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, 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.
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.
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 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)
Companies are getting into the festive spirit this year as the trend of having corporate holiday parties continues to grow, according to the 28th annual survey of corporate America’s firms conducted by leading global executive search firm Battalia Winston.
This year, 89 percent of the companies polled will have holiday parties – a continual uptick from 85 percent in 2015 and 78 percent in 2014. The survey has historically served as a means of gauging corporate confidence in the economy. The increase in the number of parties planned generally reflects that people are feeling positive about the economy.
Holiday parties were held by 95 percent of companies in 1988, the first year of the survey, and hit an all-time high of 97 percent 1996 and in 1997 – all years when the economy was robust. The parties then hit a record low of 81 percent in 2008, and as the nation continued to react to the “Great Recession,” holiday parties spiraled to a new record low of 74 percent just five years ago.
This year’s results show a much merrier turn of events, as the survey reveals even more positive data from the companies.
“Despite the uncertainty of the election, we are seeing that companies are showing continual growth and that they are wanting to celebrate that growth with their employees,” said Dale Winston, Battalia Winston’s Chairwoman and CEO.
2016 Survey Findings:
- Seeing green in 2017: As companies make plans for next year, more than half (64 percent) of respondents say they’re on track to “grow and hire” next year – up from 52 percent in 2015. Less than a quarter (20 percent) expect their growth to stay the same.
- What’s the reason for the party this season? 50 percent of the respondents said that the purpose of the party was to boost employee morale – up from 47 percent last year. Another 30 percent said it was to celebrate a successful 2016.
- Why no celebration? Half of the respondents who reported that their companies are not having a holiday party this year say they have never had such a celebration. Only 27 percent of those not having parties say a holiday party just didn’t make it into the budget this year.
- About that Budget… An astounding 93 percent of respondents said that regardless of company revenue, their company’s holiday party would be the same as – or even better than – the previous year’s. That trend is holding strong: it was also at 92 percent last year and just one point lower in 2014. What might be most telling about the employers is that this 93 percent includes the 18 percent of respondents who said their company either had no growth or had some type of consolidation and yet they still planned to have a holiday party at least as good as last year’s.
- Who’s invited? Employees, of course! However, this year 30 percent of respondents say spouses, partners, dates, or other family members will be passing the eggnog.
- Deck the Break Room: Most respondents say their parties will be held in the evening (35 percent) and at a restaurant (40 percent), but a sizeable portion (30 percent) of this year’s parties will be held at the office. Of the 18 percent having multiple parties, the majority are doing so because the company is too large for a single party or because of a dispersed workforce.
- Bring on the Booze! Drinks will still be served at most (65 percent) of this year’s parties, but that’s the lowest percentage ever recorded. Thirty-five percent of party-goers will have to bring their own cheer this year.
- What election? It seems this year’s presidential election has already been forgotten – at least when it comes to celebrating the holidays. Ninety-eight percent of respondents said that campaigning and elections had absolutely no effect on their party-planning process or budget. In fact, the majority respondents said the uncertainty surrounding the elections had no effect on their company’s future whatsoever.
- ‘Tis the season to give back (but just a little bit): 2016 marks one of the lowest for companies officially giving back to charity during the holiday season since 2010, when the recession caused charitable giving to drop to 47 percent. This year, 67 percent of the companies surveyed will be volunteering or collecting donations this year, up slightly from 66 percent last year, but down sharply from 75 percent in 2014. Also on a downward spike is the number of employers giving their employees a holiday gift. This year only 32 percent of respondents said their companies planned on giving out holiday gifts to their staff this year, down sharply from 45 percent just last year.
So, are corporate holiday parties here to stay?
“It is absolutely looking like the holiday party is here for good,” said Winston. “Employers enjoy giving their employees something to look forward to every year and a holiday party can do that every time.”
The 2016 Battalia Winston nationwide survey was conducted among a cross-section of 200 companies.
Click on the images below for full-size, downloadable graphs.
About Battalia Winston:
Battalia Winston has been successfully meeting client needs in executive recruitment for 53 years and is currently ranked as one of the nation’s 20 largest retained executive search firms, as well as one of the world’s largest woman-owned search firms. Headquartered in New York City, the firm also has offices in New Jersey, Boston, Washington, D.C., and Chicago. Battalia Winston is an agile and uniquely flexible firm and their culture is focused on providing highly personalized, responsive client service.
by Bruce H. Walton, Partner at Battalia Winston
When a family-owned business needs to recruit a non-family CEO or COO, a well-structured Long Term Incentive Program (LTIP) is essential in attracting an outstanding candidate. However, LTIPs can make some family business owners uncomfortable. Few families want to give up true ownership, even when they realize that an agreement is important for the health of the business. Naturally, the non-family CEO will want to share in the value they create through an incentive program that enables them to feel, act and think like an owner.
Fortunately, there are ways to structure an LTIP that preserve ownership and make the program a win-win situation for both owners and newly hired executives. The dominant LTIP vehicle among private firms is a cash-based performance incentive which contributes the earned award to a deferred pay account with vesting conditions.
Here are a few guidelines that we have found useful in recruiting.
Work with Experts
Creating an LTIP is not something that should be handled in-house. It takes a professional compensation consultant to translate the family’s value system and objectives into an appropriate LTIP architecture, and then to fit the program to the requirements of the finalist candidate. There is always a bit of negotiating that goes on, first within the board and family, then with the finalist candidate. The process usually requires several steps/iterations over a couple of months and needs to be memorialized by a lawyer. The whole process might cost $12-15,000.
Because the process can take some time, we strongly encourage clients to start developing the LTIP at the beginning of the CEO or COO search. It is too late to start the process once the final candidate has been identified. If there is an LTIP already in place, it may need to be refreshed to match the current marketplace. Again, this process should be started early, since even minor modifications can take a couple of months.
Start with the Premise that the Program Should Pay Out Only When Value is Created
The architecture of the LTIP should be based on sharing in the value that the CEO helps create. Frequently, the way to measure that value is EBIT or EBITDA, starting with a reference value before the new CEO joins, and allocating a percentage of the value created to a pool that is shared by the top three to five members of the management team. This incents the CEO and provides some tools to attract and retain top talent.
In some programs, a third party assesses the company’s value each year, providing an independent view of the payout, but this method has a yearly expense attached to it. One recent client simply assigned a percentage of the EBITDA growth over time to a pool.
Keep it Simple
Some of my clients have tried to incent behavior with overly complex metrics, to the point that one candidate likened the proposed LTIP to the tax code. He asked, “What are you really trying to get me to do?” The company did not have a good answer. Also, it was very hard for the candidate to assess what was achievable before he moved under the tent with access to all the needed information. Ultimately, the company decided to simply base the incentive on company value growth based on their formal company annual valuation program.
LTIP payouts should be made in a reasonable timeframe, balancing the needs of the candidate with the need to protect the company from a large cash flow demand. Remember, if the CEO makes a lot of money, the family has made even more!
Of course, the value of the LTIP should be subject to a vesting schedule of a reasonable timeframe, perhaps three to five years. I had one client that wanted the monies held within the company until the CEO turned 65. That was unacceptable to the 43-year-old finalist candidate. He proved he was the right candidate by saying, “I want to be able to take some of my (earned) money out on a regular vesting schedule, invest it and then lose it, just like everyone else.” He turned the company profitable within nine months and doubled the value of their minority ESOP within three years.
While a recruiter can provide a sense of whether a program is comparable with others in the market, it takes a compensation consultant who deals with private companies to “turn the dials” and match a program to a specific situation. Recruiters familiar with family-owned businesses are accustomed to collaborating in this way and working with various other consultancies supporting the family-owned business community.