Delivering an executive search for a pioneering first employee in a new continent

The Challenge

Our client was an Anglo-Dutch oil & gas technology firm that was part-owned by Shell Technology Ventures. They had developed a manufacturing technique that was capable of fusing lengths of steel tubes to produce long sections of tubing that could support the drilling and subsequent production from deep oi wells.

The end product was a flangeless tube of limitless length that could be sunk without and impediments to positioning or to the resultant flow. This sounded like an ideal technology for a world where O&G exploration meant drilling increasingly deep wells, but this European technology had to be beta tested and proven in the prime territory of the Gulf of Mexico before it could be rolled out as a global solution.

Our assignment was to recruit a Chief Operating Officer to be based in Houston, who would be the company’s first employee outside the UK.

The Result

The challenge that we faced was to recruit someone with all of the technical knowledge to oversee the Beta Testing, all of the contacts to ensure that the major exploration and production firms were taking an interest in the tests and the commercial experience to secure some contracts after the successful tests, as the firm’s sole employee in Houston.

Of course we could easily identify and engage with individuals that have the right sort of experience. That is what we do with every assignment. The real challenge was to find those individuals with the right profile, who could also be persuaded to consider leaving what was likely to be a safe and well-paid position, to take up a new position, as the pioneer first employee of a relatively obscure British company that had what looked to be sound technology, but was yet to complete its inaugural tests to establish its efficacy.

We conducted our research and identified just 23 potential candidates in Houston who could fulfil our role. We approached all 23, and had more detailed discussions with 12 of them. We built a shortlist of five individuals that were each interviewed initially by the CEO and the Managing Partner of the main VC. Each found an ideal candidate, but not in the same individual, so the one remaining Director was invited to interview the two, and a collective decision formed to appoint one of our candidates. The alternative candidate was also deemed suitably qualified to perform in the role and he would have been appointed if our prime candidate had fallen through.

Six months after his appointment, the beta tests were completed successfully and the COO was appointed as the new CEO, with a brief to build up the Houston presence for the firm.