Global Panorama Conference in Nashville

Craig Buffkin, Roland Lundy and their team at The Buffkin Group ( were the hosts of the most recent Panorama Global Search Partners meeting in Nashville, Tennessee this September.


Highlights from the 3 days were the welcoming of two new Partner firms to the network –  Executive Performance from Brazil ( with 35 employees, three offices and an impressive client list of companies including Walmart, L’Oréal, Burger King, Nike, Novus, Schneider, BP, Sony, SAP, as well as Brazilian-based organizations operating around the world. The second inductee is headquartered in Germany and will be announced later this month. Each new Partner strongly complements Panorama’s values for unmatched service, its access to top talent around the globe and its world-class client mix across a wide variety of practice areas.


Some of the industry trends which were discussed include government legislated quotas on the percentage of women on Boards; the expansion of complementary consulting services offered to long-term clients including succession planning, coaching, assessment and outplacement; and the trend in Higher Education to be searching outside of country borders for Deans of Business Schools.

Besides the business meeting aspect of the conference, we also enjoyed the southern hospitality which included a visit to the Country Music Hall of Fame; performances by stars like Blake Shelton and Rascal Flats at the Grand Ole Opry; and an intimate private performance at the Buffkin family home by two Grammy-winning country music songwriters.  A phenomenal time was had by all the Partners and their spouses, new relationships were established and best practises were shared.  We look forward to next years’ annual conference in London, England.


Niche Technology – A PFM Partnership Success Story

Niche Technology is a software solutions company based in Winnipeg, Manitoba that specializes in providing enabling technology to the law enforcement industry. Police agencies using Niche’s Records Management System (RMS) provide officers with the ability to be fully connected while working the beat, to share information more reliably between jurisdictions, and ultimately to reduce crime in the communities they serve.

In late 2012, PFM Executive Search was asked by Niche to find a global Vice President, Sales & Marketing to achieve a dominant market share in the US, similar to what the company has established other markets such as Canada, the UK and Australia.  Our team worked collaboratively with owners in BC and Manitoba to identify and hire an individual with a stellar track record of selling enterprise solutions in the public sector space with organizations including Microsoft and Xerox. Craig Hannah was brought onboard; he is based in Connecticut and travels extensively to Niche’s main markets around the world. After a year with the organization, Craig hired PFM to find a new Director, Marketing Communications to assist him in revitalizing the organization’s brand. We took on the challenge and headhunted a talented marketing executive named Lisa Van Brunt from Motorola who is based in Illinois.

In 2014, as a result of the success of these recruits, Niche again turned to PFM Executive Search to locate two Directors of Business Development for the east coast of the United States.  On these projects we worked in unison with our Panorama Partner office in Nashville, leveraging their regional market knowledge and contacts, along with our understanding of Niche’s culture and leadership team. Travis Knudsen and Cory Taylor have recently joined Niche, bringing their industry expertise in the public safety sector. These two sales executives will work with Craig to continue to pursue Niche’s vision of becoming the world leader in RMS technology.

The whole team at PFM has thoroughly enjoyed partnering with Niche Technology and we wish the organization and its new additions the very best as it continues to grow.

To learn more about Niche Technology and their advancements in the field of incident reporting visit their website –

Straight Talk with the Head-hunter

As a candidate, how can I get constructive feedback when unsuccessful in a search process?

It’s not easy when you’re receiving the bad news that someone else was chosen for the career role you had your heart set on, but remember, at the onset there can often be 50+ candidates all shooting it out. If you’ve applied to a position that was advertised and you were not selected for an initial ‘qualifying call’ on the phone or a face-to-face interview with the search firm handling the assignment, you shouldn’t expect to receive the feedback described below as the volume of candidates will usually make this request unreasonable to expect. If however, you make it to the shortlist, which is traditionally only 5-6 finalists, you’ve invested a lot of time and energy to the process and should the offer not come to you in the end, there’s still informative information you can benefit from. A reputable Head-hunter should be open, consultative and forthright in providing feedback when you’re receiving the turn-down professionally (hint…try not to sound defensive or augmentative in the discussion). Go ahead and ask:

1) Was the hiring company open to candidates from outside their industry?

Some clients’ selection committees are dead-set on finding someone who can make a quick transition and will not be required to learn how a new industry works while others have less time urgency and are looking for leadership and strategic skills that can transferred from one sector to another. As a candidate, this sort of decision is a little outside your ability to influence no matter how convincing you are.

2) Did the feedback you receive from your client align with how you viewed my candidacy?

As Head-hunters we’re looking for consistency in how you show up for an interview, whether you’re successful or not. Its difficult enough to predict with certainty how a candidate will do in a position based on what you assess in their interview, but even more difficult when there are wild variations in your confidence level, communication style, preparedness, energy and responses to questions from one meeting to the next.

3) Which questions could I have done a better job answering?

Notice, like all really good probing questions, that this query doesn’t allow for a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer so it will get the Head-hunter to share where you didn’t do adequate research, could have provided a more relevant example, gotten into more detail, or where you simply didn’t have the prior exposure.

4) Please leave me with a piece of advice for future interviews.

This will allow the Head-hunter to be honest and candid about what you can think about doing to improve your interviewing techniques and if you’ve made a fatal mistake, this question should get to the bottom of it.

Remember to thank the recruiter for providing information as the way you handle rejection and the manner you seek constructive criticism can go a long way to developing a deeper relationship. There have been countless instances when a client decides they want to go back and re-engage with someone who has been released earlier and how you communicate your disappointment can go a long way in bringing your name back up to the top.

If you have any burning questions about the executive search business and you’d like to receive some straight talk, please feel free to contact me at

Successful Succession Planning

The mass exodus of Baby Boomers has been delayed slightly by the global recession, but company leaders shouldn’t be taking their eye off the ball when it comes to identifying their future successor.   You need to ask yourself who will be in your seat when you’ve left.

Start now. Search firms are often retained at the time the pin is pulled, and it surprises me how few companies have a plan in place. Boards and CEOs should be working with HR and acting like talent scouts inside and outside the organization to build a list of prospects; a roster which will of course change and evolve over time. Specialists in selection and assessment can be brought in to help look at the internal bench-strength and networks can be tapped to add prospects’ names from outside.

Recognize it’s not going to be easy. Leaders struggle with filling their own role more than any other search they’ll ever do because, guess what, they’re going to be looking for someone just like themselves. To top that off, demographics are working against you; Candidates for executive leadership roles in highest demand are those in their late 30s to late 40s with lots of “runway” and these folks who are sandwiched between the Boomers and the Y Generation are simply less plentiful.

Cast the net broadly. Look closely at leadership candidates from different functional areas of your own organization and even from other industry sectors outside your company. Just because you came up the stream of Engineering or Finance doesn’t mean your successor will need to rake the same path to the top. Every company we do business with believes their customers, suppliers, market, competitive forces and technology are completely unique; they’re right and some technical roles require specific qualifications, certifications and training but if we’re talking about an executive role, smart successful leaders can often transcend perceived gaps, especially with qualified technical teams beneath them.

Let the prime candidates in on the plan. Communicate openly about the succession strategy and be specific on timeline, commitment, compensation, and other items the person will need to understand when contemplating the job you’re grooming her/him for. As a an executive search consultant, I can’t tell you how many times a strong candidate is out looking for something new, not because of being unhappy or unfulfilled, but rather because she/he is completely in the dark about their future prospects.

The continued success of your organization will be determined by the team you shape.

How to Make the Most of an Interview

Being interviewed?  Here are 7 tips for your next big one.

  1. Always dress the part.  A good rule of thumb is to be one degree more formal in your attire than the audience you’re presenting to…and don’t be mistaken, you’re always presenting.  You can never go wrong with a dark suit (both for men and women) and a crisp white shirt.  Save your quirky fashion statement pieces for cocktail parties and make sure your shoes are always polished and in good shape.  You can tell a lot about a person’s character from the condition of their shoes.  I could write a whole column on clothing alone but lets move on to other important considerations…
  1. Know when to start talking and also when to stop.  Nerves can be amped up in an interview situation and you may be keen to jump into prose because you see where the question is going and you have the perfect response in mind.  Slow down, keep eye contact with the interviewer to ensure all the words are out before sharing your best example.  Provide a complete and succinct answer and then say no more. Usually there is a whole slate of questions an interview committee will want to ask and you should always be cognizant of the time.
  1. We want proof.  Avoid answering questions with “I would do this or that…” because…well, it sounds like you’re speculating.  Interviewers are looking for answers to their questions which provide specific examples of how you’ve done things in the past and what success you had.  Use, “I experienced that when…”, or “An example which could be relevant was…”
  1. There is no “I” in Team.  I’m sure you’ve heard this before but it warrants pointing out because its one of the most common comments made in the debrief session after an interview. There are bound to be a number of wonderful things you’ve done in complete isolation but unless you can walk on water you’ve needed colleagues, clients, direct reports and supervisors to help accomplish the objectives in your quarterly plan.  You’ll never be criticized for being too modest by saying “we”.
  1. Stop moving around.  Incessant fidgeting is just as distracting for an interviewer as it was for your grade 2 teacher.  Whether your habit of choice is flipping a pen, making sewing machine movements with your foot, or constantly glancing out the window, try to take a deep breath, calm your body down, and let your accomplishments and ideas be what gets noticed.
  1. Silence can be golden.  Don’t be afraid of taking a pause required to think of a real example.  Behavioural based interviews are the norm and a good interviewee will ask some thought-provoking questions beyond….”What are your key strengths?”  Take a minute to probe your mind rather than providing a response that just touches the surface or even worse, responding with, “I can’t remember a time when that has ever occurred”. If you’re totally stumped, at least offer to come back to the question later in the interview.
  1. Be yourself.  You won’t want the job, and certainly won’t be successful in it if the Selection Committee chooses the person they see in the interview and that person isn’t the real you.  Be genuine and true and it will be the right outcome whether you’re selected or not.