The IC-DISC Show

EP055: From Courtroom to Boardroom with Jane Howze

June 11th, 2024

In today's episode of the IC-DISC show, I chat with Jane Howze, founder and managing director of executive search firm Alexander Group. Jane shares her remarkable transition from commercial lending and law into this male-dominated industry.

Her insight into culture, growth, and talent acquisition provided invaluable counsel for aspiring leaders.

We explore nuanced career shifts and hiring new teams, emphasizing integrity's strategic importance. Jane highlights fact-checking credentials for ethics and vetting, referencing a shocking case of credential fabrication. Our conversation sheds light on work evolutions, from mentorship changes to communication innovations over the years.



  • Jane Howze shares her career transition from a commercial lending officer and lawyer to the founder and managing director of the Alexander Group, a top retained executive search firm.
  • We discuss the early challenges Jane faced in a male-dominated industry and her experiences at Korn Ferry, emphasizing her success in executive search.
  • Jane and I reminisce about shared history at The Alexander Group, including nostalgic and entertaining stories from the early days of our careers.
  • Jane emphasizes the importance of integrity during career transitions, particularly when handling professional references and avoiding misrepresentation.
  • We touch on the strategic advantages of honesty and the repercussions of fabricating qualifications, as highlighted by a CEO's false claim of a computer science degree.
  • The episode covers the evolution of workplace dynamics, mentorship, and the practical advice Jane offers for aspiring paid board members.
  • Crazy industry tales are recounted, such as an adventure with a $700 car in LA and setting realistic client expectations in executive search scenarios.
  • Jane provides insights into networking and career strategy, especially relevant during the Great Resignation and for those aiming for public company board positions.
  • We explore Dave's innovative client communication strategies and the impact of networking, as well as the significance of crafting a board-specific resume.
  • The episode concludes with a light-hearted exchange about "tours of duty" within a firm, comparing it to conscription, and reflects on the demanding but rewarding nature of our work experiences.

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Show Notes

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About IC-DISC Alliance

About The Alexander Group


Jane Howze


(AI transcript provided as supporting material and may contain errors)

Dave: Hi, this is David Spray and welcome to another episode of the IC Disc Show. My guest today was a very special guest. Jane Howes is the founder and managing director of one of the world's top retained executive search firms, the Alexander Group. Jane was actually my boss two different times about 25 years ago. As we talked about on the episode, she was both the greatest boss I'd ever had and my least favorite boss I ever had, sometimes in the same day. Jane has a wealth of knowledge on all aspects of culture building all aspects of culture building, firm building, growing a firm, picking the right people. We also took some stories down memory lane back from the days we worked together and when the firm was very young. This episode has a lot of great information for any executive or business owner who has any hiring responsibilities. Finally, if you've ever considered becoming a board member, jane has some great insights and tips on how to start your career as a paid board member. I hope you enjoy this as much as I did. Jane, welcome to the podcast.

Jane: Well, Dave, it's wonderful to be with you.

Dave: This is so. I was so excited for this, so I think I've told you this before. Jane, you were my all-time favorite boss and my least favorite boss, sometimes in the same day.

Jane: And probably sometimes within 10 minutes of each other right.

Dave: Perhaps, but you're the only boss I ever had twice. So I had left. I was gone a couple of years and then I was in a spot where I needed some contract work. This was before Uber, so I couldn't just go start driving my car around and you all were gracious enough to have me come back and it was wonderful. But I just want to thank you for all the opportunities you've given me, all that you've taught me. I've learned. I learned so much about business, communication, ethics, client service, so that served me the rest of my career. So thank you, jane.

Jane: Dave, when you came back the second time, I was like our ship has come in. Dave Spray is back for more punishment, more reward, and I just feel really honored that our paths have crossed, because you could have been a great, you were a great recruiter, could have and still could. Dave, You're the best.

Dave: Well, that's very nice of you to say so. Yeah, I enjoyed a lot of my time at the firm, so where are you calling in from today?

Jane: I am in our Houston office today. As you know, we have offices in California, new York and DC. As you know, we have offices in California, new York and DC, but I will work out of Houston until it gets too impossibly hot to work out of Houston, as you know, and we'll head west. Excellent, well, that sounds great.

Dave: Now, are you a native Houstonian? Are you one of those rare people born here that lives here?

Jane: No, what's the saying? I got here as soon as I could, but I am from Birmingham Alabama and went to college in Memphis, tennessee, and my roommate from college was Houstonian and back in the day, you know, the Galleria had just been built and Houston was just this huge boomtown and I was glad to come here back in the infancy almost.

Dave: Wow, and what did you do for work when you got here?

Jane: I worked as. Are your listeners mainly in Houston, or are they scattered all over? They're all over the country in Houston or are they scattered all over? They're all over the country. Yeah Well, I worked for the largest bank in Houston and I was a commercial lending officer and attended law school at night. And then the story goes I practiced law and I left Houston and went to California and practiced law and then came back. So you know, kind of roads lead back to Houston.

Dave: Ultimately, Okay, and then what? Did you just like have a dream or a vision or something that you needed to leave the law business and get into executive search? What prompted that?

Jane: Well, a lot of practicing law, as I'm sure your listeners know, a lot of it is very compliance oriented, very regulatory oriented, and I'm not a regulatory kind of person. And I had gone from being a commercial loan officer, where my job was to deal with people all day, to being stuck in a law library reading compliance regulations. Oh my goodness, this is not good, this is not my personality. And read an article in Fortune magazine about Korn Ferry, the largest executive search firm in the world, and it was like the proverbial bolt of lightning went off. Dave and I was oh my gosh, I would be fabulous at this. I need to go work for Korn Ferry. And they had an opening back in Houston. So I left the practice of law in California and joined Korn Ferry in Houston.

Dave: Wow, and you were, and I'm guessing that you were one of many women at the firm. I'm sure, right, this was the 80s executive search.

Jane: Let's see there were 200 partners and two women, and the minorities were all in the Hong Kong office.

Dave: Okay, I mean diversity was achieved, but there were like six men in the Hong Kong office.

Jane: Okay, I mean diversity was achieved, but there were like six men in the Hong Kong office and that is not a knock on Korn Ferry that the executive search business was oh, we want to give a CEO search to somebody we've served in the military with, or somebody that we go hunting with, or somebody on our bowling, you know that kind of thing, and women just weren't in that place then. So it was definitely an early time and a good time to get into executive search. In retrospect at the time it seemed a little challenging.

Dave: And you. So how did it go, did you? Was it all you hoped it would be?

Jane: You know, the minute I started recruiting I was happy I knew I had found my calling.

Before I got into search, I had always been one of the people that said I'd love to introduce you to this person, I'd love to fix you up with this person, and so I finally got in a position that you got paid for it which is great by two partners from KPMG who wanted to do recruiting of C-suite positions for their KP clients, and K wouldn't let them do it. So they formed Korn Ferry, and so I was lucky. It was kind of the early days of Korn Ferry they were maybe 15 years old by the time I joined them and global, so it was a really great move to learn the search business.

Dave: You weren't there too long, right Before you felt the need to unfurl your own wings.

Jane: Yes, that is true. I was wow. There are not many women partners here and I know I'm good at this and I know I can be successful at this. So, dave, I hooked up with another woman at Corn Ferry and the other big search firm is Russell Reynolds and we were like, well, let's start our own search firm, and I don't know that I would have done it by myself. But we started, really got going in 19, which is 40 years ago now. I feel like I'm the oldest living person alive still doing it.

But we started and back then you didn't have the internet to do research and our first client was Grant Thornton the public accounting firm and the number two person at Grant met us and we went walking in their offices and there were no women audit partners then, or tax partners, and we went strolling in and he goes. Well, I believe in you all and I want you to help me build the firm. I'm going to do acquisitions, I'm going to do partner searches, I'm going to do campus recruiting, and we rode along for over 50 searches and practice acquisitions in our first years, which made it really a great foundation upon which to build.

Dave: Oh, that's awesome. That is awesome, and that's been 40 years ago.

Jane: Yeah, Dave, I probably tried to recruit you back in the days you were at Arthur Anderson. You were probably one of my recruits, even not knowing it.

Dave: Yeah, you never know, you never know. And one of the is that when you started, the billing by the hour approach, or did that come later. Did you do that from the beginning?

Jane: We started because, having been with a law firm where you're basically selling your time, we thought, well, we're going to be a different kind of search firm, we're going to bill by the hour. And it proved to be a great thing. And, dave, we were so cheap that people would go, you'll do, you'll take over all our campus recruiting for $50 an hour. And we were like, oh great, well, here's 10 colleges we don't want to go. You guys go, just do our recruiting for probably 10, 12, 13 years, which made it challenging because not everybody wants to fill out timesheets to the 10th of an hour, which we were.

Dave: Yeah, no, but I remember when we would talk to potential clients, that was part of the pitch and the fact that they could do we could do all a card search for them. It's wrong as the source candidates, you know, we would just do that. And the other thing I loved was the independence that gave, because I know there were times that right late in the search we had three finalists and they would say, hey, we identified somebody on our own, can we throw them into the mix? And of course we were very receptive because we were just paid by the hour, like we didn't care.

Whereas I think a lot of other firms, especially if there was a success fee component you know, would be very resistant to that, so I always thought that was great. What caused you to move away from that?

Jane: Just the cumbers of it or just the greater tendency to do fixed. But you know, we started out doing lower level positions and as we built our reputation we were, frankly, we were leaving. Frankly we were leaving. We weren't great timekeepers and we kind of thought, well, let's still provide a win for our clients Because the big search firms you are obligated to pay the fee. Even if they find their own candidate, you're obligated to pay the fee. So what we decided was we will do a fixed fee. We will tell the client at the beginning of the search this is what your fee is. So it's not really tied to the compensation but the complexity of the search. So, for example, if we were doing a search in Fargo, north Dakota, in December, that might be a harder search. You know, with the pain in the bottom 10% of compensation ranges, that might be a harder search than doing a search in December in Florida, for example, or with the time.

So we just pivoted I think it was in 2001 that we'll give you a fixed fee for the search, but it will be less usually than a third of total comp. So even if you put your own candidate into the process, you're still paying for it, but you're paying for a process, not a candidate. So we still had a competitive advantage. And it's interesting. Here we are today, in 2024, and some of the other search firms are now doing what we do. Some of our biggest competitors are going. Well, we'll give you a fixed fee if the Alexander Group's giving you a fixed fee. So it's interesting how it's turned out.

Dave: But you were a disruptor in a number of ways in the industry.

Jane: I mean it didn't seem like it at the time but now that I see other firms doing the same thing to try and compete effectively, they don't want to. They'd rather just get a third. But one of the things we tell our clients when they retain us is for your budgeting purposes, you're going to know how much the fee is and we'll have no reason to present the most expensive candidates because our fee is already in your budget and we're just going to be on your side of the table trying to find the best person at the most cost-effective salary compensation package. So I think it's a win and it's something that has worked for the clients.

And you know the thing that and I know you know this we said it when you were there and we still say it 85% of our business every year is the same people and we're really proud of that because most search firms their repeat business is 6%. And why is that? And you know we laugh and say, well, we have an unstable product. You know and you know there's so many things that can go wrong when you're dealing with people, but we try and provide very I want to say a really strong relationship focus. I mean I tell clients. I don't want to just see you one time. We want a long-term relationship with you and that's really important to us and I think it makes a difference and I think the clients feel like we really care about being part of their team and that's really important to us.

Dave: Yeah, that's great and I did experience that, and life's just more fun when you have happy repeat customers and clients Instead of people you try to squeeze for every last dollar for one time transaction.

Jane: And you're well. I hope we don't have to see each other again. Right, you know it's like no, we want to be around for the long haul and I know you know this because but our first client from Grant Thornton, who's now 88 years old, is still a friend and a client and a mentor of the firm and we wouldn't really have it any other way. That means a lot to us.

Dave: You know, one of the most valuable lessons you taught me was when I went into your office after I worked there about a year and a half and I just said, jane, I don't think this is for me and I don't know what I'm going to do, but I just want to set expectations. And you said hey, as long as you continue to do good work, you can stay. You know, as long as you want, right, I mean, just keep doing good work. And then the other thing you told me do you remember what you told me? You said, and it was very, it was good advice, but it was also clever on your end too. What did you tell me?

Jane: I told you, no one will remember the job that you did, but everyone will remember how you leave.

Dave: Yep, yep, that's so true and it's such simple advice, right? Because you work someplace for years and then all you really have to do to even make up for mistakes you made is just end on a really high note, right, you could have been a average employee, but just end on a high note and they'll all say, oh yeah, that change, she was great. She was great. We loved having her around.

Jane: No, I remember that Because I mean I tell people I was not the best lawyer in the world, but I left, left. Like how do I transition my clients? How do I help train the new person? Can I be available after I'm gone? If I need to come in on a Saturday to help out? And I tell people when I make speeches no one will. You could be really bad at your job, but you can be a good, a great departing employee if you aren't a current employee.

And that is just so true. And you know today, you never know when you're going to need a reference. Today, with everything so transparent, even if you don't give somebody as a reference, people will look on LinkedIn and say, oh well, I'm going to call this person and see how Betty was as an employee. So you're going to be found out, good or bad. So you might as well be the best ex-employee you can possibly be.

Dave: I love it. Yeah, I know one of the things we did when I was with the team was we would do reference checks, and I think we would oftentimes do them even before the offer was extended. I forget. I think we did it both ways. Sometimes we did it subject to reference checks, sometimes we did the references first and I was always surprised. Every so often you'd find out people lied on their resume or exaggerated. But I imagine with social media and such, that's probably all gone away, right, nobody tries to get away with that anymore, I suppose do they?

Jane: You know, dave, it's really interesting. Somebody asked me the other day what surprises you the most. That happens today, that happened 20 years ago. And the answer is exactly as you say.

People still try and fudge. They'll say, well, I received an MBA when they did the coursework but didn't write the final paper. Or they'll be credit short of a college degree. Just last month we weren't at the final stages. But we try and check educational background and someone had on their resume they had on their LinkedIn received a bachelor's degree. And we check and there's no bachelor's degree.

And they say, oh well, but I was only four hours short and I go. But four hours short does not a degree make, and I'm always surprised that. And people will have maybe a year gap where they're unemployed. And it's okay with COVID and all the changes that we have all gone through as a country, as a business community, it's okay that you have gaps, but it's not okay to misrepresent the gaps and sometimes you'll have people go. Oh well, you know, it was during COVID, I'll just kind of fudge it a little bit. And you're always going to be found out almost every single time, and I'm always surprised that people still do it, though, but even at the highest levels, dave, they still do it Like even like at the C-suite level, you mean.

Yeah, at the C-suite level. You know, I wrote an article as a commentator for MSNBC 10 years ago because the CEO of, I think, hp said he had a degree in computer science, but it was a degree in history, you know, which is a pretty big difference. And I wrote an article saying and this was even before the proliferation of social media 10 years ago and I said you will be found out. This guy did, and it was very public and it was he got fired from H. It was a big deal and I was like do not let it stand. If you fudged, go fix it, fess up.

Dave: The irony was, if he was, you know, at that level, he probably had graduated at least 25 years earlier. So the irony was his degree had no nothing to do with his current level. Yeah, nobody cared, except that he lied about it. If somebody lies about something that can be checked. What are they lying about that can't be checked, right?

Jane: Exactly Well. And the other thing is, when you think about somebody's personal branding, wouldn't it make a great story? Hey guys, I don't know. I had a history degree and look how good I am. I'm running HP now and I had to leave the hospital.

But to say he had a computer science degree. I mean it made no sense. But people do that still and I always tell people I know some of your listeners are small businesses where they don't have huge departments but one of the most important things you can do is do background checks and reference checks, unofficial and official, because people they never will stop doing it and no matter how many commentators tell them don't do it, they do it.

Dave: Well, you know, I guess it's time for me to go update my LinkedIn. For all these years, jane, I've been telling the world that I was the CEO of the Alexander Group and you worked for me, so I think I'd better go fix that before it backfires.

Jane: Well, you know, people always say how did you get the name the Alexander Group? And we, truly the name Alexander kind of has a masculine kind of connotation and you know, even when you were with us, dave, we would get calls once a week going Mr Alexander, please, yeah, and so so. So I think you just, I think not only did you say you were CEO, I think your name you've been passing off your name is David Alexander, right.

Dave: That could very well be and I learned so much about presentation because, you know, when I was there, a lot of the the recruiters were young, you know, fresh out of college. The recruiters were young, you know, fresh out of college, and you know you and John did a great job of mentoring these folks and developing them. But it was always so interesting that, you know, we had a pretty casual environment and back then you would leave a message for a candidate and they would call back the main switchboard. I don't know we've, I don't think we even had direct dial numbers back then and they'd call back and switchboard. I don't know, I don't think we even had direct dial numbers back then.

And they'd call back and here's this scruffy 23-year-old unshaven guy wearing, you know, birkenstocks to work, named you know Tom, let's say. And when the person would call back and they'd say, yeah, tom Smith, please you train the receptionist to say, oh, hold on. May I ask Mr Smith, you know who's calling you?

know, just to I mean there's no harm in saying Mr Smith because that is his name, but why say, oh yeah, let me see if Tommy Boy's you know done, you know done having his afternoon tequila shot, right, I mean there's no use in.

Jane: No, it was all about. It was all about the, you know, because we were so small in Scruffy and the other thing we would do would be to say I'd train the receptionist to go never say Mr Smith is not at his desk.

Dave: Right, he is not at his desk.

Jane: Right, he is not in his office and I will have one of his assistants call you back.

Dave: Nice, nice, one of them. I like that.

Jane: I know, I mean, you know, I just am blushing, thinking about what we did to make ourselves sound substantial. And there's Tommy Smith back in the back office, sound asleep at his desk, you know.

Dave: Exactly.

Jane: And sometimes I go, oh well, and sometimes you know candidates would call back. Well, is Tommy Smith calling me? And if I happen to be at the office late at night, you know some of it is the smoke and mirrors of making yourself sound like you're Well, I remember when I would like when you or John would be like traveling.

Dave: I would try to book the mother BD. Right, you're interviewing folks in Kansas City, what other companies are headquartered in Kansas City or just other things. And one of the things that the things I did that I learned a lot about this is that even though you and John were based in Houston, if I was trying to set up Houston appointments, I would act as if you and John were based in San Francisco, like I'd say oh, you know Miss Howes will be in, you know she'll be in Houston for two days next week. You know she'll.

she won't be in the San Francisco office, she'll be in the Houston office for two days Now the reality is you were going to be there for two weeks, but you were going to be there for those two days and it was what's the biblical saying you can't be a prophet in your own homeland. And I think it's still true to this day that expert from out of town and they rearrange their schedule for the person from out of town.

Jane: Well, you know, there's a Buddhist saying that says the visitor from afar brings knowledge and I like that.

Dave: I like that.

Jane: And you know, sometimes I get asked to talk to college students about how our young people, about how do you find jobs, and my clients, kids, want to know how do we find a job. And I don't I'm not a career counselor but what I tell them is the further like if you went to NYU, say you're going to have more success calling NYU alums in Houston trying to get them to help you than you will in New York City. If you're a University of Houston graduate and you're in San Francisco, there's probably only 20 of you in the whole town and all people are hardwired to help people who come from afar. If there's a limited population and it goes kind of with that thing of being unique, like you know how many people come from Houston to San Francisco for a meeting. 20 years ago I mean it happened, but it wasn't every day that a head of human resources got that phone call right.

Dave: In my business that it's easier for me to get an appointment in Syracuse, New York, if I'm going to be up there for business anyway. It's easier to get that appointment than it is with somebody in Houston, Because in Houston they're just like I'm busy this week, you know. Call me next month, you know, because you're so available. It's just like it seems like if you're meeting somebody for dinner, the closer the restaurant, the more likely you are. The closer the restaurant, the more likely you are to be late, or the more likely I am to be late, because if I'm driving 30 minutes I'm going to allow 45 for traffic and stuff, but if it's three minutes away, I'm going to leave two minutes before the dinner and then exactly a stoplight pot ad and then the parking lot's full and yeah no, it is, but it is something about the further something is away.

Jane: And I remember one of the ways I built up our and some of our first clients. Most of our first clients were California companies because California had more. They were more used to women in doing C-suite searches. But you know, I was in California every two weeks for probably 30 years and I would call and go well, I'm from Houston, I'm a woman-owned search firm, I'm going to be in LA, can I come see you? And we got a lot of great clients like Wells Fargo, warner Brothers, yeah, a lot of McKesson company, because they were like oh, the visitor from afar they're coming to, they're coming from Houston and they're women in the search business Great, they're coming from Houston and they're women in the search business Great, you know. And I I spent a lot of time where people would go well, I have time tomorrow morning at 11 o'clock and I'm going to be there. And I quickly hung up the phone and called United and called Continental Airlines and started booking that airline ticket as fast as I could.

Dave: Yeah, I do remember my listeners love stories. What are some stories of just interesting or amusing or candidate screw up things that come to mind where, yeah, I don't know a candidate showed up intoxicated or a candidate showed up and forgot to put pants on that day, you know. I don't know a candidate showed up intoxicated, or a candidate showed up and forgot to put pants on that day.

Jane: You know, I remember way back in the early days one of my first big searches was a senior lending officer for a regional bank here and the candidate was great and it was. I was so excited and so I called the CEO of the bank after the interview and I said Rex, how did the interview go? He goes, jane, he didn't come. I said he didn't come. What the hell? Why didn't he come? He said, oh, it was okay. He drove through the teller window and passed a note to the teller to pass to me that he wouldn't. He changed his mind, you know, and you just go, who drives through the go in for the interview but drives through and says will you give this note, handwritten note on a scrap of paper I'm not coming. And so that was kind of the early days.

A second story, and I mean it's crazy what we did back in the early days but one client wanted us to live in LA and take over all their staffing for it.

This is when we were hourly billing and we were pretty cheap and they said, yeah, we'll get your room at the Biltmore Hotel in downtown LA. We want you there for a month and we're trying to figure out how to save money, because back then, you know, we just wanted to be and so we bought Dave a $700 car so we wouldn't have rental car charges, and we called it the gray ghost. It was a delta 80 and we drove this car and I am embarrassed to tell you, and I hope your listeners will think we were really creative rather than really cheesy but when we were done with the car, when we finished the search and the client actually is still a client in other iterations we just left the car at a Friday's Marina Del Rey and that was it, because it was on its last legs, you know, and we just that was it. We just left the keys in the car and that was it.

Dave: That was it. We just left the keys in the car and that was it. You know you reminded me of something. A good friend of mine owes you his job because you just reminded me of something and I know I learned this from you. So it's really good friend of mine.

Cpa, a classic, stereotypical CPA, introverted, not very outgoing but very technically sound, and he was working at a public accounting firm and he was kind of stuck at the senior level. He couldn't get promoted to manager, which usually happens after like five years. And there's a firm in town that I knew a guy there and they were looking for like a first year audit manager. So he was perfect for it. Looking for like a first year audit manager, so he was perfect for it.

And so the three of us met for a drink at Papa Do's on Westheimer, over in the Galleria. But I told him ahead of time. I said Pete, he is. I'm just going to tell you right now, he's not Mr Personality. If you're looking for a glad handing, you know, outgoing salesman type, he's not the right guy for you. And so, of course, what did he say? No, we're not looking for a salesman, we're looking for a manager, right, somebody technically solid.

So we met and afterwards we had a good time. And afterwards I said so what'd you think? And he said I'm glad you told me that he wasn't Mr Personality, because I was kind of prepared for it. And he did the same thing when they met with the people at the firm. He told them on the front end hey, this guy's not Mr Personality, but he's really smart. I think he can do the job. And 30 years later he's a senior partner at this Houston CPA firm and I know I learned that line from you. Now let me just tell you this person's not Mr Personality. Does that sound like something you might've said for?

Jane: Yeah, well, you know what I mean. Part of what I look at a recruiter's job, an executive search person's job, is you tell the client what's wrong or what's missing, because they're smart and they're going to get it themselves. And if you tell them, you are adding value, you're being a consultant and you've managed expectations. So when we do a search, we write a paper, basically a report. These are the things that might not exactly fit, but these are the things that overcome what you are looking for. And which reminds me of one more story.

I remember doing a audit partner search, for I think it was Grant Thornton up in St Louis and it was in Chicago actually, and so, as you recall, we would fly to the cities, park ourselves at a hotel restaurant and just sit there and make that our office. It was pretty soon, and so I got to O'Hare sitting down and my 3 o'clock appointment comes up at one o'clock and I go buddy, you're here a little bit early. He said, oh, yeah, yeah, I've heard great things about the Alexander group and I'm just going to sit at this next table and watch you in action. And I'm like, well, buddy, that's just not going, not gonna. And mentally I'm thinking well, buddy is no longer a candidate, but he wanted to sit and listen in on every other interview so he could get some good tips of how to interview himself, and anyway not a bad idea if he had just simply kept that information to himself.

Right and not done it when I'd already started the interview. You know, I mean, I kind of lost two candidates right in one sitting. You know, you can't make this stuff up.

Dave: That is something. I got a question somewhat related to search. Some of this conversation is about executive search. Right, we probably should have at least maybe a third of it about search. What about board members? So you know, I've got clients who ran, built, ran, sold $50 million revenue successful privately held companies, sold $50 million revenue, successful privately held companies. And they maybe think, yeah, I might like to be serve on a board. Now for somebody to be on a public company board do they need public company experience?

Jane: You know, Dave, I think the question as I'm kind of rounding third base in my career and a lot of my peers are in their 60s and they're finishing, They've sold their private company, they retired from a public company. They, for whatever reason, they say well, you know, I'm going to retire, I'm going to, I want to be on a board. Can I get on a board? My answer is always this yes. However, it's a question of how much time do you want to spend to get on your first board? Once you get on one board, even if you're a private company executive, can you get on a public board, Asterisk, if you're willing to really work hard on at that.

The average board tenure is 10 years. Board positions don't really turn over that much of a healthy company. So people get on a board and especially if it's a public board, there's incentive comp, there's options. It's not a hard gig for a lot of companies. So the answer is yes. And then what do you do if you want to get on a board? If you want to get on a board? Probably 70 percent of all board positions are not gotten through search firms. Does that surprise you?

Dave: Maybe, yeah, maybe some. It's the network, the network of the other board members.

Jane: Yeah, yeah, because people will say, oh well, I know somebody I'm going to, I'll go back to my UT alum group and see if they, you know, kind of knows around there. Or I'll see if, oh, I know a guy that works at Goldman Sachs, Maybe he knows somebody. I know a friend that's a part retiring from Ernst Young and I'll ask her. And so there's a lot of you know, with the call for diversity, search firms are becoming more involved but and doing more and 30% is still a lot to be putting out to search. But so the things that if any of your listeners are interested, I tell people, If any of your listeners are interested, I tell people, do a board resume. A board resume is different than a job resume. It's talking about your experience assessing risk, building a company, governance compliance, things that a board member would look at, governance compliance things that a board member would look at and the board members not looking at the details of you know, do you get two weeks or three weeks for vacation? They're looking at what's our strategic plan, the being the boss of the ceo, representing shareholders. So you want a board, one page board resume that talks about what you've done. That would be analogous to that. And then you really want to get on. A not-for-profit board Helps because, especially if it's big enough, there will be other corporate people there and you will make contacts. But it's really about making contacts.

A lot of investment banks they don't use search firms when they take a company public. They have databases, they go through their contacts. Bankers know people. It's all about the three sources. I would say. If any of your listeners are saying I want to be on a board one day, do you know anybody in investment banking, private equity, public accounting, M&A law firms anybody like that and tell everybody you're looking for those recommendations. And then the last thing is a lot of your listeners are successful people who've had roles in companies that are entrepreneurial in nature, and a lot of them I know people that have taught an entrepreneurship class or a lecturer at Rice University here. And there's a lot of smart kids who are starting businesses. Let's not forget Google, Facebook, some of these companies that started from college kids, and I think that's a great avenue to think about when, if you're thinking about ways to get on a board.

Dave: I like it. That's really cool. Well, speaking of rounding third base, I can't believe how the time has flown by. I have just a couple other questions for you. One is I've heard about this great resignation. For you One is I've heard about this great resignation. What has been your experience? Is this trickled up to the C-suite and the board level, or is this a problem that those people are having to deal with? People lower in the organization? Tell me about the great resignation from your perspective.

Jane: Well, one thing hasn't changed. If you look at CEOs of Fortune 500 companies that are recruited from the outside, I would say they have a 50% chance of being there two to three years out. And why is that? Culture fit so the top. You will always have CEO changes, especially if they come from outside and they don't fit with the culture.

What I think we are seeing and we see from our clients is post-COVID. There's been so many obvious changes but a lot of things that aren't obvious. People don't want to relocate as much as they might have pre-COVID. Why is that? Well, covid scared people in terms of my parents I've got to take care of my parents, I may have to have my kids at home for high school, and do I want to go to someplace new and have something like that happen? So I think you're having that we're coming out of.

But you're also having middle range employees who aren't as loyal, and you know I always tease that a lot of the younger people today. If they have a bad Monday, they may be somebody someplace else by Friday. So I think there's not quite that dickiness of what you grew up with and I grew up with. Hey, you know we want to. You know we don't want to be a quote job hopper and I think people today don't care if they're job hoppers quite as much. And there's not that people are more willing.

I think in COVID accentuated that where they're more willing to take risk. And, you know, maybe I'll be without a job for a month, two months, and yeah, I think we're seeing that. And what I tell small businesses that you know be focusing on long how do you make a culture that will keep people invested long term? And there've been a lot written on that and it's different for every company depending on where your location is and what your employee mix. But I think that's a really important thing that everybody's got to do in a bigger way. And also, lastly, dave, the emphasis on mental health, something that has changed dramatically in the last three years, where you know we've got to take care of people financially. And also, how are they doing? Because so many people were isolated during COVID and had mental health issues and people talk about that more, which we never did back in the day. You just bucked it up and, you know, kept making those source calls, dave, you know.

Dave: For every six you made, you got to check off a tenth of an hour of work.

Jane: Exactly. You had to make a left message with 10 people to get that six. I had it backwards.

Dave: It was even harder than I remembered. That's why you get so excited if somebody answered the phone because that, even if you only talk 30 seconds, you got to put them down as a yeah, no, that's right they go no, I'm not interested and you go, that's OK.

Jane: Awesome, ten minutes ahead here.

Dave: That is great. So so I think the two questions left, so one. Is there anything that I did not ask you that you wish I had? Is there anything we did not talk about that you think we should have?

Jane: No, you're a really good interviewer, Dave, which?

Dave: I learned it from you. I learned it starts with interviewing candidates and it translates to other things.

Jane: Well, I'm, you know, I'm really honored to be here, dave, because the people that you serve and that you do work for. I think it is much harder to run a smaller private company than it is a big company, because you've got to have employees who are multifaceted, You've got to have employees who have an entrepreneurial mindset, you've got to have employees who have an entrepreneurial mindset. So my hat is off to the work you do the clients that you serve, because it is a hard business.

Dave: Well, I appreciate that. I love serving entrepreneurs, that is for sure. So here's the last question. This is a curveball one you may remember. When you asked if you need to do any preparation, I said no, we're just going to talk about your life story and you don't need any prep. But I promise you one curveball, and here it is. Are you ready? If you could go back in time and give advice to your 25 or 28 year old self, what advice might you give yourself?

Jane: Yeah, oh, that is a great. That is a great question. Don't sweat the small stuff and it's all small stuff.

Dave: Okay.

Jane: And the things that you worry about about 90% of them do not materialize.

Dave: Was that? Was it Mark Twain or Will Rogers? I always get their two quotes conflated. But one of them said I'm an old man, man, and in my life I've known a great many. I've known a great many difficulties, most of which never came to pass, or something to that effect yes, that's right.

Jane: And Mark Twain, as you will recall from our time together, said I didn't have time to write a short story, so I wrote a long story, right?

Dave: Exactly. Yeah, I learned a lot about incise writing and just I'm always amazed that people that just the simplest stuff that I never picked up in English class. Like you know, bob is a person who does XYZ, he's not. It's not Bob that does something, it's Bob. Bob's not a that, he's a who.

Jane: That's, that's right and word choice, and. But you know I, you know I sound like a geezer, but you know stuff like that is. I mean a lot of people today really don't know that. I mean even you know I see at the executive ranks a lot of people who, who just, and you know, I think one of the things when I talk to people early in their career is learn to write, learn business writing out there. I mean especially now with Zoom and you can do business with people by email A lot of people.

And if I get a resume from somebody that doesn't spell check or anything else. Dave, one final story, and it's so good and it reminds me. It does remind me of you for obvious reasons, but I don't know if you remember that we sent a letter out one time when you joined, maybe when you rejoined us, and we said Dave is from you know, arthur Anderson, a leading public accounting firm, but we left out the L of public. Do you remember that?

Dave: I remember that does sound familiar.

I remember somebody saying well, I don't know what it is, but we want some right, that's funny because, yeah, when you send out as many, as much written correspondence as the firm has for so long, it can't try as you might, it can't all be perfect. Just like I'm amazed when I read, like a bestselling book that sold 20 million copies and you find a typo. You're like but you know, when I talked to an author about that they said, yeah, there's, you know, 100,000 words in here, like you, just sometimes they slip through the cracks.

Jane: Well, Dave, I the thing I remember about you and I always feel like I can learn something from everybody, even though there's an you're younger than I am. But even back when you were really young and with us, you were so effective at client communication and getting business. And do you remember that? You are the ones that taught us that people are hardwired to want to help, but you have to give them a way to help you. And you would come up with a list, Like, do you know people from any of these five companies? And people would look at and go, oh yeah, I can help you, I do know somebody from here. And what a great way to teach someone how to develop their own clients as to teach the client how to help the potential client or source how to help them.

Dave: Well, that's one of the benefits of being a bad employee who changed jobs every year is I was exposed to a lot of things. I learned that in the financial services business and what made it so powerful was because in the financial services business you're always trying to get you know referrals to folks and if you just say, hey, jane, you know who, do you know who's looking to buy life insurance, probably nobody comes to mind. Nobody, because nobody's come up and said hey, I need life insurance. Do you know anyone? But what I learned in that is still helpful today. But instead, if you give somebody a list of 10 people and you say, jane, I'm going to be calling these 10 people next week, I'm just curious, can you tell me, is there anyone on this list you think's particularly great or you think really highly of? And they'd say, oh sure, let me borrow your pen. They check off the before names, you're like great. And then I would say, hey, by chance, if you happen to talk to them before next week, will you tell them I'm going to call them and they, of course, would say, sure, I haven't talked to this guy. I went to law school in five years. It's unlikely I'm going to talk to him this week, but sure, I'll tell him, okay.

And then, finally, jane, when I talked to John Lamar, is it appropriate to mention that you know that we had a conversation? You know that he came up in conversation? Sure, yeah, no problem. So then, when I would call the person, it was so easy. Hey, john Lamar, by chance did Jane Howes tell you I'd be calling? No, how's Jane doing?

I haven't seen her since law school. Boy, she's really wonderful, I like Jane. And so, yeah, you know Jane. Huh, yeah, I haven't known her a long time. I haven't known her as long as I've known you. Meaning I've met her for 10 minutes, but all of my dealings with her were first rate, all of them. And then just say, hey, you know, jane had some nice things to say about you and she thought we might benefit from knowing meeting one another. You know, know, when are you? It was amazing how well that. But it all started with just having a list to start with, because there's a difference between if somebody like, let's say, that conversation went poorly and john lamar called you back and said, hey, why'd you have?

that dave spray guy call me. Well, if you can say, I didn't tell him to call you. He already had your name. He was going to call you anyway he just asked me.

Jane: Anyway, great guy, yeah right.

Dave: He just wanted to know if you were a jerk or not. And apparently I was wrong because you're gonna give me a hard time. All I did was say you were a nice guy and and now you're giving me a hard time, but yeah and and dave.

Jane: What I remember the funny thing was john lamar are my 30 year partner. He went to a meeting with you and he said jane, dave pulled out the list. And I said he pulled out the list. And he said yes, and it worked and we just like we were so nervous about the list. But, Dave, it really worked.

Dave: It is funny. And the irony is, the time you pull the list out is when the meeting doesn't go well. You know, like it's a brief meeting and they're like no, my best man at my wedding is a partner at Horn Fairy. That's where all of our search goes. We'll never give it to anyone else. Well, now you have nothing to lose by pulling out the list. I mean, if they on the spot want to sign you up for some searches, well, just keep the list in your pocket.

But and the irony was the worse the meeting goes, the more helpful.

Jane: They would seem to be right because they kind of feel bad that you flew away from houston.

Dave: You flew all the way from houston out to see them and they can't help you. So now, sure, I'll look at your list. I'll give you some.

Jane: But it's true, the list, dave, I mean that is a course in business development and we were like God, that list is not going to work. But it works, it absolutely does.

Dave: Well, and you know when I first used that this shows what how I approach business development when I was in the financial services business right at Arthur Anderson attorneys were my best prospects. So this was like 1990, excel hadn't even been invented, they were using Lotus one, two, three. And I bought the Martindale Hubble legal director. You remember this thing? The blue, yeah.

Maybe it was an yeah, but it was a blue thing and what I did that I was so proud of myself. I went through that and I created a spreadsheet and I knew one attorney in Houston and he was like a second year attorney at some place and he went to U of H and I played basketball with him and I went and I had lunch with him and I pulled out the graduates from like the top 20 law firms in Houston and I'm sorted by year in college. So the first list I gave him was all of the people who graduated from law school, the ones in his start class. And then I gave him a list of all the other U of H grads who were like a couple of years older to a year younger Same thing, who do you know? And then I made the call to them and then, jane, it got to be so crazy.

I would go to like V&E and I would be there like I'd have like 12 meetings in a row, like, and they would literally walk me from one office to the next and they'd be like, hey, so who's next on your list? Oh, bob. Oh, he's a hoot, yeah, you'll enjoy meeting him. And so they would escort me into the office. It was like it was this introduction from one stranger to another one, but then the new person I would meet with. So you know, lauren introduced me to a guy who started with him that went to UT, so I would have all the other UT guys at his firm and at the other firms in town and it just exploded. Like in three or four months I was like the guy for all the third year attorneys at Baker Botts and V&E and Fulbright, but anyway, that is so fun, but it works, dave, and it's something you know.

Jane: 15, 20 years later I still remember. Quote the list.

Dave: Yeah, yeah, some great times. So, jane, thank you so much for not only inviting me to the 40th anniversary party that was just spectacular. Seeing some of my former colleagues, that was just great and just having the ability to be friends with you and your husband and John Lamar all these years is very special. I like to say there's only one ex-girlfriend I keep in touch with and there's only one ex-employer I keep in touch with, and that's you all when you are a VIP favored status.

Jane: you work for us twice and we keep hoping that phone will ring the third time, dave, and it'll be the charm.

Dave: Yeah, you never know. And I would jokingly say I did two tours of duty which you know doesn't really sound very complimentary to the firm. I must say, tour of duty has a certain negativity to it in a way, you know, conscription drafted.

Jane: Yes, it's. At least it's not like prison sentence. You know I'll give you that.

Dave: That is awesome. Well, Jane, I could talk all day to you. Thank you so much. I really appreciate everything.

Jane: Oh, my pleasure, Dave. How much fun this has been.

Dave: It has been have a great day.

Jane: Thanks, Dave Bye.