Editor’s Note – Welcome to “Leaders Talk with Dave Hall” an all new series of interviews posted every third Wednesday of the month here on the DMG blog. The series features experienced business writer Dave Hall interviewing an incredible line-up of DMG clients, giving you an inside look on what makes them tick. The questions will surround their success, their experience in their sector and the type of characteristics that drive them to be leaders in our community.
Let’s kick things off with Harvey Hohauser & Associates CEO – Todd Hohauser.
What insights have your experiences in leading a family business provided when you are discussing succession planning with your clients?
TH: We are a multi-generational family business as are many of our clients. When the leadership changes, somebody needs to be the majority owner so that the chances of conflicts are reduced. For instance, I own 51 per cent and my brother owns 49 per cent. Somebody has to be the ultimate decision-maker.
How important is succession planning for business owners in case their offspring decide to chart their own career path?
TH: It’s critical to have a plan in place from almost the beginning. It needs to have been a long-term discussion so that the emotions are taken out of it. And it’s important for whoever takes over the family business that they either worked somewhere else first or started right at the bottom and earned their way into the role. Businesses can also bring in a mentor to help with the transition.
What are your strategies for attracting and retaining clients?
TH: We are always recruiting new clients and we are always trying to add value to those clients we already have in place. We’re a listening post as well so that we are able to help clients solve problems outside of our executive recruitment mandate. About half our business is repeat and half are referrals.
What are the most important traits you look for in selecting potential new employees for your clients?
TH: We recruit high-level executives such as chief financial officers and it’s very important to make sure they fit in with the client’s corporate culture. They may have all the skills and knowledge in the world but if they don’t fit, it won’t work. Their past experience can give you a sense of their cultural fit. If they are too laid back, for instance, they probably won’t fit into a no-holds-barred culture and vice versa.
What are the most important customer service tips you can offer?
TH: Our business is relationship-driven so we’re sticklers for customer service. You have to take the time to fully understand your customers and clients. Take the time to listen to what they have to say rather than simply waiting for them to stop talking so you can say something.
How were you able to survive the recent recession which impacted so many other companies?
TH: Quite simply, my father Harvey Hohauser. We were on the precipice of disaster but my father, fortunately, is a long-term thinker and he had squirreled away enough funds so that we were able to withstand the downturn without laying anyone off. We’re being good squirrels, as my father would say, in that we’re saving one-third, paying taxes with one-third and operating the business with the other third. You still have to invest but you do that when times are good and when they aren’t , you hunker down and retrench.
What tips can you offer to those seeking to build an international client base?
TH: We belong to an international group of executive recruitment partners which has helped us capture and attract international clients. We have worked with clients in Belgium and China as a result of this network. German companies see our name which helps open doors. We have an 82-step process for finding executive candidates distilled into three phases and we find that German companies love processes so that has helped as well.
How has social media impacted the way you interact with clients?
TH: We utilize social media to highlight the achievements of our clients. Re-tweeting, reposting announcements on Linked In – items which our clients are communicating to the market is very important. Social media has also had a great impact on how we interact with candidates. Reaching out to them via social media rather than by phone or email has created a new pipeline of communication to them.
How have you been able to establish a corporate culture and strengthen your company’s brand?
TH: We’re constantly talking throughout our company about our mission statement and values so that we are constantly reinforcing them. We give out Purple Squirrel Awards every month to the employee who best exemplifies those values and statements. It’s all about customer service and adding value to what we offer our clients.
What is your ideal way to spend a day off?
TH: It’s hard to be totally unconnected these days but I do filter calls and respond to emergencies while putting others off until after the weekend. When I am free, I like to spend time with my girlfriend. I’m a big fan of comic books including the Walking Dead and the X-Men. They provide a much-needed relief from pressures of work.
Do you have a favourite vacation spot.
TH: We have a cottage in Northern Michigan and I love to get away and do some fishing. I also love soccer, as we call it here, and I’ve both played the game and coached my son. I’m a big fan of Tottenham Hotspur so spending a Saturday afternoon at White Hart Lane watching them play Arsenal in the North London derby would be perfect.