IIC Member Outlook: Integrated vs Non-Integrated Executive Search Firms

Stephan B. Breitfeld, a member of IIC Partners, recently wrote an article discussing the differences between integrated and non-integrated executive search firms. Read it below and connect with Stephan on LinkedIn to discuss.

The global executive search market continues to be an interesting playing field that always evolves. I’ve been a keen observer of these developments and especially as to how Executive Search networks have started to transform. One of the keys seems to be their flexibility: the ability to adapt and change quickly – in disruptive and challenging times. But what makes the difference between an integrated and a non-integrated Executive Search Firm and what are the pros and cons? And are they actually that different after all?

Integrated Executive Search Firms

An integrated search firm shares a brand, a mission. Things seem to be fairly laid out. A board reflects the collective views and needs of the whole firm and gives the legitimacy and authority to ensure integration. Here, it appears that unity and having all departments under the same roof facilitate comprehension for the client.

The management of the Executive Search Firm owns, arranges and manages all subsidiaries and departments. In an ideal world that results in a “seamless” integration of the work or process chain because everything is wholly owned by the Executive Search Firm. Usually each member/department of the process chain produces a part of the “specific searches” and the service is then combined to satisfy the need of the client.

However, I have witnessed how this organizational model is not necessarily always the answer for multi-national clients. In fact, often multi-office firms have complained privately that their interests do not align with those of smaller offices and departments that are part of the brand, and that flexibility is lacking when it comes to international reach.

Non-integrated Executive Search Firms

Executive Search networks are more flexible, thus having the possibility to faster and more effectively adapt to altered circumstances while assisting clients with their need for talent in other areas of the world. However, a network seems sometimes unattractive for multi-national clients.Why is that? Assuming it is better to take the save bet in the eyes of the stakeholders?

Change the point of view and take IIC Partners as an example. IIC stands for “Independent – International – Consultants” and the Partners (shareholders) are working in a partnership. These Partners are part of the extended shareholder management team. Why? IIC Partners Ltd. combines international consultancies into a Ltd. which means – following our outline above – that it can’t work “seamlessly”. The question is though what the “seam” actually is. There are rules, regulations and due diligence before one is accepted as a Shareholder/Partner of IIC but still the Partners will remain independent consultants.

What’s best?

Let’s assume that both types of Executive Search Firms know that consistency, standardized procedures, client focus, freely shared information, shared leads while maintaining collegiality are the foundation of a successful search. The non-integrated firms often have a slightly bigger need to be outstanding within their industry, since no big brand is shielding their way. AND every part of the non-integrated search firm network is a separate economic structure and has a strong interest in being successful without having a guaranteed paycheck by the end of the month.

Everybody is in it to win it but there are certainly cases where one or the other choice makes more sense.

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