Thursday, February 26, 2015

DHR/CT Partners Merger: Who cares?

Generally speaking, when owners of a business form a committee to consider their "strategic options," everyone needs to take cover or head for the exits because it's a clear sign no one knows what they're doing.

Except, of course, if you represent middle market firms active in executive search, or Search as the industry's long-time players like to refer to themselves. Recent news that CT Partners has formed a committee of its own board members to consider options, including a hostile bid from DHR International, is the latest update in a saga that pits two small firms trying to compete against larger players. See an earlier posting here:

To paraphrase one of Search's all-time seminal figures, deals are about personalities just as much (if not more so) than numbers. In CT Partners' case, the personality is CEO and primary owner Brian Sullivan who has been targeted in a sexual harassment case pitting female partners against what they're claiming is rogue behavior and unfair treatment in the workplace -- on Wall Street. Smart, blunt and controversial, Sullivan suffers no fools. DHR International's main personality is actually a Father/Son tag team: Father, or Chairman David and son, CEO Geoff Hoffmann. In previous cycles, Dad was spinning about how complementary the two firms would be in Europe and Chicago where combining the offices would save money. Really? So much so that industry reports now buy into the rationale. Dad even went as far to say to the NY Post that "the lawyers are negotiating non-disclosure agreements" referring to the potential deal.

Brian Sullivan
David Hoffmann
Even if this merger of so called equals were to take place, it doesn't add up to much other than vested interest. And clearly not enough to change the industry. A combined entity wouldn't even equal six months of revenues at Korn/Ferry International (NYSE: KFY), which is now the "industry leader" should that status still even matter. Long-time rumors about Korn Ferry combining with another large firm have remained just that largely because the economics and cultural issues that would arise from merging with another firm don't make sense. Plus the obvious: Going alone seems to be working just fine.

The only merger that would make any difference is if Heidrick & Struggles (NASDAQ: HSII) were to combine with privately held Spencer Stuart. Heidrick's year-over-year earnings, reported earlier this week, remained relatively flat while Spencer Stuart is firmly entrenched in the Fortune 100 CEO and executive suite, where Search has traditionally made its name. There are a few exceptions, but for the most part, lay of the land remains the same despite continued need for consolidation. Ironically, the industry that hyped the "War for Talent," now finds itself in one as veteran partners are staying put instead of taking the risk of losing brand name position established by their firms.

# # #

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Dupont: Quote of the year (even though it's early)

Following is a quote from a governance expert commenting on recently disclosed stock sales by Dupont CEO Ellen Kullman, which coincided with activist Nelson Peltz's announcement that he and his firm, Trian, were seeking a split of Dupont's main businesses as well as additional board seats. The Dupont board rejected Peltz's board ideas earlier this week.

"It's either dumb luck or dumb bad luck, depending on how you look at it," said Frank Glassner, chief executive of Veritas Executive Compensation Consultants.

The stock sales, which were pre-arranged through a special program, happened last September and occurred nearly on the same day as the material news was reported, according to the Wall Street Journal. The company went to some lengths to say Kullman still owned more than her fair share of shares as if anyone in the general public understands ownership requirements for a CEO.

Here's what they do understand: When something looks bad, and it involves millions of dollars being rewarded to someone who is already making 400x the average employee, then perception is reality. And vice versa. Pay gaps and lack of #transparency# remain hot button issues. Put them together and you have a cauldron.

While the stock sales were not 'egregious' as another analyst put it, the fact that the transaction coincided so closely with material news obviously raised a few feathers.

Some loyal TGR readers will recall Kullman was responsible for the 2013 quote of the year: "We need certainty so we can plan." Looks like she finally earned some certainty. Read more here:

# # #

Monday, February 09, 2015

#Hash Tag -- you're it#

Note: Following was originally distributed as a client letter on February 6, 2015.
Dear Clients and Colleagues:
Did you know that more than half of the ads in the most watched, highest socially engaged Super Bowl earlier this week contained a hash tag? If you ask, “What’s a hash tag do?” then you’re behind the curve. If you don't care then you're somewhere in the safe middle. Good news is a potential antidote for media saturation follows should you choose to keep reading.
Social media is now a fully developed norm despite generational gaps that are closing pretty quickly. While some continue to compartmentalize lives on Facebook, a majority of business professionals have either used LinkedIn or have instructed someone else to improve their profile and add connections to get a better job. Twitter, a micro-blogging service, gets credit for inventing hash tags, which are generally tag lines set apart by hashes or number signs to describe something product-driven happening in real time. For an easy reference guide, turn on any network show in prime time and look down in the right hand corner of the screen for the tag otherwise known as Hash.
Here are three appropriately tagged issues that are going to define 2015 from (a leadership) POV:
#Transparency# is the most vexing issue facing leaders of major companies and institutions today. In another five years, whether information is conveyed freely, voluntarily and without hesitation will define brand reputations. Private is now public, and the reverse also is sometimes true. This issue can be complex, controversial and challenging to old legacy and new brands alike. Consider the NFL, Sony Corp. and Uber for recent examples. Transparency has a darker side, too, as evidenced by brutal tactics employed by terrorists.
#Authenticity# drives transparency. The opposite of authentic is phony. Space between these two points can create a challenging chasm at times, particularly when crises hit. To re-define an old saying -- you know leadership when you see it – authentic is self evident as long as you’re looking for the right cues. Great example: Chris Kyle played brilliantly by Bradley Cooper in "American Sniper."
#Selflessness# is defined as being able to set aside self-interest long enough to listen to, help and serve the needs of others. Selfless leaders are in short supply and on limited display, which may be intentional. Truett Cathy, the late founder of Chick-fil-A, is difficult to beat for an example of great selfless leadership. Pope Francis is another selfless leader. There are no brand name examples in current domestic political circles -- or at least none that leap to mind. Serve or be served will define #selflessness#.
Look forward to hearing your views on these topics and more -- either on-line or off line. More on these tags in the previously mentioned social networks. No Instagram or YouTube yet so you're safe for now. Exhale,

Jeremy C. Garlington
Point of View LLC
4060 Peachtree Rd./Suite D-#117
Atlanta, GA, 30319
Phone: 404-606-0637
Web site:
TGR web log: 

Friday, February 06, 2015

DHR and CT Partners: Search Dwarfs in Alley Fight

When you're supposed to be the "highly esteemed, trusted advisor" to major companies and their boards, nothing is more unseemly than when bad hubris breaks out over your own business practices.

Unfortunately, this is the case with this week's reported hostile bid being made by DHR International to acquire CT Partners in a cash offer of $60 million, according to the New York Post's Kevin Dugan. See latest cycle here:

Neither Search firm is worth that much, nor do they even add up to a fraction of the top ranked firms, but that's beside the point. Hostile bids impact prices in ways that are completely irrational, which in this case, could also now describe the transaction's tone.

Deals are as much about ego and personality as numbers with the latest example raising the truth of that statement almost as quickly as a market index.

Consider this choice excerpt from the previously linked story: 'Obviously, we don't have a high opinion of Brian as an executive or as a person,' David Hoffmann, chairman of DHR, told the Post. 'Yeah, we think a big part of the problem is him.' 

(Side note: According to DHR's web site, Hoffmann's son, Geoff, the firm's CEO, appeared earlier today on CNBC and Bloomberg to discuss "hot jobs in the CEO suite."

Now, back to Dad for a minute. Why would anyone in a leadership capacity say something that personally disparaging in a public statement that risks legal suit? Especially when they're the ones who are trying to acquire the other firm? That's not leverage. Hostile or not, lawyers or no lawyers, this lack of decorum leaves a lot to be desired. Each side needs to work through the process professionally and with discretion. Set the personal aside even if the accusations may turn out to be true from your own point of view.

No matter what these players think is at stake, there's something larger here that needs to be observed. If you need help figuring out what that is, then chances are it's a good time to take a step back yourself. Transactions at all costs rarely add up to anything resembling long-term value.

# # #

Friday, December 26, 2014

Say that again a different way

Note: This originally appeared as a client e-letter.

December 23, 2014

Dear Clients and Colleagues:

The subject line that you just read was a request made during a meeting in late November. It wasn't coincidence that the request came from one of my most admired figures. After putting the words to the test both through my own usage and discussion with others, here are some short burst takeaways that may be worth application in your world:

1.) First, note the language. This person didn't say, "Give me an example," or "Sorry, could you restate what you just said?" He said, "say that again -- a different way." The command was refreshing during a time of over-pleasing, equivocation and political correctness. It's almost as if we have forgotten how to speak to each other without watering down substance out of fear that someone may misinterpret what's being said. Or worse yet expose publicly. Perish the thought! Everything is public now in case you haven't noticed.

2.) When you read the statement, "say that again, a different way" aloud, does it convict you to respond differently without pausing? Of course not. It takes all of us a minute to collect our thoughts. During my experience with this command, no matter how a response was rephrased, it fell short in my mind and heart. What this rhetorical device does require is being able to think on your feet, which in this case, were literally dangling underneath the chair.

3.) Last point from a leadership point of view. Are you willing to answer the same question directly with conviction without equivocation? The easiest way to lose credibility is to repeat the same response when given this command so don't do that. Practice makes perfect here. No better time to try than during the holiday season, a natural time of reflection. Try it out on your children, or for those who would prefer a non-verbal response, your dog or family pet.

Thanks for your support this year, and to all those still reading and stirring, may you have a good night and great holiday season. Merry Christmas,


Jeremy C. Garlington
Point of View LLC
4060 Peachtree Rd./Suite D-#117
Atlanta, GA, 30319
Phone: 404-606-0637
Web site:
TGR web log:

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Short Bursts (SBs) on Leadership

Note: The following content was originally distributed as an e-letter on October 1, 2014.

Dear Clients and Colleagues:

Welcome to a new e-letter format called Short Bursts (SBs.) These have been used in client-specific situations but now are evolving into wider use. Largely because the world seems to be increasing at such breakneck speed that very few are willing to take the time to go deeper. Or at least that's what it feels like these days.

A recent prospect, who by the way thankfully did not become a client, commented on a proposed 30-day service period: "30 days? That's hecka of a long time in business. Whole world could be different in 30 days." You are correct, Sir. But how you adapt and change based on what you think you need will not move that quickly, I assure you. Onto the bursts, rat-a-tat-tat:

As a business leader, are you striking the proper balance between off- and on-line engagement? Note the word 'discussion' was not inserted in place of engagement. For purposes of this letter, it will be assumed that you know when in-person conversation is essential. Hint: It's generally when the situation is sensitive and involves human dynamics, such as health, hiring/firing, performance issues and/or other hot emotional buttons. Remember the great ones always return calls, or in this day and age, emails. Differences are made one person at a time, not en masse.

Do you talk to others or at others? No one is immune to this question, including yours truly who struggles at times. Especially over the phone when there's only about 30 seconds to get your point across if you're lucky. The hyper-wired, attention deficit disorder, multi-tasking age aside, the only way to strike balance seems to be equipped to ask good questions. Then just shut up and listen, which is a little difficult for some. Someone asked me to "get a pen and paper" recently, and I almost fell out of my chair. Great reminders all around.

Do you know the difference between acting in public vs. being in private? Admittedly the lines are beginning to blur. It never ceases to amaze, however, at how so few aspiring leaders take the time to understand these dynamics. Start with the basics by offering a stranger a pleasant "hello," on the street. After staring into some jacked up eyes disguised in suits recently in New York and D.C., the world could use a little more publicly inclined leadership. Someone once said that what you do when no one is watching defines character. Times are a changin.' Someone is always watching.

Does the job define you or do you define the job? Age-old question. But it's not meant to be chicken and egg. Presidents going all the way back through Roosevelt have struggled with this question often at their peril. Latest example in the business ranks that no one seems too curious about yet: Who is the new Home Depot CEO (internal choice following long-time office holder, Frank Blake who leaves role Nov. 1st according to original cycle) and how does he plan on dealing with the company's recent record-breaking security breach? Nameless, faceless leadership usually translates into the job defining you, not the other way around. Tough to strike balance for sure; perhaps impossible the higher you go in the food chain.

If none of these bursts grab your attention, consider some vision stretching from the one and only Kermit the Frog who recently shared some great stuff with "CBS This Morning."

Kermit said if you're going to dream or have a dream don't forget to share it with others so they can help make it come true.

The last piece of wisdom was the best: Remember to spend some time in the big picture. Who knows? One day you might even be in one. Kermit should know, right?

Happy leading. Look forward to hearing feedback on how you are doing with your own set.



Jeremy C. Garlington
Point of View LLC
4060 Peachtree Rd./Suite D-#117
Atlanta, GA, 30319
Phone: 404-606-0637
Web site:
TGR web log:

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Three truths, one season

Note: Following is a client letter originally distributed via email on June 30th.

Dear Clients and Colleagues:

Monthly letters normally attempt to dive into a single issue arising out of chosen practice areas. This month's version is going to be a little more "surfacey" yet ripe with opportunities to travel deeper should you choose to do so on your own time. Of course you can opt out by deleting right now, which may be the whole magic of email.

First truth comes from a client presentation made last year at a business school. The general subject was competition, a red meat topic if there ever was one for aspiring MBAers. The quote can actually be attributed to former Ohio State football coach, Paul Brown, who later became the Cleveland Browns namesake:

"When you win, say little. When you lose, say less."

Talk about a truth that's gone straight out the door in our hyper-media, grace challenged world. This quote has been following yours truly around since February so consider it now fully shared. If you're not winning or losing then keep reading.

The second truth comes from a Lenten handbook date marked Wed., April 16th. It builds off a biblical passage, Hebrews 12:1-3. Rosabeth Moss Kanter once observed that "Change is hardest in the middle...Everything looks like a failure in the middle...Everyone loves inspiring beginnings and happy endings; it is just the middles that involve hard work." Thankless, mundane drudgery might be closer to the point. If you find yourself identifying with this stage then take comfort in the fact that it won't last forever. Something will move things out of the middle. That's not to say you will automatically move forward.

The last truth is a doozy -- you've been warned -- and probably could use better perspective than what this shortened format will allow. Check out now or forever be enlightened.

Following is a passage from the philosopher, Pascal, on human nature. The source of this leave behind can be traced directly to Ken Boa and his December 2013 letter. The passage has been highlighted since then and am sharing it now for the eminently qualified thinkers among you (hint: Not me.)

"Man is but a reed, the most feeble thing in nature; but he is a thinking reed. The entire universe need not arm itself to crush him. A vapor, a drop of water, suffices to kill him. But, if the universe were to crush him, man would still be more noble than that which killed him, because he knows that he dies and the advantage which the universe has over him; the universe knows nothing of this." ("Pensees," p. 347.)

Now you probably don't want to scare anyone around the campfire this summer with this last one. But the message is worth considering -- as are all three in your own leadership contexts.

Enjoy the Summer,


First of its kind

"The Garlington Report" (TGR) represents the first new media forum devoted exclusively to executive-level leadership from the talent and search points of view.

For regular readers, rest assured -- you will continue to find monthly Pointes and other content that you've grown accustomed to. Please also feel free to navigate back to the consultancy's URL at

Thanks for continuing to read, JG