How to Expand an Executive-Search Firm

Elizabeth Hurley, a partner with Davies Park, outlines five measures that have helped draw new talent to the burgeoning talent-acquisition business

Elizabeth Hurley was first introduced to executive recruiting while still a university student, and she was immediately intrigued but didn’t know how to enter the industry. After entering the HR field while working for the government, though, she was eventually asked to participate in internal search practices, and things took off from there. Hurley joined Davies Park as a senior consultant in 1996, and she became a partner two years later. (Photo by Jess Smith.)
Elizabeth Hurley was first introduced to executive recruiting while still a university student, and she was immediately intrigued but didn’t know how to enter the industry. After entering the HR field while working for the government, though, she was eventually asked to participate in internal search practices, and things took off from there. Hurley joined Davies Park as a senior consultant in 1996, and she became a partner two years later. (Photo by Jess Smith.)

1. Put the right people in the right places

Elizabeth Hurley has been with executive-search firm Davies Park since 1996, and for the past 16 years she has been a partner there as the business has grown aggressively. Its expansion has required it to do some executive searching of its own, which Hurley has helped with, and one of the most important things she has learned during the effort is that putting new hires in the proper positions is key to branching out steadily.

“People are the most important thing, no matter the market,” she says. “If you don’t have the right people, and if you’re not willing to take risks on new talent, you’re not going to get the results you want.”

2. Recognize that coaching might be needed

When hiring an important role for their company’s Vancouver office, Hurley and her partners came across a great candidate who had strong skills, an entrepreneurial orientation, and the drive to build a business. What he lacked was direct experience in search. Hurley and her partners were willing to take a risk on him, though, and it paid off when he turned out to be perfect for the job.

“It’s important to understand that a person might not have the exact skills they need for a specific role but they have the core competencies and the aptitude to learn and grow,” Hurley says. “If you’re always waiting for the perfect person with the perfect skill set, you’re not going to get anywhere. It’s worth it to invest in those you know will make a great fit with a little direction.”

3. Maintain your ethics

Since Hurley joined, Davies Park has expanded to four offices, in Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver, and Toronto. Neither she nor her partners can be present at every location, but they don’t want to lose the quality they’ve fought hard to maintain. Your reputation, Hurley says, is all you have.

Therefore, Davies Park ensures that all employees abide by the same set of ethics. Namely, the company’s partners make sure that the best interests of clients are placed above all other concerns; that, as a good corporate citizen, the organization contributes meaningful, tangible services to the communities it serves; and that safe and healthy work conditions are provided to all company employees.

“If you grow too quickly or don’t put enough thought into how you approach it, a lot can suffer, including your reputation,” Hurley says. “In order to maintain our reputation, not only do we strive to deliver the best results, but we also adhere to the highest level of ethics.”

4. Don’t be afraid of hard work

If Davies Park weren’t good at what it did, its growth would be nonexistent, but Hurley is quick to point out that the firm’s success is a result of more than talent alone. The thing about working in executive search is that companies are looking to fill pivotal roles quickly—their continued success depends on it—so Davies Park’s staff must employ plenty of hustle, too.

“I can’t overemphasize how important it is to be willing to work hard in this field,” Hurley says. “If you want to be successful, it has to come with the understanding that this isn’t necessarily a nine-to-five job. The hours are long, and the work is challenging, but that’s part of the fun if you love this work.”

5. Understand that happy people lead to success

The success and growth of Davies Park relies on the productivity of its employees and the contentment of its clients. Every day that Hurley goes to the office, she’s focused on making sure her staff is motivated to produce the highest-quality work possible. The best way to do that, she says, is to make them feel appreciated, respected, and happy—while helping them understand that Davies Park’s success is their success.

This, in turn, keeps clients satisfied. “If your clients aren’t happy, you don’t have anything,” Hurley says. “Every day, in every way, I want to ensure that we’re meeting the needs of clients, that we’re adding value to their organizations and providing them with leadership solutions. If we help them be successful, we’ll continue to be successful.”