By Steve Touhill, Partner.

The late entrepreneur and motivational speaker Jim Rohn famously said, “you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” The same can be said for organizations. Your primary customers, partners, vendors, and employees influence how others perceive not only your company’s brand, but your personal brand, too. The pressure of hitting quarterly revenue targets can make it tempting to lower your standards and accept a deal with a company you would otherwise avoid if you were blowing out your numbers. Or maybe you decide to hire a B Player candidate instead of an A Player because some production this quarter is better than no production. Unfortunately, those short-term decisions tend to come back and haunt you.

It can be tough to resist a Band-Aid fix, but if you value your brand, doing so will yield meaningful long term dividends. Rohn’s statement applies to the executive search business, too. The following are questions that I ask myself before taking on a search assignment to ensure I am protecting my brand.

  •  Is This A Company I Would Want To Work For? I have had a good run at some great companies in my career. Part of my success has been luck and good timing, and part has been the contagious enthusiasm I exude when I am selling something that I truly believe in. As an executive recruiter, I consider myself an extension of my client’s team and I have to believe in a company’s value proposition and leadership in order to take on an assignment. Otherwise, a lack of authenticity is an immediate red flag to a potential buyer – why should they be interested in the solution if you’re not?
  • Who Do They Associate With? Who are their investors and what is their track record? Who is on their advisory board? Who are their customers? If you admire the above, congratulations – sounds like a potential business partner.
  •  What Do People I Respect Say About Them? No intelligent business decision is made without thorough due diligence, and that includes conducting your own reference checks. A few well-placed inquiries to trusted industry colleagues for their confidential feedback will surface potential red flags or validate a winner.
  • Do They Value What I Bring To The Table? A vendor relationship is superficial and transactional, but a long-lasting business partnership is built on mutual respect and an understanding of the value each party brings to the relationship. I seek the latter by demonstrating my value and differentiation through my daily actions and only representing clients who appreciate it and respond in equal measure.

They say that turn-about is fair play and I expect that the above criteria will be applied by potential clients when they consider me as a potential search partner. I welcome it. What are your filters when evaluating business partnerships?