Changing the Game in Executive Recruitmentby Zezelia C. Olson, April 7, 2010.
A successful business is formed
from a blend of 3 key ingredients: an innovative product, a viable
business plan, and the right people.
"People are the secret to the sauce,"
says Swedish native Bjorn Kirchdorfer, Partner at Top Gun Ventures (www.topgunventures.com),
a retained executive recruiting firm based in Austin.
current executive search model is broken. Despite poor performance,
search methods haven't changed in the last 3 to 4 decades"
Most business owners agree that
finding and retaining the right people to expand their business ideas is no
easy task. In fact, the CEO of Heidrich & Struggles recently stated in a
Business Week Online interview that "40% of placed senior executives are
no longer in that position 18 months later."
Moreover, recruiters face new
competition from readily available technology. In the current economic
crunch, more businesses are turning to free online social networking sites,
such as LinkedIn and Facebook, to find new mid-level talent on a budget.
these free search methods readily available and the potential hit or miss performance
of costly talent search firms already out there, what might motivate
businesses, including start-ups from outside the U.S, to take a chance with a
firm like Top Gun Ventures? How about a new recipe? "The current executive search
model is broken. Despite poor performance, traditional search methods haven't
changed in the last 3 to 4 decades," says Kirchdorfer.
According to Kirchdorfer, the 40%
executive loss after 18 months can be especially damaging to start-ups.
"[This] significant churn leads to significant business turmoil. Putting
the right talent in the driver's seat to start with eliminates millions
dollars of cost and many months of missed market timing, a cost which
most companies, but especially start ups, be a fatal mistake."
In contrast with other top
firms, Top Gun Ventures is a boutique operation but with key offices
across North America in Silicon Valley, Dallas, Austin, and Boston. This
“condensed model” allows Top Gun Ventures the resources to give each
unrivaled focus. "As Partners, we handle every aspect of each search
personally. We don't have back office staff. We don't pass off
responsibility," says Kirchdorfer.
The office locations
are reflective of where
client companies and talent are most concentrated in the US. Austin
in particular has been showcased in
the last year as a top jobs market to lead the economic recovery.
Each of the four partners
Gun Ventures has 20+ years of operational experience and have served as
executives; they are personally familiar with the responsibilities and
being at the top and they know a game changer when they see one. “This
to truly relate and add value to both the client company business but
also to the
executive candidate,” added Bjorn. Top
Gun places only proven talent with exceptional track records,
innovative search method, and guarantee the new executive's performance
long as it takes to achieve the objectives established at the time of
"Top Gun Ventures is in the
search business, not the fetch business," says Kirchdorfer.
After interviewing over 100
capital firms about their portfolio executive talent challenges in
2001/02 Top Gun Ventures found a large gap in the
typical hiring process -- especially in
placing proven, been-there-done-that talent at the top. Noting the
inadequacies of this system, Top Gun partners developed an innovative
approach that gives them a critical edge. Unlike other recruiting firms
pull candidates out of a pre-existing database, candidate searches at
start totally from scratch.
"We do maintain a senior executive database of experts, which might
the search process, but that is always complemented with raw
end up talking with 250-500 new people on every search we’ve never
before as a result of this approach to find the very small number of Top
Performers who meet the comprehensive client needs.
Only once have we
executive from our database. It’s
presumptuous to assume you have the answer when the client really needs
more..." says Kirchdorfer. In
addition, Top Gun holds themselves accountable for every candidate they
and offer candidates (with permission of the client company) continued
after their placement.
"Career development is part
our service. Case in point: We placed a sales director at Nokia over
years ago and every 6 months I still have a conversation with her about
performance, career, and future goals," says Kirchdorfer. “It builds
for our client company in terms of retention and it gives the candidate
ongoing career coach.”
Beyond their innovative
technique, Top Gun Venture can be an exceptional asset to foreign
Texas and the US, - Swedish companies in particular. Bjorn Kirchdorfer
a Swedish speaker, born in Sweden and educated in the United
in his career at Ericsson, Bjorn's unique life experiences proved
as he could navigate the nuances of both Swedish and American cultures.
"Swedes have many
characteristics that blend well with American culture; determination
honesty In particular, Swedes do what they say they will do, which can
a hard quality to find, and they are known to get along with just about
anyone." However, Bjorn is quick to point out that American and Swedish
culture isn't necessarily a “one-to-one” exchange.
"Swedes and Americans blend
well, key word being 'blend'. I would say that it is easier for a Swede
the U.S than it is for an American in Sweden. Having a recruiter that
understands the subtleties of each
culture is particularly important to a start up establishing itself in a
country. " Top Gun's
experienced partners, unique process, and performance guarantee are
unparalleled in the field of retained executive search. Their expertise
beyond the U.S. Borders, making them an asset to foreign and domestic
“In terms of senior
leadership, I think you get what you pay for,” says Bjorn. With a
firm you may be paying a gourmet price for a boxed meal. At
Top Gun Ventures, you are guaranteed a
custom meal and a recipe from scratch.