August 10, 2017 – Los Angeles-headquartered executive search firm Berkhemer Clayton has recruited former Lowe’s executive Ned Ford as senior vice president and head of finance at Harry & David in Medford, OR. Shai Phillips, vice president and head of the recruiter’s corporate practice, led the search.
“The search was nationwide,” said Mr. Phillips. “And despite the scenic environs of South Oregon, and the renowned brand that Harry & David commands, enticing successful CFOs and vice presidents to participate in the selection process required painting a compelling picture of the opportunity by way of numerous conversations with hundreds of potentials from the retail industry and beyond.”
Mr. Ford had been vice president of financial planning and analysis at Lowe’s. There, he led a new FP&A group based on a center of excellence (CoE) model that partnered with business-facing finance teams known as group financial officers that provided support focused on business case development, initiative performance measurement, financial analysis, budgeting, forecasting and financial reporting. Prior to his tenure with Lowe’s, Mr. Ford was a technical service engineer for EMS Chemie.
Harry & David is a premium food and gift producer and retailer. The company sells products through direct mail, online and in retail stores nationwide, and operates the brands Harry & David, Wolferman’s and Cushman’s. Harry & David was founded in 1910 by Samuel Rosenberg as Bear Creek Orchards as a premium fruit company. It has been owned by 1-800-Flowers since 2014.
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Based in Los Angeles, Berkhemer Clayton is a senior-level executive search firm serving corporations, universities and large non-profit organizations. The firm handles specific senior-level positions, primarily vice president and above, leaders of corporate communications, brand marketing, finance & accounting, human resources and board development. It specializes in handling management-level executive searches in communications & marketing, finance & investor relations and boards of directors. The firm recently filled finance position for clients such as Toyota Financial Services, Fremont Investment & Loan, Oaktree Capital Management, Dole Fresh Vegetables and Tutor Perini.
Mr. Phillips has a background in retained executive search within the financial services industry, including private equity and asset management. He recently sat down with Hunt Scanlon Media to discuss the search and take us inside the dynamics of recruiting top finance executives.
Shai, what type of leader was Harry & David seeking?
As a specialist retained executive search firm, we are typically engaged by our client corporations on their more complex and challenging searches. This search was no different: In 2014, Harry & David was acquired by 1-800-Flowers, a public company headquartered in New York. This role was to have interaction with Harry & David’s parent company and would be a corporate officer, as treasurer of Harry & David. We strategized early on that a highly seasoned veteran finance leader was needed – one with broad skillsets, capable of handling multiple reporting lines. To swiftly achieve this result, we executed in-depth, targeted research into executives with proven FP&A track-records, forgoing the rising stars, and focusing our surgically targeted outreach on veteran finance professionals with battle-tested expertise.
Were there any unique skill sets that the organization was looking for?
Another critical aspect of this search was zeroing in on finance leaders with knowledge of today’s harsh retail environment, as well as the interplay of E-commerce platforms, wholesale distribution, brick-and-mortar stores, diffuse geographies, multiple product lines and the implications of all these on both the cost and revenue sides, as part of an overall multi-channel business model.
“From our perspective, the rate of hiring for finance executives has remained stable. Solid M&A activity and IPO market are contributing to a consistent demand for strong finance executives, with controllers and CFO roles, both at the enterprise and divisional levels, being in greatest demand.”
What made Ned the right fit for this role?
We assessed Ned to be intimately familiar with the incorporation of these items into planning, analysis, and strategy. His broad finance capabilities relating to corporate and capital planning, inventory and merchandizing, and store operations, all were key to his success, as was his ability to grapple with integrated data and use it to recommend pragmatic pathways to growth. Ned gained this experience over a long career at Lowe’s, a Fortune 40 company. As a former engineer, his technical skill-sets benefited from a strong foundation, and his deep knowledge of IT and financial systems influenced our decision to present him to our client as a finalist candidate for the position. In the end, though, it all comes down to chemistry, and Ned is as personable as he is capable.
Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor; and Will Schatz, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media