Interview conducted by:
Lynn Fosse, Senior Editor
Published – September 18, 2023
CEOCFO: Mr. Broadfoot, what is the idea behind VisionSpark?
Mr. Broadfoot: VisionSpark is a search firm to help entrepreneurial and growing companies find and hire key leaders.
CEOCFO: What is different about a new or growing company when you are looking for a person to fill a particular spot?
Mr. Broadfoot: Growing companies have a lot more passion for what they do. They are looking to scale and increase their capabilities, and have a strong focus on culture and core values. They have a tenacity about them that impacts their hiring, their customers, and their culture. They oftentimes have a business operating system such as EOS® (Entrepreneurial Operating System), Scaling Up, or Pinnacle.
CEOCFO: Does that type of company recognize they should be looking for specialist like VisionSpark, or do people not recognize there is a substantial difference in the approach of the agency that is helping?
Mr. Broadfoot: I would say most of the time entrepreneurs have the mindset of “How can I get this done?” and they do not think that there is an expert out there that can do it. They will hire a good accounting firm to help them with their taxes and hire attorneys and legal experts for employment law, for example, or any sort of real estate transactions, but when it comes to hiring, they often believe they can do it themselves. The research shows they cannot. I used to say that our biggest competitor is not another firm like ours but it is our clients wanting to do the work themselves.
CEOCFO: How do you reach out to potential clients so that they understand the guidance you provide?
Mr. Broadfoot: I think many times they have failed miserably and they are tired of failing. Oftentimes they have a trusted advisor in their circle that will guide them in our direction and let them know they need to hire a professional firm, a boutique firm to get them the right person and that it will save hundreds of hours, not only in the short-
CEOCFO: How do you figure out who might be a good fit client; what have you learned over time?
Mr. Broadfoot: The right client is a growing company with an operating system, so there are different operating systems out there. I do not mean something in the technology area, I mean how they run their business. There are ways for companies to grow. The most popular is an operating system called EOS® (Entrepreneurial Operating System). Another popular one is called Scaling Up and the third most popular is Pinnacle Business Guide.
Usually, they have an operating system and they really want someone who not only fits their company, fits their team, fits their culture, but someone who is going to work well with the entrepreneur, or sometimes we call them Visionaries. That is super important that the individual that is going to be running their company, such as COO or general manager, has a good fit with the Visionary and everyone on the leadership team. It’s going to help with that cultural and team fit.
CEOCFO: How do you assess the culture at a client’s organization, over and above what they might tell you? How can you tell when you are speaking with a candidate for the position that they are a good fit?
Mr. Broadfoot: We get a good feel for their culture through our process. First, we have a meeting with the owner of the company and we get to know them and their desires. They are providing us with information but we are also getting to know them. The second part of our process includes calls with stakeholders: the individuals that are involved in the company whose role could be impacted by this new hire. It could be peers or direct reports. We have some good probing questions that we get to know and understand their culture through that process.
We then right a compelling position profile that draws individuals that resonate with that culture. We like to say that our position profiles are magnetic. That tool in itself will attract candidates that want to work with a company with that type of culture, and repel candidates that do not have those core values. That is kind of a way that we are intentional about really understanding the culture of that company.
CEOCFO: What do people want today when they are looking for a position, particularly a position in an entrepreneurial organization, and how has that changed over time?
Mr. Broadfoot: Right now, individuals that work for entrepreneurial organizations absolutely love it because they can have an impact. There is not a lot of bureaucracy, red tape, or politics in entrepreneurial organizations. They can leave the corporate world and have a big impact. They can be a big fish in a small pond and they absolutely love that.
When I talk to candidates who have been in the corporate world that are looking for work, they think they have to stay in that corporate world. I will open them up to the idea that there are entrepreneurial organizations as well. Ninety percent of employers in the US are small to midsize companies. They think it sounds absolutely amazing and that is exactly want they want. I will always encourage people to apply to entrepreneurial companies.
Right now culture is more important than ever. Individuals are tired working for a company that does not have a purpose or a mission. So culture is important, as well as who they work with and for, their team and their boss. The mission of the organization is important, if they are making certain products, they are involved in nonprofit work, etc.
CEOCFO: What is your geographic ranges today?
Mr. Broadfoot: The United States, anywhere from Maine to Florida and from Washington to California, all over the United States.
CEOCFO: Are many of these remote positions?
Mr. Broadfoot: Yes, I would say about a third of the positions are remote. With companies who have a remote workforce, there are lot more candidates who are interested in working for remote companies. We have been seeing a trend for a while now that organizations are wanting to go back into in-
Because entrepreneurial companies value culture and value communication, they like going back in-
CEOCFO: Your website shows, “Rooted in Midwestern Values,” what does that mean to you at VisionSpark?
Mr. Broadfoot: When we work with entrepreneurial companies and they are looking for search firms, oftentimes those search firms are very corporate and when they understand we are a business casual, jeans and a jacket. We really want to work with companies that value their culture and have strong values. There are organizations out there that just want to make a buck and focus on the money and getting results, and not about culture.
Organizations that have strong values and have a lot of deep desire to have a strong culture, we want to work with them. There was a point where we were turning away clients because they were just all about the dollar and just wanted results and they did not care about having someone that matched their core values. That is who we are and that is part of our makeup at VisionSpark.
CEOCFO: Another thing I saw on your website is, “Companies waste 278 hours on the wrong hire.” Do people recognize that and how do you impart that without sounding too preachy?
Mr. Broadfoot: I do not know how to impart that without sounding too preachy. What I do know is this: I used to do a lot of speaking around the country and I would talk about the cost of a bad hire and a poor performer. I would talk about the monetary cost: it is a least three times their salary, and in many cases as much as fourteen times their salary. Business owners would acknowledge the monetary cost but as soon as I told them the other cost was the cost of time — nearly 300 hours of time wasted on a poor performer — that resonated with them more than the dollar amount. You can always make more money but you cannot get back that time.
CEOCFO: How is business today?
Mr. Broadfoot: It is good. Last year we had a record year. We made it on the Inc. Regionals. We were ranked 141st in the Midwest region. I think there was a half-
CEOCFO: Why choose VisionSpark?
Mr. Broadfoot: We have three things that make us unique. Number one is we have 0% risk guarantee. If we cannot find who you want to hire within 12 months, we will refund all your money paid toward the search. And if you hire someone and if they for some reason resign or you let them go within a specific time frame, we will redo the work for no additional charge. So that is our 0% risk guarantee.
Our second unique differentiator is that we charge a fixed fee, so unlike others in our industry they may charge a percentage of salary or they may charge on an hourly basis but our fee is fixed. Our meter is not running and you do not have to pay more for a top talent. You pay us a fixed fee, so it does not matter if the person is making $100k or $500k, your fee to us is the same. We find that our clients like that because they can stick to a budget. They see us as a trusted advisor guiding them through the process.
Our third unique attribute is that we have proprietary interview questions for leaders and we also have a second tool that measures mental aptitude and personality. Those are three unique things about our company.
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