No matter the search, it all begins with the client. “We have to know the client, their culture, what they want in a leader,” Carrick says. “It’s much more than just getting a position description. The technical expertise of a person is only a small part of whether a person is successful in a new position. They have to be able to fit and work within the culture. You have to define all that up front. Our first step with any client is listening to them and understanding.”
After fully understanding the need, Coleman Lew uses a proactive approach to identify people to meet the client’s goal followed by a comprehensive evaluation phase before candidates are presented to a client.
“We conduct an historical interview where we walk somebody through their life,” explains Lew. “We find out where they’re from, how they grew up, why they decided to go to a particular college and if they’ve made position changes, why they occurred.”
“We deal with the most complex element in an organization-their people, so instead of just looking at a snapshot like a resume, we create a movie,” Carrick says. “When we present a candidate, we give the client an executive summary. We also provide a written evaluation of seven different areas of pertinent information that the client may not pick up from just reading the resume and we spend time verbally covering each candidate with a client. We can also offer personality profiles as additional information on candidates.”
“Our disciplined, thorough process allows the client to make a more informed and better choice to meet their objective than they would have been able to do on their own.”
“If we do our job correctly, by the time our clients get to their finalists, all of them will have the skills to do the job. It’s then a matter of who they think fits best in their organization.”
After completing the initial vetting, Coleman Lew presents a select group of candidates who meet as closely as possible the client’s objectives and then moves into an advisory role to help clients in their own evaluation process, checking backgrounds and references and assisting in crafting the offer.
Coleman Lew is proud of their success rate. Industry-wide, only about 60 to 65 percent of searches are ever completed. Coleman Lew greatly exceeds that with completed searches at 92 to 93 percent. Lew credits their success to “people and process.”
“What we sell is our service and our judgment,” adds Carrick. “We have always been a ‘high touch’ organization. Our focus has always, unwaveringly, been on quality and that’s reflected in our business.”
Coleman Lew’s focus on quality is reflected in their involvement in The Association of Executive Search Consultants (AESC). In 2010, Carrick was selected to be director of the Americas for the elite association that represents the top 250 search firms in the world.
“We adhere to the highest standards in the industry,” Carrick continues. “That is one of the reasons about 85 percent of our business is either repeat or referrals from an existing client. We have longstanding relationships with our clients.”
Coleman Lew’s longest current client relationship dates back over 30 years. Boyd L. George is the third generation and chairman and CEO of Alex Lee Inc., the largest privately-owned food services company in the Southeast. Alex Lee subsidiaries include Merchants Distributors Inc. and the retail supermarket chain, Lowes Food Stores.
George remembers his relationship with Coleman Lew began with a cold call from Lew in 1979. “Our first search with the company was for an industrial engineer,” George recalls. “We’ve been very pleased with their service over the years. That’s why we use them today and will continue to use them. It’s been a good association for us.”