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In this episode, we're joined by Conor Leamy, Shore's Chief Talent Officer, who sheds light on his team’s strategic use of pattern recognition and data analytics in executive talent acquisition across the Shore portfolio. Conor discusses how these tools help mitigate natural biases in hiring practices and enable our microcap companies to win the “war for talent.”

Transcript

 

Introduction

Anderson Williams: Welcome to Bigger. Stronger. Faster., the podcast exploring how Shore Capital Partners brings billion-dollar resources to the microcap space. In this episode, I talk with Conor Leamy, the Chief Talent Officer at Shore Capital Partners.

Well, welcome, Conor. Thanks for joining me today.

Conor Leamy: Thanks for having me, Anderson.

Good to be here.

Anderson Williams: Will you just introduce yourself and say what you do here at Shore?

Conor Leamy: My name is Conor Leamy and I am the Chief Talent Officer with Shore Capital Partners. I've been at Shore for about three years now, and I work across the portfolio and really help identify and recruit in best-in-class executives to our portfolio companies.

So, we partner with deal team members and portfolio company leaders to really help accelerate growth, primarily through the talent acquisition of executives, using a really process driven approach to do that.

Anderson Williams: So, what did you do before you came to Shore?

Conor Leamy: I really have spent most of my career at the intersection of human capital and private equity and began my career in management consulting, initially working with private equity firms.

I learned and appreciated that the human capital side of the value creation was more interesting to me and a good fit for what I did. And from there, I worked in a number of different private equity focused executive search firms. So came out of the retained executive search industry where I helped work with a number of different private equity firms, helping them build out management teams.

Learning what good looks like at different stages, and from there joined Shore about three years ago.

Shore Opportunity

Anderson Williams: And what was it about the opportunity with Shore that drew you to instead of supporting private equity, being a part of a company like Shore?

Conor Leamy: Yeah, I was happy and enjoying what I was doing, working with different private equity firms on the search side.

I think early conversations with Shore were really unique. I mean, the people here certainly stood out, but I think from early conversations with the founding team, the importance of talent and human capital in the value creation thesis here stood out. And the opportunity to join a winning team where I could bring in my own subject matter expertise around human capital, specifically executive talent was something that I was excited to help contribute and bring that skill set to Shore.

And it's been an amazing time doing it so far.

Anderson Williams: I'd love to hear you say more just about your reflections when you met Shore, what you heard or saw or thought was different from your experience with interacting with other private equity companies.

Conor Leamy: Yeah, I think the focus on really putting the right people in the right chairs early on is hugely important.

You know, we're investing in businesses that are at the onset smaller and the best team wins. And I think the Shore team really understood the importance of that. And there was already process around assessment around a lot of things that many private equity firms didn't even have yet. So, the ability to come in and take the foundation and help to build upon that was exciting.

And again, I think the focus on the entire team and putting executive talent first in their strategy was very appealing for someone like myself that also shared that philosophy.

Talent Team Support

Anderson Williams: And will you just describe for anybody listening how this works? Just describe functionally how you and your team support this across the portfolio.

I can't imagine how many positions are available at any given time that you're helping with. Can you just put some color to that to help it make sense?

Conor Leamy: Yeah, absolutely. So, we primarily focus on helping our portfolio companies with executive level hiring. So, we're optimized for the C suite that does also dovetail into what we classify as sometimes the N minus two level, which would be the level below the C suite, but we really help companies from initial scoping of the role.

So, when inevitably there is a talent need in one of our companies, we work with the deal team and the portfolio hiring team to understand how do we codify that need? And we use a job specification and a scorecard to do that. But the first step is to really understand what are we looking for? And then from there, we apply a very process driven approach to finding those executives, recruiting them, and securing them into the portfolio companies.

Anderson Williams: And how do you learn about that need? What does the partnership look like for those needs to surface and for you to step up and say, yeah, we'll help fill that spot.

Conor Leamy: I think the unique advantage of working with a team like ours at Shore is that we really understand the nuances of the business and we're involved early on, even pre LOI in some cases.

So, because of that, we really know what the business needs from a talent perspective, when it needs it, what the important skills and attributes are. So, it's a really collaborative and proactive approach in terms of initiating the process to identify and scope out the talent needs and then go out and recruit that talent.

Because we're working so hand in hand with the deal team early on and with the founder or with the CEO. So, because of that, we're able to then stay close to the business throughout the entire life cycle, have a history of what's been done previously, know what has worked, what hasn't worked. Whereas doing that with an outside partner, you have to reeducate them every time, they may or may not understand the nuances of the business.

So that all goes into the efficiency that we can bring in talent into the Shore model much more efficiently. And with the goal being better talent that ultimately moves the needle and creates value for these businesses better than if they were to go outside and try to do that on their own.

Art And Science

Anderson Williams: It makes so much sense to me, Conor, just from my previous company experience, hiring people and working with an outside firm and you have a job description and then they are basically responding to the job description and that's about it.

So how do you, as part of that timing and knowledge of the company and so forth, how do you and your team also stay kind of in touch with the culture and what's going to be a right culture match for that C suite or the company more broadly?

Conor Leamy: Yeah, the culture and the behavioral portion of it is an important component of it, certainly in conjunction with key competencies, experiential data.

We do look at behavioral trends quite a bit. We use a tool called Predictive Index, which is something that we've applied across our entire portfolio and have even taken it a step further to really understand certain behavioral and personality traits that exist within candidates. Not only that, but we were able to look at data sets from other prior successful CFOs or CEOs in the portfolio that have similar traits.

And we're able to look at and as we're assessing candidates understand where do these new prospective candidates line up well from a behavioral standpoint with other CFOs that have done the job well or where they don't line up well. And then in addition to that we're able to look at matches from a behavioral and personality standpoint with the hiring manager, with the teams.

So, we're able to get a couple different data sets around the likelihood of success in terms of integrating behaviorally with the team, with the hiring manager, even with Shore, with the board members in some cases as well. So, there's multiple data points that we're really triangulating on to make sure that we're making the best possible decision around talent to have the highest level of retention, the most impact from a value creation standpoint.

I think when you apply that process driven approach, time over time, you end up getting more predictive results and ultimately better results from a talent perspective.

Anderson Williams: Yeah. I mean, it really sounds like kind of both art and science, right?

You know, the companies in the early stage, it's a little more art, but as you build the data and you have the track record and all of that, you can lean even more towards science.

Conor Leamy: That's right. Yeah, blend of art and science absolutely. And I think we use data to understand the dynamics and nuances and each situation's different, but I think we've applied it enough where pattern recognition becomes a big part of this as well.

And the other benefit in working with Shore is that we've done this hundreds and hundreds of times now. So, in terms of finding ways to partner with folks that can help de-risk these decisions. I would say that's another way that we like to de risk it is just the volume of reps, the pattern recognition, which at the end of the day, I think in many cases where it does fail is when you make these decisions based on gut feel or instinct.

We all have inherent biases and how we operate and decisions that we make and our approach is meant to really remove as many of those biases as possible to get to the right outcome.

The Network Effect

Anderson Williams: Give us a sense, Conor, of if I was in a micro-cap sized company, not a part of a portfolio or without this kind of resource at my hands, at my fingertips, what would this process look like?

Not only finding the right C suite talent but matching it and doing it in a timely manner, at a reasonable expense. Just give us a little bit of a picture of the world where this doesn't exist for these companies.

Conor Leamy: Yeah, it's a great question. And our goal is to really create a frictionless process to bring in better talent, faster and cheaper than the external markets, right? And I think to your point around, what would you do in a micro-cap business without these types of resources? The answer is it's really hard and it takes a lot of time and it's an extensive process and you can't expect to get similar results spending 20 percent of your time doing this than a team that spends 100 percent of their time doing it.

The war for talent is real. It's hyper competitive. It's continuing to get competitive even more so for the top talent in the market. It's always going to be competitive. And I think the focus that we try to bring is a team that's fully dedicated to supporting these companies to let the operators operate, let them do what they do best, which is to run the company and operate in their domain and supplement that by bringing in dedicated teams that can help bring best in class vetted executives to them.

That's a huge advantage in the marketplace to be able to have access to that talent. We leverage the Shore network, which is expansive. So, in addition to our process driven approach that we talked about, the data driven approach that we talked about, I think the other thing to note that is important is that we do lean on a vast network on a national scale of candidates that we've spent time building relationships with that are vetted from other executives and board members that have referenced these executives.

So, we set up process and leverage technology and automation to also help us funnel these best-in-class executives on a national scale to a company that could be based anywhere in the country. On your own as a micro-cap business oftentimes what we see is the existing team may know the local market talent very well, but when they're unable to identify a potential team member to join from a local market, they have to go outside of that and they don't have the ability. They don't have the network to do that.

So, I think having a team that has the resources, the process, the technology, the networks all is aimed at creating this frictionless process to bring these best-in-class executives in a more efficient and cheaper manner. And I think one great example to recently highlight of the Shore network effect is there was a newer business that was being formed in the southeast.

And the CEO was looking for a strategic CFO to join this business. Through our network of hundreds of operating partners and hundreds of management team members across 40 plus companies, we were able to get an extremely strong endorsement from one of our top CEOs in the Pacific Northwest of a CFO that he used to work with.

And ultimately, we were able to recruit, not only recruit, but relocate that CFO from the Pacific Northwest to the Southeast for this business that was still in formation stage. And he's been a fantastic addition to the team and we would not have had access to him had we not tapped the Shore network to find that person.

So not only that, but I think from what I remember when we launched that process, I think the recommendation came in from that CEO within 14 days of launching that process. That's extremely unique to be able to not only have that access, but that speed to delivery for a strategic CFO talent. So just an example, that's really worked well for us.

Anderson Williams: And that network effect works in a couple of ways. One is finding that talent. But then that particular person hearing from an existing Shore CEO about the opportunity to work with a Shore company, you have two sides to that network effect.

Conor Leamy: A hundred percent. The executive has to be excited about the opportunity and about what they're running towards and to be able to have a proven CEO talk about their experience working with Shore.

That's incredibly valuable in a market when CFOs are, good CFOs are getting three, four, five, six different opportunities in front of them at any given time. To have that close proximity and that extra data to help recruit makes all the difference in the world between getting an A player and getting a B player.

I think what the Shore model does is it ultimately shines a light and creates an audience for these great companies that are solving unique challenges and creating opportunities for people to come in and have an impact that they wouldn't already have access to or awareness of without the Shore involvement.

Common Challenges

Anderson Williams: So, Conor, when you look across the Shore portfolio, kind of regardless of the vertical or type of business, what are some of the common challenges for recruiting and hiring good talent that you see across that portfolio?

Conor Leamy: You know, there are many things that we see. I think one of the areas that certainly does come up quite a bit is going back to this elimination that we try to bring to recruiting based on bias or hiring based on bias or hiring based on what's familiar to you is the challenge of hiring a highly technical functional leader in your business if you don't come from that domain.

So, for example, if you are a CEO and have primarily a sales and marketing background and in these micro-cap companies, maybe you're hiring a CIO for the first time. You really don't know what good looks like from a technical perspective, at least from a CIO. You may be able to assess culture fit on your team, leadership attributes, things of that nature, but the ability to really assess a technical CIO and if they're going to have the capabilities to be effective beyond just the culture fit is extremely important.

And again, we see a lot of biases and hiring outside of Shore where that decision is made based on gut feel or instinct. And so, what's unique about our team that I think is worth highlighting is that we actually plug in and work quite closely with the broader COE team from a functional perspective. So, when we are hiring a CIO, we will work closely with Imran, Shore's Chief Technology Officer, to ensure that he's assessing the technical attributes of that individual. So that when we bring them to the CEO, we can confidently say that this person not only has the experiential qualities is fully referenced, has the behavioral traits that would suggest a good fit with your business, but also has the technical acumen and depth that we know is going to be able to get the job done.

So, I think those resources that we are able to work with and partner with is so unique to have in a private equity partner. And we leverage that and work with our COE teams almost every day to make sure we're understanding the technical nuances of each role.

Anderson Williams: I think that's a really important insight.

And I think it's just highlights just a basic human bias, right? That we're drawn to people like us and feel most comfortable with people like us. And I know from my own experience of a C suite of people who all think and act and process things the way I do, probably it's not going to be that successful.

And I think that's just kind of a blind spot, I think, for most of us from a hiring perspective.

Conor Leamy: Yeah, it really is. And you know, what's comfortable feels right. And, you know, I think the thing that we've seen is sometimes executives or hiring managers can get it right. A couple of times hiring on instinct.

But it's not scalable. It's not a repeatable trait to have. And at the rate that our companies are growing, the decisions that are made each day, we can't afford to make decisions based on instinct. We have to have them rooted in data. And once we do make a partnership, that's one of the first things that we start to do is look at how we can help supplement areas that maybe they've had trouble finding or are weaker in terms of their existing skill sets. It's exciting for the companies to be able to partner with us to help accelerate that growth and creates again this opportunity for great talent in the market that wants to find those opportunities to come together.

And I think the other thing to note the other programs that we provide talent in our portfolio companies, whether it be our executive leadership academy other specific programmatic content learning and professional development opportunities that are really unique to being part of a Shore portfolio of companies that in a micro-cap business alone you may not have access to.

So, I think it's the other ongoing investment in executive talent that we provide once you join the business or join the Shore family that you get access to.

Anderson Williams: We talk a lot about the phases of a company at Shore, from planting to growing to harvesting, and our hold period is roughly five to six years.

Can you just talk about from where you sit, some of the differences or different challenges that evolve and how you support companies across those different phases? Obviously, it's very different to work with a new platform that's just building their team versus a platform that may have hundreds or even thousands of employees.

Can you just talk about how that evolves for a company as it grows?

Conor Leamy: Absolutely. Yeah, so the skill sets and capabilities and needs change as a business matures and the skills and attributes that are needed in the first year or two are different in year three, four, and five. And so going back to our ability to just see patterns and understand what is needed at different levels of growth and scale and maturity is where we have expertise and where we can really make important decisions around what makes sense to insert when. We manage and have, again, networks that we cultivate that are suited for different stages of the company.

So, we know when an individual, a CFO or a CMO or an HR leader is effective at the growing stage, we know when they're more effective at the harvesting stage. And so, we've created a database, a bench of talent that is at those different stages of maturity so that when the companies do need that different skill set, we can quickly advise on what is the best type of person to consider.

In other cases, there are not only different skill sets, but just completely new skill sets that haven't even been in the business before. It's really a partnership approach with our companies. And what's most important is the fit with the team and with the hiring manager. What we're able to do is really help provide options, show what good looks like at different functional areas, at different levels of maturity.

Chemistry Of The Team

Anderson Williams: So, Conor, when you're pulling together positions and filling positions in a C suite, how do you think about the chemistry of the team and what do you do to try to find the right chemistry?

Conor Leamy: Yeah, it's a really important point to make, and we spent a lot of time trying to understand this. And the needs of a team do change as they progress throughout the whole period, but what we're able to use the Predictive Index for early on is what we call our team's discovery approach.

So essentially, we're able to map our executive team and N minus two team on four different quadrants where we can see from a behavioral and personality perspective where their tendencies reside. And in some cases, we've seen examples where teams may be clustered in the upper right quadrant of this, which typically would imply individuals that are extroverted.

Have really good ideas are more visionaries. They're more strategic and that's great to have that in a business. But if you don't have anybody that balances that out from a results, process and execution standpoint, you're not going to really go very far. Conversely, right? If you have a team that's clustered in the lower left quadrant of our team's discovery, that typically means they are process oriented, results oriented, execution oriented, but they're not going to know what direction to row the boat in.

So, the important point early on is to really, again, make sure that as best you can, you have some balance to the team, or at least have awareness of where the gaps are. Lack of awareness is the biggest challenge. You can manage and deal with teams that are maybe slightly imbalanced if you know where those gaps are, and you can work around that.

So, this tool really, again, just brings to light some additional data to show us how a team really operates beyond just the gut instinct or feel of how the team feels. So that's a really important point and something that we spend a ton of time understanding.

Anderson Williams: What are some of the other things you're doing for portfolio companies that sort of set that context that sort of wraps around the acquisition process?

Conor Leamy: Yeah, absolutely. And I think what we try to provide is a service that's truly a strategic partner to our portfolio companies from a talent and human capital perspective. And beyond talent acquisition there are many things around that, that we can provide. And we really serve as an on-demand resource for human capital solutions.

And that does go into market insights, compensation trends, functional trends. How is the sector performing from a human capital standpoint? So, there are things there that we can provide that are really unique data points that come from a team that spends a lot of time in the market talking to candidates that you wouldn't get elsewhere.

The other portion of that is access to third party providers. So, we will use and have a network of vetted search partners that are subject matter experts as well that we can bring in and work with from time to time. We're able to partner with these individuals and make sure that we know when we're recommending a third party, they are fully vetted.

We help manage that process. We help quarterback that process so that if a portfolio company does want to use an outside search partner, we're still able to really have a strong influence to make sure the outcome is a desirable one.

Anderson Williams: If you enjoyed this episode, check out our other Bigger. Stronger. Faster. episodes at www.shorecp.university/podcasts. There you will also find episodes from our Microcap Moments as well as Everyday Heroes series, each highlighting the people and stories that make the microcap space unique.

This podcast was produced by Shore Capital Partners with story and narration by Anderson Williams. Recording and editing by Andrew Malone. Editing by Reel Audiobooks. Sound design, mixing and mastering by Mark Galup of Reel Audiobooks.

Special thanks to Conor Leamy.

This podcast is the property of Shore Capital Partners LLC. None of the content herein is investment advice, an offer of investment advisory services, nor a recommendation or offer relating to any security. See the terms of use page on the Shore Capital website for other important information.

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