So, You Want to be an Executive?
Our Second Quarter (2023) Maccabeus Insight piece comes from a Webinar that we gave for MEMA, The Vehicle Suppliers Association, on February 21st of 2023. MEMA is the trade association for motor vehicle and mobility suppliers and parts manufacturers and remanufacturers. Their members supply both the original equipment and aftermarket segments of the light vehicle (car and truck) and commercial vehicle (on- and off-road) industries. MEMA serves the industry as the voice of the motor vehicle and mobility supplier industry, speaking out on behalf of the largest manufacturing sector in the United States. The Webinar, itself, was focused on how to become an Executive. The topics that we covered included: Who Am I? (to establish my/our background; including where I came from, where I am now, and how I got to “here”); Who Are You? (it is critical for folks to think about, know, and understand where you came from, where you are now, and how did you get “here”); Who Do You Want to Be? (to have an honest discussion of who you “really” want to be); and, finally, How Do You Get There? (where we cover some “tried-and-true” strategies, tactics, and related on the “road less traveled”). The following are the highlights of that Webinar – for a full summary of the actual webinar, please visit our Maccabeus YouTube page (which includes a complete video with audio) by clicking here.
Part 1 – Who Am I?:
I was born on Long Island and was raised in Centereach, New York by a very Catholic Mom who struggled alone with two Kids. I wasn’t a stellar student and didn’t have much money, so I went to the State University of New York at Delhi to study architecture. I moved from there to the State University of New York at Buffalo to study Industrial Engineering. After graduation, I worked at Enterprise Rent-A-Car, the Video Factory, the Buffalo Athletic Club, a Collection Agency, Lady Foot Locker, and a Pet Store. I finally landed a “pseudo-Engineering” job as Shift Supervisor working a 24-7-365 operation. Ford recruited me from Western New York to Michigan. After 7+ years, I moved to GE Plastics. I then joined PolyOne (which became Avient) after GE sold its Plastics Division to SABIC – the Saudi Arabian Basic Industries Corporation. I then decided to take a “career chance” on A123 Batteries, but left quickly to go back to GE in their Energy Division. Russell Reynolds Associates needed someone to run their Automotive Practice, so I took another chance and moved into Executive Search. This time, the chance paid off. Heidrick & Struggles recruited me to become a Partner at their Firm. I knew that I would eventually go out “on my own” and finally did that in November of 2021; and have been drinking from the proverbial firehose ever since.
So, you may be wondering at this point, “Why is he telling us all about his life?”, “What kind of career plan was that?”, and/or “How the heck did you end-up a Recruiter?”… If you’re not wondering at least (if not all) of these things, I’d tell you that I’m still wondering how I got “here”, but I do know that it all applies to anyone who wants to become an Executive. My unique perspective comes from almost 20 years on the Corporate side and 12 years on the Recruiting side. Here’s what I mean…
We understand the AutoMobility Industry from the inside-out. We’ve worked directly with OEMs and Tier 1 through Tier 4 Suppliers. We’ve been in the clay studio’s and on program launches. We’ve used FMEA’s and know the material specification, component, and system validation processes. We know everything from Dealers to digital to parts to equipment to tires to business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) models.
We’ve worked with and across all Executive Levels from Managers and Directors all the way through the C-Suite and Board across all related functional areas.
We’ve worked in all regions and have personally been to BMW’s Technical Center in Munich, Germany, Volkswagen’s “World” in Wolfsburg, Germany, Toyota in Nagoya, Japan, Hyundai and Kia in Seoul, South Korea, Ford and Chery in Nanjing, China, SAIC in Shanghai, China, Fiat in Turin, Italy, Silicon Valley (from San Francisco to Menlo Park to San Jose), and at all things Automotive in Detroit, Michigan.
So, how did a poor Kid from Centereach, New York who was a nobody become an Executive? A Kid they called “Welfare”, “$1.98 Special”, and much worse. A Kid who grew-up blue-collar, was a bad to mediocre student, and worked odd jobs for years. How did this Kid defy the odds and become somebody? Hold that thought for now… Let’s discuss “Who Are You?”…
Part 2 – Who Are You?:
Let’s now take the temperature of “who” you are – or, at least, who you think you might be. You may have heard that perspective is everything. But perspective is “adaptable” via priorities and what we “focus” on. And, you might just be shocked when you see what employers are truly-focusing on when it comes to Executives regardless of what the popular and, at times, corporate cultures are leading you to believe. The popular and corporate cultures often lead us to think that priorities start with where someone went to school and has worked, what they’ve done, their focus, and who they know. While this is considered the norm, it is disordered and most folks don’t learn this either until it’s too late or they never learn it at all.
The Truth is that “who you know” has always been and will always be the most important factor in your Executive career – it directly and indirectly impacts everything else. Career accomplishments and work history are still important, of course, but, without the networks and relationships and the ability to “multi-task”, those accomplishments are too often “too limited” in scope, scale, and impact.
In terms of compensation, most Corporate Executives are paid via a base salary with an annual bonus and potential equity and perquisites (or, “perq’s”). Some general compensation components include:
- Annual Bonus (or STIP – Short Term Incentive Plan)
- Equity (or LTIP – Long Term Incentive plan)
- Perquisites (Perq’s) (e.g. Co car, Memberships, Co Jet use)
- Executive Perq(s):
- Formal Partnership/Ownership
- Deferred Compensation
- Exec Health Perq’s
- Club/Society Memberships
- Corporate Plane, Travel, Property Use, etc
Looking at equity a little more deeply, it’s usually granted on a time-based rate of return and can come in all kinds of different forms and multiple combinations of forms – especially as Executives potentially invest even further in a Company. To give it a little more “clarity”, equity:
- Usually has a time-based rate of return (ROR); vesting examples:
- Vests 25%/year over 4 years or 33%/year over 3 years, 100% after 5 years or at a change in Co Ownership, etc.
- Has many different types; including:
- Cash Bonus/Shares
- RSU’s – Restricted Stock Units
- PSU’s – Performance Stock Units
- SARS’s – Stock Appreciation Rights
- Phantom Equity – Shares in Co’s Potential Future Value
- “Under-Water” – The equity’s value is < when granted
In terms of time off from work, at these levels, Executives shouldn’t even be asking these kinds of questions. Executives should, however, have a strong understanding of the different ownership models and how they may or may not impact them, their compensation, and their overall careers.
- Executive Vacation, PTO, Holiday Schedules, Sick Days:
- At this level, it’s a “given” that Executives are mature and hard-working enough to be able to manage themselves and their Teams
- If an Executive finds themselves having to ask about any of these, they’re probably not ready for this best role
- Ownership Modes:
- Private – Family, Investors, Venture Capital (VC), Private Equity (PE)
- Public – Publicly-traded/listed Co (e.g. on NYSE, NASDAQ)
Let’s look real quick at an Executive Compensation example. Pre-2021, it took an average of about 10 years for an Executive to “make it” into the Executive ranks at an average base salary of around $116,000 per year. Typically, most Executive’s compensation remains pretty-“flat” through their middle-career years, but can then take-off almost exponentially if they make the Senior Executive and/or Partner ranks.
In terms of compensation, it’s critical that Executives understand all of the various components and consider their “all-in” compensation for all of the components added together.
Part 3 – How Do You Want to Be and How to Get There?:
So, now that we you know who I am, who you “think” you “might” be, and, possibly, who you “think” you might want to be, it’s time to turn to how do you get there. Knowing who we are is key to everything in our lives. Without a strong foundation as the base of all that we do, everything else could come crashing-down upon us or get swept out from underneath us. If we don’t believe in ourselves, nobody else will. And, if we don’t know who we are, we are prone to getting lost and being unhappy – often making the others around us unhappy, too – even if we have “worldly” successes and achievements. There are all kinds of ways to get there, but one thing that all of the folks in the following movies had in common was that they all absolutely knew who they were, believed in what they were doing, and how to achieve what they wanted before they ever reached true, life-fulfilling success.
We’re here to tell you with 100% certainty, this is no different in Corporate America. Just look at the international impact of Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta or Nick Vujicic. Or Brothers Jack and Pete Herschend who took Herschend Family Entertainment; from 1 tourist cavern to 25+ entities across N. America. Or Hobby Lobby that went from a $600 loan, home based business to 900+ stores, 43,000+ employees, & revenues of $8B+. Or Chick-fil-A, started as a chicken sandwich shop at an airport to 2,875 restaurants, 35,000+ employees, & revenues of $11B+.
While we all can come from many different backgrounds, ethnicities, Faiths, upbringing’s, etc., we all have a fundamental foundation of “who we are” and we all need to know what exactly that is and BELIEVE in it. For me, it was my Catholic Faith that defined me from a very young age. So, I had a positive outlook on life knowing that I was “safe” in God and could live my life without fear knowing that evil really couldn’t harm me while I did “Good” things that couldn’t be stopped with my strength in God. And, on top of that, I also knew per my Faith, that there were lots of Biblical examples of folks being Faithful and Trusting in God to bring the Blessings. My Family hails from the MacDonald Clan of the Highlands of Scotland who are a hearty bunch that emigrated from Scotland to America. In fact, my Clan actually fought side-by-side with William Wallace. So, like a Boss of mine at GE once told me, “I was going to focus on doing the ‘right’ things trusting that the rest would take care of itself.”
The CEO at my first job, told me after I was being down on myself for missing a goal of ours’, “Don’t ever throw stones at yourself; there will be lots of other folks who will do that for you.” The Executive ranks aren’t for the “faint of heart”, so you need to do your best to grow “thicker skin”; and we can start by putting on some Kevlar armor.
We need to get our priorities “right” – if those aren’t calibrated, then how can we ever take an accurate shot. Without priorities, life becomes more like a “Hail Mary” pass at the end of a football game thrown-up in a last second desperation effort. In Executive Search, we call this, “Spray and Pray”. While “Hail Mary” plays can work, in the last 10 years, only 9.7% of them did. So, let’s be sure to check our chutes before we jump out of our planes. Taking chances is definitely going to be a part of the Executive Career path, but they should be calculated, and any opportunity (whether internal or external) should be deeply-consulted within one’s Executive network before anything is considered further and any offers are accepted.
Let’s go back to the Executive Compensation example from before. Full disclosure, this example is my journey. If you recall, I started in manufacturing in Buffalo and took my first chance going to Ford in Detroit. I took my second chance consulting for Ford indirectly. I took my third chance leaving GE for PolyOne and my fourth chance going to A123. I took my fifth chance moving back to GE in Atlanta and then my sixth chance going into recruiting. The latest chance that I took was when I started my own Firm. Like many of us, earlier in my career, I didn’t consult with my Network – which was more limited at the time due to my years of experience. But, even when I gained a substantial network, I only consulted it a couple of times. And, just look at the results… I basically “flat-lined” in the middle of my career due to my misalignment on my priorities.
Had I “leveraged my network”, I would have learned that electrical vehicle (EV) materials are limited, battery recycling isn’t robust, EV batteries are highly dangerous (both explosive and flammable), the U.S. grid is too antiquated to handle even 10% of Americans driving EV’s, charging is very challenging and can be very expensive, and you can’t get very far on a single EV car charge. I definitely wouldn’t have joined A123 which filed bankruptcy not long after I left; and, I might not have joined GE Energy’s Smart Grid Business that was “imploded” by the CEO just 7 months into my new job.
To make matters more challenging, while we are doing everything to grow our careers financially, Companies are typically structured in a way to impede our financial growth. Even while we are taking on promotions and new external opportunities. I can’t tell you the number of times across my 30 year (plus) career I’ve seen people go at something from a “ready, fire, aim” type of approach without understanding relative compensation models and/or consulting their own Executive networks. We all need to do better jobs of “aiming better” first before we pull our career “triggers”. And, we all need to train to be prepared; and, shockingly – again, most Executives don’t do train for their careers.
It might surprise you to learn that almost half of the Executives that we speak with don’t have an updated CV or resume. Almost 90% of the resumes that we see don’t have a photo and are loaded with extraneous information that people think prospective employers would like to know. Most Hiring Executives want to see the minimum on a CV, so they can determine quickly if it’s worth their time to talk with an Executive or not. Sometimes, too much info gets Executives removed from a search project. Our recommendations are:
- Have updated CV/Resume
- Just the facts
- Keep to 1 page (2 at most)
Biographies (or “Bio’s”), on the other hand, are meant for media (e.g. press releases), potential speaking engagements, and obituaries; they’re not meant for CV’s. Unless we want to potentially end-up in the morgue on a search process, we should remove our obituaries from our CV’s and leave those to our Bio’s. Some related superfluous CV areas (that should all be left to the bio alone) include:
- Intro Paragraph (space killer)
- Skills (unless it’s for an IT role)
- Languages (unless it applies to role)
- Organizational Affiliations
Most Executives don’t know their “street value” – meaning how much their “worth” to either their Companies or to other Companies. If we’re not willing to do the work to understand this facet of the Executive Hierarchy, then we are potentially setting ourselves up for being underpaid. The average Executive should be interviewing for other roles at least 1-2 times per year (or once every 6 months). An Executive may stay with one Company their entire career, but at least they’ll know that they’re being “financially-valued” wherever they are. Plus, if an Executive’s not training their “interviewing muscles”, they could get weak and flabby and they might not be ready for the “big one”. Also, constant interviewing let’s others know internally and externally that the Executive is looking to do “more” and wanting to “grow”.’
Executives should maintain strong networks for the “right” reasons; both personally and professionally. Personal and professional relationships cross-over in both directions. Executives should regularly-network once every 6 months with 2-3 of the Big Recruiting Firms and 1-2 of the Boutique Recruiting Firms. At this level, only one Firm has “the Search”, so it’s good to network a little without “saturating” an Executive’s reputation in the job market.
Time is a limited resource, so we must be mindful of it for ourselves and those around us. There’s never enough time, so we must use it wisely and Prayerfully-consider whether or not an MBA is worth more to us in the long-run versus the two years of work experience, time with our Families, etc. Is that ex-patriate assignment in China really worth the 2-3 years that it’s going to cost us and our Families? We mustn’t be afraid to recognize that there are seasons in life and sometimes something really isn’t what’s best for us as lucrative as it may sound at the time. The bottom line: don’t waste your time or time will waste you. There are a lot of things to consider along the way; here are just a few items to consider:
- Things to Consider Along the Way
- Only 66.2% of Exec’s have a Bachelors; 17.5% also have a Masters
- Top 3 CEO Attributes: Humility, Visibility, Persuasiveness
- CEO Impact: 45% of Co’s Corp Reputation, 77% Recruit New Employees, 70% Retain Them
- CEO’s Without Degrees
- “Grew-up” in their industry
- Are “safer bets” due to deep knowledge/relationships
- Stay on 25% longer, hold 13% fewer roles
- Let results speak for themselves
Beyond the “tech bubble” Executives, there are countless other examples of CEO’s who never got a college degree. Did you know that 95% of Executive jobs are not concerned with “where” you went to school? Did you know that a high percentage of CEO’s are actually on the ADD/ADHD spectrum, but have stellar Executive Assistants?
It can’t be overstated that it’s never “wrong” to do the “right” thing and treating others better than ourselves will always be rewarded in one way or another. Integrity is everything in business, as well as in life. And while trust takes a long time to earn, it can also be lost in an instant. The Golden Rule is critical to our Executive careers. Great results will often overshadow a lot of other things. Results are where the “rubber meets the road” while ideas are where the “rubber meets the sky”. Always delivering the best way that we can even in tough industry cycles is another critical component to new opportunities. Legacy is everything and, again, it’s driven first and foremost by who you are and who you know. And that includes knowing yourself, knowing others, knowing where you want to go, and knowing how to get there. Legacy is everything to those who take the “road less traveled”.
We’d like to finish with this… We all need to get our priorities straight before we should embark upon anything in life. This applies to all areas of life and is essential to everything that we do. I’m sure all of you have heard this at one time or another from H. Jackson Brown Jr., “Get your priorities straight. No one ever said on his death bed, ‘Gee, if I’d only spent more time at the office.’ After thirty plus years of doing this, the shadow and gravity of this statement looms large as I embark upon the years ahead of me. May this quote “loom large” for all of you, as well. God bless!!!
At Maccabeus, we do our best to find Clients the best Executive for the job through competency-based interviewing that is much more “relational” than what many Executive Search Firms provide. We take the time to get to know our Clients, the Executives being considered for the job, and the Families of all of those involved. God commands that we put others before ourselves. One way of doing that is by implementing the Golden Rule – to do unto others as you’d have them do unto you. By actively-listening and engaging-directly with multiple Client Executives, we are able to form a more well-rounded perspective on both the tangible and intangible requirements of any search project. We go “beyond the job specification” to form a more intimate relationship with everyone involved and go where most other Executive Search Firms don’t take the time and effort to venture into. To us, life is about God and people first – if those two things are wrong, there isn’t going to be a healthy bottom line for sure.
By putting the needs of others (including Families) first, we are able to be very successful in our own right, as well. In 2022, for example, Maccabeus introduced Clients to 600+ Executives with 100% success, an average of 2.1 weeks to showing our Clients the Finalist for the role (on 83+% of our searches) at 40+% less costs than the industry average. We produced 350+ industry news articles, quarterly insight pieces, and video overviews on topics relevant to Industry Executives. And, we did so for Clients with revenues ranging from $10-million to $10+-billion and up to 21,000+ employees (both regionally and globally). For our Clients and the corresponding Executives, that’s keeping a very good eye on the bottom line by keeping an even better eye on God and the people involved. It’s one of the main reasons that our Clients come back to Maccabeus time and time again for their Executive needs.
Maccabeus’ Partners “Genesis-ed” from direct industry careers and actual working knowledge. It’s through that knowledge, experience, and wisdom that we’re able to maximize our own revelations of the Executive Recruiting process and minimize having to replace formerly placed Executives. We see each and every executive (person) as the Gift from God that they are and Maccabeus routinely works to get to know the Clients, Executives, and Executive’s Families first-hand. Maccabeus understands what it’s like to relocate for a new career challenge (including move Children and Grandparents) – to be going to a new Company starting a new job in a new town/city possibly in a new state/country (and away from extended Family) with potential new local and national customs and ways of doing business, etc. We’ve worked across the U.S. States and in many countries in North and South America, Asia-Pacific, the Middle East, Africa, Europe, and Australia/New Zealand. We know how critical a new hire is and what success and/or failure in that role means first-hand.
Maccabeus leverages the “1.5-3 Principle”. By being straight-forward and honest with everyone, our Clients and Candidates typically meet each other within 1.5 – 3 weeks of starting a search project. Clients should also expect to complete searches with Maccabeus within 1.5 – 3 months. While our “shock-and-awe” approach in the market is industry leading, we continue to run “through the finish line” continuing to bring more Candidates to the Client throughout the process.
Maccabeus doesn’t believe in any hidden, indirect, or uptick costs. Clients pay Maccabeus a fixed fee for an Executive search project. The fee is divided into a working retainer on the front end of the search (billed in multiple installments) to support our efforts in the market on Clients’ behalf(s); virtually eliminating surprises.
Maccabeus believes in God, our Firm, and our process. We will continue to work on the search as long as it takes and will replace Executives should something change on the Client’s end(s) for up to the replacement terms needed by our Clients. Finding the right Operating and Board Executives takes a tenacity to see through the surface of experiences and to look into the intangibles behind who a leader really is as a person. Maccabeus is committed to and has a strong track record of recruiting and placing to top Executives (for all functional areas) and Board Directors and Chairs across a diverse landscape of industries. We would welcome the opportunity to discuss this further with you and your Board.
“Actions speak louder than words. Let your words teach and your actions speak.”St. Anthony of Padua