Authentic relationships in the executive search community can boost your career

In your career, an executive search consultant can be a great customer.  Like anyone who buys your services, you need to build loyalty and trust.  Let’s explore how you can get to know your executive search customer!

In my work with executives, I often hear, “I need to transition quickly. Can you introduce me to any headhunters?”  I admit I used to cringe at the question, as it reflects a true misunderstanding of the executive search profession.  If executives actually reflected on the role of executive search consultants, they could find much better ways to interact with this dynamic group of professionals. To build great relationships with members of the executive search community, you need to move from a transactional approach to a long-term customer-focused strategy.

The role of the executive search consultant (too often loosely called a “headhunter”) is to satisfy the employer’s need. Indeed, a very important point! Candidates are only important if they fit the specifications of an open position for executive talent. Usually, executive search consultants are experts in their industry and/or function area. There are typically two types of executive search engagements: retained search and contingency search.  Retained search is where the executive search firm is the sole representative of that role and advises the organization from start to finish, helping identify successful qualities for the candidate in the beginning stages, and assisting with offer discussions upon completion.  Most likely, the retained search firm is paid through a mix of a retainer and a commission upon successful hire (usually termed an “uptick”). In a contingency search, the organization may not be the sole representative of that role, and they will most likely be paid when a candidate is hired successfully.   Retained search engagements tend to be more consultative with an individual employer (the role is likely more high- profile, and a high degree of confidentiality is needed) while contingency search engagements are less consultative with an employer (there are multiple openings for the same type of job description and the candidate actually might be marketed to multiple employers at the same time).

Knowing these elements is essential, because executives can truly engage retained search consultants over the long-term to benefit their career.  Here are some suggestions on building a long-term relationship with the executive search world: Read more of this post

Be Resilient in 2014 Like Sam-I-Am!

Sam I am

With two young boys, it has been a thrill to be re-acquainted with one of the best children’s books of all-time.  The famous refrain “I do not like green eggs and ham. I do not like them Sam-I-am!”  from Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham rings true today as much as when the book was first printed on August 12, 1960.

Sam-I-am invites his “client” to a buffet of green eggs and ham and receives a clear, resounding “NO!” In total, Sam-I-am gets rejected 69 times. 69 TIMES?!  Each rejection becomes only more emphatic than the preceding one. It is only after the grand 70th ask, that Sam-I-am convinces his “client” that green eggs and ham are exactly what he needs. Not only did Sam-I-am make the same ask 70 times over, but he also did it with flair – in boats, cars, trains, houses and even in the dark.  Each new ask on the same theme (my “client” will like green eggs and ham) was presented in so many fun and interesting ways.

2014 is a new year and a time for looking forward.  We make plans and resolutions, refine goals and think of ways to improve aspects of our professional lives.  Whether it is elevating individual or group achievements, inspiring employees, getting a promotion or more interesting work, closing more business or exploring a new career even into retirement, there is always an opportunity to aspire to.

After several weeks of working towards these new goals, it will only be natural to encounter resistance. Prospects, clients, vendors, colleagues, subordinates and supervisors may not be as excited about your efforts as you are.  The organizational dynamics, culture, social norms and ways of working may not easily accept change.  This exact moment is where I challenge you to find your inner Sam-I am.  Here are some ideas on how to find joy in resiliency, so you can achieve your goals in 2014: Read more of this post

Smucker’s Jif goes “nuts” about product innovation. Will you innovate your approach to mentors?

Smucker’s. This maker of preserves, coffees and peanut butter has been around since 1897, when JM Smucker was pulling along a horse drawn wagon with its apple butter.  Even with a great history in delivering a great American pastime (peanut butter and jelly), Smucker’s has certainly not been relaxing on a great name.

In Food Navigator, “JM Smucker: Our innovation success rate exceeds industry norms” on September 4, 2013, we learn that new products have contributed to $530M of the company’s topline sales.  Extensions of Jif into Jif Natural, Jif To Go, Jif Almond and Jif Cashew represent some of its faster growing segments.  That is something to go N-U-T-S over!

Jif’s innovative approach to broaden its nut product portfolio (the world is clearly not just peanut butter anymore) gives us a unique moment to reflect on our own career goals on how our mentor portfolio supports our professional growth.  To develop in your career, it is important to add new mentors in a variety of “flavors” to support that development.

Here are some ideas to consider as you evolve your approach to mentoring: Read more of this post

Keurig and Campbell Soup Challenge Us to Seek Out New Social Media Channels

Keurig and Green Mountain Coffee. Since 1998, they have brought quality coffee to a single cup without having to grind beans, measure coffee, handle filters or clean up. Press a couple buttons and voila! You can find the Keurig in plenty of homes as well as office break rooms. As the organization evolved, its product line expanded to tea and hot cocoa.  Now Keurig is about to go where no one thought they could go! Campbell Soup in a Keurig!

In Forbes, Soup From A Coffeemaker, Anyone? Green Mountain Will Start Selling Campbell Soup K-Cups”  on September 4, 2013, we learn that chicken, dry pasta and vegetables will now be coming through your Keurig.

Campbell’s creative approach with Keurig shows their product, normally sold through a can in a grocery store, can be delivered to a new set of customers in an unlikely place. Wow! Innovation and chicken noodle soup in the same sentence!?

As Campbell innovates to seek new customers with Keurig, we all have an opportunity to reflect on our own “customers” and how they interact with us on social media. Here are some ideas to consider: Read more of this post

Maker’s Mark teaches us how not to “dilute” our brand

Makers-Mark-NeatMaker’s Mark. This bourbon has been sold in a very distinctive bottle sealed with red wax since 1954.  In addition to great packaging and taste, you can count on its 45% alcohol by volume / 90 proof the same way you can count on the annual Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs.

Or can you? In The Washington Post, “Maker’s Mark reverses decision to cut amount of alcohol in whiskey, restores historic levelon February 17, 2013, we learn that Maker’s Maker actually considered adding water to its award winning product (dropping its alcohol volume from 45% to 42%), due to excess consumer demand. Immediately, consumers passionately responded via social media against this change and actually preferred a mild shortage of the product over altering its composition. Maker’s Mark quickly recognized its folly and scraped plans of the product change.

In planning to water down its product, this great bourbon not only ignored the economics of supply and demand (thoroughly discussed in this great Forbes article) but also the emotional attachment customers had with Maker’s Mark brand. Adding water to Maker’s Mark, literally and figuratively dilutes this powerful spirits brand.

Quick marketing lesson: in its simplest definition, a brand is “a delivery of promise.”  This promise (product or service) can be delivered via functional and emotional benefits to the desired customer. When Maker’s Mark delivers its promise, customers expect a quality product at 45% alcohol volume.  Altering its composition would be no different than changing the formula in Coca-Cola or revamping the packaging of Tropicana Orange Juice. Customers develop an emotional attachment to the brand that they have come to expect over decades.

Maker’s Mark’s recent misstep allows us to ponder how we can successfully manage our personal brand to avoid any “brand dilution”: Read more of this post

In 2013, Barilla’s pasta gets creative. Will you be as creative for your career “pasta”?!

barilla2-570x279Barilla.  A family-owned company for 135 years that brings Italian delights such as pasta and sauces to the American consumer.  Its variety of pastas has nutritious additions such as pasta infused with vegetables, white fiber, and whole grains.  You really can expect more from your pasta in 2013.

Barilla also expects more from you. The Wall Street Journal, “Barilla Makes U.S. Pasta Push” on August 30, 2012, we learn that Americans could be eating more pasta in relationship to other countries.  Americans ate an average of 19.4 pounds of pasta per person in 2011, compared to 57.3 pounds for Italians and 28.7 pounds for Venezuelans, according to the Italian Association of Pasta Industries.

So how will Barilla increase brand awareness and get America to eat more carbs? By making its own restaurants!  Barilla is going to take dry pasta in a box and create unique dishes that will bring Italian cuisine to you.  Mama Mia!  I get hungry just writing about it.

As we begin 2013, Barilla inspires us to get creative.  In Barilla’s case, it is finding new ways to consume its pasta.  In your case, it is about opportunities to shine for your customers (e.g., supervisors, colleagues, vendors, clients, future employers) to consume your “career pasta” in new and different ways. Barilla wants to give you a fresh experience so you get excited about what is inside its box.  Define what is inside your box (e.g. pasta, sauces) that everyone knows and enjoys, and then develop your “career pasta” on a beautiful platter with new sides.  In doing so, you remain ever more relevant to your past/current/future customers, superiors, colleagues, clients and vendors.  Who knows, it might even set you up for a promotion, a new career move or more interesting projects! Read more of this post

Baltimore’s iconic Berger cookie inspires a career move

Born in Brooklyn and raised in New Jersey, I never thought something could ever rival the famous Black & White cookie. The mix of chocolate and vanilla icing lightly covering an oversized cookie bed made for an enormous smile in my childhood.  Today, Black & White cookies can be bought as easily in the 5 boroughs as in Los Angeles or Miami.

However, a couple years ago I was introduced to something that changed my mind: the Berger cookie.  I remember my induction several years ago when a good friend of my sister-in-law put them in front of me and said, “You have to try this.  It is some of the best Maryland has to offer.” She was right, and since then, I have never turned back.  Whenever I need a “chocolate delivery vehicle”, according to a food blogger quoted in the article, I naturally turn to Berger cookies. When we want to bring a sweet to a friend’s house, the Berger cookie is now the natural choice.

The Washington Post, “Baltimore’s storied Berger cookies have come to Washington,” on April 19, 2012, tells the great history of this cookie and how it has migrated into the Washington, DC area.   The author questioned whether the cookie would succeed in its new market (Washington, DC) given its different consumer demographic who focuses more on healthy eating.  Using a strategy of focusing on Giant supermarkets to gain a foothold in the DC market, the Berger cookie will be expanding to other retailers in the DC metro area as it gains recognition and popularity.

The Berger cookie’s pivot and entry into the DC market through a recognized retail channel gives a great framework for those who are seeking either to move to another city or switch careers.  Here are some tips to bring the best of the Berger cookie into your career: Read more of this post

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