What Is an Executive Agent?

Melissa Henderson September 5, 2018

A fleeting moment and anything can change. We often think we have control of what is next, but often we are surprised, confused and found in a place for which we are not ready. There you are, in your executive role, with all indicators that you are performing, its working and everyone, including the board or investors are happy with you. Then the unthinkable happens…the conversation…“you are not a fit”, “we are going in a different direction”, “we are selling the company”, “we are restructuring”, or in a right to work state…“just because”.

Now you are in transition and in the job market. Maybe you do not have a resume, have never done your own search, have a minimal network, or just don’t know how to go about things. Your first turn is to the executive search firms. You do your research, figure out which person you think is the right person and you send the email or make the call. Then… silence…crickets…and you get frustrated and wonder why they simply don’t return your calls. The reason is simple – they do not work for you and you are not their client.

Sports agents serve star athletes, literary agents best-selling authors and Hollywood agents top-grossing actors. So, why can’t executives be served by an agent? They can and they now are. What is an Executive Agent and how do they work?

How It Works

When an agent takes the time to work with the executive on getting clear about their skillset, track record, success and value proposition, the executive can be effectively branded in the market place and a sound strategy is set for actual market execution to follow. Assessment tools of varying nature, including subjective and analytic, should be used to ensure the agent and the client are investing in the most efficient and effective plan. At the outset, this must be crystal clear and aligned so that expectations are set and agreed upon. Without this, the search will fail.   There is no magic to this – it is one call after the other, leveraging the network – not carpet bombing or meaningless mail campaigns.  Success comes from optimizing the executive’s value proposition toward market demand and doing the hard work to reach a successful conclusion.

The agent should understand the executive’s value proposition down to their core, the leading companies and the funding sources in their industry. The agent must leverage their own network to open doors when more traditional methods such as cold calling does not bear results.  The client must be in the game as well, collaborating with their agent on how to leverage aspects of their own network. With that, the team can reach a faster, more fruitful conclusion to the search.

Executives engaged in their current role, but beginning to aspire to something else, do not have the luxury of time, capacity or resources to personally execute their own search. If their interest is in independent directorships, handled on their own, the task will be even more arduous.  The executive may also be concerned about confidentiality and need someone who knows how to work very delicately around their situation.

The agent’s process should shorten the hiring cycle and increase the chances of a successful experience for both the executive and the company. While the agent can’t interview on the behalf of the executive, the agent should prepare, practice, support and counsel the executive for the interview. The agent should have the expertise and be equipped to negotiate and close the offer on the executive’s behalf.  All in all, the agent should get the executive advanced far faster and more efficiently than anyone else.  It must be a boutique, high-touch, high-quality experience.

Today’s Market

It is ever more difficult for a C-Level executive to find what interests them next and in a proactive way to make it a reality. Challenges continue with where to find the hidden, more meaningful opportunities.  With companies doing more with less resources, it is difficult to get the attention of hiring executives and board members.  There is less of an appetite for the time it takes to invest in “exploratory” conversations.

C-level executives realize that do-it-yourself or seeking the interest and engagement from retained search firms still doesn’t work. It is a brutal reality, but they work for the company, not the executive. The model has not changed and is not going to change. However, executives need to be realistic about the true value they bring to the marketplace.  The executive may have been a CEO or COO at one time in their career, but that does not mean that they are CEO caliber in today’s market.  Being realistic is a critical ingredient to success.  Without it, the search will be a fallacy.

As on day one, Summit is completely retained by executives (our clients) and unlike a search firm, Summit takes absolutely no fees from the hiring entity. Built upon an initial foundation in the technology industry, by demand Summit has expanded across the country and into a myriad of industries.  We hold a portfolio 25 to 30 C-Level and Board Director Executives.  Summit partners with companies, private equity firms and search firms providing access to executive talent for their company, portfolio companies or executive searches.  We deliver value to one of the most complex pieces of the value chain – human capital at the executive and board level.

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