The Value of Listening and Adapting to Client Needs


As this past month was a big anniversary for Career Partners International – San Francisco, I recently reflected on what has made us successful over the years. The bottom line is that the value of really listening and adapting to clients’ needs enabled us to continually and consistently deliver results, even when that meant venturing into new areas of business. I started our business 34 years ago as a retained executive search firm. Drawing on my extensive HR experience and responsibility for recruiting talented people in multiple industries, search was a great place to get started.

In the beginning, the biggest surprise for me was the fact that often the candidates who in my opinion were the best, were not always selected. Over the next several years I came to understand the organizational dynamics and the motivations of the hiring managers. What I learned is that “Opposites attract – except at work, where likes like likes.” Understanding these driving forces at senior levels became especially valuable as our business grew and changed. In search, one becomes an objective third person observer of the situation – a fascinating experience.

In 1982, during a game-changing sales call, I met an HR leader of an iconic San Francisco company, who said that for the first time in the 130-year history of the company, they had more executives than they could accommodate. He asked what we could do to help these executives find new opportunities elsewhere and the answer to that question started us in the outplacement services business. Interestingly, outplacement is the other side of search. Instead of looking for talented people for clients’ organizations, we are helping talented people look for companies with positions for themselves.

Our entry into the outplacement industry was personally and professionally very rewarding. Meeting and learning from so many talented people was thrilling, and having the opportunity to share my knowledge was equally gratifying. As the business grew, we focused on outplacement services and withdrew from retained search.

Another milestone event occurred when we had a significant opportunity to support a client that offered a voluntary lay off to a large number of their employees. This program was designed to help in the decision-making process of “Should I stay or should I go?” Since this is not an option for many people in transition, we built new programs that focused on evaluating internal career development and planning in addition to the external choices including job search, career change, retirement, entrepreneurial opportunities, and consulting.

For many of the ensuing years, the outplacement services industry in our area continued to grow to over 20 firms locally and we prospered as the largest independent organization in the Bay Area.

In the latter 90’s, the employment market tightened with the dot com boom. Our clients, instead of having too many people, began to receive regrettable resignations from employees they had hoped to keep. We were often asked “How can we continue to keep key employees when we cannot compete with the financial offerings of this new industry?” We recommended that companies re-recruit employees that were needed for future growth and prepare them for leadership opportunities with skill develop and coaching programs.

Our leadership development and executive coaching practice was born from the need of organizations to survive and grow their existing workforce. Investing in high-potential employees who were staying in the company proved to be a good investment and a great productivity tool for our clients because leaders gained a greater understanding of how to leverage their strengths and develop new skills to improve managerial effectiveness, have greater leader impact, and enhance organizational performance.

It’s important to understand the constant need for self-assessment and development in any profession. In order to have a successful career we must all continually adapt to new changes that we have identified in our industries. Our organization has thrived through this constant self-evaluation, and by doing the same, any professional or organization can achieve similar successes through commitment and development.

What changes have you identified and adapted to that enabled you to succeed? Let us know in the comments below.


President: Co-founder of Career. Bill sets the vision of the company and leads our Leadership Development services. Bill focuses his consulting on the needs of high potential employees. Politically astute and enthusiastic, Bill is particularly effective in providing insightful and positive feedback as he encourages and assists individuals in achieving desired outcomes. His leadership experience and persuasive style has helped a large number of employees in all functional areas.

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