or they die. It’s an ongoing flywheel; our clients innovate on behalf of their customers and we innovate on behalf of our clients. And we’ve been doing this successfully for 45 years. SPMB has worked alongside clients through tech booms and busts, market peaks and troughs, and rapid digital transformation. We have had the good fortune of partnering with some of the world’s most transformational companies and investors to build strong leadership teams and lasting client relationships — and, remarkably, some of our earliest clients remain clients today.
At SPMB, we grew up in the technology ecosystem where the name of the game was aggressively and consistently pushing the envelope, changing the way that businesses and consumers interact with the world. The entire ethos of our community is to challenge the status quo. We take this role seriously; in fact, we could not survive in such an environment if we did not have the same mentality as our clients. We are consistently sharpening our craft, and adding new research tools, technologies, and methodologies while hiring the best talent to match our clients’ needs.
Looking back, the first 30 years of our existence were focused on building out pre-IPO, venture-backed technology companies. But over time, this evolved quite organically. In fact, we were originally pulled into the public company market by a former CHRO client we had previously worked with. She had since moved into a public company and had just taken over a search from a SHREK firm that had been languishing for 18 months. She asked us to take over the project, explaining that SPMB would never allow a search to take such a course. She argued that,
when you grow up and operate at the breakneck pace and in the boiler room ecosystem of venture capital search and Silicon Valley as SPMB did, “failure is not an option.” We closed that search in 50 days – and the cadence and caliber of work we do with public companies took off from there.
So while we are still the go-to firm for the venture and private equity communities, having built the teams at one-third of the companies that have IPO’d since 2018, we now count Disney, Google, Baker Hughes, Viking Cruises, Hyatt, Comcast, Morningstar, Capital One and many others as longtime clients – an evolution that we’re really proud of.
What strategies did SPMB implement to build a culture of trust and communication? And how did this culture impact the company’s relationship with clients over the years?
We are now considered a search firm of significant scale and that came by intentionally building the firm brick-by-brick over decades. I was employee number seven in 2004 and it took us close to two decades to get over 100 colleagues. Many of our peers add 100 people a quarter. We have taken a more measured approach to make sure that we never deviate from our foundational promises to both our clients and our colleagues:
- Constantly innovate on behalf of our clients.
- Stick to our core values and culture.
- Continue to build a cross-company platform that fosters creativity and growth, and enables our colleagues to build their careers at the firm and pursue what excites them.
We have had several opportunities present themselves over the years that would take the company down a path of higher growth or profitability. In each instance, we always came back to the same three questions, (1) will our clients benefit? (2) does it put our core values and culture at risk? and (3) will it create opportunities for our colleagues? If the answer to any of these questions is ‘no’ or even in question, we would not pursue it.
Because we have made these hard decisions as a company time and time again, our employees understand that we are not willing to deviate from our mission — and because of this, they tend to stick with us through the good and the bad, and oftentimes for decades. The frothiness of the market over the last three years has really put this corporate framework to the test. Our employees likely could have chosen different paths and potentially more money in the short term, but they stuck with us and chose to play the long game; this speaks to the maturity of our team. And this ‘long game’ approach also plays out in the way that we engage with our clients. This is the flywheel we worked so hard to create and maintain.
Our team brings this mentality into every engagement we have with our clients — and it’s served us well. Many of our clients have worked with us for decades, sometimes from initial funding, through IPO, later to be taken private and then public again. They appreciate the aggressive yet consistent hand that we use in any project we approach — we treat each search as if it’s our last. We grow with them over time, often recruiting 20+ senior executives to a single company throughout several growth and innovation cycles.