Introducing Non-Family Members into the C-Suite

October 23, 2018

In this episode of “Generations in Family Business: Past, Present and Future”, Matt Kerzner, Nkrumah Pierre, and Tim Schuster discuss the importance of how family-owned organizations should prepare themselves for recruiting and hiring non-family members in to C-suite positions to insure that they not only have right fit in regards to technically sound candidates bit also the right culture fit for the organization and the family.


Tim Schuster: Welcome to our podcast for Generations and Family Business, Past, Present and Future. Our hosts for this podcast are myself, Tim Schuster, a Manager in the Center of Family Business Excellence and ...
Matt Kerzner: Matt Kerzner, a Senior Manager for the Center for Family Business Excellence and ...
Nkrumah Pierre: Hi, my name is Nkrumah Pierre, Director of Business Development and the Friends of the Firm program here at EisnerAmper.

Tim Schuster: Thank you for being with us today. Our subject matter is going to be recruitment of non-family executive. So guys, let's just talk this through. What is the best approach in order to get of the right fit for an organization who’s a non-family member?
Nkrumah Pierre: I think there's are a couple of different moving parts here. One, why is this position open? Who was in the role before? Was it a family member or an external candidate? If it was an external candidate, why did he or she not make it? And if it was a family member, why did he or she not make it?
Tim Schuster:That makes sense. So what kind of follow up questions do you ask someone in order to figure out maybe what is a good fit for that role?
Nkrumah Pierre: One is, what type of background are you looking for? Do you want someone who came from a larger company, a publicly traded company, another family owned business, generational business, or do you want someone who is completely a different type of candidate? Is it someone who comes from a nonprofit or someone who comes from an investment bank? I think getting an idea of what the profile of the perfect or ideal candidate is right out the gate is a great first step. Secondly, what are the things that make the family tick? Is it a type of environment where you want everyone there at 8:30am sharp and you can leave at 5:30pm on the dot? Then you have other organizations where it doesn't matter what time you get in, what time you leave, just get your job done. So you want to get a feel for the type of environment that the family has created and what you have to do to be successful within that environment.
Matt Kerzner: That's a great. Nkrumah, you hit something very important. When it comes to the owners and the executive team, the family that's running the organization, it's important for them to actually find people that have the skills, knowledge and ability to do the job. An executive job is a difficult one, and to find somebody with the right skill set fit is very important. But what's really important is making sure that you find that cultural fit. If you find somebody who has all those skills, but they are just not getting along with family or with other employees that’s bad, because when you work for a small family business, you become part of that family.
Tim Schuster: Absolutely.
Matt Kerzner: I have a couple of brothers and a sister and we love each other, but there are days that we don't want to be in the same room together. That's what happens in family owned businesses. You still have work to do, you have to find the person who has the right fit. It's important for an owner and the family members to really think through, especially the C-level/executive level, what are the skills? We already talked about that, but what are the characteristics that they bring to the organization that's going to be the right fit.
Nkrumah Pierre: I've also seen organizations that like to recruit from a specific type of school. You have those organizations that say, I want the pedigree from the Ivy League schools. Then you also have, “I went to a Patriot league, so I went to Lafayette in eastern Pennsylvania,” and I've met organizations that say, listen, we love recruiting folks out of the Patriot League schools. Just because they have that flavor, that liberal arts education, that well-rounded education. And then you have some organizations who say, listen, we love students out of CUNY. I've seen that. So every different type of school or a segment of school has that typical candidate that they recruit. Same thing with organizations. So what I've seen is that owners of companies tend to pick from a certain demographic, which is okay. But I've also seen them flip the script and do a complete 180, which has also been helpful. Matt, to your point on the cultural fit, you said you become part of the family. Certain executives might do well if they also have a family of their own. You also want to get a feel for the type of candidate that has done well. Again, I, choose to focus on those who have done really well and those who have not done well and try to find something in the middle to be a nice balance. You might want to recruit an executive who has a family as well. And that might be a great fit for the organization. You might say, listen, if we're going to switch it up and we want someone who can be here at the drop of a dime, they may not have a family right now, but they can put in those long hours in the first part of the job.
Tim Schuster:And we're fortunate enough today actually have two centers really being represented for our podcast, how we looked at from the Center of Family Business Excellence.
Matt Kerzner:With the center we actually have a great methodology that we use to help owners and CEOs and family find the right cultural fit. We've been talking about the strategic roadmap and what's important here is for the organization to really have a clear understanding of its mission, vision and values, specifically values. The very important values. So sometimes when we get that call from the owner, CEO saying, you know, I want to transition. I'm looking to leave or I need that, VP of HR or Marketing and we don't have anybody within the family or within the organization that currently can do that, we have no choice but to go out externally. We will actually interview not only the owners and the senior leadership team, but others to really find out what that good fit is going to be. We also use assessments, and I really stressed to the owners and to the senior leadership team to do a behavioral assessment with any candidates that are coming in to make sure there's a fit. One of the things that we use assessments where we will actually work with the organization to come up with their competencies. Their behaviors are what's important, and then based on those we will then find the right assessment. We encourage those current employees working there to take some of that assessment so we can have a little bit of a benchmark and then any applicant that comes in, they will take that assessment to see if it's a fit.
Tim Schuster:Do you guys have any closing comments for our listeners?
Nkrumah Pierre:Absolutely. The beauty of having the Center for Family Business Excellence and Friends of the Firm in house is that we can collaborate internally. The beauty of working with Matt and Lisa and the team is if we're engaged by a client and we're working on a matter and we're consulting internally and a controller role happens to open up within an organization, they can come over and talk to me about the culture of the organization, what's going on internally, what makes the owners tick. I can then go back to my database with 3,500 CFOs and controllers and actually hand pick a candidate that might be a good fit. So the beauty is we can collaborate internally and truly add value for the client and the family.
Matt Kerzner: Lastly, I just want to stress values and culture and really the owners of the organization and how we can help is to let them look at really three major categories: owners, family, and the business. How does the culture and value fit with all three of those? That's where you should be searching for candidates that fit those three.
Tim Schuster:Gentlemen, thank you both for being with us here today and thank you for listening to Generations and Family Business Past, Present, and Future as part of the EisnerAmper podcast series. If you have any question or there's a topic you'd like us to cover, email Visit for more information on this and a host of other topics. We look forward to having you listen in on our next EisnerAmper podcast.

About Matthew Kerzner

Matthew Kerzner is a Managing Director in the Center for Individual and Organizational Performance and the Center for Family Business Excellence. Matt has more than 25 years of experience in organizational development with a specialization in assisting family businesses and closely held businesses.

About Nkrumah Pierre

Nkrumah Pierre is a Managing Director and Head of EisnerAmper’s Friends of the Firm providing support to clients seeking to hire accounting, finance and human resources executives and providing job opportunity referrals, search support and coaching.

About Tim Schuster

Mr. Schuster is a Senior Manager providing tax compliance services to individual filers, as well as assistance on tax returns for companies in the manufacturing and real estate industries.

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