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Mercedes Chatfield-Taylor (Caldwell Partners) on How To Hire Marketing Executives

In this weeks episode of Scaleup Marketing I talk to Mercedes Chatfield-Taylor, a managing partner of Caldwell’s Private Equity and Venture Capital Executive Search Practice. Mercedes focuses on executive-level search for high-growth technology companies, with deep expertise in B2B SaaS companies. Mercedes and I talk about the role of executive search and how she identifies and qualifies marketing candidates. And we talk about the diversity problem in tech and the role executive recruiters play in helping solve it.

[00:00:00] Tom Wentworth: [00:00:00] Hey Mercedes, how are you? I’m good, Tom. How are you? It’s great to talk to you.

You actually placed me at Recorded Future a little over a year ago.

Mercedes Chatfield-Taylor: [00:00:10] Yep. Fantastic. 

Tom Wentworth: [00:00:12] Can’t believe it’s been that long time flies. 

Mercedes Chatfield-Taylor: [00:00:15] Yeah. 

Tom Wentworth: [00:00:16] Did you know when you first reached out to me? I went and looked at all the times that we’ve communicated over the years. Any idea when you first reach out to me and what it was for. 

Mercedes Chatfield-Taylor: [00:00:28] I didn’t until you sent me a note and I saw it and it was actually an Insight portfolio company.

So it was one of my first projects with insight for the company jet arts. 

Tom Wentworth: [00:00:38] Yeah, exactly. 

Mercedes Chatfield-Taylor: [00:00:39] Yeah. Yeah. 

Tom Wentworth: [00:00:40] For CEO search, I was, I should have been more flattered than I think I was, I was clearly not a fit for that, but, and gen arts is a really cool company. I didn’t really know. 

Mercedes Chatfield-Taylor: [00:00:51] Yeah. And it was Really interesting tech.

They were open to somebody who was go to market and particularly [00:01:00] product marketing messaging positioning, because they felt that they really had a go to market issue versus a tech product market fit issue. 

Tom Wentworth: [00:01:11] Really rare for, I was talking to Dave Kellogg, who you and I both know about. He’s one of the few marketers who successfully transitioned into becoming a CEO.

It’s a really difficult transition for, for CMOs to make 

Mercedes Chatfield-Taylor: [00:01:25] it is though, a couple of people, Jen grant recently became a CMI CEO. And there it is, it is typically though a tougher transition than. You know, chief product officer or obviously chief operating officer. I think traditionally a lot of Valley companies have looked at CRS though.

I think in PGG companies, that’s a mistake. But yeah, the CMO role has not been as much of a feeder to the CEO spot as some of the others. 

[00:02:00] Tom Wentworth: [00:02:01] Yeah, not at all. But I remember when I looked at all the times, you’re from which we’ll talk about in a second, Reached out to me, they were all really great opportunities.

The track record of, of the opportunities that either you or your firm brought in front of me were really, really great. So tell me a little bit about the, about Caldwell, what you do and what you focus.

Mercedes Chatfield-Taylor: [00:02:21] Sure. So as a firm we focus pretty much on. C-level work. So CMIO CTO CRO functional roles that report to the CEO. I personally run our VC and private equity practice. So I work fairly exclusively with venture backed companies, private equity, backed companies primarily looking for folks to.

Run product, run, marketing run, go to market as well. So CRS as well. And then, and then on the flip side of that, I do a lot of work with the firms themselves. So I do, I put [00:03:00] partners into many of the brand name VC firms, as well as operating partners into private equity firms and some partners into private equity.

So that’s that’s me. And before Caldwell, I’ve been at Caldwell for about, well, over 10 and a half years. And before that ran the same thing, the venture capital practice for Heidrick and struggles, which is a very large global firm. 

Tom Wentworth: [00:03:22] Yeah. 

Mercedes Chatfield-Taylor: [00:03:23] And I think that’s actually, when we first, I think I was at Heidrick.

Tom Wentworth: [00:03:26] You were a long time ago. What’s this cool about LinkedIn? If you go back and everything is there, I was surprised at how much. You can go back and see all the, all the mat, all the sort of messages. It’s a little scary too. I should probably go and make sure I purged some of those. 

Mercedes Chatfield-Taylor: [00:03:43] Yeah. 

Tom Wentworth: [00:03:45] You do a lot of work for insight partners who is, you know, recorded future is a partner with, how did you get?

And I think by a lot of work, you do all almost all of their, their executive recruiting or a big chunk of it. How did that relationship come about? 

Mercedes Chatfield-Taylor: [00:03:59] Yeah. [00:04:00] So I started with working with insight insight. When I started working with them was much more of a New York centric firms or the East coast centric firms.

Do they invest all over the world all over the country? Certainly. As well, I got introduced to them primarily through other VCs with whom I worked. I’ve done a lot of work over the years with gray lock. I’ve done quite a bit of work. With other firms here, you know, Sequoia and Lightspeed and others.

And I got introduced to insight through several of those relationships and started to work with them. Up and down the East coast and in their portfolio with companies like gen arts. And that led me to, to really specializing with them. They tend to like to work with recruiters, to do who are deep subject matter experts in one area or another, so that it’s sort of a product market fit with their portfolio.

So with insight, I’ve done. A lot of their chief marketing officer work, a big chunk of it. And [00:05:00] these tend to be companies that are, you know, somewhere beyond 20 30 million in revenue. They’re either looking to go from. Single product to platform and into the hands of some, to the hands of many, or from Europe into North America for the first time companies like Showpad and lean IIX and checkout and others that I’ve worked with, but that the has really been built on.

A great partnership, consistent work across their portfolio and bringing to bear folks like you put CMOs and CPOs into a lot of their companies that have had big liquidity events solar winds and floral side, and many others turn it in. A lot of their companies get acquired quite a creatively as well as go public.

So it’s, it’s been a. It’s been a really good relationship. 

Tom Wentworth: [00:05:58] Yeah. Pluralsight had a pretty [00:06:00] big event this week, I think. Right? 

Mercedes Chatfield-Taylor: [00:06:01] Yeah. I think if you’re, if your company’s named anything site this last week, you were on the target list. So plural site Gainsight. Yeah. 

Tom Wentworth: [00:06:12] I just both Vista. 

Mercedes Chatfield-Taylor: [00:06:14] Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. So those are great outcomes for two wonderful founders.

Tom Wentworth: [00:06:20] Yeah. And insight has a pretty spectacular track record too. So that’s that helps. 

Mercedes Chatfield-Taylor: [00:06:25] Yeah. They have a wonderful track record. They are, they invest in great companies. They really bring to bear. You’re part of the thing that’s interesting about working with them is they are so invested in building out the.

The scalability of these companies with operational excellence. So they have a marketing center of excellence is I think, you know, I think you interviewed with Gary service when we were talking about, 

Tom Wentworth: [00:06:46] we’ll talk about that in a second. That’s my one of my next topic. 

Mercedes Chatfield-Taylor: [00:06:49] Yep. Good, good, 

Tom Wentworth: [00:06:50] good. We’ll start there.

It was the hardest interview I’ve had in my career. So I enjoyed the process for being hired at recorded future. I talked to you, I talked to Christopher, the [00:07:00] CEO and some exact team members. And when I got to insight. Very clearly they have an interviewing methodology and an approach to it. And it was really difficult.

It was a challenging, I met with a few people there, including Gary and they drill in that, you know, to they double click at a level that most interviewers don’t. Tell me about this. Well, how did you deal with this? Well, tell me that more to the point where you get down to the exact tactic. It’s a really interesting, and it was, it was great.

And I have a lot of respect for them for doing that, but it was by far. The most thorough interviewing process that I think I’ve ever had in coming to join a company. 

Mercedes Chatfield-Taylor: [00:07:38] Yeah. I mean, they’re there. So they, part of their big differentiation is that they really can help these companies. Through operational excellence and through improving their operations, their go to market functions, their product organizations.

And so those subject matter experts live [00:08:00] at insight. And, and so before they deploy them into the field or before they find people like you to help the companies to succeed. So in order to make sure that you’re going to be successful and the company is going to be successful, they. I want to have these competency-based interviews with their subject matter expert and Gary service is that for insight on the marketing side, I actually just hired their product center of excellence lead, and that is Ryan Polk.

He’s amazing. And I can only imagine he’s having interviews like that right now. Future chief product officers. Yeah, they, they drill down on it’s it goes well beyond the. You know, tell me what you did and what you found too, you know, what’s the marketing tech stack and what are the OKR? Is you, you track?

Who did you, you know, who owned those OKR cars? I mean, they’re very, very detail oriented. 

Tom Wentworth: [00:08:55] I did great. I think on all of those questions where Gary and I got into it a [00:09:00] little bit, and it was a really interesting question. It’s. Know, you’re in marketing, talk about salespeople and what motivates them. And I used to be in sales a bit.

And what motivated me was winning a deal. I love the feeling of winning a deal and being an se. And knowing that I beat the competition, motivated me. I thought that C and I said, it’s, coin-operated salespeople are in sales to make lots of money. You know, they often do their pricing strategy by looking at.

Their mortgage payment and to make my mortgage payment, when I reverse engineer up to how much the deal is going to cost. But so I, so Gary and I, he said, well, you’re missing something, Tom I’m okay. I don’t know what I’m missing, I’m missing. And I eventually got to it, which was recognition. Which I thought was really important.

And he, you know, he, he, he got me there eventually, but I thought I was miserably going to fail our interview over that topic and eventually dragged it out of me. 

Mercedes Chatfield-Taylor: [00:09:54] Yeah. Yeah, no, they have a really thorough process and, you know, they, we we get to see [00:10:00] the stats on the other side of this and they have like a seven point process they run and when their portfolio companies.

Take on all seven points. The likelihood of the hire being successful is over 90% and it drops with the inability to execute on one of those points. And I’d say the other thing with them too, is that there. This may sound heavy handed. But when I talked to the portfolio companies, CEOs, and executives, it doesn’t feel heavy handed.

It feels like a really good and get, you know interactive process. So it’s, it’s, I think it’s, it is a big differentiator for them and it’s a huge value for the portfolio. 

Tom Wentworth: [00:10:45] It’s something that private equity companies do really well that standalone startups, don’t private equity companies. Understand the importance of placing executives and the long-term impact of doing it poorly, where people like [00:11:00] insight and Vista and others just have made it into a formula and about the data.

It also, I assume helps you because, you know, as an executive recruiter, the kinds of attributes that will make candidates successful well to that thought process. 

Mercedes Chatfield-Taylor: [00:11:12] Yep. No, it’s super helpful. That’s one of the reasons I love working with them. So 

Tom Wentworth: [00:11:17] let’s talk about marketing leaders specifically. So you do a lot of placement of VPs and CMOs.

So how do you, like, how do you know, what do you look for? Like, how do you, when you start, you have a pool of people on a universe of people, where do you first start your focus? Does it start? Does the process start by? Obviously I assume that the founder CEO gives you some profile. Is that how it 

Mercedes Chatfield-Taylor: [00:11:39] starts?

So. It is driven by what the company needs and it’s driven by what the CEO can articulate around what those needs are. So if she needs somebody who, you know, is. Incredibly strong [00:12:00] around storytelling messaging positioning, because they don’t yet have a cohesive brand in the market. Then that’s going to be one area we’re going to build into scorecard.

So essentially we developed a scorecard with the CEO and that scorecard should really cover. It’s like when you go, how shopping and you’re thinking about, you know, the first thing you want to pick is where do you want to live geographically? The second thing is. You know, what, what’s the neighborhood within that geography?

The third thing might be, do you want a one story home or a two story home, but you have to set those guidelines really early on and then get into the search directed by those guidelines. So it really does come down to the, you know, what are the, what are the. What are the core qualifications that they’re looking for?

What is, what is the first-year success? What does the second year success look like? What are those success factors? And then we build the scorecard around that core criteria and the success factors. And part of it is really drilling down with the CTO [00:13:00] around not just what they think they need. But what.

The needs, what are the holes within the organization? So what is the current team look like? What are the strengths of the team? How do you build diversity into that team? So that, that’s how you think about getting into the market. And it really does behoove a company. And a process to go a little bit slower in the beginning to make sure you have all those guide rails set up so that then you can go fast.

It’s that old adage about go slow to go fast. And when you skip that step, it is inevitably a shit show in like you there’s, you have to have a directed. Data-driven search and you have to tear yourself up with the right direction to get the right feeds. And in terms of data, Is there anything 

Tom Wentworth: [00:13:52] specific to the scorecard for marketers that stands out as being different from other executives?

You feel obviously marketers, [00:14:00] there’s this old adage that we have this shortest time of anyone in the C suite and, you know, marketers lose their job. 

Mercedes Chatfield-Taylor: [00:14:07] He says might have the shortest time of anyone in the C-suite right now. Fat 

Tom Wentworth: [00:14:11] too. Chatty. Fair enough. Is there anything, what makes, what makes marketing in particular more difficult to recruit for?

Mercedes Chatfield-Taylor: [00:14:19] Yeah, I think part of the challenge is that. Companies don’t understand what marketing can or can’t do. And so often marketing becomes this catch all for, you know, we can’t find product market fit, so let’s hire a marketer to come in and market us so that product so that the market finds us. And that’s not something marketing can solve for.

So what can marketing solve for if you have. Good. If you have great technology or good, good to great technology, and you have product market fit with that technology, and you know who you’re going to sell to [00:15:00] then marketing can absolutely help you with the messaging and the positioning and the seeding of the market.

So that you’re. Sales organization. If you’re an enterprise driven sales organization can shorten up the sales cycle and sell more efficiently and effectively. So, you know, the first thing is really defining what, what it is that you want of marketing and then making sure that maps to what marketing can actually do.

And so generally the attributes that we’re looking for, I’d say particularly over the last year have, have been around. Product driven growth. So how does marketing product marketing in particular has become just a huge hugely desired skillset and a needed skillset in a CMO. And as you know, it’s not that.

CMOs should be strong enough across all the marketing functions from demand generation messaging and positioning corporate marketing field marketing, product marketing to [00:16:00] be dangerous, quote unquote, but I’ve seen a huge emphasis over the last year on product marketing. 

Tom Wentworth: [00:16:05] Yeah. Dave Kellogg again, made a great point.

There’s three, three main attributes, right? Demand gen. Brand comms, product marketing, and you can only realistically be great at two of those. And I think that’s the CEO’s who look for somebody who’s this magical unicorn who’s going to solve every one of those. That’s not a realistic role of a view of a CMO.

You can certainly hire for that. I think in particular, I was a product marketer with. Product marketer slash demand generator. And that just meant I had to make sure it recorded future that we had great comms and PR people and we do 

Mercedes Chatfield-Taylor: [00:16:41] totally, totally. And that is the big thing. I think when you go looking for a COO or any senior executive, and again, it goes again, it goes back to the scorecard.

What is the critical, if you’ve got five criteria. And you’re going to weight each criteria to add up to a hundred what’s the criteria are going to give [00:17:00] 20, and then you divide the other four up. You divide the other four vectors across that, or what’s the one you’re going to give 25 or even 30, usually not more than 40.

But what, what are you going to give the most weight to? And that’s where your person’s going to spike really, really high. And then just make sure that that is a realistic. Attribute of a CMO. I mean, I do think sometimes people want this combination of incredibly data-driven lead generation they’ll want somebody who’s grown up in demand generation lead generation, creating demand organic growth.

And then they’ll also want somebody who is really strong in product and not understand that product management is separate from product marketing. So they’re, they’re things you can’t get together in one body and things you can. But again, to me, it comes back to being really clear [00:18:00] at the onset as to what hole you’re trying to fill and making sure it’s a hole that marketing can fill.

Is 

Tom Wentworth: [00:18:07] that something you find you have to teach CEO’s or do they know that coming into the hiring process? 

Mercedes Chatfield-Taylor: [00:18:13] Generally, I don’t have to teach the AMA CEOs, but I have to, I have to be able to show them profiles of people who are exemplary of the, kind of. Skillset they’re looking for so that then we can anchor around the reality of real human beings, as opposed to, I mean, in, in.

Almost every search at one stage, we’ll all look at each other, whether it’s a CEO search or a COO search or a CPO search, and we’ll say, wow, I really wish I could get Tom plus, you know, Jen in one person and you can’t do that, but you can hire a CMO who spikes really high in these [00:19:00] areas. AZ and know that they’re a strong enough manager of people to hire to your point you’re head of PR and comms.

Right? So that that’s the, that it’s not so much that I have to the CEOs generally. Even if they’ve never hired a CMO before, once you start talking about the realities of how people come up, the ranks of marketing, you can show them what’s possible within one person and show them how that person can hire this person who sits on their team.

Tom Wentworth: [00:19:34] Yeah. Well, it’s good to hear that. It’s good to hear that you’re not having to entirely reset someone’s expectations. How do you. So given the scorecard, given you’ve gotten past that stage in the process, how do you start building the top of your funnel? 

Mercedes Chatfield-Taylor: [00:19:52] So typically once we know so from a, if you’re looking at a scorecard and the number one thing is [00:20:00] product driven, growth, product, marketing, messaging, positioning in that kind of environment, then you could say, okay, so you’re talking about companies like Twilio and at Lacien and Slack and new Relic and, you know, whatever.

So once you decide where the companies who are the companies that have been successful, doing the things you want to do. Right. And the great thing about marketing is there’s such a strong. Footprint out there that demonstrates their craft and where they’ve been successful. So then you can start to populate the top of your funnel with the people who lead the functions within those companies.

So, you know, in, in recorded future’s case, I mean, I won’t go through your competitors that we, that we targeted, but there were like, 10 to 12 [00:21:00] companies and really six or seven that Christopher really admired. And we brought the people running the functions to the table to talk to him. What’s the, 

Tom Wentworth: [00:21:14] is there, like, what’s the first thing you look at?

So you’re are you going to go to someone’s LinkedIn or where do you, what’s the first signal that gives you confidence? Cause I’m thinking about people, you know, right. You have a, you’ve talked to them and you know, they’re a fit, that’s the easy part. But what about that next level of talent? Who you don’t know?

What are the sorts of things that you look for that say, I should spend some time and getting to know this person, 

Mercedes Chatfield-Taylor: [00:21:37] for sure. So I’ve probably done 120 CMOs searches. So there are, you know, if you take 120 and multiply it by 20 candidates for each project, there are hundreds of hundreds of CMOs that I would think of for any project, right.

There are lots and lots. Many of them will not be available because of timing. So I immediately have to go to. [00:22:00] That next line of folks at the same time. So, you know, these are the people we’re going to call immediately. These are the people that are in the queue, who are the VP of product marketing for, to the CMO at, you know, like Robert  is the CMO at it.

Lacien his. Head of product marketing is the next person I’ll look at. Right? So I look at his head of product marketing and I see, so the first place I’ll look is I’ll look on, I’ll look at her LinkedIn profile and I’ll say, okay, she’s been at Lacey and for three years. And she was at Twilio before that.

And before that she was at Google, the very next thing I will do is look to see who I know well, who knows her. And I will quietly reach out, put on my list to reach out to those people. The next thing I’ll do, so I look at, I look at [00:23:00] who she is. I look at her on LinkedIn. I then go to the website of the company with whom she’s currently working in this case at Lacien.

And I’ll look at evidence. Of her digital footprint. So she’s running product marketing. I’ll look at the content they have online. I will look at her Twitter feed. I will look to see if she has any evidence of a blog. I will look at any con I’ll Google her name. I mean, it’s really basic stuff. You’d be surprised how many, how few people do it though.

And, and, you know, one of the things I’ll look for it. It might not be it will not be the only signal because there have been many times where I’ve looked at, you know, the. COO of Pluralsight, for example, Heather she just stepped down and actually a few months ago, but the former CMO Pluralsight, she has like 50,000 followers on Twitter.

Does that mean she’s a great CMO? No, but it means she’s pretty digitally native. Right? So, so look for those kinds of things. If that’s a requirement that’s [00:24:00] important. Once I’ve established who she is. She has a decent digital footprint. Then I would quietly reach out to a few people who would know her, who I know and trust and find out if they would call her for this kind of job.

So I’m not out or, and say, Hey, I’m talking to her. I will say, Hey, would you call her with this kind of job? And I’ll see the kind of feedback that I’ll get, but that’s essentially what I’ll do before I even reach out to her. 

Tom Wentworth: [00:24:30] You forgot to say podcast, by the way, you should also listen to someone’s podcast, you know?

No, no personal biases there, but 

Mercedes Chatfield-Taylor: [00:24:38] absolutely. And I, I missed the whole client base there too with Spotify, so yeah. Or broadcast as well. 

Tom Wentworth: [00:24:45] So then if that’s, what, what qualifies somebody, what are the things that immediately disqualify someone for you? I’m sure there’s gotta be some interesting ones. 

Mercedes Chatfield-Taylor: [00:24:55] I keep looking at the alligator on your pillow.

Well, it’s not an alligator on your pillow. 

[00:25:00] Tom Wentworth: [00:25:00] It’s that is a Aruba lizard 

Mercedes Chatfield-Taylor: [00:25:03] and a Roomba lizard. 

Tom Wentworth: [00:25:04] Yeah, it’s a lizard. My daughter likes to decorate the, my zoom meeting couch with stuff and for whatever reason it previously was Yoda, but now it’s a, it’s a lizard. So 

Mercedes Chatfield-Taylor: [00:25:16] that’s so awesome. Disqualifiers. There are a lot of things that are red flags LinkedIn profiles that have unprofessional photographs are a huge flag, particularly for someone who’s a marketer, they need to know how to market themselves. So if they have a an unprofessional of a photo, that’s not professional if they have a. Too many roles and too short of a time.

Yeah. I don’t really care what the story is. The optics are, are not something that I can bring to a client. So if you have five jobs in five years, that’s a real problem for someone like me, who is paid to bring on board, somebody who is going to be there long enough. To make an [00:26:00] impact and to live with it, that impact.

And so that’s a huge red disqualifier for me, 

Tom Wentworth: [00:26:05] less like those five jobs were spectacular companies that all exited, and it was just, you were the lucky or the Forrest Gump of tech Uranus in every amazing company. And you just got lucky. I 

Mercedes Chatfield-Taylor: [00:26:17] can’t imagine you’d have five and five years. But yeah, I mean, that, that is, that is if, if there is.

A trail there. If you were at, you know SendGrid that got bought by Twilio, that’s a great outcome. That’s a really good outcome. And so in that case, I am definitely going to be that’s. That goes from being a red flag to a big green flag, but you’ll often see on people’s LinkedIn profiles.

Acquired by, you know, or acquired by, and then you’ll dig in and find out that they weren’t there when the company was acquired. That’s another huge red disqualifier for me. If there are [00:27:00] discrepancies on your LinkedIn, if you put acquired by so-and-so on your LinkedIn and it’s after you left, and it’s not clear that it’s after you left, that’s a, that’s a challenge for, for us.

Tom Wentworth: [00:27:15] Yeah, I think I have acquired by only because sometimes the lineage of the companies, like they just a company that was acquired by went away. And I want to try to create some sort of reference back to it used to be called this. Yeah. No, that makes sense. That makes 

Mercedes Chatfield-Taylor: [00:27:32] perfect sense. That makes perfect sense.

Tom Wentworth: [00:27:34] I think it’s a really good point because a lot of, you know, a lot of CMOs unfortunately have short tenure. And if you choose wisely, if you choose poorly. So it’s so important to pick a company that you, you can be successful at, because you can sort of tell, even if it wasn’t your fault, it reflects poorly on you.

When you’re unable to choose the kind of job you can stay at for more than a year. I’m with you on that. 

Mercedes Chatfield-Taylor: [00:27:57] Yeah. And I, I mean, I think everybody gets [00:28:00] a Mulligan, so it, you know, if you’ve been at one company for four years and then you go to another company for one and then, or the next company for seven.

I’m not gonna, I will want to know what happened in that one, but I’m not going to disqualify you. It’s really multiple short stints. There’s almost never a good reason for multiple shorts. And so it’s better to not have that person on a. On a list when you don’t have to. So it’s a, and it’s a tough one.

It, it, it, it, again goes back to being very cautious. I mean, the F the, the venture firms and the private equity firms take bets across their portfolio, they’ll invest in, you know, 20, 30, a hundred companies. Your career choice is the only one you have for that period of time. And say, if we really, really protective.

About the company that you choose on the other hand, when [00:29:00] you, if you do make a mistake, it’s, don’t be one of the things I think is also disqualifier is real negativity around that mistake for it and be very transparent about it. Tell me or whoever’s interviewing why you took the job, what happened and why you left just don’t don’t try to cover it up.

Just talk about it and move on. Everybody. After they’ve had a career over a certain period of time has had some bumps and bruises. 

Tom Wentworth: [00:29:29] Yeah. Even at my level, I mean, I go, I do a lot of the same probing that you just talked about and when somebody throws their boss, their manager, their CEO under the bus, it just makes you think they’re going to do the same to me.

Regardless of what happens, you know, whenever the, you know, a year from now, this is not a good luck. 

Mercedes Chatfield-Taylor: [00:29:49] Not no question. I agree. A hundred percent. Yep. I agree. 

Tom Wentworth: [00:29:53] So as a marketer, you know, I think about channels. What are you, what are your best channels? So as you’re building out all your, [00:30:00] all your stuff, what are the channels that work best for you?

And you’re doing your outreach. 

Mercedes Chatfield-Taylor: [00:30:05] So LinkedIn looks, works really, really well for identification. Content works really well. Like we, like, I do like to. Get involved with organizations that produce content. So whether it’s, you know, him for her or the board list or black VC or others I like to be involved with organizations that, that outreach to their constituents with content.

So just web based content more thought leadership learning pieces, but LinkedIn is really, really powerful. I mean, it’s. It hasn’t diminished in the face of other channels it’s become, I think, more and more powerful. And then I think, you know, just making sure that. I know who the up and comers are, is really important to me.

One of the things that Heidrick that I learned was if you only focus on the people that are sitting in [00:31:00] the seats today. So the sitting CMOs, the sitting CEOs, and you are interested in growth companies that, that. Group of folks will pretty quickly become unrecoverable or irrelevant and irrelevant.

Not because they’re unsuccessful, but because they’re so successful, they will no longer want to be the CML of a $20 million company because they’ve had a $2 billion exit. Right. So. So I want to constantly, and I am constantly asking people like you, like who are the up and coming people I should know about.

So in every conversation I have, I just got off an interview before joining our podcast. I asked the person as we wrapped up, like, who else should I know about? Like, who. Who on your team was fantastic. Who are you most proud of hiring? What have they gone on to do? And so if I’m having, you know, five or six of those conversations a day, [00:32:00] you know, there’s probably five or 10 gems in each one of those days.

And so that’s just, you know, and then I add them to my. Mailing list. And I think you’ve seen these before. When I put somebody into a new seat, I send out an email about that and, you know, the folks can opt out, but they often opt in. And so it’s, it’s it’s broadly LinkedIn and other, you know, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and then it’s more targeted asking people like you, like who are your up and coming stars and trying to get in touch with those folks.

Tom Wentworth: [00:32:33] Feel free to share that list with me too, for podcast guests, I would love to have, I would love to have access to that list, but yeah. Should I pitch you? So I think about a lot too, then the next generation of, if you’re a senior director of product marketing and you want to become a VP of marketing, you know, how does that actually happen?

Should people be pitching executive recruiters to get in front of you? 

Mercedes Chatfield-Taylor: [00:32:56] Yeah. So this is the, one of the things that I think is widely [00:33:00] misunderstood about executive search is that we are, I mean, we should always be acting like talent agents. We should be constantly staying in touch with the folks that are out there.

Doing the work in the craft and who are up and coming rising stars. On the other hand, we only have so many projects we’ll work on a given time. And so yes, people should be getting in touch with my peers, with me, with others who are on the executive search side, but they shouldn’t expect. Immediate action.

It’s more about building a relationship. And we look at us, I mean, we started talking 10 years ago and it wasn’t until a year ago that I put you into the seat. Right. So it’s so the short answer is yes, but just be aware that it sometimes doesn’t glean results for a little bit of time, but it’s in both of our interests to build a [00:34:00] relationship.

Tom Wentworth: [00:34:00] Because I think it’s so important because you are trusted. You’re a trusted advisor to the people at the private equity level, at the venture capital level, at the executive level to put people into these positions. And it doesn’t, there are cases certainly where people get promoted up and eventually land at the top.

But for most companies where, you know, the, the roles coming outside, you are, you’re building that list. You’re helping prioritize it. I just wonder if maybe it should be a bigger part of people who want to move up should be proactively trying to build relationships with people like you, that you see how many CMOs searches do you, do you do a year?

You think roughly? 

Mercedes Chatfield-Taylor: [00:34:38] Probably 15. 

Tom Wentworth: [00:34:40] Right? So, and 15 of the graded, the great companies in tech are relying on you to build that list. I would. If I were in that market, I’d want to be on your radar. 

Mercedes Chatfield-Taylor: [00:34:49] Yeah, no I haven’t. And that, and, and likewise, I think the other thing is that a lot of times people it’s a SIM it’s very similar on board searches.

For example, [00:35:00] people wait until they want a role to reach out to their network. You should be constantly building your network so that you have it and you can utilize it. When you need it, not that you’re building it when you need it. So, I mean, it’s just a really important thing. And, and, and I think the thing for, you know, for a lot of folks that they don’t understand is that it is incredibly helpful.

We deal in information. So you’re giving me something just by reaching out and telling me what you’re doing and what you’re interested in. Don’t think that I don’t get something from that. That’s what I get from that. And so then you can ask me what I can do for you. So it should be a reciprocal relationship.

So if you know, if I don’t have an immediate role as CMO, I’m happy to spend 15, 20, 30, an hour. And talk about what I would see as the gaps in your [00:36:00] background to getting to that CMOs spot. And what are you going to do for me? I’m going to find out before I get off the zoom or the phone conversation, I’m going to say, who else should I be talking about?

And who’s on your radar. That’s great. Who would you hire if you were looking for a head of product? Who would you, so I want information. It’s a, it’s a, it’s a two way street. 

Tom Wentworth: [00:36:18] Yeah. And it’s the only way you’re going to find, like you said, Everyone wants to hire the ex CMO of Slack because we all know Slack, but the ex CMO Slack, isn’t going to go work at your slow growth, $30 million.

Mercedes Chatfield-Taylor: [00:36:35] Yeah. And nor should they, and actually, it’s, it’s really interesting. I I’ve often been asked, you know, can you go get me this person? And they’ll ask me, you know, can you get me. Bill mcketis is the, XDMO get the bill and I’ll say, well, you, you know, as a, as a $20 million growth company, [00:37:00] don’t want him right now, you might want to talk to him.

Maybe he’s going to be an advisor. Maybe he’ll join your board. He joined the board of a couple of my clients. What you want is you want the people, you want the people that were on his team at that time and are now CMO somewhere else. That’s the person you want. Exactly. They, they have something to prove and they’re they’re stage appropriate.

So you want the person that wants the job and it is ready for the job and is raved before, but has seen the growth curve before. And so, yeah, it’s gotta, it’s gotta work for both 

Tom Wentworth: [00:37:33] people. And the only way to, to get that is to do the hard work. Like it, it feels to me like you must be on your connect constantly on your phone, constantly building relationships and networking, and it’s gotta be.

Really hard to be honest. Right. 

Mercedes Chatfield-Taylor: [00:37:50] It would be really hard if I was introverted. I get, I, like I said, I mean, it’s really, I love people’s stories and I love connecting the dots. And I also [00:38:00] love thinking about, you know, who in my client base could use his skillset and, you know, and I just, I really think it’s important to build.

Diversity of pipeline and relationships. And so, yeah, I mean, it is, it is, it is what I do. 

Tom Wentworth: [00:38:18] Got it. So let’s talk a little bit about diversity. So obviously almost every company, especially tech companies, and especially the higher up you go in an organization has a diversity problem, often a significant diversity problem.

And I think a lot of companies now understand that. That needs to get fixed and that the best way to do it is to solve it at the pipeline level to make sure that you’re, you’re purposeful about having a pipeline full of diverse candidates. What’s your role in that and helping address this? Significant challenge.

Mercedes Chatfield-Taylor: [00:38:56] Yeah. So I think it [00:39:00] has, has to be intentional. It has to be incredibly intentional. I have definitely been involved with projects where toward the end of the project, somebody will say, you know, did we have enough diverse? Did we have enough diversity in the pipeline? And the good news is I build that in from the beginning.

So on our particular projects, yes, we have. But you have to approach these projects with a view of, you know, making sure that you have a diverse set of candidates you can’t have diverse is not one person. Like the definition of diverse is a group that has differentiation between it, right? So it’s a diverse group of people.

So first of all, what’s diverse from reported. Future might be different from what’s diverse for. I don’t know, WP engine. And so WP engine, for example, when I did projects for them, they have a woman CEO, they had a woman CFO, they had a woman COO who I put in her place. So when we went looking for a CTO, diversity [00:40:00] for them, didn’t look like diversity for most companies, right?

Like we diversity for them in a room of five C-level executives. Three of whom were women was male. Right. And, and so it was it age and gender diversity that didn’t look like another company’s diversity. So figure out what diversity means to your organization, and then make sure that you have those metrics set up to, to attract for that kind of diversity.

What it means is if you’re looking for a CEO, if you’re looking for a CMO. It means making sure that we are looking for that, we set the filters so that we can have diversity in a chief revenue officer search. For example, if you’re looking at SAS companies that have exited, so you want to CRO who’s gone through a liquidity event [00:41:00] in a B2B SAS company.

Less than 13% of those people are going to be female. So you can’t build a diverse pipeline with that criteria. Yeah. So, if you’re looking for a diverse pipeline, you have to make sure that your criteria will allow for that. So, you know, if you’re not, if you so includes COO’s in that case, includes CRS include VPs of sales include SVPs of sales and the CMOs search includes CMOs include direct reports to the CML and make sure that you are holding yourself accountable at every step of the way.

And I would say finally, the other thing is. If you are looking for one executive search to solve your diversity problem, you are looking at it entirely wrong. You’ve got to go bottoms up and tops down. You’ve got to make sure the top of your entry-level funnel is incredibly [00:42:00] diverse. You’ve got to make sure that within each organization, the succession plans that you’re building include diversity.

So if you’re a sitting CMO. And you happen to be you know, responsible for a team of 20, make sure 50% of them are diverse. Make sure you have diversity in your pipeline. Look at your own succession plan and look at it critically and say, do I have somebody to take over from me that is going to add diversity this organization?

And if you don’t go solve it, 

Tom Wentworth: [00:42:35] So we’re a few years into this journey where the realization has been obvious that we’re not doing good enough as an industry. Have you seen we, are we better? Have you seen positive signs that we’re getting better at addressing this problem? 

Mercedes Chatfield-Taylor: [00:42:50] Yeah. I’ve seen really positive signs that we’re getting better at addressing this problem, but I, again, I don’t think that most companies, there are some companies who are doing a [00:43:00] tremendous job.

Yeah. But I don’t think most companies look at this with a long-term planning perspective and a long-term solution for the problem. And again, I think it really, you have to be incredibly deliberate about it and you have to use the data. You can’t figure out your problem. If you don’t look at the data. So look at your, look at all of your hiring funnels across your entire organization and, and hold yourself accountable.

So, yeah, I do think we’re doing better about it. But there’s so much room for improvement, 

Tom Wentworth: [00:43:34] which is a little ironic because as tech companies, we’re typically graded data. Like we are a, we are awesome at data, but I think it’s the data tells. A story. That’s difficult for people to accept, you know, in, in looking at diversity and it’s, so it’s like, it’s not it’s it’s, we, we all know why we have to look at data and we obsess about data, you know, at the exact team level.

But this is [00:44:00] a, this is a data set that just is not where it needs to be. But I agree 

Mercedes Chatfield-Taylor: [00:44:03] with you and we don’t, we don’t want to look at this data. And when we look at this data critically we’ll often, and I say, we but often what, what will come from it is. Oh, it’s it’s a supply problem. It is not a supply problem.

We have, there are plenty of talented women and people of color in every sector at every level, or are ready to be in those levels. So it’s not a supply problem. It is a unconscious bias. It’s a hiring process and it’s a lack of. Deliberation problem. And so we, we try and, you know, we also try to address it.

I think in certain functions, like let’s go hire a COO or let’s go hire a chief people officer and make that our diversity hire well, that’s great. Except it doesn’t, it puts a bandaid on the bigger problem, which is the company may have a [00:45:00] systemic issue within the organization when it comes to hiring and retaining talent.

So again, take a step back, look at the overall data, the same way you would marketing funnels, the same way you would sales funnels, the same way you would product usage metrics or churn data. Like most CEOs can tell you what their turn is immediately if they can’t they’re in trouble. So it’s it’s. Yeah. I, I think it’s not a problem.

That’ll get solved with one-offs and it’s got, you’ve got to use it, the data, 

Tom Wentworth: [00:45:28] I think it’s, I think to your point, it’s. Identifying it’s a problem. Identifying process changes that address the problem that are long-term. You’re not going to flip a switch overnight, but if you don’t get started now, this problem is not going to go away with a higher or two or three at the 

Mercedes Chatfield-Taylor: [00:45:46] no, and it, it, again, it really data will help us to take the emotion out of it and take the Erroneous conclusions out of it.

And we can then shine [00:46:00] a light on where the problems are. And instead of saying, you know, Hey, we’re not doing this right. It’s your fault. We can just say, okay, well, in this part of the organization, our engineering hires were incredibly diverse and we’ve done a good job retaining those people. That’s the other piece, but in the sales organization, not so much so let’s change it.

Tom Wentworth: [00:46:19] Yeah. Well, Mercedes, thank you so much for both being on my podcast today. Maybe more importantly, getting me a job that I love and I get excited about every morning when I wake up. So thank you for both of those. I really enjoyed this conversation and keep in touch. 

Mercedes Chatfield-Taylor: [00:46:35] Yeah, it’s great to talk with you, Tom.

Thank you.

By Tom Wentworth

CMO at Recorded Future | Formerly Acquia, RapidMiner | I like math, open source, and the Smashing Pumpkins

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