“Time is short! Find me a Specialist!”
“Time is short! Find me a Specialist!” Those may not be the exact words, but that is most definitely the message. My clients have specific needs that must be addressed and do not have time for a generalist to learn how to attack the problem. They want people who have been there and done it. Most of my clients are small to mid-cap companies. Many are owned by Private Equity Groups, (PEGs). The rest are a mix of privately held emerging brands and more established niche players. Virtually all are working to make their brand relevant in a very dynamic and challenging business environment. Time is of the essence, so their planning horizon is short. Certainly, shorter than for larger, Fortune 500-class companies.
Most recently, my clients have been facing the following situations:
- Change of ownership
- PEG buy/sell transaction
- Public to Private
- Chapter 11
- Debt Covenant Issues
- Joint Ventures
- Installation of Management Accountability Systems
- New CEO
- Major Systems Upgrades
Other searches have required experience in franchising, consumer packaged goods, and experience in family-owned businesses. Industry-specific experience is almost always required. I have even had searches requiring the candidate to move to remote, less than desirable locations. This parallels the demand for our consulting practice, but not as much.
Most people know that tenures have decreased significantly. Three to five years in position is not uncommon for C-level executives. Three years or less is common for other senior-level executives. Much of this is related to heightened levels of accountability due to intense competition. This level of senior-level turnover can affect the entire management team. Some of it, of course, is due to a change of ownership which often means a new management team, or changes for key executives. As the planning horizon shortens, the enterprise focus is on the best ways to enhance competitiveness. Companies in the small to mid-cap sector need people who can make an immediate impact. Generalists requiring a learning curve are eschewed over candidates with more specialized skills and experience. It has become an ad-hoc world.
The good news is that most of you have lived through the situations listed earlier. You have been through the break-up of Conglomerates. You have seen global competitiveness affect your employers. You have seen employee-led Leveraged Buy-outs. Without a doubt, you have seen the productivity benefits of technology. These global changes have resulted in right-sizing; down-sizing; re-engineering; and outsourcing. You have likely seen several ownership changes, IPO’s, and the public to private transactions, and probably have experience with PEGs. By now, you have a wealth of experience and skills for specific situations. Face it, with reference to Peter Drucker, we have been living in turbulent times.
The objective is re-branding oneself as a specialist, but not necessarily one specialty. If you look back on your career you will find common themes. You will notice that you have thrived in situations which have been identified in this post. Those situations can become the themes for your positioning as a Specialist. The good news is that word-processing programs allow you to have multiple resumes which you can tailor to a given specialty. It doesn’t mean that you are fabricating a career history. It means that each version of your resume puts more emphasis on the specialty (read skill-set) you wish to promote.
Time is short for small to mid-cap employers, especially for PEG Portfolio companies. They need specialists to help resolve immediate issues. Become the Specialist they seek for success in your job search or in your freelance career.!
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Jim Weber, Managing Partner
Author of: Fighting Alligators: Job Search Strategy For The New Normal
1. COO- Atlanta-based Casual Dining Restaurant Company – New
2. Controller – Atlanta-based Consumer Products – Digital Company – Completed
3. Director of Biz Dev, Atlanta-based B2B Professional Services Company: Completed
4. Payroll-Benefits Manager, Atlanta-based Retail Company: Complete
5. Senior Accounting Manager – Atlanta-based Manufacturer. Complete
6. Controller – Atlanta-based Restaurant Company: New
7. Outplacement Assignment – Atlanta-based Manufacturer: Complete