Straight Answers to Real Questions
Question: I’m the COO of a $45 million owner managed industrial tool manufacturer out in Mississauga. The company is run by the three brothers who started the firm twenty five years ago.
Our Vice President, Finance resigned a few months ago and I’m having a heck of time trying to replace him. It’s not that I haven’t interviewed some good prospects; I’ve been working with an executive search firm and they’ve been showing me good people. On three separate occasions I’ve taken someone through the entire interview process only to have that candidate vetoed by one of the brothers. It’s actually the same brother doing the vetoing each time and he won’t tell me why he’s nixed each candidate except that he “didn’t get a good feeling about them”.
Not only is this making me a little nuts, sooner or later not having a CFO in place is going to have some negative repercussions on the business. Any suggestions?
Answer: Rule number one when you’re hiring anyone for your executive team is to ensure that every stakeholder participates in and signs off on the candidate profile before the search starts. Even if one of the stakeholders protests that they don’t have anything to contribute to the process, they still need to be a part of the discussion so they know exactly what the inputs were that resulted in the preferred candidate profile.
Discuss how much experience, what kind of experience and technical expertise and what kind of personality / leadership traits etc. you’re going to be looking for. Make sure everyone at the table will be able to recognize the right candidate when he or she walks through the door. If there’s any quibbling or conflicting opinions, do your best to get them resolved at this stage.
This exercise should go a long way to prevent the kind of frustration you’re experiencing now and if you haven’t already done so, I would get all the brothers in a room and have this conversation.
Of course, the brother who keeps vetoing the candidates may just be being ornery or engaging in some fraternal power struggle with his brothers. In which case, the best recourse is to tactfully recommend to the owners that since you’ve been unable to crack this particular nut that they should take on the challenge of recruiting the new CFO. More specifically, you should recommend that the brother with the veto take the lead on this.
Everybody has an opinion about how you should be digging the ditch until you hand them a shovel. I think you’ll find that the recalcitrant brother will quickly hand the shovel back to you and finally let you get the job done.