“Trust is, without a doubt, the most critical component to ensuring a successful, long-term placement.” So says Ann Carlsen, who has spent the past 31 years since founding Carlsen Resources instilling trust among executives working in the cable, media and entertainment sectors.
“Executive search is an intimate process and journey. We take the time to know and understand our clients inside and out. Clients and candidates need to know they can trust us when they open up about their hopes, fears, successes, failures, concerns. Without that trust, the integrity of the process is compromised,” she says. “People have to know we will honor their confidences and advise them honestly and in an unbiased way—all while knowing we have their best interests in mind.”
As such, Carlsen and many of the more than 90 employees of the Grand Junction, CO, company often are on the road, spending time with clients and immersing themselves in holistic trends and economic, strategic, cultural and other undercurrents as the industry propels forward through vast change. Among tools, the firm also leverages technology for speed and engagement, incorporates predictive analytics, uses improved assessment tools, and engages in a disciplined referencing process.
“As in biological evolution, business survival depends on one’s ability to adapt to harsh environmental conditions, to step back and take a fresh look at old information, identify new opportunities, new threats, competition and the changing relationships in the industry ecology,” she says. “The pace of change in the industry is so rapid that transformation is no longer the role of a select few in the company; it is the responsibility of every hire.” After adaptability, she notes, critical thinking is key, followed by persuasive communication. “There is no longer a prototypical candidate for any position.” For example, she says, today’s CFO needs to be proficient in strategic transformation, sales and growth drivers today, not solely finance. “There is no more ‘business as usual.’”
Baked into the company’s ethos is a tireless advocacy of workforce diversity and inclusion. “Diverse companies have an incredible and undeniable competitive advantage,” she says. “I fully believe true creative breakthroughs only occur when there is a diversity of ideas at the table. A company filled with different races, ethnicities, backgrounds, generations, genders and religions has so much more to offer consumers, because they are a better reflection of consumers themselves. There is more energy to harness. More productive brainstorming. Higher rates of innovation. Greater access to different insights and worldviews, and frankly, better decision-making.”
For its part, Carlsen ensures every candidate slate it presents to clients is diverse, so there is access to diverse talent. The firm begins searches by helping clients look at the diverse representation of their executive ranks against their customer base. Are their customers represented at the executive table? If not, it does its best to offer those options to clients.
At Carlsen, the definition of diversity is broad. “Our obsession with age is so extreme it has become a liability in the workplace,” says Carlsen, who notes she’s at a loss as to why more than 1.5 million Americans over 50 are unable to find comparable and meaningful work. The underlying reason is structural, she says, “the result of attitudes and institutional practices we can no longer ignore… Experience, skill set and work ethic are being dismissed because of age. It seems to start earlier for women. Many of the people we represent are discouraged to the point that they stop trying. Confronting ageism means being aware, making a concerted effort and making friends of all ages.
It means pointing out bias when you encounter it.”
– Cathy Applefeld Olson