In collaboration with NYSE Governance Services, we recently administered a survey to corporate directors and chief executive officers on a variety of topics. The final report, The Power of the Business-Minded GC, A 2017 NYSE Governance Services – BarkerGilmore Survey Report, can be downloaded from our website here. After reviewing the survey data, there was one response that really hit home and prompted me to think about the reasons behind it. When asked the question, “Based on your experience, what is the best way to handle general counsel succession?” this group of top business leaders was overwhelmingly in favor of hiring a boutique firm versus an industry giant.
Here’s how the business leaders responded:
- Hire a specialty boutique executive search firm 52.04%
- Have the internal HR team manage the process 30.32%
- Hire a large, global executive search firm 17.65%
This 3 to 1 preference for boutique firms over global search firms reflects the feedback I’ve received when following-up with clients after an engagement. In order to better understand these results, let’s answer another question:
What exactly are the advantages of hiring a boutique executive search firm?
- You are our #1 priority. In global firms, more often than not, the consultant you initially meet with isn’t the person who ultimately delivers the service, since the search is pushed down to a lead engagement manager. Smaller firms, like ours, put clients front and center and are committed to your success. We deliver value with a partner in charge of your search, spend more time on each search, and give you personalized attention. This superior customer service drives superior results. For example, over the past three years, our engagements have resulted in successful placements 98% of the time with a 96% retention rate. The industry average for successful searches hovers around 80%.
- You gain access to unlimited talent. It may seem counter-intuitive, but boutique firms have more access to candidates because you can’t recruit from a client if you are also conducting a search for that client. With a smaller firm, there are fewer “hands-off” restrictions, and as a result, draw from a larger corporate pool of available candidates. In addition, unlike larger search firms, we don’t provide services to law firms, so you have even more legal talent available for your corporate needs.
- You save money. Flexibility and agility are hallmarks of a boutique firm, since we don’t require the layers of management necessary in the global firms. This same lack of overhead provides you with more value for your money. In most companies, the search process begins the same way: head of human resources begins the process, later involves the CEO, and then brings in three search firms to bid. All of the larger firms are basically priced the same, while firms like ours can deliver better service for less. At the same time, our Quality Audit indicates a three-year overall satisfaction rate of 4.75 (out of 5) among our client base.
There’s one more value-added service that only BarkerGilmore can provide and differentiates us from both the big firms and the boutiques. We have a team of distinguished former Fortune 500 General Counsel who assess the talent, participate in the selection process, advise and help to create a successful onboarding process, and even serve as your new GC’s confidant.
And that’s “priceless”.