Client success stories
Established in 1993, our extensive professional network and track record in executive search is time-tested and proven to solve our clients’ recruiting challenges and enable them to build teams that succeed.
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Standout Natural Products Company
Pushing the Envelope in Fast-Growth Natural Products
With a series of strategic acquisitions under their belt, the Chief Executive Officer of a fast-growing natural products company identified the need for a powerhouse marketing leader to maximize the growth potential of the portfolio. The company is a standout in the soaring natural, “better for you” products category. Recognizing the strength of consumers’ drive to take ownership of their health, the company is adding value to their rapidly growing brand portfolio in faster, better and more innovative ways than legacy companies in the category can execute.
The company is building a powerful and purpose-driven portfolio of brands that offer healthy alternatives and is positioned to introduce CBD-infused beverages with the switch of the regulatory light from yellow to green.
“O’Connell Group stretched our thinking and helped us push the envelope on the search. We needed a quick turnaround, and they met the timetable with an impressive slate of top candidates. It was a highly efficient and transparent process based on a very strong partnership.” — Chief Executive Officer, Natural Products Company
The CEO was looking for a Chief Marketing Officer with a complex set of qualifications to build, calibrate and fuel a global marketing engine at a rapid pace. To position the new CMO to have full impact on 2020 results, he needed a recruitment partner with the knowledge, network and nimble approach to push the envelope and bring the right people to the table quickly.
The nature of the highly competitive and rapidly evolving category added to the complexity of the search. The company’s global, omni-channel growth strategy requires aligning their highly differentiated products with consumer, distributor and retailer preferences. The CMO would need the skills and proven experience to develop traditional and e-commerce sales, a direct sales network and direct store distribution (DSD) operation. Furthermore, their leadership and people-management experience would be mission-critical to building and managing a global marketing team.
The fast pace of this company required a leader who is equipped with the complete “gold standard” marketing skillset gained through classical training in top consumer packaged goods companies (CPG). Based on their long-standing connections and track record in the CPG industry, the CEO tapped O’Connell Group to drive the search. Confident that the challenge was in the firm’s sweet spot, he trusted the team to build a slate of “A” candidates faster and better than other firms who lack O’Connell Group’s 25 years of expertise in CPG.
The O’Connell Group knows the CPG world and has partnered with thousands of top professionals in the industry through decades of career progression. This focus and depth of relationships in CPG enabled them to gain an accurate read on the opportunity and move quickly. Their experience proved valuable in guiding the executive team, crystalizing the most critical attributes for the CMO role and pivoting quickly to ensure candidates met – not most – but all of requirements. Likewise, the CEO’s commitment and direct engagement was essential in moving the search forward at a brisk pace.
Within two weeks, O’Connell Group delivered a powerful slate of top candidates who checked all the boxes. Among them was a classically trained CPG leader who has built a stellar career by being one step ahead in doing the “right” next thing. She had built a track record in CPG as a transformative, strategic leader who is also anticipatory, nimble and focused on making things happen quickly.
Because she had worked with O’Connell Group as a candidate and client over the years, they were confident that her experience, skills and personality would be a great fit. Importantly, as with all candidates, they were able to align her goals and aspirations for her career with the opportunity the company offered.
The search was completed in seven weeks, twice as fast as the industry average of 14 weeks for C-level searches. Based on the effectiveness of O’Connell Group’s process that enabled a rapid fill with a top-performing leader, the CEO also entrusted them with searches for multiple global director of marketing positions. O’Connell Group is helping the company accelerate the process of creating the team that will build their brands across a growing number of channels, categories and continents.
Learn More About Hiring Trends in the Natural Products Category
Leading Home Improvement Retailer
Redesign, Redefine and Recruit Insights and Analytics Teams to Turn Shoppers into Customers
The home improvement industry has been riding a wave thanks to a healthy housing market and the do-it-yourself trend. But, many retailers are learning the hard lesson that online and store traffic does not equal customers and purchases.
A leading home improvement retailer addressed lagging sales and market share by taking a fresh look at its organizational structure to improve their focus, better leverage their omni-channel capabilities, deliver increased value for our customers and drive greater conversion.
The overall customer insights and analytics redesign effort led to being recognized by the C-Suite as “one of the most effective organizations in the history of the company.” – Senior Marketing Leader
Their greatest challenge with mobile and digital was around the new, complex consumer journey. With so many touchpoints, they became distracted by the technology and lost sight of how to activate insights from the resulting customer and market data across the entire business.
Industry analysts made the following observations:
The sector is doing well right now, so it’s not an industry thing. If I were calling the shots, I’d really be getting to know customers to get the right focus.
I’m all for high tech, but only if it’s meeting real customer needs…Expensive to roll out to the entire chain or even regionally, but [does not add value] if it’s not a conversion tool.
Solving this challenge required rebuilding a best-in-class customer insights and analytics (CI&A) team by redesigning the work, redefining the future of insight and analytic innovation, and recruiting the talent for this new model to work across the organization for greater impact.
The CI&A leader, a veteran of classical consumer packaged goods marketing and research, turned to Dixon Smith, Managing Principal with O’Connell Group, to help her tackle this very rapid, mission-critical recruiting effort. In her previous roles as a global customer and market knowledge leader for a Fortune 50 company, her trust in the firm was based on their ability to dive into their deep CI&A talent pool, assess fit and bring the best people to the surface.
Clearly understanding the need to move beyond traditional, often siloed, quantitative/qualitative market research skills, the O’Connell Group team moved quickly to deliver top candidates. Re-envisioning the required skills in specialized roles, but also the expertise to articulate data-driven insights, connect with line management, and bring customer needs to the forefront of all business discussions.
With three senior CI&A leaders quickly and successfully placed early in the process, the work of building, developing, engaging and inspiring the cross-functional team continued.
The activation of customer and market knowledge across the enterprise strengthens the position of the CI&A organization as the voice of the customer and strategic advisor to senior leadership. The overall customer insights and analytics redesign effort led to being recognized by the C-Suite as “one of the most effective organizations in the history of the company.” The senior leader remarked, “How did you get so many great people so fast?”
Early investments behind the renewed focus, including building the customer insights and analytics team, has driven $250 million in incremental revenue.
Learn More About Consumer Insights and Analytics Hiring Trends
Leading Sports Nutrition Portfolio
Heavy Lifting Builds a Team of Ten Top Performers
When a century-old global food ingredient company decides to venture into performance nutrition, a new, fast-growing complementary segment, it raised a tough question. Hire for experience in this new category or for capabilities that transcend category?
“Finding people with the talent, passion and business building capability was critical to building our global scale and helped us become the industry leader in performance nutrition.” – Global Chief Brand Officer and Chief Marketing Officer
Gaining a foothold through acquisitions, the company charged the Chief Marketing Officer with developing the vision and strategy for a newly acquired sports performance nutrition division. His priority was to build a team of three Vice Presidents, the critical first step in securing the level of professional leadership to guide the development and implementation of global brand and marketing strategies for the product portfolio. Without that foundation, the ability to recruit the rest of the team to launch and quickly deliver results would be severely limited.
It required a strategic recruitment effort to hire a team with excellent Consumer Packaged Goods experience, which was just the point of entry. His team would also need to work cohesively, believe in the mission of the company and embrace the opportunity to help consumers achieve their fitness and sports performance goals. Finding leaders with a passion for both performance and people was essential for shaping the culture of the organization.
To help with the heavy lifting required to recruit the right team, the CMO engaged Kris Holmes, Principal with O’Connell Group, a recruiting firm with a 25-year track record for building teams in brand management, marketing, innovation, insights and analytics. Over a period of 15 years, Kris had been a trusted, strategic advisor who had helped the CMO navigate his career, sharing industry connections and insights along the way. Kris listened, heard and clearly understood his vision, key business objectives and the critical success factors for each role.
“O’Connell Group brought a remarkably deep sense of partnership to the entire recruitment effort, both a sense of speed and agility, as well as an openness to debating the best strategy – role by role.
Even better, they showed a commitment to pushing us when we thought we had the right scale or scope, and when we needed to up the level of talent we were seeking. O’Connell Group helped us with very productive outcomes.”
– Vice President of Marketing, North America
O’Connell Group’s targeted recruitment approach enabled them to add value well beyond presenting a “slate of usual suspects” for each role. Based on the firm’s deep CPG experience, the team tapped into their extensive network of marketing talent and identified the CPG superstars who fit the client’s culture, share their goals and capable of making an impact in a private equity environment.
Each candidate demonstrated strong, relevant experience; clear advancement; entrepreneurial spirit; and a track record for delivering results. Importantly, they had been successful in navigating evolving – and often ambiguous – organizational cultures, while also developing talent in others.
Next they tackled the challenge of securing the best candidates to hire for key functional roles. The depth of O’Connell Group’s relationships and highly attuned skills in assessing fit ensured that the candidates’ professional motivations and personal drivers were aligned the organization’s culture and business objectives.
Within the span of two years, O’Connell Group had recruited 10 professionals, including the three Vice Presidents and other roles ranging from assistant brand manager through director. The combination of classical training at top CPG companies and experience in smaller, scrappier entrepreneurial companies outweighed direct experience in fitness and nutrition.
They successfully transitioned the business from the “gut instinct” driven culture that the acquired companies had grown up with toward a culture that leveraged the benefits of analytical rigor and professional CPG business management, without losing the collaborative, entrepreneurial dynamic.
Bound by a shared passion for performance and people, the marketing team powered the growth of a $1.3 billion branded sports nutrition portfolio and achieved its rank as a global category leader with the top performance nutrition brands in over 20 countries.
Category-Busting Protein Products
Timing is Key to Taking Talent to the Next Level
One of the critical success factors in natural products is the quality of leadership talent, which includes brand marketing, e-commerce and insights teams. With the explosion of growth in the natural products industry there is a premium on talent, especially for Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) brand and marketing professionals who have the rare combination of classical training and entrepreneurial spirit that will take a fast-growing brand to the next level. This theme is constantly reinforced in O’Connell Group’s daily conversations with leaders and investors across categories such as food, beverage, beauty, supplements, fitness and more.
Top CPG companies and private equity firms are investing strategically in natural products, and their visibility in this segment has been growing rapidly. In this fast-paced environment, the time-tested benefit of a strong professional network pays dividends for everyone concerned. Networking with former colleagues, candidates and clients sparks new opportunities to connect with CPG superstars who are excelling in their current roles, but not actively looking for a new job. They have the potential to lead in the natural products segment, but are flying below the radar in their quest for the next great opportunity.
Given O’Connell Group’s years of work and extensive network in CPG, events such as the Natural Products Expos (NPE) have come to feel like a class reunion for their team. Such was the case when Kris Holmes, Principal, reconnected at NPE West with the newly hired CEO of one of the industry’s fastest growing nutritional food companies. He was on a mission to reinvigorate the company’s culture and build their capabilities to achieve scale for their top-selling products, while also focusing on consumer insights and innovation to bring new products to market. Along with the Chief Marketing officer, he was committed to developing the people, team and organization to achieve the company’s strategic objectives.
The timing was just right to optimize O’Connell Group’s depth in CPG marketing. Kris’s longstanding relationship with the CEO was established while working with him to fill key roles in previous top CPG companies. Together with the Chief Marketing Officer, they launched a strategic recruitment program to fill key positions in innovation and brand management. Because of the O’Connell Group team’s years of CPG experience, they were able to quickly identify top professionals with the foundation of superior classical CPG training, as well as the proven ability to be nimble and entrepreneurial as required by this company in transition.
O’Connell Group met the exacting requirements for developing a collaborative and results-oriented team by recruiting top-performers to fill the roles of Senior Director of Innovation, Senior Brand Manager and two Brand Managers. The team has introduced innovative, category-busting new products, while maintaining their leadership position in the protein bar category.
Entrepreneurial Health and Wellness Company
Recruiting Partnership Built on Trust and Results
A fast-growing entrepreneurial company competing in the highly competitive health and wellness industry landscape needed the right leadership and talent throughout their ranks to map their future and take their business to the next level. At a critical stage in their organization’s development, they were looking for people with more than strong resumes. They needed talented marketers with optimism, drive, willingness to wear multiple hats and the ability to share the vision.
Based on a trusted relationship built over the course of years in the industry, the Chief Marketing Officer turned to O’Connell Group’s intuitive and strategy-oriented recruiter for their Vice President of Marketing search. The recruiter conducted a comprehensive site visit and invested the time required to fully understand the organization’s vision and culture. Likewise, the client fully engaged as a partner, which supported the recruiter’s objective to accurately align the search strategy with the client’s values and goals.
By acting as an extension of the client’s organization throughout every phase of the search, and maintaining a persistent focus on cultural fit, the search successfully filled with their top candidate. Nearly a dozen engagements have followed, with O’Connell Group filling additional positions from the Marketing Assistant to Vice President level. These marketers continue with the client company, where they are thriving and advancing their careers as well as the company’s growth.
Together O’Connell Group and their client built a team with the horsepower and capacity to not only achieve immediate goals, but drive success into the future.