retailers. The successful candidate was identified in 9 days and the search was completed in 83 days by Terry Gallagher.

Timothy most recently was Director, Information Technology at New Penn Motor Express, a $250 million transportation company providing regional, next day ground services through a network spanning the Northeastern United States, Quebec, Canada and Puerto Rico. Timothy oversaw the day-to-day IT activities and an annual budget of $7 million. He overhauled the Information Technology environment, established an IT Steering Committee and developed and ratified a 4 year IT transformation plan.

Prior to New Penn Motor Express, he was Director, Information Technology at The Ames Companies. He managed all day-to-day IT activities, an annual budget of $7 million and spearheaded strategic development efforts on a global scale. He implemented new metrics and KPIs, cultivating a continuous improvement culture throughout the IT Department and promoted business growth by integrating the e-commerce platform to better capitalize on B2C, B2B, and B2B2C opportunities.

Earlier in his career, he was Director of IT for the North American Region at ESAB Welding & Cutting Products, a $1 billion global manufacturer of professional welding and cutting machinery and associated consumables, servicing customers via a multi-facility manufacturing and distribution system.

Timothy earned his M.S. in Management from Purdue University and his Bachelor of Science in MIS from Clarkson University and has completed Six Sigma Black Belt Training Programs.

 

Susan Oliver Joins Battalia Winston as Partner in the Life Sciences Practice

Battalia Winston International announced today that Susan Oliver has joined the firm as Partner in its Life Sciences Practice.

Susan has more than 20 years of experience conducting executive and board level searches for companies in the biotech, medical device, and pharmaceutical industries.

Drawing from her deep understanding of critical issues in the life sciences sector, including clinical and regulatory affairs, specialty pharmaceuticals, and drug/device combination therapies, she identifies high-performing executives who provide transformational results for her clients.

Susan began her recruiting career at Heidrick and Struggles and later joined Korn/Ferry International as a key member of the firm’s Consumer Products and Advanced Technology Practice. She co-founded Oliver John Partners, where she conducted executive searches for pharmaceutical, biotech, retail and consumer packaged goods firms. Before joining Battalia Winston, she served as Managing Partner of NGS Global’s Life Sciences Practice.

“My approach to executive search centers on two primary goals: delighting my clients and ensuring that my candidates feel appreciated for the time and effort they’re investing with me,” said Susan. “My success in search is largely due to my commitment to creating long-lasting relationships with my clients. Their success is my success.”

Susan’s executive search approach is also informed by her keen understanding of the most pressing issues in the life sciences industry.

“Both biotech and device companies continue to be under pressure to produce improved clinical outcomes in a challenging regulatory environment,” explained Susan. “As a result, our clients have to be better, smarter, and more efficient than their competitors. My job is to help them attract and retain the talent they need to do just that.”

Battalia Winston’s Life Sciences Practice specializes in recruiting executives and other senior-level leaders for a broad spectrum of companies, including clients in the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, medical devices and equipment, diagnostic and consumer health, and animal health industries.

“We’re thrilled to have Susan join our team,” said Dale Winston, CEO and Chairwoman at Battalia Winston. “Her long track record of success in the life sciences sector is a valuable addition to our practice.”

Fred Lamster Featured on HR.com

Fred Lamster recently contributed an article entitled, “Human Resources: Still at a Crossroads” to HR.com.

Stop talking about earning a seat and start proving that you’ve already earned it

I was on the phone with an HR colleague one morning talking about the “state of the function” and bemoaning the current crop of Human Resources bench talent. After all, it is the primary job of HR to build the talent base of an organization—shouldn’t that include the HR function as well?

My colleague is a well-respected CHRO in the energy sector, and I recently left HR after a number of years as a CHRO to go into executive search. We were coming at the issue from different perspectives, but we had no trouble aligning on the key question: Why do HR people boast about “earning a seat at the (proverbial) table” when any other function head on the leadership team – CFO, COO, CMO, CIO, CDO and any other “C” titles that exist based on the company or industry – just comes in and sits down? Why does Human Resources have to earn a seat when other functions simply assume their seat is already reserved? And why do HR people talk with so much pride about earning a seat that should be rightfully theirs?

“If HR needs to fight to be at the table, I would suggest you are working at the wrong company.” (Bill Higley, SVP Human Resources – Retail)

Continue reading on HR.com.