Executive Search Case Study
Position: Chief Operating Officer
Company: Tulip Richardson Manufacturing
Tulip Richardson Manufacturing (formerly Tulip Molded Plastics Corp.) is a plastic injection molding company with operations across the U.S.. The original Tulip Corp. was founded in 1977, and today the company offers a wide range of products from battery components to molded containers to engineered resins. Tulip’s owner and CEO (at the time), Fred, had no internal successor and was on the hunt for a new COO for the company’s Milwaukee headquarters. Fred had been with the company for 40-plus years and was looking to retire, so he needed the perfect candidate he could groom to eventually take over.
But after two years of executive searches by two of the biggest search firms in the country, Fred was still at square one. Indeed, despite being paid their full fee, neither firm had unearthed the right candidate and no hire had been made. Partly this was because this was a big ask: not only did the candidate need a senior manufacturing and business background, but also the right set of soft skills to fit well at a company that very much operated like a family. But it was also because all search firms are bound by strict “hands-off lists” – lists of companies they’ve worked in the past and are therefore restricted from approaching for 12-24 months. In the case of large search firms, these hands-off lists are usually massive.
It quickly became obvious to Perry-Martel that the position would have quickly been filled with a strong candidate if not for the previous firms’ hands-off lists. Problem was, neither firm even bothered to tell Fred these lists existed in the first place – making it almost a certainty that executives from Tulip’s big competitors had not been approached during either search.
Perry-Martel is also bound by hands-off lists, but because it’s a boutique firm that’s very selective about its clients, its restrictions are far less extensive – meaning managing partner David Perry was in a prime position to approach the absolute best candidates available. So, after meeting with Fred and touring the company’s facilities in Milwaukee and southern California, David put Perry-Martel’s Inside-Out Approach to work.
He began by conducting a thorough analysis of the company, its assets, the needs of the position being filled, and other key elements of the search. After sourcing a list of nearly every chief operating officer, VP of manufacturing, and VP of operations in the Milwaukee area, he then called and qualified each one against Fred’s detailed job description. Finally, after speaking with board chairs from the 10 of the largest manufacturers in the country – companies that almost certainly were on the previous search firms’ hands-off lists – one name kept coming up, Jim, who most thought was the perfect candidate for the role.
Even though Jim had recently retired at 55, David called him anyway and sent him the search’s position profile. After learning a little about the company and its culture, it became apparent that Jim was also interested in the role. Several interviews designed to assess the candidate’s career story, knowledge, and potential fit within the company (along with how well they could get along with the CEO – no small thing!) with a final, small group of qualified candidates were conducted alongside Tulip board members and the designated Search Committee Chair.
A few weeks and several interviews later, it had become obvious Fred had found his ideal candidate. Jim – a very strong candidate who wouldn’t have even come up during a typical candidate search from a large executive search firm – was hired soon afterward. Fred was elated, despite the fact that if the search firms he’d originally hired had been forthcoming with their hands-off restrictions, the position would almost certainly have been filled with a strong candidate by a boutique firm two years earlier.
Jim would go on to lead Tulip Corp.’s merger with Richardson Molding LLC a few years later, to create Tulip Richardson Manufacturing.