It's a small unique engineering company located in central California. The founder sold it to a well-known company in Kansas and stayed for 4 years to ensure a successful transition. Now the search is on for a new CEO.
Here are the search challenges:
- Find an executive with the savvy and experience to grow the company yet with enough small town good ole boy to easily assilimate into the company culture.
- CEO must move to remote farm city with long (long) drives to Los Angeles and San Francisco.
- And, of course, the candidate must have all the requisite background and experience in the domain and at the position level.
There are moments when retained search firms earn every dollar they charge. This was one of them. Several candidates were put forward and rejected prior to my client. My client and I prepped for the in-person interview with the search firm.
Here are the interview issues we addressed:
- What is the difference between the subsidiary company's culture vs the HQ's culture
- How would the CEO fit in two cultures and be the bridge between them.
- What are the challenges and intricacies of following in the founder's footsteps who is a known and loved civic leader in the city?
- What strategy do you put forth to grow the company with a culture and locale that is isolated, crystallized and static?
The interview is not about the product and service of the company. It is not about how skilled and experienced the potential candidate may be. It is about corporate culture, values, and emotional intelligence. All soft stuff, very hard to probe within the context of an interview. Better to spend time the company and candidate together to get to know each other over lunch, dinner, group meetings and on-site trips.
It is a career derailer to take a position that is not the best fit for you at this level. Nor should a company hire at this juncture a CEO that doesn't have a 90% chance of success. It is a crucial transition in the acquisition process when the old management steps aside. The entire success of the company can hang in the balance: wittness the fiasco of the MacDonalds - Boston Market acquistion.
Finding and hiring the best talent is always a challenge but a Merger & Acquisition situation makes it especially a deal-breaker.