July 7, 2021 – Executive search firm ZRG has acquired Walking the Talk, a consulting and advisory firm focused on culture transformation. Hunt Scanlon Ventures facilitated the introduction and transaction between both organizations. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Walking the Talk, headquartered in Amsterdam, specializes in enhancing performance results by aligning culture with strategy. Since the company was established 11 years ago, culture has landed firmly on the agenda of most executive teams and boards of directors.
As pioneers in this field, understanding the impact culture has on growth, performance, and reputation, Walking the Talk has grown to become the largest consulting firm solely focused on the culture agenda. The firm operates globally and has supported clients on dozens of engagements, which can last anywhere from a few months to a few years.
“Hiring top talent that aligns with a client’s culture objective has been a key success factor for ZRG,” said Larry Hartmann, CEO of ZRG. “With the addition of Walking the Talk, we will expand our consulting and talent solutions capabilities, helping our clients address challenging topics like change management and culture transformation. Walking the Talk’s intellectual property developed by Carolyn Taylor and the team will enhance our ability to understand, measure and assess culture contribution at multiple levels. We see great power in the combination of our two businesses,” he said.
“It used to be that organizations synchronized their leadership to corporate vision, mission, core values, and strategic objectives,” said Scott A. Scanlon, CEO of Greenwich, Conn-based Hunt Scanlon Ventures. “But in the wake of COVID-19, permanent, systemic changes to the workplace have forced a more holistic approach built around culture. This acquisition is a big bet on the coming realignment.”
ZRG has already begun incorporating Walking the Talk’s intellectual property and cultural insights into its Zi platform. This new and improved combined tool kit enables ZRG to bring more rigor, more data and more thoughtfulness to each client’s hiring decisions.
“We see tremendous opportunity to continue to expand our service offerings globally as part of ZRG,” said Carolyn Taylor, CEO of Walking the Talk. “We intend to use our expertise in the field of culture, behavior and mindset to enhance ZRG’s ability to select the best candidates for clients, evaluating their contribution to the client’s culture goals.”
“Now, as a key component of the ZRG team we will be in a better position to meet emerging client needs,” Ms. Taylor said. “It will be exciting to see our advisory work extend into hiring, in a measured way. With ZRG’s data-driven tool kit we are confident that we can keep making an impact for our clients, while broadening the scope of how that impact translates to business performance.”
A Fast-Growing Firm
ZRG, founded in 1999, is a progressive mid-sized global executive search firm and one of the fastest growing in the search industry. It provides a full suite of executive, middle-management, and customized search solutions through its offices in North America, Europe, South America and Asia. The firm finds leaders across a broad spectrum of business markets, including aerospace, consumer, education, healthcare services and solutions, industrial, life sciences, non-profit, private equity and venture capital, and technology.
In June, ZRG acquired Sucherman Group, a media and entertainment focused executive search firm. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. Founder Stuart Sucherman and CEO Erik Sorenson, both former media executives, will continue to lead the organization. “We are thrilled to add the premier team in the media space to the ZRG family,” said Mr. Hartmann. “They have built an incredible team and are content sector experts who bring clear value to every engagement. With our recent acquisition of Turnkey Sports, the boutique leader in the sports sector, adding the No. 1 boutique in media and entertainment broadens our market expertise and provides strong access to crossover talent in both areas.”
LLR Partners, a private equity firm based in Philadelphia, has made an investment in True. The new partnership is aimed at developing and expanding innovation within the talent space. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. True surpassed $100 million in revenues in 2019 and added 146 people during the pandemic. True has consistently been the fastest organic growth mid-sized search firm over the last decade.
David Reuter, a partner at LLR, joins True’s board of directors alongside Nick Caldwell, vice president of engineering at Twitter; Jennifer Ceran, CFO of Smartsheet; Alex Shootman, CEO of Adobe company platform Workfront; and Evan Wittenberg, EVP and chief people officer at Ancestry. Following the minority stake investment, True co-founders Brad Stadler and Joe Riggione will continue to lead the firm with support and guidance from its board. True’s valuation was said to have been an outlier, reflecting the private equity firm’s belief that True has the potential to become one of the most significant brands in the executive talent sector. Notably, the deal is structured to grant employee participation in value creation over time.
The combination provides both organizations with access to new industries and products. Sucherman will adopt ZRG’s tech-enabled, data-driven approach to search — including its proprietary collaborative Zi platform and Z Score — enhancing the customized, hands-on approach for which the Sucherman team is known. Mr. Sorenson, a former president of MSNBC and former executive producer of the CBS Evening News, said: “Companies are navigating an increasingly complex environment in which people, culture and organizational design are more critical than ever to achieving business goals and managing business risk,” he said. “We are delighted to join with them to accelerate our collective growth in the media/entertainment space and beyond.”
Earlier this year, ZRG made a major move into the sports, entertainment and media sectors by acquiring Turnkey Search. Renamed TurnkeyZRG, all Turnkey staff and assets have now merged into ZRG and the firm continues to be led by Len Perna, the founder, chairman, and CEO of the sports recruiting franchise. Turnkey is adopting ZRG’s tech-enabled, data-driven approach to the search process which it says will give the newly merged firm a competitive edge in the hunt for sports, media and entertainment talent. Larry Hartmann, CEO of ZRG, called the deal a “blockbuster acquisition.”
Hunt Scanlon Ventures facilitated the introduction and transaction between ZRG and Turnkey, two perennial leaders in Hunt Scanlon’s rankings of executive search firms. “Len Perna built Turnkey into the most formidable sports recruiting brand in the nation,” said CEO Scott A. Scanlon. “This combination allows ZRG to deliver its ‘Moneyball’ approach to sports and entertainment, using a proprietary Z Score ‘scorecard’ to leverage data and analytics into better hiring decisions,” he said. “Unlocking hidden value in talent and skills makes this the ultimate Moneyball team. It is a game-changer in sports and entertainment recruiting,” Mr. Scanlon noted.
Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media