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This article is excerpted from search-consult Magazine.
Trina Gordon has recently been appointed as Boyden’s newest CEO and President, making her the first woman to lead a prominent global executive search firm. Boyden has been operating as a global leader in the executive search industry for more than 50 years, having more than 70 offices in over 40 countries. This search firm’s continued success is very important, as Boyden’s board of directors unanimously selected Ms. Gordon, confident that she has the right set of skills, experience, insight and commitment to lead Boyden forward.
Ms. Gordon has more than 25 years of industry experience. She joined Boyden in 1990 and has served as a Board Member since 2001. Ms. Gordon has led Board, CEO, COO and other C-suite searches for Fortune 500 and private corporations. In addition, she has been recognized by Bloomberg Businessweek magazine as one of the “50 Most Influential Headhunters in the World.”
search-consult met with the new CEO and President for a Q&A to get her perspective on being the first woman to lead a global search firm, her vision for taking Boyden forward and her thoughts on the economic situation and the changes that are taking place within the industry.
search-consult: What’s your perspective on being the first woman to lead a global executive search firm?
Trina Gordon: I’m honored to have the opportunity to support and lead Boyden to the next level of excellence as a premier executive search firm. Becoming CEO is a reflection of the diversity and global nature of our clients as well as those organizations that understand the importance of being relevant to their own increasingly diverse constituencies.
As executive search is a critical partner in building talent diversity for organizations, I think our industry is overdue in selecting a woman to lead a major global firm.
I strongly believe that, as more women continue to move into leadership roles, it is our responsibility to act as mentors for the next generation. Women have consistently proven to excel in developing and maintaining outstanding client relationships by a number of measures. We are in a people business that requires keen insights, excellent assessment skills and a true client touch - women are innately good at this.
search-consult: What is your vision for taking Boyden forward?
Trina Gordon: The search industry is at an important inflection point in its evolution. In many ways, search is still perceived as an underdeveloped segment of the advisory services sector. Today, leadership and talent have become increasingly critical to the success of organizations as they fast track globalization, plan for succession and forecast their human capital requirements. It’s time for search to be recognized, along with other advisory firms, as a strategic and consultative client partner.
Boyden is aggressively adopting a highly client-focused platform that we believe will place us squarely in the pantheon of these valued advisory firms. Our firm’s global and local expertise, collaboration and delivery are a powerful combination for clients.
search-consult: Boyden is known as a durable brand. What’s your view of the brand and where it is today?
Trina Gordon: We are continuously investing in our brand. It is emblematic of the resources we bring to clients and the partners that represent us. It is the responsibility and commitment of all our partners to insure that Boyden embodies the highest standard of quality and professionalism. We also have a responsibility to continuously extend our brand in the global marketplace and insure that it is synonymous with what clients expect from their search partners.
search-consult: Given the current economic environment, which is uneven at best in most corners of the globe, how do you see that impacting the search industry?
Trina Gordon: A volatile global market impacts every sector and search experience. Strategic investments will continually be made. Decisions regarding human capital are clearly linked to a company’s confidence in their markets. It’s our responsibility to remain close to our client organizations throughout all this process of change.
search-consult: What’s your approach to expansion and how do you decide on new office openings?
Trina Gordon: Boyden takes a proactive approach to partnering with clients where they see opportunities for growth – we look at expansion through the lens of our clients. We undertake a careful, analytic approach to establishing a presence in new markets. There are emerging markets that are not yet mature enough for retained search at a high level. They may be best served by an adjacent presence until the level of business activity is sustainable for search. It’s important to calibrate client opportunity and a market’s level of demand. When that balance is right, leadership has a significant impact on a company’s bottom line.
Boyden has one of the largest footprints in the business. Today it’s all about talent existing in-country. Our global and local market expertise, understanding of the business climate and knowledge of leadership ensure that our clients can make the best talent decisions which will bring on growth. As a result, we are very selective with who we partner, making sure they will add value to our clients, as well as the development of our own organization.
search-consult: What do you see as the main challenges affecting clients today and how is Boyden dealing with them?
Trina Gordon: At senior leadership levels, clients are demanding more specific sector and functional expertise, along with an understanding of particular markets or geographies. As global corporations look to expand into emerging markets, decisions are based on the dynamics of that competitive local landscape. Since mature markets already exist in most developed economies, more clients are looking to invest in emerging markets. It’s imperative that the search partner has the resident talent expertise as well as specific sector expertise within those geographies.
search-consult: How has the search business changed in the last three to five years?
Trina Gordon: The search business has changed from the standpoint of not being as transactional. Search consultants must be able to anticipate the needs of a client organization and think beyond the engagement at hand. That means we have to understand a client’s business in its entirety – its impact in all given markets, what its products and services mean to their end users and how the client’s competitors affect their decisions. In my view, the biggest change is that search consultants must to be the best possible business partners in order to maintain and expand a longstanding client relationship.
search-consult: What new opportunities do you see emerging and how do you prepare your organization to deal effectively with them?
Trina Gordon: The opportunities for our firm center on advising clients as they contemplate new markets; because of our global-local experience and our worldwide presence, we do that very well. That is the biggest opportunity we have– the ability to support clients in markets that are today defined as emerging or “on the horizon”. We are in an era where markets are shifting rapidly. The growth we’re witnessing today, such as in the BRIC countries, will continue. New BRICs are emerging, and they will be the power economies of the future.
search-consult: What are the most prominent industries and functions for the executive search industry?
Trina Gordon: We continue to see high levels of demand in health and life sciences, technology, biotechnology and the energy markets. There are also emerging manufacturing sectors, such as mining and metals, which are experiencing impressive growth.
search-consult: Who is the search professional of the future? How do you see search professionals changing 10 years down the line?
Trina Gordon: With the industry maturing, search consultants are increasingly migrating from industry sectors and they are the next generation of client partners. They are also bringing anew mindset to our profession. Clients are requesting specific expertise and we have to deliver on that requirement. Technology will also continue to be a big factor in driving change in our business in terms of efficiencies and delivery. I don’t foresee technology impacting our opportunities to assist clients in the C-suite, but it is impacting middle management demand for those firms who focus at that level.
The search professional of the future has to be a globally-centric business advisor with deep sector experience in order to effectively advise clients. It’s essential to have a world view and a strong understanding of your client’s business -not just the human capital element.The bottom line is that today’s emerging markets are quickly becoming quite sophisticated. Clients in these geographies will have the same requirements and expectations of those in mature markets. Search professionals that can address the needs of both will be rewarded with trusted and strong client relationships - they will also be very successful.