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EPISODE 1: The Search Is On (w/ True Search Founder Josh Withers)๐ŸŽ™

The Startup Stack
EPISODE 1: The Search Is On (w/ True Search Founder Josh Withers)๐ŸŽ™

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Itโ€™s safe to say that no company had the 2020 they forecasted.

But is it all doom and gloom? Not according to Josh Withers, Founder and General Manager at True Search.

This week on The Startup Stack, Josh walks Louis through the year in search, including what companies are hiring for, and why โ€” unexpectedly โ€” so many search companies have been busier than ever.

โ€œWe’re getting inundated by old world brands that historically weren’t even online. They have to completely transform overnight โ€” and they don’t know where to go. “

โ€“ Josh Withers
๐ŸŽ™ Highlights include:
  • How to pick the right executive recruiter for your company 
  • How remote teams are adapting and how remote hiring has changed
  • Current trends in search and executive leadership
  • How True is making diversity a central element in all of their searches
This Week’s Guest

Josh Withers is one of the founders of True Search and the general manager of True Search North America. He has more than 15 years of experience in executive search and is a specialist in the tech recruiting space.

The Startup Stack Host
Louis Beryl

CEO, Co-Founder of Rocketplace

Rocketplace is a curated marketplace of high quality professional service providers. A 3x founder, investor, and board member, Louis began his tech career as a partner at Andreessen Horowitz. When he’s not working or podcasting, Louis enjoys cooking for his family. His pizza, he’d like you to know, is incredible. 

Full Episode Transcript

Louis Beryl    00:00:00    Why did the elephant get rejected for a job?  

Josh Withers    00:00:03    No idea. 

Louis Beryl    00:00:05    His qualifications were completely irrelephant. BOOM!

Josh Withers    00:00:11    I mean, you can’t see my face.

Louis Beryl    00:00:12    [Laughing] If only you can see your face on the podcast.

Louis Beryl    00:00:16    This week we’re talking to Josh Withers, Founder, General Manager at True Search global talent and recruiting company. I’ve known Josh since 2012 and the search industry has changed a lot since Josh entered the game. Like most things changed itโ€™s changed a lot in the last six months too. We talk about it at all, from how the tech industry and search is on fire right now, all the way to hiring with remote teams and how companies are very quickly adapting. And also to the industry is focused on diversity, what true is doing on their end to make diversity a central element in every one of their searches. We also get a lot of advice from Josh along the way. Let’s get into it. I remember sitting down with you and your partners. I think it was eight years ago right as you, you know, they were probably six or seven of us in a conference room right as you were starting this firm. And, you know, honestly, it’s incredible to see all the success that you’ve had with True and how, how much has it’s grown, how much it’s grown. I’d like to ask you. As you reflect on this success, what do you think some of the driving forces have been that it’s enabled you to grow so much and so quickly?  

Josh Withers    00:01:20    Yeah. I sort of reflect on this occasionally. I think it’s, I think it’s a number of things. I, you know, one, we were and still are pretty focused on tech. And so just, just that alone gave us incredible tailwinds. Right. And so, you know, we, we can’t take all the credit for the growth cause certainly that industry was booming. , you know, all throughout our, our career, uh, at True so far. And even right now, uh, we’re experiencing a huge upswing in activity kind of post, you know, people getting used to these shutdowns and things. And I can speak to that if you want later. But so that, that was definitely part of it. But, uh, aside from that, there were a couple of things we did early on that I think we’re pretty different. So one, we launched what is now called Thrive, which is basically a tool for us to track who we’re talking to, but also show clients who we’re talking to and who we’re going after. And just giving full transparency into our process. It’s like opening up your, you know, your CRM or whatever, and say like here’s the funnel and here’s what’s happening in the funnel. , and, and most firms just didn’t do that. Right. And so now, even though you can buy our software, you can buy competitive software, you can build your own.  

Louis Beryl    00:02:36    I mean, which is incredible. I don’t know if you want to talk about it, but Thrive has become an incredible business just on its own, right?  

Josh Withers    00:02:42    Yeah, no, totally. I mean, it’s, it’s, you know, it’s a real SAAS business, uh, you know, it’s on it, it’s kind of a standalone business at this point. We have corporate customers. I don’t know if I could talk about all of them, but, you know, some, some large name brand household companies use it in their executive search teams. , and then a variety of private equity and venture firms. And then even some of our direct competitors use it, and our, our feeling on that was, you know, the industry is going to move forward in this way and we would rather have them buy our software than somebody else’s. And it also just helps that software just get better, not only for the industry, but for us, because, you know, they come with new ideas and new feature requests and things like that. So, so, so that’s been, that’s been fun to kind of see that journey,  and also see a software company being built,  because we help software companies all the time, or at least I do that’s, that’s my specialty. So I was really interested in kind of walking a little bit. Right. But that was like, that was pretty new at the time and was a big differentiator for us early. , and even now like the firms that have sort of bolted this on, it’s not like it’s core to their DNA or philosophy to be completely transparent and candid on what’s going on. So I think, you know, some firms were like reluctantly pulled into it, frankly. And we, we sort of had that sensibility from the beginning. So that kind of consultative open piece was, was definitely a part of it. I think also we’ve never focused on BD or sales revenue. We just never have. We still don’t, we don’t have quotas for our teams. You know we do measure client satisfaction. We measure candidate satisfaction. We measure the team that you’re working with, their satisfaction, both down sideways up. Right. You know, our whole thing is like, if your, if your clients like you, your candidates like you and your team likes you, you’re probably going to have plenty of work and that’s, that’s born out. Right. Most of the people that are here have built more than they’ve ever built anywhere else, even though we don’t have quotas[c][d]. Right. , so, so that’s another piece and that definitely became an attractive point. There’s some other pieces about our culture,  that I think are also attractive, but we were sort of like adding clients and then adding people and adding clients and adding people. And then as, as the sort of word got out on both fronts that we are here, we are doing something different. We, it kind of snowballed and, and we just scaled quickly. So, you know, across the different business units and everything else that we’re doing, I think we’re around 340 350 people, something like that, the bulk of it will be on the recruiting side. So, you know, we just passed. We’re the seventh largest search firm in the U S at this point. , I don’t really know the global numbers, but we’re more of an emerging player there. , but yeah, it’s been quite a ride.  

Louis Beryl    00:05:26    Yeah, that’s great. I, you know, I think I’d love to maybe just take a pause for a second. You guys have become so big in our industry. I think I forget for a second that some of our listeners might not, might not know who true is, but you know, you have 14 offices around the world, you know, maybe you could take a second and tell us a little bit more about, you know, what is True today? What are you guys really special about?  

Josh Withers    00:05:48    And so, you know, when we started, we, as I mentioned earlier, we were really focused on tech. And I think to some degree that’s still true. Like the bulk of our will be with,  kind of pure play tech companies, whether it’s,  B2B or conser,  that said, we’ve also expanded quite a bit into areas where maybe they’re tech enabled either services or,  you know, conser companies. And really what we’ve done is, is set ourselves up as the firm that you can go to when you need a, a growth executive, you know, someone who can kind of take you to the next level, whether it’s a, a seed company or a public company, if you need someone that can really change sort of the, the fate of sort of what that function is doing or what the business is doing, bring some innovation, bring some scale.[e] That’s really our sweet spot. You know, where, where we’re not great is like the maintenance mode exact for the fortune 50. Like that’s just not us. Right. , there’s plenty of firms that do that. Or maybe not plenty, there’s a few, you know, four or five big ones, but, but we know sort of the innovative growth people just cause that’s what we’ve been doing this whole time. And so it doesn’t matter if it’s an old line world, you know, business that’s coming to the new world and wants to digitize it or whatever, or if it’s like a digitally native, you know, that that’s sort of our wheelhouse and our network. You know, we’ve so we’ve grown geographically, as you mentioned. So , pretty strong coverage here in the U.S. and, you know, we operate in any kind of state that needs us with, you know, the, the kind of key or bulk of the offices being on the coast and then internationally, we’re pretty good size in Europe at this point. , so the main offices are London, Berlin, and Stockholm. Uh, and then, uh, and then I’m probably going to even miss some offices and then Asia Pac, so Australia and Singapore are growing nicely. The client base sort of looks very similar to what it does here in the U.S. right. What I kind of just mentioned, the other thing that’s happened,  in terms of what we do and how we help, uh, one way to think about it is just from a functional perspective. So most of the work we do is kind of CEO and board, and then the direct reports into, to CEOs. So that will be, you know, we have a team that specializes in go-to-market. So sales, marketing, customer success. Uh, we have a team that specializes in what we call PDT, uh, product, data technology, that’s your VPs, eng, product management, CTOs, things like that. We have a CFO team that does all kinds of financial officers. You have, uh, people in the talent and legal team, which is, people, han resources, talent, acquisition, uh, legal general counsel,  and then the CEO and board practice, of course. , and then from there, you know, we will do some second line or third line work with, with larger companies. But if it’s a startup, it tends to be kind of like head or like VP level and up.  

Louis Beryl    00:08:39    There, there’s been an incredible amount of growth. What have been some of the challenges from, from this growth? 

Josh Withers    00:08:45   Yeah, I think it’s not unlike a lot of our clients, you know, one is just operationally keeping all the systems in place and the training in place that you need to sustain it. Things break along the way and you need to kind of redo it. Right. And culture is the same way, right? Like we, we sort of pride ourselves on having a little bit of a different or unique culture for the search industry. And so how do you, how do you maintain that? Right. , so it was just an active kind of focus of ours, you know, constantly talking about it, being very thorough in interviewing and vetting processes. , we didn’t always get it right, but I think we’ve learned along the way, how to try to,  kind of keep closer to it or ensure that we’re staying on the right track. We’ve also hired like some really killer, like operational people across, you know, marketing and finance and training and recruiting and things like that for our internal stuff where, you know, the founding team myself included, we don’t really have to like focus on that much because we have it’s in very capable hands and, you know, I still do recruiting myself. Right. Those are, those are probably the hardest things. , and you know, we’re, we’re still to some degree struggling with them. We were also like a very, we try new things kind of place. So I sort of joke with people when I’m interviewing. I don’t, I don’t really mean this, but I think it speaks to the point. I basically say like, if you’re the type of person that eats the same turkey sandwich from the same deli every day, we might not be for you. Because we’re constantly changing and trying new things. And so what that means is, you know, the minute you learn something it’s going to change. And so, you know, whether it’s a system or policy or messaging or whatever. , and so, you know, like there’s a certain level of, uh, adaptability or, uh, uh, ambiguity that you have to be sort of,  willing to accept here.  

Louis Beryl    00:10:29    How would you describe what it is to be an executive recruiter? And why should your future clients, why should they think about hiring you versus maybe talking to their investors or you, or, you know, searching within their own network?

Josh Withers   00:10:46    So I think, you know, you should start with your own network. You should start with your investor’s network. , absolutely. You can meet some great people through that. , they can help, you know, if they know you and they know the culture, then you know, some of those cultural fit questions I mentioned,  maybe,  maybe you lessen the risk there because there is a sort of common DNA or understanding of who you are. That said, you know, the individual’s network is limited, right? A lot of the people that tend to get referred to as entrepreneurs from a board network are people who are already in great jobs, or maybe don’t want to go back to that early stage again. And so they’re great as folks to bounce ideas off of and think about like, Hey, how am I going to build this company? What should this spec look like?  How should I be thinking about this hire? Like those, those are all useful things, right? Outside of just, you know, finding someone that can come take your position. But once you get sort of one step removed from that, like an immediate network, the amount of risk you take on someone just goes up, right. There’s less accountability because they’re not as tight in your network. There’s less of a chance for cultural fit. Because they don’t know each other as well. Right. , and so, you know, figuring out a way to design a process, that’s where it comes to being, bringing in an outside recruiter. Right. So we can work with you to figure out is this the right spec? How’s the market gonna react to this? What are the challenges you’re going to face? , what’s the comp levels we should be thinking about?  

Louis Beryl    00:12:15    What are the trends on top you should be thinking about, you know, uh, what is, uh, what does a good process look like? What are the, what are the pitfalls of a process? How do we design it the right way to eliminate risk? How do you do back channel referencing and on sheet referencing? What’s the difference when you do them? You know, how do you negotiate compensation? You know, they’re there, there are so many aspects of this. , and then just how you cover the landscape of potential candidates in the right way. Like, should you only look in your domain? Should you look outside? What are the trade offs, right. Do you look at a proven, uh, been there done that exec or do you look at an up and comer? What are the trade offs? What does that mean? How do you do the searches differently?

Louis Beryl    00:12:54    A couple of the things that I always think about also, including everything you said, which I think is critical is two things that I think really for me, I, one of the reasons that I always like and recommend working with executive search firms. Which is really helping the company they understand what good looks like. And I think sometimes if, especially for younger entrepreneurs or newer entrepreneurs that are looking in their network, if they haven’t surveyed the market, there, there can be some uncertainty there, even if they make a hire of like, what else was out there. Right. And, what does great look like for our company right now? And then I think the other thing I always think about is quite honestly, just speed, speed to hire, right. Is that, you know, even if I ended, even if a company ends up hiring through their network, is it worth that taking three extra months to, you know, or six extra months versus finding a great hire faster,  or getting, you know, getting to that decision more quickly. So those are some of the ways I always think about it.  

Josh Withers    00:13:53    Yeah. I mean, those are all, those are all spot on, and to your point around, like what good looks like. It’s really interesting. I had this conversation the other day with, uh, with someone, I guess it was internally, but, it was an investor in a, in a business where we just placed on one, you know, my, my sort of comment was their, their bar was too low when we were going through the pitch process and they were kind of sharing profiles. They liked it, we knew that we were going to crush that search because we knew we can get better for them than what they thought they could get for themselves. And that’s what happened. So that, that actually happens like a fair amount. We sort of see some of the calibration candidates that are misspeaking speaking to them. We’re like, Oh, okay, well, this is, this is easy to make them happy. Right. And then in other cases, it’s sort of the reverse it’s like for whatever reason, what they want is just too aggressive, right? Like I’m not going to name names, but I talked to the company the other day. And so it’s, pre-revenue, it’s in a super, niche-y like deep tech space. They don’t like any of the other players out there. , cause they don’t think they have figured it out or solved in the right way or whatever. And a lot of the industry is not local to where the business is, but they still want a CEO from this space. Right. And I’m like, that’s not going to happen. You know? And, uh, what you, what you’re gonna, what you’re gonna wanna do is, you know, look at adjacent industries. I mean, you can look at the domain, certainly. Maybe there’s some people there, but you want to, are there adjacent industries we can look at. Are there up and comer profiles we can look at that still solve a lot of the pain points because you know, frankly, most of those proven execs aren’t going to take a pre-revenue role. This is a CEO role and you know, like I I’ll probably lose that pitch, you know? Cause I was, I was probably, they probably didn’t love that. I think the clients, I like to take on them, the ones that go actually like we can have some back and forth about it and, and you know, we can go test the waters together. Right. I don’t mind that. Like we can go look at the proven people and see what they say. I can tell you what they’re mostly going to say, but let’s go find out if that’s true, but let’s also look at these up and comers at the same time. So that way we’re not finding ourselves three months later with zero traction. Right. We can do both, you know?  

Louis Beryl    00:16:03    I mean, what would you say? How much, wow much client education would you say as part of your job versus the recruiting part of your job?  

Josh Withers   00:16:11    Yeah, I mean, it, it, it varies, uh, I think if it’s, you know, first time founders, then a lot of times we are helping them through some of the basics of the process. We, we even help, you know, as asked, right. Like helping the team interview. Right. So what are some of the questions they can be asking? How do you focus? Right. Like, so sometimes what we do or what we see in interview processes is, you know, you’ll have six or seven people on the, on the interview panel and they’re all sort of asking the same questions and asking about like career history and, you know, you’re, you’re not really getting to know the candidate that way. Right. You’re getting a surface level sort of introduction. But if we can utilize the strengths of those people to really drill in on the areas that matter most to them and where they’re deepest, and then we can kind of take the holistic view across everything. And then we have a much clearer picture. So helping set up things like that, or even just like, again, kind of going back to something earlier, but like how to, how to conduct back channels in the right way back channel, referencing. Meaning not references that were given by the candidate and doing that in a way that doesn’t burn their confidentiality. Right. , and then setting up processes on the end. So we like to do some sort of a, like a working session at the end, whether it’s, uh, uh, tackling a specific problem or it’s presenting a a hundred day plan or whatever, it’s kinda like a mock board meeting, if you will, or an E team meeting. , we like to do that. The end it’s usually anywhere from 90 minutes to three hours…. 

Louis Beryl    00:17:38    Thatโ€™s part of the interview process?

Josh Withers   00:17:40     Usually it’s like the finalist.

Louis Beryl   00:17:42    Yeah. I couldn’t agree. I couldn’t agree with that more, by the way. That’s what we, whenever we were hiring an executive, always the final step was that, you know, let’s see your hundred day plan for this role. Right. And present it to the rest of the, I mean the interview panel, but essentially the executive team, since we’re talking about executive hiring that’s right.  [f]

Josh Withers    00:17:59    Yeah. Yeah. And so, uh, you know, the, the, the shortcut that I think people make without using a firm like us is they don’t do that. Right. They, they probably shortcut on references cause you know, they’re busy, right. Like they got stuff to do. And if it was, it was a person referred from their network, like they feel like, okay, that’s good enough. And I don’t have to go probe down. But like the reality is we get checks all the time like, yeah, that person’s a good hand, which is great, but are they good for your role? Right. Like that’s a different question, you know, and one person that’s great for this company is not a great fit for this company, even if they’re in the same space in the same stage. Right. And so, you know, drilling in on those specifics, I think is important.  

Louis Beryl    00:18:39    So let’s say you have an entrepreneur out there, future client they’re, they’re convinced that they want to hire an executive search firm. What advice would you give to this, this person on what are the questions that they should be asking before they hire a specific firm or as they’re interviewing different firms?

Josh Withers    00:18:55    Definitely ask if it had sort of a job description that’s been built, they should share it. , if they have any ideas of candidates that they like, they should share it. , that way they can get feedback on, does this, does this all line up with what you think we can attract? Right. What is your opinion on that? Right. Yeah. , and so in some cases, you know, you, you definitely want to have a firm that’s aggressive and will overreach for you and call people that are, you know, ambitious. Right. , but you know, hopefully they have a backup plan in case that doesn’t work out as well. But, but, uh, but yeah, so get their opinion on this, back in space. And then tell me the last, you know, five, six, 10 searches you’ve done that are similar and what the, what the results were. And can I call two or three of those references if you do that, that’s, that’s a helpful check, but then, you know, you spend a cycle or two with them, you know, an hour, you know, two chunks of 45 minutes to really understand, you know, is this someone that you feel like you can partner with from a, just a chemistry standpoint, you know, like you’re basically going to be talking to these people at least once a week for three months or more. And so, you know, it’s a short term ah marriage, you know, and so you kind of have to, you kind of have to want to be with that person through that journey.[g]

Louis Beryl    00:20:11    I would say in every case the higher that we’re making here is an incredibly important one for the company. 

Josh Withers    00:20:15   Correct yeah.

Louis Beryl   00:20:16   You know, the feedback I get from entrepreneurs really centers around two things. I think the first is about costs, you know, and I would love to get your opinion on costs and how entrepreneurs should think about that. Some firms have equity components, others donโ€™t. And then the other thing that I hear from entrepreneurs is yeah, that firm seems great, but I’m just going to be with junior people anyway. And so I’m not even going to be speaking to the partners, so to speak that I got recommended to, you know, what are your opinions on those two points of criticism that I hear from entrepreneurs?  

Josh Withers    00:20:48    Yeah. I mean, so on the cost thing,  it’s, it’s kinda, it goes back to a little bit about what we talked about. Like if you do it yourself and you waste an extra three months or you, you know, you, you hire the wrong person or someone that’s not as good as you could have gotten, what is the sort of lost opportunity costs there in terms of your revenue and valuation and things like that? , yeah, like at the end of the day are, you know, a $100k fee or $85k fee or $150,000 fee, whatever may seem like a lot. But if you look at hopefully right, what that person brings to the table in terms of upside is, is way beyond that. Right. So there’s a multiplier effect that, that you should be getting with these types of hires so that, you know, they’ll, they’ll either buy into that or they won’t, but like, that’s the reality if, if you can place executives like that.  [h][i]Right. , and we’ve seen it time and time again with clients of ours that have gone on to be wildly successful where,  you know, paying our fees was nothing to drop in the bucket. Right. , even though at the time it might’ve felt, uh, painful. Right. And then on the, on the sort of more junior person side, basically in our industry, we refer to that as the bait and switch,  you know, Louis yeah I’ll totally do your search by the way, here’s this junior person that’s not going to do your search. So, you know, ask the question, who’s going to be on this search team. What are their roles? Right. If you ask those questions, if they’re, if they’re, if they’re not truthful with you up front and then they switched later, you know, that’s obviously a bad look and I’m sure that happens out there. Right? I would hope and think that most of our competitors , who I think highly of frankly, are our core competitors, they’ll tell you the truth and you may not like the answer, right. They may say, Oh, well, we’re going to have these other people and they’re going to do this part. And this person does that part, but hopefully they are truthful with you. You, you want to know what you’re getting to your point. Right? So like I, I personally try to bring, if I’m going to bring, if I’m going to use a broader team, I try to bring them into the initial conversation. So that way everyone gets to know each other and we kinda know like, okay, this person has expertise here. And we are, we’re more than happy to outline like, Hey, this is what each person is doing in this effort. , so, so there aren’t any surprises, but I do think it’s an important question to ask, uh, alongside the other ones around like previous work references, that sort of thing  

Louis Beryl    00:23:10    I want to, I want to shift to the trends you’re seeing and, you know, we’ve got some huge things going on in the world. , we’ve got COVID and global pandemic, we’ve got Black Lives Matter protests and social unrest across the country, a huge focus in the entrepreneurial community, around increasing diversity. We’ve got actually tech companies, thriving and hiring like crazy. I think actually some of the, you know, what I hear over and over again is some of the last couple months have been some of the busiest months ever for people. You know, what, what are you, what are you seeing out there?

Josh Withers    00:23:42    We just had our biggest month ever in the history of the firm.

Louis Beryl    00:23:45    August?

Josh Withers    00:23:46    August.

Louis Beryl    00:23:47    And I, and I think when I chatted with you a month ago, you told me July was the biggest month ever in the history of the firm. [Laughing]

Josh Withers    00:23:52    I think it was the second biggest maybe, but like, yeah. It’s, it’s, it’s crazy.

Louis Beryl   00:23:57    I mean thatโ€™s crazy.

Josh Withers    00:23:58    Yeah, it is. So, soโ€ฆ.

Louis Beryl    00:23:59    Congratulations.

Josh Withers   00:24:00    Yeah. No thank you. I saw something. I didn’t read it. So I, I can’t, I can’t claim to know what he said, but, uh, Byron Deeter from Bessemer, who’s obviously super educated and kind of forward thinking on enterprise SAS. , yes, I’ve worked with Bessemer and Byron, so a little bit of a plug, but,  he, he talked about sort of the acceleration of cloud and how it’s having its iPhone moment. I sort of, I agree with that. I was, I was trying to articulate it to my Mom the other day and I was so, you know, pardon my terrible analogy here, Louis. But if you go back to like the, the, the time that cars were invented, what was that like the late 1800 or something like that? I’m like, but how many more years until cars were actually like a thing where everybody had them, like another 60 plus years, 80 years, I don’t know, a long time. Right. What if a virus came along and killed all the horses, right after cars were invented, cars wouldn’t take off faster, you know, like that’s what’s happening. Like basically anything in person is, is, is in trouble right now. And so the acceleration to the cloud has just happened so much faster in every industry. Healthcare, right? Like we have a healthcare team, like they’re on fire. Can’t keep up. Our FinTech team Financial services is all transitioning. There’s no branches anymore. Right. People don’t want to do things physically, but that’s on fire. Right. , that’s mentioned infrastructure security, like all that stuff. , and then even conser, you know, obviously there’s certain parts of conser, like, you know, fashion, you know, people aren’t dressing up, so they don’t really buy as many clothes. But you know, there’s a lot of parts of a conser, especially in media gaming entertainment that are just like on fire. And so I think, you know, basically it just completely accelerated moving into the digital and tech world and that’s where we focus. And so we’re just getting inundated by even old world brands that historically weren’t even online ; they have to completely transform overnight. And they don’t know where to go. [j][k]Their old firms that they used to work with and manufacturing or utilities, they don’t know what to do. Right. So it’s firms like us that can help. , so that that’s like, that’s the biggest thing we’ve seen in it. You know, it feels weird to be that busy in the middle of this time, frankly. But, you know, we’re, we’re, we’re happy that it’s the case. Of course,  

Louis Beryl    00:26:20    Maybe to jp back to the remote experience we’re having right now, I’d love to understand. I imagine there must be some really unique challenges in the search process. I mean, you know, these are such important roles for companies and how are you, how are you giving advice to your clients? I mean, our clients like, okay, we’re going to go through the process, but at the very end, I want to meet this person face to face. Or, or is that not happening? What are people doing right now?  

Josh Withers    00:26:44    Yeah, it was it’s, it’s evolved, you know, like the first couple of months. So we had a lot of searches go on hold, cause they’re just like, I don’t, we can’t, we can’t do this right now. You know, then it was like, okay, a month, three month, four. It’s like, well, you know, we still need this person. Like, let’s, let’s fire it back up. 

Louis Beryl    00:27:01    But like on our businesses growing, right, I’ll do this.

Josh Withers   00:27:04    Yeah. But like, how do we do it? So there was a lot of conversation around how do you do remote interviewing? How do you take some of these best practices and processes into a digital world? And so we actually did a round table or, you know, uh, uh, town hall, I guess, where we invited a bunch of talent partners. I had a few of them on a panel with me and we kinda shared what we were saying and things we were recommending and had the audience participate as well as it was, it was kind of a fun thing, but it was like super new. And like everyone was talking about it. Right. And like, one of the things that we were talking about was like, okay, like how do you spend enough time with someone to get to know them , from a cultural perspective? Cause you’re not doing closing dinners, you’re not doing lunches or whatever. You’re not doing outings, you know? And so how do you do that? And so, you know, I had one client that had a, they had a Zoom open-ended Zoom conversation where they literally made dinner and had a bottle of wine while they were doing it. Right. And they just talked and they, and they sort of stated ahead of time, like, hey, we’re not really going to talk about business. We just want to get to know each other as people again. So this is her CEO search and they ended up hiring this person. But,  but yeah, it was tough. And so there’s a lot of conversation around how to do these creative things to do, et cetera. And then it kind of tapered off. Like we don’t get that question anymore. It feels like people adapted super quickly. And also like, it also feels like there’s not really an end in sight. So people are just like, it is what it is we have to, we have to solve for it. We have to get used to it. , and so they’ve done that now, whether they’re using different types of tech,  for video interviewing or whatever, there’s different tools out there,  I’m sure that’s happening. And then, you know, to some degree in person meetings are happening. But they tend to be in people’s backyards or on a hike or at a park or,  occasionally in the, in an office because there’s no one else in the office. So it’s safer to people that go do that if they want. Right. And I think, you know, we also take into account local laws and county laws. And so that gets tricky too. You know, I have a client in another state and I just, we had to brush up like, what are the county laws? Like, is it okay for, for people to be in an office together? Right. Cause some places it is some places it isn’t right. And so, you know, I think taking, taking into account the county laws, taking into account, like some people’s personal stance, you know, how conservative are they versus not you? I talked to a candidate the other day that the company itself is less conservative. So they have like 10% of the workforce coming back into the offices, which isn’t a lot, but you know, the percentage coming back and this person was interviewing was like, look, I’m, I’m just not gonna be comfortable with that anytime soon. So I’m going to withdraw from the process. They’re two, they’re more conservative or sort of the less conservative than I am and I don’t think that we’re matched, which is really interesting. Cause you never had to think about your like COVID philosophy as like a checkpoint on a spec for something, you know…

Louis Beryl    00:29:54    I mean the world has changed. It’s incredible. But you know, to your point, people are adapting really quickly.

Josh Withers    00:29:29    Really quickly. Yeah.

Louis Beryl    00:30:00    I want to end with a final question, which is, Josh today, if you could give advice to the younger Josh, whether before, before you started True, you know, the other, the younger Josh Withers there’s out there, who are thinking maybe, you know, maybe they’re already in executive search, but you know, they’re still working for that other firm may be thinking about, should I start my own firm? What advice would you give to those budding entrepreneurs?  

Josh Withers    00:30:41    We’ll just come here instead, but no, no, yeah.

Louis Beryl    00:30:30   [Laughing] Yeah thatโ€™s good I like that.

Josh Withers   00:30:32   Yeah yeah. Well we’ll set you up, but , no, I mean, I look at this, this is sort of probably somewhat cliche, but I mean, I would give this to any, any person at any stage in any industry, but like stay hungry, stay humble. You know, if, if, if you’re constantly working constantly learning and having low ego about it, knowing what you don’t know, trying to fill the gaps and you’re constantly doing that. I’m like, I just look back like, yeah, we’ve, we’ve grown quickly and we’ve crossed a lot of different gates along the way, but I sort of look back every two years and go, wow. Like we didn’t know anything two years ago, you know? And I sort of feel like if you don’t always feel that way, then you’re kind of doing it wrong. You know.

Louis Beryl    00:31:10   Josh, thanks so much for the time today. It’s awesome. Hearing all about the story and getting all your advice. I really appreciate it. It was really great. Thank you.

Josh Withers    00:31:18   Yeah. I enjoyed the conversation. Thanks.

Louis Beryl    00:31:20   For more on our conversation today. Visit We upload a new episode every week. So if you haven’t yet make sure to subscribe to The Startup Stack in Apple podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to them. Thanks again for joining us. See you next week.  

Announcer    00:31:53    The Startup Stack. Written and edited by Hannah Levy, produced by Leah Jackson.