The Situation

Our client was a VC-backed company that had developed a revolutionary technical device that enables the separation of contaminants – particularly water – from natural gas at the wellhead. The device spins the gas at supersonic speed, where the contaminants can be removed, leaving pure gas to be transported by pipeline to its destination.

The Solution 

With this brief the key element of our challenge was to find individuals with the right knowledge and sufficient senior experience, who were willing and able to take up a new role that contained a considerable risk – particularly in its early stages. Although the client had backing from two committed VCs, the company was actually in a relatively parlous financial position - one which required the new CEO to have an impact on business performance within six month of commencing in the role.

The medium-term prospects are heavily based on the potential exit strategy on behalf of the original investors; which would see the company acquired either by the third and newest stakeholder or by another party within two/three years. Depending upon the value of the firm at the point of exit, the new CEO could earn a considerable one-off bonus’ but they had to bring a mix of business development credibility and specialist knowledge of gas processing – either downstream, upstream/offshore or ideally both – and to have both a short-term impact on sales and a medium-term impact on growth, to make the firm attractive to potential acquirers. This wasn’t an easy assignment.

We identified a total of 54 potential candidates for this position. We assigned 21 of these to a group that we concluded were long-shots – partly because they were based outside Europe and therefore had potential cultural as well as logistic obstacles to overcome. That left us with a pool of 33 candidates that we targeted systematically to assess their suitability for and interest in our proposition. The bulk of these either discounted themselves from our post – with location, timing or the size of the challenge as the principal issue – or they were rejected by us as ultimately not suitable for the role.

The Outcome

We built a shortlist of six individuals that were each interviewed by the company Chairman. Three of those six had subsequent interviews with two of the three remaining Board members and one of the three was selected for the position, and he has been offered the role. A second-choice candidate was also deemed suitably qualified to perform in the role and he was “kept warm” so that we could turn to him if something happened to the offered candidate.

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