August 1, 2012
I have been in business partnerships, on and off, for over 30 years. I was thinking about this sobering fact and the challenges of partnerships as I read Paul Allen's biography, Idea Man, in which he accuses
Everything becomes clearer when you ask……How?
June 27, 2012
In job interviews and rink-side brag-fests alike, everything becomes clearer with the question ‘how'.
I was recently among a group of hockey dads solving the world's problems
Venture Money In, Entrepreneur Out
June 20, 2012
A recent edition of Profit Magazine is headlined "Lessons from Canada's Best Employers". It features a collection of "highly successful" entrepreneurs regaling on how to create "loyal, turbo-charged teams" and great businesses.
Headhunters in the News
May 16, 2012
It is said that success has many fathers while failure is an orphan. Headhunters rarely find themselves lauded in the press for their roles in fathering great hires though they are often named in nasty paternity suits
Entrepreneurial Firms As HR Wastelands (Part II)
February 1, 2012
Our last blog described the majority of entrepreneurial firms as decidedly cramped spaces for HR professionals to stretch their functional legs. However, there are circumstances that can nudge organizations to engage more meaningfully with the function. Here are three:
The Cry to Replace RIM's CEOs
October 13, 2011
Leaving aside the recent service outages, the shellacking of RIM in the press is a tad surreal to behold.
For the few Luddites not familiar with the firm, Research in Motion is the successful Canadian smart phone pioneer with revenues of $20bb per year, no debt and cash in the bank. They manufacture products that remain popular around the world and continue to boast technological innovations unmatched by any competitor. Their most recently launched smart phone devices have been well reviewed and appear to be selling well. And though the company's first version of its new tablet, the Playbook, has room for improvement, it is a promising piece of technology.
The CEO Hiring Practices at HP
October 3, 2011
The press tells us that Hewlett Packard is the largest technology company in the world with revenues of $126bb. Impressive as those numbers may appear, they do not seem to impress HP's Board of Directors. You see they do not believe that any of the firm's 324,600 employees are capable of leading it. Not one person. Not this year or last year when CEO changes were made. In fact they were apparently not capable six years ago or even eleven years ago when CEO changes were also made. But before summarily indicting the firm's succession planning/leadership development programs, it is useful to consider the track record of the external candidates who were considered better choices than the firm's internal candidates. This analysis decidedly shifts the spotlight to the competence of Hewlett Packard's Board of Directors.
The Folly of Believing What You Read
September 19, 2011
Some time ago we posted a blog titled 'So you REALLY want to be a CEO?' which looked at the human costs of climbing the upper rungs of the management ladder. The blog was based on a series of articles immediately following the 'resignation' of Pfizer CEO Jeff Kindler. All of these articles presented a cautionary tale of life in the fast lane, the long hours, the extensive global travel, and the shareholder pressures that accompany an uncooperative stock price. They also spoke poignantly of the physical and emotional toll that such unrelenting pressure took on the Pfizer CEO who eventually resigned in order to attend to his family and health. As it turns out however, much of this narrative may not have been true
Entrepreneurial Firms As HR Wastelands (Part II)
February 1, 2012
Our last blog (http://www.stonewoodgroup.com/blog/article/139/) described the majority of entrepreneurial firms as decidedly cramped spaces for HR professionals to stretch their functional legs. However, there are circumstances that can nudge organizations to engage more meaningfully with the function. Here are three:
1. When labor markets are highly competitive
It was recently reported that in the last quarter alone Google hired an average of 28 people per day. That is an impressive number given Google’s standards of excellence and the reality that it must compete with the likes of Apple, Facebook, LinkedIn and scores of other firms for the right to hire high end talent. For organizations such as these, escalating bidding wars is a dangerous and expensive hiring strategy. Such firms pursue more sophisticated initiatives aimed at becoming workplaces or choice. They put together sophisticated benefits, work environments, development programs, career paths and corporate cultures. This requires HR leadership of an altogether different calibre.
2. In instances of High Turnover
It is not uncommon in founder-led firms to find entrepreneurial brilliance offset by certain less-than-lustrous personalities and leadership styles. These are ‘special’ people who can be their firms’ best and worst assets. Turnover can be high in such organizations, and if it becomes problematic, more seasoned, sophisticated HR professionals are often sought to stop the bleeding. The key to success in such roles however is not intimacy with HR best practices but rather proficiency in gaining the confidence of, and influencing, the entrepreneur at the center of the organization and its turnover woes. Few entrepreneurs boast the self-awareness to recognize this and thus hire the wrong HR resource for the job. For those ill-fitted executives the room such environments provide to stretch their legs is illusory as the likelihood is high that once stretched their legs will be chopped off.
3. Scaling challenges:
Finally, more sophisticated HR is often introduced when a high growth company starts to trip over its existing processes and corporate culture. For example, the founder of GAP Adventures can regularly be found in the press regaling his firm’s corporate culture and the competitive advantage it offers. Among its well-publicized ‘policies’, GAP staffers throughout the organization are able to vet hires for culture fit, including the most senior hires in the firm. If candidates stumble anywhere along the selection gauntlet they are rejected, no matter if the founder himself champions the candidate. Such consensus based decision-making, noble as it may be, brings with it scaling challenges. As acknowledged in a recent article, the firm has been attempting to hire a Vice-President of Marketing for the past 6 months and has gone through more than 600 resumes. Despite several candidates being deemed ‘acceptable’ to the founder/CEO, none have been able to successful navigate the full selection process. And though the absence of this marketing resource is becoming a competitive liability for the firm, the founder refuses to intervene, insisting that the integrity of the company culture must prevail. And thus this firm, whose founder considers HR to be ‘evil’, enters a phase where the scalability of some of its practices are in serious question. They are not the first firm in the world to deal with such issues and many a very competent senior HR executive could help. Sooner or later something will have to give…
About the Author
Robert Hebert is the founder and Managing Partner of StoneWood Group Inc., a leading executive search firm in Canada. Since 1981, he has helped firms across a wide range of sectors address their senior recruiting, assessment and leadership development requirements.
Contact Robert by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (1) 416-365-9494 EXT 777