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Case Study: Headhunting

As reported by International Timeshare News,
Vol VIII, Issue No. 2, 1991.

The following situation may sound familiar to many timeshare executives. A large project was in trouble. Sales had slowed. Cash flow was negative, employee morale was low and the banks were restless. The president of Messett Associates, Inc. (MAI), William J Messett III , was called in. After analyzing the project with the developer, it was decided that the first step was the replacement of the company president. MAI prepared a job description and began contacting people within and outside the timeshare industry. "We needed to find an executive with multifunctional skills," Messett says. "That search took four months and covered every country where there were timeshare projects." During that time, we reviewed upwards of 500 people, to identify a sufficient number of possible candidates willing to come into a project with so many problems. We contacted over 100, personally interviewed more than 50, and presented the client with four choices after verbally reviewing 15 prospects. All four (two from the timeshare industry) had:

  1. the professional skills required
  2. a personality that would fit the client organization
  3. similar growth expectations
  4. compensation requirements as the client.

The candidates came from two countries. Today, they would probably come from more."The new president turned the project around. New strategy and marketing programs were implemented, as well as a complete financial reorganization. While most managers remained, Messett worked with the organization over 18 months to find three key-line executives. "One of the most important reasons a search is successful is post-search communication between the recruiter, client, and selected executive," Messett explains. Through retainer search, a company will have access to executives not actively looking for a change.

Complete confidentiality allows the search firm to contact people who would not accept any other approach. Messett said, "Since we do no advertising, we really take a targeted approach to finding people."Messett Associates, Inc., located in Miami, Florida, is a partner in International Executive Search, Inc. Utilizing the partner offices in the United States, Europe, Latin America, and the Far East, the Group has the capabilities to recruit executives all over the world. Messett states that in most searches today, various offices are involved to ensure the most qualified candidates are located.

Messett's own background includes studies in hotel management, marketing, and international business. After holding general management positions for US firms in Mexico and Costa Rica, he moved to Bogota, Colombia, to open the first international executive search firm. In 1983 he returned to the US to continue his multi-country practice.Asked for the profile of a successful international search firm, Messett replied, "It is one that subscribes to a strict code of ethics, the most important of which is not to take candidates from client companies. The firm should also have a broad client base so as not to be too restricted in any particular industry.

Lastly, the functional mix of assignments should be varied in order to help a client solve all or most of their executive needs."A look at the client mix of MAI shows a fairly balanced division of industries between hotel/leisure, consumer products, pharmaceutical/medical, chemicals/plastics, industrial, and agricultural, among others. During the last six years, the firm has under taken 129 searches. When asked about future trends in executive search, Messett answered, "There will be a tendency to the usage of smaller, boutique firms that will not have as many clients in a single industry as large firms do. There will also be more assistance given to clients in identifying financial as well as non-financial partners, acquisitions, and project sell-outs. These are developing quickly in the international area and MAI has undertaken various assignments in these areas."

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