Project: President, Produce Cooperative
Challenges: Long-term prior incumbent, reports to Board of Directors and remote location
Hiring the next President for a produce processor cooperative provided two distinct challenges. The prior incumbent in the role had founded the organization and had been successfully leading the co-op for over 35 years. He had quite the legacy and impact on their industry. Not only were we looking for an executive to fill those big shoes and carry the business forward, but the position also reports to a Board of Directors. The Board had a heavy comfort level with their prior leader and in order to successfully hire the next one, we needed alignment of the Board on clarifying the traits, experiences, and personalities that would be a perfect fit. Another slight challenge tossed in the mix was the location, as it was headquartered in a small town with the nearest mid-sized city a few hours away. We not only had to find the ideal candidate but an ideal candidate that would enjoy living in the area.
When your long-term leader retires, it often triggers an organization to take a hard look at the direction they are going in as an organization. We did our typical due diligence understanding the cooperative and industry. We learned what has made the cooperative successful, why people join, why people leave, what’s the value to the members, etc. We worked to further understand the industry as a whole, current trends, demand/supply as well as industry challenges.
We led structured discussions with the board members and founder outlining where they are heading and what a successful candidate looks like in this role. We identified what this next President not only needs to bring to the table but what they challenge they need to be prepared to work through. We identified key competencies and inherent traits that would best fit the organization. Our hire needed to have the capability to lead a cooperative that has a vested interest in working together, yet at the end of the day are somewhat competitors of each other. The role inherently comes with challenges of building consensus on direction and as one member described as “herding cats.”
Our strategy, for this role we focused on executives with prior experience with specialty crops and spent a significant portion of our time understanding the personality, fit for the role, and location as much as we did success stories of their career. We showcased the opportunities this position offered while also being transparent about the hurdles in front.
Given that this particular client has not hired an executive role in the past several decades, AgHires was a partner through the entire process, from establishing and partaking in video interviews to developing the interview structures and guidance. Our final hire came from across the country where he had been with an organization for over 15 years in various senior leadership roles. It was a win-win situation, the hire had the right demeanor, the right experience, and leadership qualities for the cooperative and the role was the perfect career progression for the candidate.