Chas Smithgall is a second-generation CEO leading SEI/Aaron’s, the largest franchisee of national rent-to-own home furnishings retailer Aaron’s. When his company’s longtime CFO was moved to handle the Smithgall family office finance needs, Chas wanted a special candidate to fill this high-profile key position who could not only handle current needs, but also help grow the business. He started his search by reaching out to his network of colleagues, partners and others, but struggled to find the superstar talent he sought. It was at this point Chas began looking into executive search firms. “I talked to some other business executives who had engaged search firms to understand their experience. I heard both the good and the bad. After speaking to a few search firms, I decided Bell Oaks was the right fit. What set them apart was talking with their other clients. Among other remarks they all said they would definitely use Bell Oaks again, whereas the feedback from clients of other firms was ambivalent. The feedback was insightful, helpful and candid.”
Right away, Chas saw a high commitment to meeting his unique needs. “They came in and interviewed me, the outgoing CFO, the controller who would report to the new hire and many others on our team,” says Chas. “They learned about our specific needs, where we’re going as a business and who we are culturally. Then they went out and beat the street to get a list of candidates.” In short order Bell Oaks identified a portfolio of candidates with the strengths, experience and cultural fit Chas sought for the role. He says, “I think they did well. They identified about 90 candidates, narrowed that pool down to around 40 for initial conversations and interviews and then whittled that list to about 10 candidates they presented to me.” What impressed Chas most was more than just the qualifications of the candidates. “We needed the type of person who was likely currently employed, someone who was so good at what they do their employer was keeping them happy. Bell Oaks was able to find and pique the interest of some very impressive candidates who weren’t actively in the job market, candidates we wouldn’t have found on our own.”
Chas was equally impressed by the firm’s efficiency at accomplishing the goals he had set. “Bell Oaks was very good at managing the process,” he reports. “They kept up with my pace and could work as fast as I could work or even faster.” He was just as pleased with the results. “Another recruiter actually sent me a candidate late in the process, saying this person would be a perfect fit. I checked the candidate out and wasn’t overly impressed. It helped confirm that my confidence in Bell Oaks was well placed.” With Bell Oaks providing advice and insight on the most beneficial approach for conducting interviews, Chas easily narrowed the field to three finalists for CFO and soon settled on his ideal hire. Bell Oaks also advised on how to construct the offer and incentives, and the candidate happily accepted an attractive and well-crafted offer of employment. Now, almost a year later, both Chas and his new CFO are happy with the placement as well as the company’s performance.
“Bell Oaks is very hands-on. They were plugged in and focused on our needs to a high degree. Everything they did revolved around making sure it worked for me and my company – and it did!”