Hire-Sense: The case of the VP and the unsuspecting CEO
By Dennis Troyanos
Founder, The Troyanos Group, Ltd.
Journal entry: July 19, 2013
It’s truly astonishing how events often times conspire to come back and bit you very hard on the derriere!!
Two weeks ago, I was having lunch with a senior marketing executive (we’ll call him Frank) who had recently been made an offer to join a publicly held firm in the biopharma arena (“ACE Pharmaceuticals”) … which he ultimately declined. No big deal … this happens every day. What is a big deal and a real eye opener is the reason he ultimately turned the position down. Here’s the story…
After courting Frank for almost 5 months time, the CEO of ACE Pharmaceuticals picked up the phone and personally extended Frank an extremely attractive offer to become the COO of ACE Pharmaceuticals. The role was right, the money was more than right and the CEO could not have been more charming as he made the offer and expressed his “heart felt” wish that Frank would accept the position. In short, the CEO did everything right. He did the courtship dance perfectly… in fact textbook! When Frank graciously but firmly turned the offer down on the spot, the CEO was blown away. He couldn’t get his mind wrapped around why Frank didn’t accept the offer. The sad fact is that the CEO will never know the truth about why he never had a chance to get Frank to join the team.
When Frank confidentially told me where the process went off track, I was reminded how small our world really is. The monkey wrench that ultimately killed the deal was a lower level VP in the Technology Department who ironically, never so much as laid eyes on Frank … in fact this VP was probably no more than a very minor blip on the CEO’s radar screen. In either case this VP was not a principal player in the dealings between Frank and the CEO. However, as luck would have it, this VP turned out to be a very big factor in Frank’s decision to decline the position.
Not surprisingly, it seems that as the company was doing their due diligence on Frank, Frank was simultaneously doing his due diligence on the firm. In addition to reviewing the company’s public information such as the 10K and other public financials (which incidentally were solid), Frank sent an e-mail out to his personal network of alum and other trusted contacts. The note was short and to the point. It simply asked: “does anyone know anything about ACE Pharmaceuticals”?
Much to his surprise, no less than two notes came back immediately that unfortunately sunk the CEO’s ship as far as the offer to Frank was concerned, and they both had to do with the behavior of the VP of Technology who had earned the unfortunate reputation of being rude, thoughtless and basically unprofessional.
It turns out that this VP had a position open in his department and interviewed both of these executives for an important role. The interview process appeared to be going well enough in both instances until this VP literally stopped the process without warning and refused to return the phone calls of these two executives just as he was “ready to make them offers”!.
Based on the unprofessional behavior on the VP, Frank decided that he would turn down a position with the company for 2 reasons:  The culture tolerated rude and unprofessional behavior and  The CEO was a weak leader for allowing a Senior VP to tarnish the brand.
Interesting how things happen!
As a leader, if you want to attract the best people to your team, you have to find ways to keep the people in your organization focused on sending the right message about your organization’s brand and culture to the marketplace at all times.
There is an immutable law of nature in the business world and it goes like this: “Do something good for one person and five will find out about it. Do something bad and fifty people will find out about it.”
Like it or not … in business, that’s just the way it is!
Dennis Troyanos is the Founder of The Troyanos Group, Ltd. a retained executive search firm specializing in marketing, advertising and marketing services. He can be reached at 914-479-1802 or firstname.lastname@example.org