I had breakfast with a fellow sole proprietor professional service provider yesterday. He was down in the dumps because his specialty (M&A Advisory) in a certain industry sector is out of favor in today’s economy. For a half an hour he mused on what used to be and how he used to provide great management advice to this sector. Finally I had enough and stopped him. Loathing and self-pity is really a waste of time. It struck me like lightning what this guy needed to do: he needed to reinvent his brand.
Just as I recently posited in a brief post on LinkedIn about how large recruiting firms are spinning the new hot industry sectors, this is what he needed to do. Case in point: In the early 2000s when the Clean Tech industry came into favor, a team of recruiters at a large retained search firm working in the Semiconductor industry re-branded themselves to take advantage of this market shift. Overnight these same recruiters became the industry leaders for the C-suite in Clean Tech. Guess what ─ these same recruiters are now repositioning themselves once again as the industry leaders in the “Internet of Things”and “Industrial Internet.” Why? Clean Tech is dead and Semiconductors have not returned. These recruiters are doing this with purpose and they are arming themselves with knowledge in these new industries, so I am not criticizing this strategy, I am applauding their moves. The white papers, thought forums and seminars they are creating are helping to build this fledgling industry. This idea of rebranding brings up two thoughts relative to my own retained search clients and CFO candidates.
Arnold Partners: Building on Strengths to Expand Services
The Arnold Partners philosophy has and continues to be a focus on the role of the CFO. We continue to find top talent in a wide variety of industries. In the last six months we have found CFOs for the following industries: SaaS, Enterprise Software, Connected Home Technology, Specialty Chemical, Biotechnology, Medical Device and Gaming. That is about as wide a mix as I can imagine. What is common to these searches is that they all needed strategic CFOs with different skill sets that were right for a certain stage of company. But here is the spin: In speaking with the investors of these companies, I mentioned that I was expanding my brand to include Audit Chair Search. Without missing a beat, EVERY investor told me this was an excellent idea and that they would be happy to work with me when the time came to look for an independent Audit Chairperson for their Board of Directors. We just completed an Audit Chair search for a hot pre-IPO SaaS company and we are now engaged on the Connected Home Technology client. So this spin is not a wholesale change of who Arnold Partners is. It is an iteration and a leveraging of our many years of hard work in building relationships in the CFO community.
CFO Candidates: Take Stock with a Personal Inventory
As a CFO you have the most malleable skill set in the C-suite. If you are a marketing professional or an engineer it is more difficult to change industries. But as a CFO (or aspiring CFO) you have an opportunity to take your core skills and apply them to a wide variety of industries. However, in terms of branding yourself and managing your own personal brand, I highly recommend that you take a personal inventory. What have you added to your skills and experience in the last year? What have you seen in your industry sector that is positive in terms of growth? Are you in a dying industry? What steps do you need to take to get into a hotter sector? All of us professionals need to manage our own brand and we owe it to ourselves and our constituencies to take inventory, perform a gap analysis and do something about it.
My Colleague: Got the Kick in the Butt He Needed
So my breakfast buddy reached out to me later in the day. He said I motivated him to get in gear and he was voraciously reading material about a new industry sector into which he feels he can parley his deep M&A advisory experience. He started to do research into the industry leaders and found one of his old mentors in a key leadership position. Talk about epiphany. What are you doing to manage your brand? Is it time to reinvent or at least iterate?
If you need a CFO or an Audit Chairperson, or have your own story about rebranding yourself, let’s talk. Contact me at Dave@arnoldpartners.com or call 408-205-7373.