How to Hire the Right Executive | Part 2

Bob Livonius

Founder, Livonius Consulting

Bob Livonius is the former President of Strategic Workforce Solutions at AMN Healthcare, the largest provider of healthcare workforce solutions in the U.S. AMN acquired Medfinders, where Bob was previously the CEO for 7 years and grew the company from $200M to over $350M largely through the introduction of the MSP offering to the industry. While at AMN he expanded the MSP program into Locum Tenens, developed RPO and acquired two VMS offerings and a workforce management consulting firm. Bob also has extensive experience in the general staffing and recruitment space as the former COO of Spherion, a $4B public staffing company with 900 locations across the world. Bob started his career at IBM where he was promoted 8 times in 15 years. After a successful two year battle with Stage 4 cancer in 2014-15, Bob retired to pursue board roles in private equity.

Lisa Maxwell

Founder and Managing Partner, Gerard Stewart

Rated as one of the top 100 most influential people in the staffing industry, the name Lisa Maxwell has become synonymous with global executive search. A founding partner of Gerard Stewart, Lisa is a 20-year veteran of the human capital industry with an unparalleled track record for placing CEOs, C-level executives and board members for staffing firms around the world.

Bullhorn’s Executive Vice President of Enterprise & Salesforce, Ryan Murphy, recently sat down with Bob Livonius, Operations Advisory Executive at New MainStream Capital, and Lisa Maxwell, Founder and Managing Partner at Gerard Stewart, for a conversation on how impactful having a trusted executive search partner is when finding the right senior talent.

In part 2, we hear from Lisa on her relationship working with Bob and New MainStream Capital, as well as what her executive search firm looks for when hiring for an executive role.

Lisa, it sounds like you’ve built a relationship that is truly consultative and ongoing working with Bob. Is that how you built your business or was there a process that got you to this level of trust with such a big customer?

Lisa Maxwell: It’s always great if you’ve had past experience with a client because you’ve already built trust and you can move so much faster. I wasn’t just working with Bob, I was also working with a private equity firm who didn’t know me or my firm. Bob and I had a little history, but you’re going from zero to intimate in a very short period of time and there’s a lot at stake.

Like Bob said, laying this foundation early on is so valuable because you’re both disclosing very confidential information and a lot of it is people-related and involves key executives with a lot of influence. Establishing clarity and alignment at the beginning is critical.


What’s it been like representing these staffing opportunities outside of staffing?

Lisa Maxwell: First of all, I think it’s a really good practice to cast a wide net and consider people outside of the industry, as well as inside. Often when we do that, the board or the staffing company ends up going with the industry person because, when they sit down with each other, they speak the same language. They have an immediate connection with each other. But it’s equally as important to look outside of the industry, especially if you can find similar industries where the skills are transferable, as Bob had suggested with the GrapeTree search.


There must be some evangelism that you have to go through in one way or another to educate that person on what the industry does, I would imagine.

Lisa Maxwell: I do think that’s one of the reasons why it’s good to work with a specialty firm. One of the things I think we do well is represent and, in some cases, introduce the staffing and human capital industry to people outside of it, highlighting the opportunities in the industry, why people like staffing, and the success stories. The staffing industry is definitely an industry most people haven’t thought of but are interested in once they learn more about it.


Over the years, have you found any themes or patterns around those coming in from outside the industry that are more successful than others?

Lisa Maxwell: I’ve noticed similar qualities in people we’ve placed that have gone on to be successful in this industry, whether they’re coming from inside or outside. People that have come into this industry with any sort of arrogance around it don’t typically work out. Self-awareness and humility go a long way in any business but particularly in human capital. Like Bob said, we’re in the people business and people skills matter in this industry. In interviews, if you’re able to speak to your successes but also have a real understanding of your shortcomings and are able to talk about those in meaningful ways–this is what we look for. If you have a lot of humility as a leader, that goes a long way in staffing and human capital.


What advice would you give to an up and coming leader in the industry that maybe didn’t get the role with Bob last time, but now you’re approaching him again with another opportunity?

Lisa Maxwell: I would say, embrace the ability to self-assess and look at yourself and see your real capabilities and limitations. Also, ask yourself why you want the role. It has to make sense. Do you have genuine conviction around your motivation and why you want to go to the next level? Is it completely ego-driven or do you have a larger purpose of why you want to go to the next level? 

I think you have to spend time with people in a lot of different situations. And what I’ve noticed in all of my years of doing this is, over time people tend to reveal themselves. You can only sort of keep this front up for so long, but, if you spend enough time with them, little things are going to come out in the conversation that may raise an eyebrow and get you thinking, “Oh, that doesn’t really line up with what they said last time.” I want to understand what makes them tick.

Do you have any do’s and don’ts to get the most value out of your relationship with a firm?

Lisa Maxwell: I would say one of the bigger things is that we are all on the same page before we start going out to market. We spend a considerable amount of time with everyone involved and come up with a scorecard so that we’re all looking for the same things when we’re interviewing candidates. 

I think getting everyone in sync in terms of what it is we’re actually looking for and what we want out of this executive–that’s going to help things move a lot quicker and we’ll be a lot more effective. 

Invest the time on the front end, laying the foundation and things will move along much better throughout the rest of the process.


Check out part 1 of our conversation where we heard from Bob on his relationship working with Lisa and Gerard Stewart.

staffing industry insights