Headhunt or Not?

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How can builders recruit talented managers and hang on to them?

April 01, 2003

Seducing Senior Execs

Headhunter Marlon Toon of Natick, Mass.-based ZweigWhite (www.zweigwhite.com) offers these steps to take before launching a national search to fill top management positions:

  1. Provide ownership opportunities. "Many professionals in privately held companies view this as a career milestone."
  2. Re-evaluate your compensation structure. "Perks that some firms have used include company vehicles, flex time or formula-driven bonus structures."
  3. Create new challenges. "This could include increased responsibilities, new projects or larger profit centers to manage."

How can builders recruit talented managers and hang on to them?

We put that question to successful builders across the country and touched a nerve when we brought up using management search firms - headhunters.

"We pretty much have a policy of not using those guys," D.R. Horton president Don Tomnitz says. "We recruit by networking through the people we already have. Our people know what it takes to succeed at Horton and what our culture is like, which affects how well a person will fit in. People who use headhunters to recruit are usually using them to shop themselves around as well. That kind of person will leave in two to four years. We want people who will stay a lot longer."

But plenty of builders use and recommend search firms. "It's easy for us to network locally and fill most positions," says Eric Wittenberg, president of McStain Neighborhoods in Boulder, Colo., "but that would give us a very limited pool to draw from for the senior jobs we must fill to really grow the company. Good headhunters are matchmakers. They help the firm and the candidate."

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