April 29, 2016 – For Clark Beecher and Tim Reagan, one of the perquisites of having a client base that reads like a ‘Who’s Who’ in the consulting sector has been the opportunity to watch how leaders at those businesses go about their work and then use what the pair have learned to enhance their own organization. “We have had the luxury of working with some of the smartest consultancies in the world, and we are constantly taking best practices from those firms and applying them to our own firm,” Tim told me in an interview I recently conducted with him and Clark, partners in Beecher Reagan Advisors.
“The biggest advantage we have gained from the synergies between management consulting and executive search is one of the pillars of our firm: to become a ‘trusted advisor to our clients.’
And that matters, especially if your mission as a search firm is to do more than merely fill positions. Beecher Reagan, in fact, plays the critical role of advising its clients on the talent landscape and helps shape how they think about their human capital needs. In short, the firm plies the synergies between executive search and management consulting to the best advantage of everyone involved.
Embracing a New Model
“How we assemble the search teams for clients, organize our firm with regard to market and functional focus, and our ability to completely understand our clients’ needs comes from our insight into the management consulting space,” Tim continues. “There is also a level of client service and a focus on data-driven insight at Beecher Reagan that comes from working closely with management consulting firms for so long. It is a hallmark of their service to their clients, and it is a hallmark of ours as well.” It is why, perhaps, the firm boasts a 92 percent completion rate on its searches.
This approach, as Clark explains, allows Beecher Reagan Advisors to embrace a ‘trusted advisor’ approach with clients versus the traditional brokerage model approach of what he calls legacy search firms. “We advise clients on their needs, we help them define their roles and position profiles, and we then execute the process,” Clark says. “We are honest with clients about candidates but never advocate, and we mediate in the closing process. We have incorporated a hypothesis-driven approach, combining the skills of our consulting clients and applying them to our ‘go to market’ and engagement delivery.”
Most important, it’s an approach that’s worked. A mid-sized boutique, Beecher Reagan is currently the 29th ranked search firm in the nation, according to a recent compilation conducted by Hunt Scanlon Media. Founded in 2009, its clientele includes such luminaries as McKinsey & Co., Boston Consulting Group, AT Kearney, and Accenture. The firm has offices in New York, Houston and San Francisco.
Full Contact Sport
As executive search veterans, Clark and Tim have seen, and in many ways seen the benefits of, technology’s transformation of their industry. “Technology is playing a bigger role in the identification process of prospects,” says Clark. “I think at lower levels it can be disruptive. At the most senior levels it is still a ‘full contact sport’ that encompasses relationships and art as part of the ability to attract passive candidates to our client. Technology is also playing a vital role in search transparency and reporting. This is good for the client. They should be able to see what we do week-to-week versus having some random resumes pop out of a magic box on weekly calls.”
But technology’s effect on executive search and their firm in particular runs even deeper. How clients operate their businesses has become more strategic and holistic-minded than ever before. That, in turn, has influenced how Beecher Reagan proceeds in its work. Certainly finding the right talent to fill these more demanding needs of clients can be a challenge. “We are seeing technology consulting and services becoming more and more entwined with broader business, operational, and strategy consulting services,” Tim explains. “As we see formerly disparate consultancies and service lines converge, organizations are looking to add talent that can bridge the gap between technology, operations, and business/strategy consulting. Scaling digital practices is one of the top focuses of our clients today, and competition for that talent is fierce.”
Clark and Tim met when the two worked together at Magellan International about a decade ago. They credit their time there with providing both the education and insights that helped them launch their own firm and what’s more, make it succeed. “At Magellan, we were able to identify the ‘need’ for organizations to aggressively go after consulting talent,” says Clark. “The demand for this talent was growing in high double digits, but the supply was not. Examples of this might include a consulting firm looking to invest in industry, functional or geographic practice areas; a Fortune 500 company looking for a vein of talent from which we might identify its next executive; or an alternative investments firm that might be identifying professionals to work in operating groups or in companies to improve asset performance.” Clark says. The two ultimately felt that this level of expertise was not being satisfied by the big search firms nor were their specialists focused enough on who operated in this niche. It was at this point the pair decided there was an opening to form Beecher Reagan.
Tim, for his part, had spent six years in executive search with firms in Washington, D.C. before joining Magellan, where he stayed for three years. He credits the firm with providing him with tools that proved invaluable in his professional growth. “First and foremost, is being able to bring differential insight to the consulting space,” he says. The power to leverage insight from across a firm focused on a single talent market is a differentiator in acquiring clients and executing searches, he adds.
“At Magellan, I was also impressed with how we were able to be true trusted advisors to our clients. I had never seen a search firm able to manage a client and search better, especially with extremely challenging assignments. The transparency of the search process, the ability to provide critical market feedback, and being focused on coaching the client on how to pivot a search when the talent market was not responding to their needs were things I learned and later used as we built Beecher Reagan.”
One important area for the firm is the alternate investment sector. Private equity and hedge funds are particularly active these days. “PE clients come to us for our access to current and former consulting talent,” says Clark. “They deploy this talent in operating groups at the fund level or embed them in the asset companies in transformative roles. The next job of many of these candidates is running portfolio companies. Hedge funds want to expand their business models and become more like long-established asset managers so they can access more traditional pools of capital in phase two of their business growth. They come to us to access consulting talent to drive new concepts and operating models for their businesses.”
Tim, who leads Beecher Reagan’s efforts in the private equity space, says the greatest demand they see these days is from mid-market PE firms that are building or scaling operating groups. “Many mid-market firms are now hyper-focused around one or two industries, and this model allows them to build smaller operating teams (at the fund level) that get great leverage across their entire portfolio,” Tim says. “The focus has been on acquiring top-tier strategy and operational consulting talent in-house versus using outside consulting firms, which provides the added benefit of being able to allow the operating groups to build rapport with the deal-side team. This, in turn, leads to collaboration between those groups to better assess acquisition targets and set cost or growth achievables on those new acquisitions.”
And though Beecher Reagan lacks the size and name recognition of the biggest search firms, it has focused its efforts to great advantage – for itself and its clients. “While we are indeed a mid-sized executive search firm, we maintain one of the largest professional services search firms in North America,” says Clark “So we have scale around supply in a much bigger way than our competitors. We also run a single P & L and everyone on the team touches a search and that approach allows our assignments to not only move ahead, but to succeed. We look more like a consulting team, similar to how McKinsey is structured, whereby it’s the delivery model versus the traditional desk-driven search model.”
That approach has earned Beecher Reagan Advisors considerable respect in the marketplace. And the insight the firm brings to its clients around the talent pool and the wider market has helped win assignments, even when in direct competition with the big names in search. “Every member of Beecher Reagan has either worked within the consulting space or had a career in search dedicated to this market,” says Tim. “That level of dedication and focus is our differentiator. Clark and I believe that if you build a team of search consultants that have actually worked in the sector, it makes an enormous difference. We are all able to speak the language of our clients and they are immediately able to discern that we are experts who know the space inside and out. As a result, as a specialist firm we are in a much better position to understand our clients and to service their talent needs.”
Contributed by Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor, Hunt Scanlon Media and Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief, Hunt Scanlon Media