Recruiting can be difficult — but finding the right partner can make the process a lot smoother. Photo via Getty Images

I’ve been in the retained recruiting industry for nearly two decades, with a four-year stint in the middle as an internal director of talent at a management consulting firm, so my knowledge is primarily based on the point of view of an outsourced recruiter. What’s more, my professional advice is relevant to most companies, but not all.

At Sudduth Search, our clients are generally investor-backed companies in the lower and middle market. Most are startups— both early-stage and large but all are growing rapidly—and we mainly search for director to C-level executives. And just like not all companies are the same, not all recruiters are either. I don’t believe there is a “plug and play” one size fits all recruiter; you need to find one that works for you and your culture. That being said, there are indeed ways to ensure you ARE getting the most out of the recruiter with whom you engage.

Ok, now that we’ve got the boring stuff out of the way, let’s get into some real talk. How should you choose a firm and launch your search?

Get on the same page

First and foremost, make sure the recruiter you choose is the right cultural fit (a.k.a. emotionally intelligent and not a jerk). Will the recruiter represent your company and ethos well? If you’re put off by the recruiter’s sales tactics, or the recruiter regularly isn’t prepared, they’ll likely treat your search the same way. If YOU wouldn’t hang out with your recruiter outside of work, chances are your best candidates won’t want to talk with them either.

Expertise is key

Can the recruiter explain the process they follow, step-by-step? Recruiting isn’t luck. The best results come from following a proven process, being diligent, and detail-oriented. If your recruiter is “winging it,” and pushing candidates they already know, that’s not what you need. Heck, you could do that yourself and save a lot on fees. Have them walk you through their specific strategy so you know they aren’t just hoping to find the resume you’ll like.

Know your niche

Let’s also touch on recruiters with a specialty focus, something I get asked about more often than anything. Here’s what some of my prospective clients say: “We want someone who specializes in purple unicorns from the rainbow ranch industry.” For comparison sake, when you hire a lawyer, do you limit your search to ONLY those who work with purple unicorns from said industry? No, because we all know there could be a conflict of interest with competitors. Plus, if an attorney knows the law and how to apply it, it shouldn’t matter if they have a narrow focus. Similarly, if a recruiter specializes in exactly what your company does, or what the related position is for, their focus will be very narrow, making it difficult not to trip over past (or current) clients during the process. And it’s always possible your recruiter will be looking to poach from your team when they’re done with you. If a recruiter knows how to recruit for a multitude of positions within various industries, their methodology is probably what makes them successful; they’re not just spinning a rolodex, hoping it lands on the right candidate (and yes, I know I just aged myself).

Once you’ve chosen your recruiting firm, let’s talk about how to maximize their value:

  • Your recruiter should provide you more than just fodder and a resume for the recommended candidates. An important part of the process needs to include the recruiter giving you a thorough overview, analysis and opinion of the candidate. Answers to questions such as: What is their motivation for changing jobs? Why are they interested in your position? Why have they had a short tenure? How much revenue do they manage? You need to understand the candidate’s motivation for entertaining a new position and any gaps between jobs or questionable moves should be addressed. My hope is that my clients can forgo the boring interview questions and get straight to the meat of whether they like the person, and believe that particular candidate will be successful in the role and an asset to the team.
  • Your recruiter should scour the market without just focusing on people looking for a job, but also passive candidates. Most of our searches have a minimum of 50 candidates, and some have 300+. As a client, you should have the ability to see all of the candidates being considered. You’re paying for the search; you need to know that the recruiter has completed their due diligence and pursued as many leads as possible.
  • Passive candidates take longer to decide if they’re interested in your open position. Give them time to go through that thought process of deciding if they are interested. If you rush the recruiter, and the candidate feels pressured, you’re probably going to miss out on some stellar talent.
  • Your recruiter should be talking to the candidate all along the way, to keep them engaged and better ascertain whether the candidate is still interested and will accept an offer if given one. Nowadays, the market is a bit crazy, so you’ll never know whether the candidate is being recruited elsewhere. However, if the recruiter is doing their job, they should have a good idea whether the candidate will make it to the finish line and accept your offer.
  • Weekly calls: I know, I know, you don’t need another meeting on your calendar. But trust me, this is the best way to execute a successful, efficient search. The recruiter should provide weekly updates, including challenges, feedback and progress with particular candidates that look favorable. You, as the client, should be open and communicative with your concerns, questions or otherwise.
  • The recruiter should help you through the offer negotiation process to ensure there are no surprises. The last thing you want is to make an offer and then find out the candidate is entertaining three other offers. Ok, even with 20 years of experience, I sometimes get surprised. But I do everything possible to prevent that from happening. You should know exactly why the candidate wants or is willing to make a job change, from the first time you talk to them. While salary expectations can vary, you should never get to the point of offer and be shocked by the amount it will take to secure their commitment.
  • So what if you are a start up, does all of this advice apply? Absolutely, because with fewer people, early leadership hires are even more critical to your ability to succeed and raise capital.Startups and early-stage companies need to think creatively when making offers. If someone is prepared to take a risk on you, they deserve to at least make the same money they did before.Or maybe you can you offer them success-based compensation, like equity or tracking stock? If the person you are hiring is not motivated by success-based compensation, then they are probably not cut out to be at a scaling company. It takes someone who is self-driven, who can see the end result and figure out how to get there. They must be willing to put their own “skin in the game” in order to see the whole company succeed. They are the type that thrives on being challenged. If they don’t, then let them go as they will likely bolt if the going gets tough and you are better off knowing that ahead of time.

I think that covers most of it. I’m probably going to make a lot of recruiters mad because I just made their jobs harder. But I believe it’s a recruiter’s responsibility to bring as much value to their clients and the recruiting process as possible, and to ultimately attract the best talent possible. And if you do need a purple unicorn from a rainbow ranch, please call Sudduth Search, we’ll find you one.

------

Jen Sudduth is the founder and managing partner of Houston-based executive hiring firm Sudduth Search LLC.

Whether it's in the gym or the boardroom, the ability to pick yourself up after a failure is key to success, as this former Olympian learned. Getty Images

3 startup lessons you can learn from this Texas Olympian turned entrepreneur

Guest columns

I've hit rock bottom more times than I can count. As a gymnast, I overcame injuries that would have ended many other athletes' careers — only to watch my Olympic dreams slip out of reach. As a businessman, I built a successful startup — and then lost it all.

The main thing I've learned? Setbacks can be productive if you're willing to learn from them. Today, as I lead a successful company, I constantly inform my decision-making with the lessons I learned as an athlete and entrepreneur.

Three of those lessons can help everyone — both in the gym and in the boardroom.

First, never give up.

When I was 12, I trained under gymnastics coach Ralph Reeves, the toughest coach I ever had. I would spend hours perfecting my craft — getting up on the pommel horse as I tried not to look down at my cracked and bloodied hands. Upon finishing each routine, Coach Reeves would utter one word: "Again."

Not, "Nice work, how about one more?" or, "Can you do another?" Just, "Again." And so I would get back up on the pommel horse — again.

As the Junior Olympic Games, the pinnacle of high school gymnastics, approached during my junior year, it looked like my hard work was about to pay off. Then, I blew out my knee and tore my ACL, MCL, and meniscus while training. Refusing to let my injury determine my fate, I went on to win my first national championship.

Next, I headed to the University of Oklahoma to learn from legendary gymnastics coach — Paul Ziert. While my high school coach gave me my discipline, Paul gave me my style. My teammate Bart Conner taught me the true meaning of "first one in last one out." He led by example, encouraging the entire team to practice extra hours. His ability to inspire without uttering a single word stayed with me.

I eventually graduated from the University of Oklahoma as a five-time All-American and NCAA champion with a spot on the Olympic roster. But due to President Jimmy Carter's boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics, I never got a chance to participate.

I was devastated, but I picked myself up — again — and transitioned to the business world. More setbacks awaited.

Second, forgive others.

In the mid-1980s, I started my first company. But before I knew it, the relationship I had with my business partner had soured and I found myself broke, divorced, and living in a tiny apartment on a loan from my ex-father-in-law.

That episode would have been enough for a logical person to never open another business — to never trust anyone again.

Call me illogical. After this incident, I went on to build and sell multiple successful companies. I say this not to brag, but merely to prove my bona fides to other entrepreneurs who are just starting out and facing their own challenges.

It's crucial to forgive your colleagues, your subordinates, even yourself. I didn't dwell on losing my Olympic dreams; I moved on to compete as a businessman. And I didn't vow revenge on my ex-partner, I forgave him.

In fact, if I ran into him on the street, I'd thank him for teaching me the greatest lesson of my life. The day I stopped hating my ex-partner was the first day I felt joy again.

Finally, trust, but verified.

As an athlete, I had to trust and listen to my body, my doctors, my coaches and trainers to overcome my injuries. After my experiences, I've learned to pay very close attention to what people are saying — and more importantly, what they aren't saying — in the boardroom. Reading body language and getting to know people before you do business with them is just as important as studying their qualifications on paper.

Today, as I lead a business, I spend countless hours strategizing for and planning out my board meetings. Sometimes my preparation lasts three times as long as the actually meeting. But as I learned throughout my athletic experience, preparation is the best way to ensure success.


If you're an entrepreneur, you will eventually experience a business setback. It's inevitable. But the next time you do — pause, make a game plan, and think to yourself, "again."

------

Michael Wilson is the CEO of Healthcare Highways.

Like a lot of cities, Houston might have a talent problem when it comes to cybersecurity. Getty Images

How Houston can bridge the cybersecurity talent gap

From education to implementation

According to Inc.'s Emerging Risks Survey, the talent shortage jumped to first place as the top risk for businesses worldwide in 2019. More specifically, a recent study reported a gap of almost three million global cybersecurity jobs.

Cyber attacks continue to skyrocket but there are nowhere near enough cybersecurity professionals to handle all the threats. The field has plenty of job openings, companies are desperate for talent and employees can eventually earn $95K a year, and often more. So, what's the issue?

Employers struggle to keep employees up to speed on the latest technologies and skill sets needed to succeed and thrive in the rapidly changing and evolving business landscape. To remain competitive, Houston businesses must attract qualified workers to fill these positions that range from cybersecurity to industrial technology, engineering and medicine. And the earlier we can reach them, the better.

One way to address the talent gap is for Houston employers, academic institutions and parents to share the responsibility to prepare young children to be adaptable. While these ideas are for the cybersecurity space, they can be applied to any industry.

Parents: Pay attention to child's interests at a young age

Encouraging creativity and exploration at home is the first step to fostering children's potential career interest. Children show at a young age what they are interested in. Do they color and draw? They may like a more creative field like graphic design. Nurturing artistic interests at home can be as simple as letting kids make projects with household supplies such as paper towel rolls, or old clothes and asking them about their creations.

Or, do they tinker and take things apart? Foster those engineering and computer interests through career days, science fests, coding camps and through trips to retail locations like Apple and Microsoft. When parents, guardians, older siblings, aunts, or uncles express excitement in their interests, children are more likely to feel encouraged and continue finding their passion over time.

Educators: Encourage career exploration

Educators are continuously working to prepare students for the workforce by asking the persistent question of how do we teach students about jobs and careers that haven't even been created yet? We can't. We don't prepare them for jobs, but we provide them with the skills to be adaptable, flexible, creative, critical, collaborative and curious. At The Village School in Houston, we have an internship program that helps students gain a better sense of their future, even for those who are unsure about their career path.

Businesses: Shape the next workforce through educational partnerships

Local businesses must have relationships with schools and organizations. Reflect on what your business can do to better prepare the next generation of talent. Go beyond the norm of only involving college-age students and also partner with local K-12 schools to broaden outreach even more extensively. This will work to help students have a better idea of potential careers and can also be a great recruitment tool. Offer internships to students, externships to teachers and be vocal about the skills and foundation necessary to succeed at your workplace. The talent shortage can't be fixed overnight but businesses can work to be proactive in creating the partnerships and programs needed.

At Village, we currently have partnerships with companies like Cisco, Houston Methodist Hospital, and Pimcore. Our students learn directly from these companies exactly what a career can look like and gain a better sense of what expectations are in the real world. With Cisco, students are able to acquire experience within in-demand careers in computer science, information technology and cybersecurity to see first hand what these jobs consist of.

Dell Technologies recently published a report saying 85 percent of the jobs in 2030 haven't been invented yet. That's an intimidating statistic for today's learners — and businesses. Together, parents, business executives, and educators can prepare the next generation of workers to succeed while combating the crucial need to fill jobs with passionate and capable employees.

------

TeKedra Pierre is the internship coordinator at The Village School.

Ad Placement 300x100
Ad Placement 300x600

CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Deadline extended: InnovationMap, HX open nominations for new combined awards gala

calling all innovators

Update: The deadline for nominations have been extended to midnight on Sunday, October 2.

InnovationMap is back to honor local startups and innovators — and this time, we've upped the ante.

Houston Exponential and InnovationMap have teamed up to combine their annual awards and event efforts to premiere a brand new program. The Houston Innovation Awards Gala on Wednesday, November 9, at The Ion will be a comprehensive event honoring Houston founders, innovators, investors, and more. InnovationMap and HX, which was acquired earlier this year, are in the same network of ownership.

Nominations are open online until midnight October 2, and nominees will have until October 11 to complete an additional application that will be emailed to nominees directly. A group of industry experts and Houston innovation leaders will review those submissions and determine finalists and winners across 11 categories. The categories for this year's awards are:

  • BIPOC-Owned Business honoring an innovative company founded or co-founded by BIPOC representation
  • Female-Owned Business honoring an innovative company founded or co-founded by a woman
  • Hardtech Business honoring an innovative company developing and commercializing a physical technology across life science, energy, space, and beyond
  • B2B Software Business honoring an innovative company developing and programming a digital solution to impact the business sector
  • Green Impact Business honoring an innovative company providing a solution within renewables, climatetech, clean energy, alternative materials, and beyond
  • Smart City Business honoring an innovative company providing a tech solution within transportation, infrastructure, data, and beyond
  • New to Hou honoring an innovative company, accelerator, or investor that has relocated its primary operations to Houston within the past three years
  • DEI Champion honoring an individual who is leading impactful diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives and progress within Houston and their organization
  • Investor of the Year honoring an individual who is leading venture capital or angel investing
  • Mentor of the Year honoring an individual who dedicates their time and expertise to guide and support to budding entrepreneurs
  • People's Choice: Startup of the Year selected via an interactive voting portal during of the event
Nominees can be submitted to multiple categories.

Additionally, the awards gala will honor an innovator who's made a lasting impact on the Houston innovation community. While you may nominate an individual for the Trailblazer Award via the online form, the judging committee will not require applications or nominations for this category and will be considering potential honorees from the ecosystem at large. If you are interested in sponsorship opportunities, please reach out to cbuckner@houstonexponential.org.

Last year, InnovationMap introduced its awards program and named 28 finalists and honored the nine winners on September 8. Click here to see more from last year's event.

Tickets for the November 9 event are available online. Early bird tickets will be $60 per person and startup founders will be able to attend for $25.

Click here to submit a nomination or see form below.


Major corporation opens hub for global decarbonization in Houston

seeing green

Management consulting giant McKinsey & Co. plans to spend $100 million over the next decade to pump up Houston’s decarbonization economy.

McKinsey says the initiative will, among other things, focus on:

  • Promoting innovations like carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) and green hydrogen
  • Revamping business models for carbon-heavy companies
  • Ramping up the community of local startups involved in energy transition
  • Developing talent to work on decarbonization

As part of this program, McKinsey has set up a decarbonization hub in its Houston office, at 609 Main St.

“Decarbonization will lead to a new chapter of economic development, while also addressing a critical problem of climate change,” McKinsey partner Nikhil Ati says.

Global decarbonization efforts over the next three decades will require a $100 trillion investment, according to Utility Dive. Houston, home to 40 percent of publicly traded oil and gas companies, stands to gain a substantial share of that opportunity.

McKinsey’s Houston office has worked for several years on Houston’s energy transition initiatives. For instance, the firm helped produce a study and a whitepaper on energy transition here. The whitepaper outlines Houston’s future as the “epicenter of a global clean hydrogen hub.”

“Texas is the nation’s largest renewable energy producer, home to half of the nation’s hydrogen pipelines, and its companies have unparalleled capabilities in building and operating complex projects,” McKinsey senior partner Filipe Barbosa says. “This is Houston’s moment in time on the global stage.”

McKinsey estimates a Houston-based global hub for clean hydrogen that’s in place by 2050 could generate 180,000 jobs and create an economic impact of $100 billion.

3 Houston innovators to know this week

who's who

Editor's note: In this week's roundup of Houston innovators to know, I'm introducing you to three local innovators across industries — from photonics to robotics — recently making headlines in Houston innovation.

Brad Burke, managing director of the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship

Brad Burke joins this week's Houston Innovators Podcast. Photo via alliance.rice.edu

Collaboration has made a world of a difference for growing Houston's innovation ecosystem, according to Brad Burke, managing director of the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship.

"I think Houston has this culture of collaboration that I suspect that some other major cities don't have in the same way," Burke says on the Houston Innovators Podcast. "And while we're a big city, the entrepreneurial ecosystem feels like a small network of a lot of people who work really well together."

Burke has played a major role in the collaboration of Houston for the past 20 years leading the Rice Alliance, which coordinates many event programs and accelerators — including the Rice Business Plan Competition, energy and life science forums, the Clean Energy Accelerator, Owl Spark, Blue Launch, and more. Click here to read more.

Trevor Best, CEO and co-founder of Syzygy Plasmonics

A new partnership for Houston-based Syzygy will generate 1.2 million tons of clean hydrogen each year in South Korea by 2030. Image via Syzygy

Houston-area energy tech startup Syzygy Plasmonics is part of a new partnership that will develop a fully electric chemical reactor for production of clean hydrogen in South Korea.

The reactor will be installed in the second half of 2023 at Lotte Fine Chemical’s facilities in Ulsan, South Korea. Lotte Fine Chemical, Lotte Chemical, and Sumitomo Corporation of Americas are Syzygy’s partners in this venture.

“Simply improving existing tech isn’t enough to reach the world’s decarbonization goals. Stopping climate change will require industries to reimagine what is possible,” Syzygy co-founder and CEO Trevor Best says in a news release. “Our technology expands the accepted paradigms of chemical engineering. We have demonstrated the ability to replace heat from combustion with renewable electricity in the manufacture of foundational chemicals like hydrogen.” Click here to read more.

Nicolaus Radford, CEO and founder of Nauticus Robotics

Houston-based Nauticus Robotics has hit the public market. Image via LinkedIn

Fresh off its September 13 debut as a publicly traded company, Webster-based Nauticus Robotics Inc. is aiming for $90 million in revenue next year as it dives deeper into the ocean economy.

The stock of Nauticus now trades on the NASDAQ market under the ticker symbol KITT. Nauticus went public following its SPAC (special purpose acquisition company) merger with New York City-based CleanTech Acquisition Corp., a “blank check” company that went public in July 2021 through a $150 million IPO. The SPAC deal was valued at $560 million when it was announced in December.

Nauticus continues to be led by CEO Nicolaus Radford and the current executive team.

“The closing of this business combination represents a pivotal milestone in our company’s history as we take public our pursuit of transforming the ocean robotics industry with autonomous systems,” says Radford, who founded what was known as Houston Mechatronics in 2014. “Not only is the ocean a tremendous economic engine, but it is also the epicenter for building a sustainable future.” Click here to read more.