Will your next executive hire fit your organization’s desired Culture? Why you should care, What you should know, and How to ensure.

I founded my consulting business in 1991 based on a premise: ”Entrepreneurs don’t build businesses…they build teams who build businesses.”  The wisdom in this saying was in the building of teams.  The right teams.  And how do we do that?  By getting the right people on the bus, says Jim Collins, co-author of ”Built to Last” and author of ”Good to Great.”

Yes, and it takes more than that, I challenge.  Over my thirty-five year career in recruiting and organization development consulting I’ve seen many good recruiting matches come together, only to fall apart before their natural expiration date.  Why? The most common answer is that the new employee really didn’t fit the culture, or couldn’t live within the culture, or the culture changed and left them behind.  It wasn’t that they didn’t have the technical skills, industry skills, good communication skills, the energy and drive to succeed, or any of the other ingredients we read about in our job descriptions.

We must get the right people on the bus, and then we need to inspire, engage, develop, and retain them.  Maybe a leader can do that for one, two, three, ten, maybe even 20 people.  But as the organization grows…sooner or later they will need to rely on the culture of the organization to leverage their leadership impact on all employees.

So, you are wondering, how do we do that?  How do we create talent matches with organizational culture that will be productive and last a long time?  I work with my clients to understand their current culture, decide on their “desired culture” and what they want from new executive team members, and then assess executive candidates for best fit.  Once hired, we then onboard carefully and keep an open dialogue going to get constant feedback.   

Let’s look at each of these elements of successfully matching and developing talent for our desired cultures.

First: Know our Culture.

Groups, tribes, and nations are defined by their cultures.  Observe, document, engage, design, test, plan, implement, and then re-test and re-design our desired culture. Will we have the same exact culture at 200 employees as we had at 10?  If not, what do we want to change about our culture and who do we want to become?   Why?

We need to identify the culture in existence today. Culture is created at the top.  Everyone knows to look to the owner, CEO, GM, or team boss to find the source of our culture.  Each person we hire onto the executive team will be seen by their subordinates as a creator or reinforcer of culture.   What are the norms, expectations, and shared experiences of our employees today?

Second: Design our Desired Culture.

Once we accurately and thoroughly identify our current culture, then we ask ourselves if this truly is the best culture for our current and future organization.  What is our Mission? What are our Values? How can we best live our mission and values and allow for maximum passion in our employees? How can our culture help us to be more competitive in the marketplace? Recruit the best talent?  Raise capital?  Better serve our customers? Provide a higher quality product?

Draw a picture of our desired culture, document it, and create a written plan detailing how to move our current culture to become more like our envisioned “desired” culture.  This is the primary focus of Organization Development, the study and art of change in organizations.

Ed Catmull, Co-Founder of Pixar Animation Studios, often reminded his teams that their priority was not to be fast, or for work to be easy…their priority was quality.  Thus, he worked tirelessly to instill a culture that valued quality and encouraged behaviors reflective of a culture necessary to deliver quality in their animated films. (“Creativity, Inc.” 2014. Ed Catmull.)

Private Equity (PE) firms are in the business of successfully building businesses.  They live or die by their success in creating shareholder value, building enduring organizations, and knowing what matters.  To quote Dan Costello, Partner in the PE firm TSG Consumer Capital: “Company culture really matters.  Brands lose direction without it.  Having an empowered team that believes in the brand and vision is critical to the unpredictable entrepreneurial journey.” Know our desired culture.

Phil Knight, founder of Nike, fought for years to build “A new type of Shoe company” and nurtured a distinct culture that fought at every turn for survival against the big competitors, greedy suppliers, industry titans, and government bureaucrats. Nike’s culture was their secret weapon, and Phil knew the importance and value of having the right people on the bus, regardless of the “creative marketing idea of the day” or past experience of any one person. A culture of passion prevailed to become a business today worth $100 billion.

Hint: if the current executive leadership team struggles to agree on the desired culture, don’t worry…help can be found!  The work and effort to come to agreement on culture is itself a bonding exercise that pays big dividends.  If that doesn’t work…and you still cannot agree…then your executive team is in serious trouble!

Third: Identify what we want in our Executive Candidate.

Do we want someone to preserve and reinforce our current culture?  Or lead their teammates to a new or different culture?   Or figure out our Desired Culture for us?  Though not a tangible or measurable requirement like “Must have 10+ years of experience in our industry,” this requirement is critical. We must know our cultural expectations of each executive-level candidate before we interview or hire them.  Gain agreement, and then make these expectations clear in the Job Description.

Fourth: Assess Candidates for Best Fit.

Determine how to assess candidates for these cultural requirements documented now in our Job Description.  How would we know the candidate possesses the right values, habits, intentions, and tools to create and reinforce our desired culture?  And…how will our interview and selection process help us to know? At a minimum we could just rely on our “gut feel” when we meet candidates, since we are intimately familiar with the culture of our own organization.

When the stakes are high, and gut-feel isn’t enough, then we put more effort into candidate assessment and selection for impact on our client’s organizational culture.  Get to know a candidate’s motivations in life, career aspirations, basic principles, current life priorities, and references from past employers, teammates and subordinates.  Engage them in conversations that encompass many aspects of their work lives and decisions.  Find out what inspires them and, conversely, turns them off. Get to know their decision making by engaging in behavioral interviewing.  Involve others in the selection process, with the specific goal of assessing their potential cultural impact on your organization.

Ask candidates about their values, intentions, preferred work styles, and how they would create or reinforce your desired culture.  Sometimes candidates can be very eloquent about their own impact on and preference for specific elements of organizational culture.

Fifth: Onboarding.

I chuckle when organizations tell me ”we properly onboarded our new executive in the first week on the job!” Onboarding takes weeks, months, and sometimes years.  Onboarding is the process of guiding, mentoring, and supporting a new member of the team until that point when they can take full responsibility for their own development and success in the organization.  How long do you think that takes?  And…who benefits if they succeed?  Onboarding is worth the effort for both parties.

Onboarding is constant, persistent, active, and interactive.  With open communications, we get meaningful feedback and can then design systems and procedures to adjust behavior and expectations. Like a heat-seeking missile, the hired candidate will hone in on the desired culture through proper onboarding activities.  We then solidify desired attitudes and actions through rewards for and reinforcements of the correct behaviors that support the cultural impact we desire.

Though we cannot touch or measure the cultural impact of candidates when reading their resumes, exchanging emails, or even quick phone calls, assessing cultural impact is vital in the hiring of executives.  Though not often listed in job descriptions, knowing what we want from candidates to achieve or preserve our “desired” cultures is also critical.  Knowing, assessing, and then supporting executives in achieving desired culture is the oft-missing key to success in leading our organizations.

Boston Marathon 2018- Race Preparations

It’s that time of year again!  The Boston Marathon Race is on April 16th,. I’ll be running for the second year in a row,  with new goals: re-qualify to run again, set a P.R. by 5 minutes, and place in the top 20% of men in my age group. Just reached my 100th day of marathon training, and as I look back at those days, some highlights come to mind:   

  • I’ve run 500 training miles since Christmas. The most in one week was 49 miles.  I’ve run 20+ miles only 3 times during this training.
  • My body had to learn to shift from burning carbs to burning fat while running…it finally did!
  • I’m so pleased to work with professional coaches who created my schedule and advise on pace, exercises, nutrition, hydration, cadence, etc.
  • Training included 4 running workouts and 1-2 cross training workouts each week. Rain or shine.  Dark or light.
  • Besides coaches, I found it helpful to run with others who have similar running goals and discipline.



Having a lot of cheerleaders helps, too!  Good reminder for me to cheer on all my friends and colleagues as they pursue their goals in life.  Wish us all success!






Sonoma & Napa County Wildfires: Stanton Chase Raises $10,000 for Victims

While Napa and Sonoma Counties have gained notoriety around the globe for their outstanding wines, they recently were in the news for their destructive wildfires.  High winds and dry vegetation and hilly terrain all combined to create a fire storm that raced overnight through parks, vineyards, homes, businesses, hotels, and stores.  Tens of thousands were evacuated in the dead of night in the nicest of neighborhoods.

Wildfires came perilously close to Sonoma’s Scribe Winery, but CalFire crews held the flames back and the winery is still standing.

The fires burned over 5,000 homes, 210,000 acres, hundreds of businesses, and took over 40 lives.  Thick smoke and ashes blocked sunlight around the Bay Area for many days.  Thousands remain displaced today, and face the grim reality of having lost all their possessions and in need of rebuilding their homes.

Stanton Chase – San Francisco came together as a team to respond to this tragedy.  In addition to the many volunteers who served the evacuees in make-shift shelters, money needed to be raised to immediately get people back on their feet.  Our team wanted to help, so we set a goal to raise $10,000 for fire victims.  Within a few days we donated our first check for $8,500 to Brett Martinez, CEO of the Redwood Credit Union and spokesperson for the North Bay Fire Relief Fund.  We recently donated the balance of our $10,000 goal.

Brett Martinez, CEO of Redwood Credit Union (RCU) receiving check from Paul Herrerias.

We are proud to report due our underwriting of all fund-raising fees, selection of the best online tools, and generous donation distribution partners, that 100% of the funds from our donors went to the victims of these fires.  With our research team’s skills, our network in the community, and everyone’s caring and generosity, we came together as ordinary people but were able to accomplish an extraordinary act of support.

The slogans ”Sonoma Strong” and ”Love is Thicker than Smoke” will remain in our minds and hearts for many years to come.

Judy James, Chair of Santa Rosa Metro Chamber and Board Member- RCU, receiving latest check from Stanton Chase for North Bay Fire Relief Fund.

Side note: Just days before the fires broke out our team was selected to conduct the search for CEO for the Santa Rosa Metro Chamber of Commerce.  This new leader will have the opportunity to help Santa Rosa and Sonoma County to rebuild from the worst natural disaster since the 1906 Earthquake and Fire.

To contribute to our ongoing fund-raising efforts:  www.youcaring.com/FriendsofNorCal

For photos and a chronicle of our efforts to keep our network informed of the fires, see my personal Facebook page. 

To read details of fire unfolding from Chamber Board Chair, Judy James: http://california.comcast.com/2017/11/14/employee-profiles-judy-james-comcasts-first-responder/

Fountaingrove Golf Clubhouse devastated by fire.

Charred statues all that remain of destroyed business.








Stanton Chase – San Francisco meets Brett Martinez and Judy James. Our team pledged to raise $10,000.

Proven Tips on Managing Culture for Desired Organizational Results: Lessons Learned from the Firing Line, Where Failure was not an Option.


Paul Herrerias recently interviewed Josh Fryday, President of Golden State Opportunity, on the topic of managing culture.  Josh has created three organizations, and recently added a local town mayoral role to his credentials.  His work experience managing culture has been greenfield, where he created organizations from scratch and thus was free to create the culture he desired and envisioned.  Conversely, as mayor, he inherited a culture, which is very different.  Noteworthy, his leadership experience spans state, regional, and nationwide organizations.

PAUL:  Let’s start by defining culture…it is like air in its intangibility. Good air is needed by us all, and yet we don’t’ see it, and often don’t notice it until it gets stale.  How do you, as the leader, define culture?

JOSH: “I define culture as the environment within which individual behaviors act.”

PAUL: Before I ask for your advice on building cultures to support successful organizations, first tell me a little about where your learned about various cultures and their impact on teammates and organizational success?

JOSH: “I took my cues on culture from my communities growing up (my family moved 17 times by the time I went to college), from my schools, including college and law school, from my experience with the NAVY Judge Advocate General’s corps (JAG), and from studying other successful leaders in government and business.  I then led NextGen Climate on a national level, created a state-wide organization called Golden State Opportunity, and also serve as Town Councilmember and recently as mayor for municipality”

PAUL: “There are few global, definitive answers to culture, though when asked everyone has an opinion about what works and doesn’t work. Josh, looking back at the organizations you built from scratch, what were the important principals you followed to build the most effective culture?”

JOSH: Here are my learnings on how to lead culture:

  1. Have a clear vision.  In the Navy we were very clear within our JAG department what we were trying to accomplish: Prosecute or Defend members of the Navy.  We were very effective, except when personnel were not fully engaged in the mission, such as during off-duty time.  At NextGen Climate, we started with a clear mission, including time-bound quantifiable goals for new legislation or desired outcomes of elections.  The challenge came after we achieved those short-term goals on election day and had to reset goals without the benefit of a new specific election date.  Without that sense of urgency, we had to learn a new way to set goals that focused us on our mission.  Operating without goals allows for internal turmoil, distractions, and conflict. When you have all this top talent and energy, we must keep it directed in a productive direction.  Thus, we had to reset goals to maintain focus, support positive relations internally, emphasize purpose, and maintain momentum toward our mission. Governments are challenged now with question:  What is the role of government?  Change the economy? world? culture? This lack of mission and vision focus is causing a lot of the turmoil we are experiencing at all levels of government.  Businesses have the same challenge to stay focused on organizational mission and vision.
  2. Make sure everyone in the organization feels valued and needed.   Dali Lama wrote an article before Trump was elected: Why are the two most financially successful governments in the history of the world (USA and England) experiencing so much anxiety?  He believes that people want to be needed, respected, and valued, yet many individuals are feeling superfluous, which leads to negative feelings, and then bad behavior.  Conversely, in the Navy every person knows their role and its impact on the mission.  Are you chipping paint on the carrier?  Then you are critical to keeping the ship afloat.  Are you a cook in kitchen? Then you are feeding the General, so he can help us win the war.   Everyone is needed and valued.
  3. Recognize collective accomplishments. A goal is not accomplished through one individual’s effort.  Instead, goals are achieved through the collective work of the team and the organization. Set team goals, hold the team accountable, support the team, and celebrate team successes.  Again, in the military, unit-wide or team awards are prized higher by the enlisted men than individual recognition or medals.  Teamwork dedicated to pursuing the mission drives away many bad habits and individual behaviors that weaken the culture and the organization.
  4. Set up mechanisms for sharing information…quickly.  To win as an organization, and a team, information must be shared efficiently, effectively, and on a timely basis.  Access to needed information builds trust, supports better quality decision making, saves resources, increases learning, and increases the chances for success.  So, what are the alternatives?  Siloed organizations.

 PAUL: When everyone knows the mission, the team and individual goals, and feels empowered and critical in their roles, the next thing to happen is disappointment when the boss doesn’t listen to them or let them try something new.  How do you deal with this human-systems disconnect?

JOSH: Yes, this brings up a couple extra points about building culture, which I’ve learned along the way:

1.Support and encourage risk taking. In healthy environments risk taking is tolerated…and even encouraged.  Learning together yields stronger cultures and organizations.  Conversely, Intolerance disincentives taking risks.  Fear of a boss’ negative reaction can become a clearer focus than the team mission.  The Military does everything it can to mitigate this risk.  For example, we had to write an AAR- After Action Report, after EVERY outing.  What worked?  What didn’t work?  What did I learn from it. We had a monthly award for those who took the biggest risk to be adaptive, creative, or take initiative…yet didn’t endanger the mission.  Leaders must manage the RISK.  In the office we commonly manage risk through the budgeting process, empowering to the extent each person can be successful given their experience, scope, information, and role.

2.Be willing to change and adapt.  Keep the Mission within the context of the Vision and the Values of the organization, which means sometimes we have to be willing to change with the times, events, and circumstance.  A mission lives because of the overarching Vision that brought us together and is pursued in alignment with the Values of the organization.  Keep the Vision alive and adjust the Mission as needed.  Lead the culture in such a way that members of the organization are clear on the Values and are living them.  Model the way and showcase the right values being exercised by teammates, highlight them as examples, as reinforcement.


Thank you, Josh Fryday, for sharing you experience and learnings from the battlefields of life and organizational leadership!

Active Searches – December 2017

To learn more: 

please reach out us with any questions, referrals, or a formal Position Description.
Chief Executive Officer
Prominent San Francisco North Bay Chamber of Commerce. Lead members, staff, business community, and the metro region through economic development, policy setting (housing, transportation, education, workforce, etc.), disaster recovery, and rebuilding efforts. Be the voice of business in the metro area. Executive experience in business, non-profits, or chambers preferred.
National Sales Manager
National Category leader in processed food/feed ingredients. Solely responsible for a $100M product line.  Develop existing clients and creatively expand through product and business development. Strong Base + bonus.  Team environment. Either Marin County or remote.
COO/Sr. Operations Director
Specialty Law Firm
San Francisco-based specialty law firm, national subject-matter experts in distribution of wine/beer/spirits, looking for their next “COO” to guide them to be the “law firm of the future!”
Outdoor Hospitality
PE-sponsored consumer outdoor adventure experience company.  Build them from $10M to $100M as they add location across the USA.  Attractive compensation, including equity.  Located in the Rocky Mountains.
General Manager – USA
Global Outdoor Sports Brand
$1B privately-held, global outdoor action-sports and lifestyle brand, integrated marketplace, omni-channel GTM strategy, consumer-driven, technology-first industry powerhouse.
HR Leader – LATAM
Global Outdoor Sports Brand
Global Outdoor Sports Brand. Lead People & Culture, and Talent Acquisition for Central and South America. Outdoor enthusiast preferred, and Spanish language skills helpful.  Familiarity with sports culture.
Head of Communications
Global Outdoor Sports Brand
Global Outdoor Sports Brand. PR, internal and external communications manager. Interface with senior executive team. Lead Comm team. Familiarity with outdoor sports community and culture.
Director of Enterprise Applications
Global Outdoor Sports Brand
Global Outdoor Sports Brand. Coordinate multiple projects in IT. Can you translate business possibility into technical reality? Liaise between CIO and business system users to transform, deliver, and experience best practices in IT.  Support a $1B global growing business and outdoor sports culture.