When it comes to investing in executive search, industry specialization is the most valuable currency, and perhaps the only free lunch.
True specialization requires targeting a market much like an archer targets a bull’s eye. To succeed the archer needs a combination of laser focus + sustained concentration. Similarly the domain specific recruiter conducting a hard target search must also commit to putting forth the effort required to leverage this demanding combination.
Table stakes for delivering consistently above average results requires rigorous marketplace reconnaissance, prior experience around the domain’s evolution, and constant study of the field – all of these elements, when executed with passion and street smarts empower the specialized search practitioner to instantiate for candidates the client’s power, and the wisdom of accepting their offer.
This recruiting rigor empowers the client to capitalize on the McIntyre Associates best practice of Staffing Arbitrage. When companies are affected by negative events (an earnings miss for instance), windows of opportunity to hire “passive” candidates open for a short time if you know where to focus, and as folks in cyber security well know, hiring enough seasoned employees in order to scale quickly is very challenging.
Dividends accruing from this demanding practice include the ability to leverage years of “inside baseball” domain expertise – I’m not talking here about CNBC breaking news, but rather the deeper insights into how events affect cyber security companies, and concomitantly how their employees react – many times passive candidates consider becoming active, and the ability to tap into a well-developed network of A+ execs puts us at the front of the line in terms of being first to engage with, and deliver formerly inaccessible star candidates to our loyal clients.
Recruiting & Retention – consistently refreshed domain awareness from several angles is the key to understanding changes in e-Staff responsibilities as roles morph from the old on-prem software model, to the growing acceptance of SaaS in the enterprise – all vendors are confronted with these challenges, but given the pace of change, and the difficulty in handing compensation issues (toss the conventional HR handbook here), among other vagaries in cyber security, it’s even more difficult to accomplish changes in real time.
For example, the roles of the CMO and CFO have come to require new skills as the SaaS bullet train boards more enterprise passengers.
The CMO must now be highly skilled in quickly messaging out a new value proposition that quantifiably features the company’s ability to deliver new products in a way that accommodates an increasingly SaaS driven economy… and for cyber security product vendors this is tougher than most because, for the longest time enterprise customers resisted trusting their most sensitive information to be safe in the cloud. The CMO plays a significant role in this breakthrough.
The CFO must now be facile in new revenue and cost recognition rules, since SaaS companies are required to follow new and different accounting rules than that which software licensing companies employ, and which also affects how Wall Street values SaaS companies. This is like changing a tire while the car’s still moving when software companies pivot from licensing to SaaS models resulting in hybrid companies.
Having focused on cyber security since 2001, I’ve seen some great execs move to the shiny new object startups (Big Data, etc.), only to return to my domain as they realize that when building/scaling early stage companies, cyber security is actually the most secure (pun intended) place to be!