Search firm relies on research to help companies find executives who fit their needs.
Alec Broadfoot knows all too well about the difficulties of finding exactly the right people to fill key positions. He experienced it himself as the owner of mailing and publishing businesses in central Ohio.
“I thought I was a good business owner and made great business decisions,” he says. “I have an MBA and good experience, but I couldn't hire worth a darn. Like everyone else, I based it on gut, instinct and magic. It wasn't successful.”
Knowing that others were in the same boat, Broadfoot and business partner Adam McCampbell founded VisionSpark in 2012. Using a five-step process based on research done by leading experts in the hiring field, their Dublin-based executive search firm helps companies find and employ top-performing leaders who fit their culture.
“When a client engages us,” Broadfoot says, “we start with a blank piece of paper and ask them, ‘What does success look like? What are the behaviors that determine that success? A year from now, a person who is excelling in his or her role, what did they do to get there?'”
That begins a customized process that also includes questions about the company's culture and core values, as well as the behavior, strengths and values of the person it is looking to hire. From there, VisionSpark creates a profile for the position, posts the opening, scores resumes and asks job candidates to take an online assessment that evaluates their aptitudes and personality.
“We're measuring them on a database of the results from successful people,” Broadfoot says. “We look at what they've learned and who they are as a person. It's a complete picture.”
VisionSpark then selects about a half-dozen of the best candidates and conducts face-to-face interviews. In the end, the client gets what Broadfoot describes as “three rock stars” to interview and make its choice. After a hiring decision is made, VisionSpark helps with the employee onboarding process and checks in at 30 days, 90 days and 180 days and to see how things are going.
“What makes us different than other search firms is that we have research on what makes a great candidate,” Broadfoot says. “We also know the questions to ask and the right answers to them based on our research.”
Their search process is based on the research of Bob Spence and the late Ken Cardinal. Spence is architect of the Choosing Winners System and chairman of a CEO peer group for Vistage Florida. Two business management consultants, Fred Crum and Dave Wilbert, also have been important mentors to Broadfoot and McCampbell.
Prior to starting VisionSpark, Broadfoot was managing partner of In the Black, a business consulting firm; CEO of Executive Mailing Solutions; and president of the J. Phillip Inc., publishing company. McCampbell earned his business chops in management and sales roles at La-Z-Boy, Gordon Food Service and Darby House.
VisionSpark has built a multi-industry, multi-state client portfolio of small to mid-sized companies. In addition to conducting executive searches, the firm teaches clients how to use its system to fill all positions, not just leadership posts.
Columbus-based Marketing Works partners with VisionSpark to assess every new hire, says Bill Kiefaber, president of the Worthington-based marketing and public relations firm.
“VisionSpark tailors its system to our unique needs,” he says. “When we were struggling to identify the right candidate (for a key position), VisionSpark helped us identify and recruit an individual from a market outside Columbus. We also have used them to screen candidates … and as a final check to ensure we are making the right decision.”
Kiefaber likes how VisionSpark assesses each candidate “across a variety of mental aptitude and personality dimensions to make sure they are the right fit.”
“Marketing Works' growth is dependent on hiring the right people,” he says. “VisionSpark is the partner we trust to help us grow.”
Broadfoot thinks his firm's base in central Ohio has helped with its own growth. It now has six employees as it continues to expand its client base in the region and beyond.
“Columbus is a growing town, and the need for good talent is here,” Broadfoot says. “It's a great city with great values. When we talk about how it's important to hire for values, most companies understand the importance of that. They want someone who fits with their culture and will be there long term.”
Jeff Bell is a freelance writer.