Thoughts on the Search Business

It’s never as good as it looks and rarely as bad as it seems.
Flazingo Photos /​/​Flickr Thoughts on the Search Business
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I‘ve been ruminating recently — one tends to do that at a certain stage in life — about the business I’m in: executive search. It’s a nice business, especially if you enjoy introducing interesting, talented people to other interesting talented people, which I do, and don’t mind rejection, which I don’t. The business is never as good as it looks and rarely as bad as it seems, which also tends to be my philosophy about life in general.

I judge people for a living. It’s a hell of a responsibility, which I take pretty seriously, because that’s our commitment to our clients and our candidates. It’s also a chance to observe people at their presumptive best, how they interact in stressful situations and how they present themselves as candidates, hiring managers, board members, owners, CEOs etc. Essentially this business is a laboratory in which we see people trying to make their lives better by moving up the ladder of success.

What I’d like to accomplish over the coming months or possibly years is to share some of the insights I have gleaned after 30 years in this business, which has been my second career. I have had the good fortune to meet all kinds of successful people. Most of them are principled, hard-​working and highly motivated and have done well for themselves, some despite the fact that they were born rich, the majority because they were smart, infused with a strong work ethic at an early age and performed at a high level.

If wisdom is the opportunity to look back at a lifetime of decisions, relationships, encounters, etc. and be able to make better decisions because of what you’ve learned from the bad ones, I think I see wisdom on the horizon.

I’ll be back with some stories about some of the situations that arise on a daily basis in our business, hoping you’ll find them entertaining and possibly thought provoking…


Tom Flannery

Tom Flannery is the Managing Partner of the Pittsburgh office of Boyden Executive search. He has worked in search for the past 30 years, initially with a local boutique firm that he owned and for the past 17 years with Boyden. Tom’s early career included ten years with Gulf Oil in a series of marketing positions and another eight as owner and president and owner of a multi-​state distribution company he acquired from Gulf and several other related businesses. Tom’s business literally takes him around the world and the people he has met in his travels have provided him with an inexhaustible supply of anecdotes, reminiscences, and tales, some compelling and some somber. Writing is an important part of his business as he presents candidates to his clients and has been part of his life since he started writing short stories when he was in grade school. As he has begun to wind down his career, Tom wants to devote more time to writing and sharing some of what he encounters enjoys and endures on a daily basis. Tom is a Pittsburgh native, a father of two grown children, a grandfather of three and lives in Fox Chapel with his wife, Stephanie.

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