“Executive positions have hard requirements and soft requirements and if you don't have both of those lineup, then sometimes, you won't have success. Sometimes, the soft requirements can trump the hard ones.” – Summer Anderson, Principal of Human Capital Solutions
Alan: Welcome back, I'm here today with Summer Anderson. She is a principle in the firm Human Capital Solutions. Welcome to today's show.
Summer: Thank you
Alan: Human Capital Solutions works in the Executive Recruiting space which is a very hot area right now as firms seek for human capital. I want to roll back on your background for the listeners and tell us what inspired you to launch this company.
Summer: I've spent a great deal of time in executive search. Over the years I've found that there was a big piece missing. Executive search has become super transactional, which means, we're looking for just the right person as opposed to making sure that it's transformational. That's really what I want to do- drive it in that direction so we have the ability to impact not only the executive team, but the holistic company. how we're going to grow it.
Alan: How did you start off your career? Did you graduate with the aspiration of working in human resources?
Summer: The early years I worked in insurance. I happened to cold call an executive search firm that was upstairs. As I was talking to an individual there, he offered me a job, but I couldn't take it at the time. We stayed in touch, and later he offered me another job after I had been working for Coopers & Lybrand for two years. I spent five years at Hedrick working for him and he was a tremendous mentor. After that I took a little bit of a break and had children and went back and worked for Booz Allen Hamilton, which was a fantastic opportunity because it was in-house executive recruiting. I helped them find their CIO. I helped them find a senior partner for their cyber security business, and I also helped with two campaigns, one was a 9-month campaign where we found 24 Vice Presidents, the pother was where we found 33 executives in the space of a year- all cyber security executives. From there I found that I really had a love for building and growing something significant. I spent some time at Allergen, leading their talent acquisition team for the U.S. and later went to Frost Data Capital as their VP of Human Capital. All along, in both large companies and small companies, I found that there was a serious disconnect with how we go about creating value through the process of search. Often times we're looking at a highly transactional situation where we're taking a need and putting a body in it. Rather- let's first understand what the team's about, let's understand the culture, the vision, the technology, how is that different how is that optimal at best, where is it going? We also need to make sure that the team is aligned so when we bring in this superstars, that they not only propel them to the highest highs that they're dreaming of, but that person stays because this team is really operationalized at an optimal level.
Alan: In today's labor force, a lot of companies are looking for labor that isn't really there. You bring out an excellent point that when someone hires to make sure that they're getting the right fit and understand the needs of the organization. Is there a certain process you go through with the company to identify what the right fit is before you place a person?
Summer: Part of what we do at the front end is that we spend a day or two really understanding the executive level team, and all of the folks around that executive- who will be reporting to them, who will they be reporting into? We do this so we understand what the expectations are, and what everyone is thinking in the terms of culture, vision, value and technology. If there is a disconnect, then we have the opportunity to help get it right. We are also finding the strengths and Achilles heels within that team. If we can identify what the Achilles heels are, then bake those into the requirements- there's hard requirements and soft requirements and if you don't have both of those lineup, then sometimes, you won't have success. Sometimes, the soft requirements can trump the hard ones. [Hard Requirements are] easier to find looking at a background or a resume. To find the softer stuff, you need to probe and spend some time. The other thing that we do after level setting what we know about the team is understanding the technology and going deep there. What's unique about this? So if we're going after a CTO, then what is it about this particular technology that is outstanding. how do we tell that particular story? How do we make sure that it is a cut above the rest? That gives us the vignettes to tell this person that we're looking for exactly why they want to come. We're also making sure that we're peeping hum for the challenges that are ahead and that it's attractive.
Alan: I'm visiting here today with Summer Anderson, she is the Principal of Human Capital Services and we'll be right back after these messages.
Alan: Welcome back, I'm here today with Summer Anderson, she is the Principal of Human Capital Service, a firm focused on executive search. Summer, in the first segment we were focused in on the scarcity of labor right now. If I'm a C-level executive or looking to hire people, why would I want to go with an executive recruiter?
Summer: The top reason is that you don't want to settle. If you're going to go through the conventional model of putting out ticklers and talking to your network, you may come up with someone that you know really well. You may come up with somebody who's pretty qualified. But what you don't know is what you don't know. What we do is we will really dig deep. We dig deep not only into the who are you, why are you important, or what is it that you're doing differently in the marketplace, but we are also finding out what is the DNA of this person, what does that need to be, what was (or wasn't) working before, we are asking deeper questions. Let's go to the CEO. If we are looking for a cheap technology officer, in that example I'm also going to be asking questions like what should I be asking and what should I be listening for. So I might put together questions alongside that CEO or alongside the VP of engineering because we are helping him hire his boss.
Alan: Summer, when we are looking at the executive search and the process of identifying the right fit and the right need, who do you like to talk to first?
Summer: I usually like to talk with an incumbent. For example, if we have a CTO who is getting edged out and he's not feeling great about it, that's the first person. I want to spend a significant amount of time with that person and really understand how they are feeling, if we need them to stay, what that looks like. What do they need to feel comfortable to stay? And make sure we bake that into the how we are going to market and add that in to the soft skills of this person. If this person needs a mentor, if the incumbent needs a mentor, we look for what kind of mentor. There are a lot of them out there, we really match them up at the DNA level. After I've spent a significant amount of time with him, I'm going to cross-reference with the CEO in that scenario, then all the other peers on that level. What are they saying? How comfortable is the team with the CTO? What are they hoping to accomplish? Once we get to that, where's the delta, we can start to color that in. We can create the questions around what we need to be probing. We can look at the hard skills on paper, but when we have them on the phone, what are they talking about? When you through a question out that's an experiential question, are they aim strategic? Are they going after execution? And which is more important to the team right now? Are they in a stage where they've got to just get it done or does this person need to be more visionary to get them to the next level? It's really dependent on the age and stage of the company, the kind of technology, and the market that they are in. Triangulating all that together and looking at the white papers that might exist out there. Who is thinking about this in the right way? Who's cutting edge? Who is the best of the best and been at it for a while? Where do they land? That's usually how we get to the folks you really want to be talking to. If you just go out and sprinkle out in your network, you might get someone who's okay, but you're not going to get someone who's off the charts and can take you there. That's what I want.
Alan: I'm visiting here today with Summer Anderson, she is the principal of HCS, Human Capital Solutions with a firm focus on the executive search space. And Summer, I need to take a quick break and we will be right back after these messages.
Alan: Welcome back. I'm visiting today with Summer Anderson. She is the principal of HCS, Human Capital Solutions with a firm focus in the human executive search. And Summer, we are talking about the need to properly screen and profile the right fits for the organization, but in last segment, you made a comment about mentoring. How do you distinguish a mentor from a coach?
Summer: I think there are folks who look at being able to create the plays and then run the plays. Someone who is focused on execution. Then there are mentors who are the visionaries, who have been through this. They have seen the movie several times, they know how it turns out and they can guide. Both are very important, but it really depends upon who we are talking about. Are we talking about a startup that is going from zero to five million? Or are we talking about a company that's headed towards an IPO and beyond? Or are we talking about a multi-billion-dollar company? Sometimes the executive is on the overload, the amount of information they are getting, the mentor or coach needs to be able to crystallize for them what's important. That's why I think you need to discern which is most important in that process. In referring back to the conversation before, what I found in that particular situation, the CTO needed somebody who would put their arm around him and say, "Here's the methodology." He wanted to know how he can replicate this process of driving a company from single x millions to triple x millions. And that's exactly what he's doing right now, he's giving him that methodology so they can execute that now today and then do it again and again and again. He's giving them the formula, essentially, for a lifelong success. That's what he picks up in the process. On the other side, this incumbent who now has a CTO over him has two days a week where he gets to go and think big thoughts. What he's doing is he's bringing that back and this coach mentor is helping to fold those big thoughts back in to the technology they have rolling because the IP came from this original guy. So there is a huge amount of respect there, but there is also guidance. I think that's really what was required for that particular need.
Alan: Yeah, as I think about organizations and growth, of course we have different stages. A large organization has substantial revenue; the processes are more important than the people. In smaller organizations, the people are more important than processes. I want to go back to these smaller organizations who are wanting to do the holistic type of growth, but sometimes they get people that just don't want to follow a process and they keep hiring. People get frustrated and want to leave and you are filling positions over and over. How important is it to you as you begin the executive search that you identify issues that are causing turnover?
Summer: I would say that's job one. If we really identify what is going well and where the disconnects might be happening, we are identifying the strengths to build the story and we are also identifying where the areas are that we can optimize this company. So that everybody is ready to be super charged at this next level. If we don't take care of what may not be stellar right now, we are not going to be able to get this rock-star that we are bringing in to stay. Within 18-24 months, which is the statistic that is out there right now, they will fly. They will want to get out, then you are doing the search again. So then you have lost two fees, because you have to redo the search, and you've lost time. You may have also lost your market opportunity. It's really hard to calculate what you are giving up in the process. That is why it's job one, that's why I'm passionate about it.
Alan: We've addressed organizational, let's step over to candidates now. That's where you really need to think, "How do I reach the people that I'm seeking?" Cold calling, does it work?
Summer: No. It can, but I would much rather be referred, part of that starts with a search strategy. If I know what we are looking for, what we are going to create is a bulls-eye. That center of the bulls-eye has a lot of extra bells and whistles, it's the super person. What I like to say to my clients at the beginning of that conversation is if we can get 80% of what's inside the bulls-eye, we are doing really well. But let's aim for it because we could get to 100%. The cool thing about that is that it makes it really finite. I'm not going to spend any time bringing you the wrong rock. It's very targeted. The exciting thing about that is when you see that person or panel of folks come in who are as close to the bulls-eye as possible, everybody gets really excited. There is a certain amount of 'wow'. Not only is this person going to fill in my Achilles heel, but they're culturally aware of what we have going on and how we make it better. What's more is they are up for the challenge. They've done it before; they can do it again. And this is really going to help us get to where we need to be.
Alan: With that answer laid out, you are going after people that are in jobs, positions, happily employed sometimes. How do you convince them that this is a better opportunity?
Summer: I think probably the most important thing is getting the story right from the get-go, if I understand what their background is. I'll give you an example because that's a good way to do this. I was working on a CEO search for a semantic technology that used data analytics to take all of this IOT data and dump it onto a page. So you have a scatter chart or a pie chart that illustrates what the data is saying, in a heartbeat you have a snapshot. I knew that we had to have a semantic expert who had been in data science for a long time, but had the vision and could support the CTO that was on board. In order to do that, you start to triangulate back. What makes this person get out of bed in the morning? And how does this story map to who they are? If you start with that messaging and then you listen to them and start to really innovate that story around who they are, they are all in fairly quickly. If I find out in the process that they are not the right fit, you get off the phone as quickly as possible, gracefully, but you don't waste time where you shouldn't. When you have the right person on the phone, you know. You absolutely know.
Alan: Summer, we are running out of time today, but a person who wants to reach you, how would they go about that?
Summer: You can reach me via email: firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also get us at HCapSolutions.com, which is our website. We would love to talk to you about your needs at the senior executive level.
Alan: Summer, thanks for being on today's show. We will be right back after these messages.