April 6, 2016 – Executive search firm Crist | Kolder Associates has been selected by Myers Industries to lead its search for a chief financial officer. Tom Kolder, president of Crist | Kolder Associates, is leading the assignment.
Corporate secretary, EVP and CFO Greggory W. Branning has left the company to pursue other interests. Kevin Brackman, VP and Controller, will be acting as CFO on an interim basis while the search is being conducted.
Myers Industries is an international manufacturer of polymer products for industrial, agricultural, automotive, commercial, and consumer markets. The company is the largest distributor of tools, equipment and supplies for the tire, wheel and under vehicle service industry in the U.S.
According to recruiters, CFOs appear to be on the move much more than other C-suite leaders lately. And that begs an interesting question: What are ‘actively-looking’ CEOs most after as they team up with headhunters in the pursuit of their next CFO? The position generally serves as right hand man — these days perhaps more likely a woman — so the perfect match is critical.
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“There is quite a bit of dialog with the CEO when starting a CFO search and that input lets us understand the circumstances for the search,” said Phil McCall, a Crist | Kolder managing director. “If the search is launched because of a retirement, or the CFO is moving into a line role within the organization, it allows the CEO and recruiter to discuss what he or she liked in the CFO, what should be replicated, and potentially, what should be improved upon.” On the other hand, he said, if a search is launched because the finance function needs to be upgraded, “that input then is more likely to begin with ‘what went wrong,’ and then it’s a matter of establishing the must-haves from nice-to-haves,” he added.
It often goes unsaid, but one trait every CEO desperately seeks in his or her next CFO is leadership. “More and more often, the CFO is viewed as the No. 2 executive within a public company,” said Mr. McCall. “That perception is consistent with both insiders (peers, managers), and outsiders (analysts, investors, and board members). Because a public company CEO is so time constrained, the CFO is expected to take his or her place at certain times. When that happens, you need a CFO who won’t shirk from those responsibilities, but rather, will instill a following.”
According to recent research, about one fifth of companies now change their CFOs annually, thereby creating a constricting market for financial officers talent — with the best candidates often considering multiple opportunities at any one time.
Tightening talent pipelines are wreaking havoc for hiring companies by edging up CFO pay packages, according to recruiters, making the hunt for top-flight financial specialists one of the more costly searches to undertake. On the flip side, it is now one of the most lucrative areas for headhunters.
Cynthia Heckscher, a managing director for Philadelphia-based recruiters Diversified Search, said that increased competition throughout the sector is forcing up a super breed CFO, with competencies far exceeding those seen on standard job spec sheets. Not surprisingly, she said, many of these up-and-coming finance executives are on a CEO pathway as well.
“To find such senior finance executives, you must look beyond the ‘usual and customary,’” said Ms. Heckscher. “We now seek leaders with strategic and visioning skills; highly collaborative and mentoring leadership styles; track records of establishing partnerships; and demonstrated entrepreneurial orientation,” she said, adding: “We also look for runway and diversity in gender, ethnicity, and in thought.”
“There’s no question that demand is high for sitting CFOs,” said Colleen Hulce, founder and CEO of Hulce Associates, “so there has to be a more compelling reason for top candidates to select one opportunity over another. For the very best people in this profession, they often have a choice of what their next move will be.”
In the last few years, finding CFOs has become more challenging, said Ms. Hulce, as clients’ requirements are now more specific. “Once considered a fungible skill, with people moving seamlessly from one industry to another, the prevailing preference today is for someone with experience in the same industry, or very similar.”
But as Mr. McCall pointed out, it ultimately comes down to leadership. CFO candidates, said Ms. Hulce, “must be strategic, operationally-oriented, and great leaders with exceptional communication skills who have the ability to move into broader roles. It’s a tall order.”
Contributed by Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor, Hunt Scanlon Media