Tag: Entrepreneurship

When to Hire an Executive Search Firm & How to Find the Best

We see it play out every day: show us a promising startup that’s floundering, and we’ll show you an executive team that was built haphazardly or based on short-term thinking.

Building dynamic executive teams is the key to success — an insight that holds doubly true for companies in high-growth mode. Inside the tornado of rapid expansion, emerging businesses won’t survive or thrive without the right executive teams in place to nurture system-wide creativity and protect organizational values. That’s why top CEOs now report spending 30–50% of their time managing human talent.

So when is the right time to hire an executive search firm?

If you’re asking that question, the answer is probably: right now.

Typically, by the time executive search firms are brought on board, companies are already hurting. They’re missing one or more key members of the executive leadership team, stalled on a crucial search, or struggling with a string of bad fits. They’re losing market share or paying the high costs of lost opportunity. Their CEOs find themselves burdened with endless rounds of recruitment, instead of putting their energy where it counts — building the team.

This happens even with some of the most productive, people-savvy CEOs around. Chalk it up to the dynamics of growth. When a business is small, the personal contacts of the C-suite and Board may suffice to build out a strong executive team. Once the business is on a rapid growth trajectory, that’s unlikely to be true. It takes specific expertise to run a fast, agile, and rigorous search. It takes miles of networks. It takes deep wells of HR experience and intuition.

But once you know you need outside help, how do you find the executive search team that’s right for you?

Here are crucial issues to consider:

Find a search firm committed to learning your culture and core values. It’s not enough to understand the list of competencies you seek in a new executive. Each candidate a headhunter brings you should be vetted for the core value set your leadership team honors. They should share your cultural DNA. Otherwise, their presence is likely to cause turbulence at a point where you need to focus on fortification and growth. You need a strong core values match, to be sure and you can’t afford to think short term; sacrificing values fit over skills fit. Neither should your executive search firm.

Ask who will be leading the search. Remember the adage: Success has many fathers, failure is an orphan. The bigger the search firm, the more that people take credit for work of others and the longer your search will take. Make sure your search will be led directly by someone whose name is on the door. It’s that simple. That way the success or failure of your search will reflect directly on the firm you’ve brought on board. It’s the quickest and best way to ensure accountability — and to avoid having a crucial search languish for months on the desk of an overwhelmed associate.

Look for a search partner who has been on the inside, building a company with his or her own hands. A search executive who has been on the inside, rapidly scaling up both an executive team and the functional teams that support them, will understand your needs and growing pains intuitively. They’ll understand the pitfalls of recruitment from the inside out — and they’ll have mastered the art of the executive interview in a way that only happens when your own company is on the line. There is just no substitute for experience.

Look for a search partner who can be a full partner to you. A search firm will be your bridge to talent. It will represent your company to diverse circles of stakeholders, including investors and potential clients. You need to make this choice count on multiple levels. Look for someone with the energy to inspire top talent to join you. Look for someone with the gravitas to represent your firm and its mission in the fullest and most holistic way.

Professional recruiters exist to help entrepreneurs conquer the world with what they are doing. More than just securing great hires, we influence the culture, strengthen teams and form a real mission-based partnership with the companies that have the greatest opportunity to make the world a better place for us all.

This is our calling. It’s why we love what we do.

For more information visit www.DaveCarvajal.com

Investor Spotlight: How to Best Support an Executive Search

As an investor and board member, you have a unique perspective that can help guide an executive search to success. You are more emotionally removed from the day-to-day pressures a CEO faces. This emotional distance puts you in a great place to uphold the mission, vision and prosperity of the organization while remaining a fiduciary to shareholders.

You might at times intuitively sense when a CEO is about to make a mistake. The right board mentorship and participation can help a startup founder avoid serious blunders. One of the worst mistakes a CEO can make is selecting a bad executive hire. Failed executive searches cost up to five times the annual salary. The wrong executive hire at a high-growth business costs significantly more than at a slower growth company. It can literally put your survival at stake when an executive leadership role is involved.

On the other hand, the positive impact of a successful executive search is a 1,000% ROI. The right executive hire earning a $350k total cash package will create a $3.5M+ increase in enterprise value in the next 12 months. When it comes to your important executive search, the costs add up to one conclusion: get it right the very first time, every time you secure a hire in a key leadership role.

To ensure a successful search and maximize ROI, here are three important steps to take:

1. Refocus on Strategic Priorities

The CEO of the company is facing enormous pressure. Either the company is in the midst of tremendous growth and the need for a functional leader will help keep the train from derailing; or, the team is overworked and performance numbers are suffering so a CEO might decide that something, anything must be done fast. He or she might settle for a candidate that is “good enough” just to alleviate some pressure. In this scenario, the CEO is so mired in the company’s current struggle that he or she has lost sight of longer-term strategic priorities. Double down and re-focus on your strategic priorities for the next six to twenty-four months.

2. Define Success Factors

After you’ve rallied your executive leadership around the mission and strategic priorities of the company, make sure you are also crystal clear on what the success factors are for the leader you need to place. What do they need to accomplish and what will success look like for them? How will they help drive the strategic priorities?

3. Core Fit Selection

Technical chops account for 20 percent of the reason why someone will succeed or fail at any company. A strong values fit accounts for 60 percent. Remember that what makes a candidate uniquely qualified to be successful at your organization is a combination of both core competencies (the basis for strong technical chops) and core values (the basis for strong culture fit). Core competencies allow a leader to be effective in a role, and core values alignment is what pushes leaders to achieve their purpose.

Everything bad that happens at a company is fundamentally a people problem, and so is everything that’s good. There is an A+ player for every executive role in every company. As an investor or board member, you have a broader perspective. You have a more clear view of what the values of the organization are and what core values a candidate must have in order to achieve the mission of the company.

The best utilization of venture capital is in acquiring the right human capital.

For more information visit www.DaveCarvajal.com

Top Tech Executive Steve Johnson on the Most Important Things In Life & Business

If anyone knows how to grow revenue exponentially, it’s long-time tech executive Steve Johnson. Steve is President and COO at Vidyard, the video intelligence platform for business. Before joining Vidyard last year, he was Chief Revenue Officer for Hootsuite. At Hootsuite Steve helped grow the company from a sub-$100 million valuation to over $1 billion and from 27 employees to more than 800.

Steve has a broad range of experience with strategic accounts, global partnerships, web analytics, SaaS to database and email marketing applications. He has served on executive teams for startups and established companies including Constant Contact, Blackbaud, Scopus, ACI 4th Dimension and others.

To master a spectrum of skills, the key to learning, Steve says, is to “always be curious.”

Failure, inevitably, is a part of learning. And Steve has advice on how to confront this challenge – if you must fail, fail fast.

For Steve, the most important aspect of life and work is making a real impact. He founded a SaaS application called iAbida for special needs children, to help improve team communication. And he continues to ask himself, “Are you really making an impact? Are you learning? Are you having fun?”

I had a great time talking with Steve Johnson about the insights he’s gained from his years as a top tech executive. For the rest of my conversation with Steve and for insights from other exceptional leaders, check out DaveCarvajal.com/videos.

Insights with VC Legend Itzhak Fisher

Insights with VC Legend Itzhak Fisher

I had the pleasure of sitting down with serial entrepreneur and investor, Itzhak Fisher, for an interview. Itzhak is Founder and General Partner of Pereg Ventures, a Nielsen backed private equity fund. He also served as Executive Vice President, Global Business Development for Nielsen.

Itzhak has a long track record creating new companies and developing them into operationally excellent businesses. As Co-founder and Chairman of Trendum, he took the technologies of this small internet data mining company joined them with VNU, Intelliseek and BuzzMetrics, and sold the new entity to the Nielsen company. In the nineties, Itzhak founded and headed RSL Communications (NASDAQ: RSLC) a Telco company operating in over 20 countries across four continents with over $1.5 billion in revenues.

In our talk, Itzhak opened up about the most important lessons he’s learned on leadership, business and investing.

Every great executive seeks out mentorship. Itzhak Fisher’s mentor just happens to be one of the most influential leaders in the world.

Itzhak also talked candidly about an early business failure. After that experience, he made one rule for himself that he follows to this day. Here it is, straight from the horse’s mouth (he invested in a horse farm).


Itzhak is a world-class leader, and he’s wise enough to know that when it comes to hiring and investing — the last thing he wants to be is the smartest person in the room.

A bonus from my conversation with Itzhak was learning about his history and his vision for the future. It was humbling to learn about his heritage as the son of Holocaust survivors and hear about the incredible work he’s doing to support the next generation of entrepreneurs.


See my full conversation with Itzhak Fisher on the Insights page of DaveCarvajal.com. You’ll also find more interviews with some of my favorite leaders on the planet.

Are women the greater sex?

Are women the greater sex?

Victor Hugo said “All the forces in the world are not so powerful as an idea whose time has come.” We are living in historic times. And the time for women to be in more executive, business and leadership roles is here now.

Female founders are the fastest growing segment of entrepreneurs, yet they receive less than three percent of venture capital funding. According to research by Korn Ferry, women hold just a quarter of the top jobs across the most prominent C-Suite titles. And that number is even smaller when it comes to the chief executive position. Women hold only 5% of CEO posts; the role that shows the lowest gender diversity in the entire C-suite.

Fortunately, tech and HR are slightly ahead of the curve. 1 in 3 leaders working in tech are women. And the chief human resources officer position is the only C-suite role where there is gender equality – 55 percent of CHROs across industries are women.

There is concrete evidence that in life and especially in business, for creating stronger communities and enterprise value, women are the greater sex.

Companies that fail to recognize this, are actually paying the price. At Twitter, only 13 percent of employees in tech roles are women – a point of embarrassment for the company as it has struggled to secure strategic options.

Research shows that female leadership creates a significantly higher ROI. Companies with a female founder saw 63 percent higher ROI than investments with all-male founding teams. Businesses with strong women leadership generated a return on equity of 10.1 percent per year compared to 7.4 percent for those without, according to a 2015 study by MSCI of more than 4,000 companies around the world.

Of the c-suite and board member positions my team of recruiters is asked to fill, close to half our clients are asking for diversity and inclusiveness in the search process. The ‘Mad Men’ era of doing business is a vestige of the industrial economy – when the domestic space was a woman’s queendom and a man’s ego battled in business. Entrepreneurship today is about building communities, tribes and the enterprise value that comes from network effects. The growing evidence is that diversity of thought creates the most value.