August 4, 2016 – Ask Patrick Friel about Lochlin Partners, the boutique executive recruitment firm of which he is managing partner, and the conversation always seems to come back to quality of service. For all the change and upheaval that the markets and the search industry have witnessed in recent years, Pat remains firm in his belief that the basics of good service are still the best drivers of success.
Question him, for example, about the role of LinkedIn in how his firm sources candidates and the impact it will have in the coming years and he will tell you that he is impressed as anyone by the power of the career networking social media website. But it only goes so far. In the end, it is he and his team that does the heavy lifting of their recruitment efforts.
“If you told me 25 years ago when I entered the search industry that there would be a database with 100 million names in it, and that candidates would update their own records, I would have looked at you like you had two heads,” he says. “LinkedIn has become the industry’s de facto database or, at a minimum, a jumping off point. This tool allows us to quickly identify appropriate target candidates and get to the talent faster. What it is not is a qualitative database. Candidates need to be screened extensively and assessed deliberately and those developed abilities that reside only with recruiters are difficult to replace with technology.”
Going forward, however, he and his partners see social media further connecting the workforce and providing increased opportunities for talent to connect with those who need it. “Social media will provide an enhanced platform for this in the future,” he said.
Lochlin Partners, based in McLean, VA, has over the past several years completed CEO and other C-level assignments for a wide range of clients, from Franklin Square Capital Partners, Catholic Charities USA, American India Foundation, Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority, the Faith in Politics Institute, and AmeriCares to the USO, Nathan Associates, the National Restaurant Association, George W. Bush Presidential Center and the Milken Institute.
A Useful Connection
Pat, for his part, was previously managing partner of Heidrick & Struggles’ office in Washington. He was also an integral part of the firm’s management team. In an earlier incarnation, he worked in local government in Tidewater, VA, where his focus was on land planning and economic development. “It was my responsibility to lead and guide the legislative processes through local governing bodies overseeing large development proposals,” Pat recalls. “The skill sets that I needed in this job were to become process-oriented, transparent and a strong negotiator. I haven’t really reflected on the connection before, but I find I use these skills every day.”
Working for clients in the government and non-profit sectors differ in certain key ways from handling business clients in the corporate world, he says. In the former cases, the search process tends to follow a defined process that is articulated and agreed upon from the beginning.
A Deliberate Approach
“When we work with commercial clients, having a strong relationship with the chief executive officer or the hiring manager usually drives the process,” Pat says. “Government and not-for-profits usually utilize search committees; they need to understand the overall process and keep focused on ‘what is next’ – and delivering against those milestones is the way that we’ve found to be most successful. These searches require a lot of advanced planning and communications. We have found these factors to be critical to the success of the projects. So, in government and not-for-profit searches, the process really matters.”
Lochlin Partners is growing, and is now ranked as the 43rd largest American firm by Hunt Scanlon Media. But for Pat and his colleagues, growth is not a goal in itself as much as a function of meeting the needs of their clients. “If anything, I’d say our clients appreciate our deliberate approach to growing our business,” he says.
“We’re not interested in looking at growing at a rate that impacts client satisfaction, and that’s our entire brand promise. So our growth strategy is really geared toward adding members to our team that have an ethos that is consistent with that client satisfaction goal. We carefully manage the number of searches our partners are engaged in at any time, which allows us to handle each customized search personally. Our clients appreciate our size and our approach, and we’ll grow in a manner that preserves that.”
And while Lochlin Partners is indeed a boutique search firm, it represents clients across an array of industries. For some operations, that might be a tough balancing act. Lochlin Partners’ approach, however, bridges that gap. “To us, boutique means bespoke or custom,” Pat says. “We’re focused on what clients want, which is a personal, high-touch approach. So while we have underlying processes and standards that apply across every search, we treat each engagement as being fundamentally unique in terms of goals, culture, fit, requirements, and many other dimensions.”
The clients the firm works with most effectively understand this. “They understand that our approach is built for them, that it doesn’t rely on a body of previous work, and that it relies on thoughtful and thorough original research targeting candidate outreach and recruitment. That being said, we have a strong functional orientation around the areas of general management, financial management, communications, government affairs and human resources, but the culture of the firm is boutique at heart.”
Contributed by Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor, Hunt Scanlon Media and Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief, Hunt Scanlon Media