After more than 80 years in business, with sales over $1.5B annually, the privately-owned retailer ran into a reputational crisis following a Tweet by then-President Trump that led to customers boycotting their brand. Historically, this retailer preferred to rely on the quality of their products and their company’s ethics to guide their brand’s reputation, not using a strategic communications function to boast about their brand. This crisis, combined with a new CEO, flipped the script, and the retailer decided they needed to make this impactful and strategic hire.
This was a unique role in that the company would need the Head of Communications to build the function’s credibility internally to make an impact externally. Again, the family-owned retailer was not comfortable with proactively talking about themselves, and the family members often did not agree on how to position the company. The headquarters is also the only large company in a small town in Maine, so we would need every candidate to consider relocation.
After being awarded the business, Patino Associates went to Maine to meet with all of the players who would have in impact on the success of the role, to ensure the executives were on the same page, and to further understand the type of person who would be successful in this role. After meeting with the CEO, GC, CHRO, and others, Patino Associates wrote the job description and put together a plan.
The outreach was very specific and intentional. We knew we would have to identify someone with experience working in a family-owned or partner-led business. This person would need to be confident, credible, and experienced, but also flexible, influential, and patient. We needed this person to build a relationship with marketing while also slowly getting small wins to build credibility with the family. And they had to have large retailer or consumer experience.
Using our network and database, we narrowed the search to a handful of candidates and began in-person interviews across the US. We quickly identified our shortlist and presented the candidates to our client. After the first round of interviews, our client was impressed and had difficulty narrowing the candidates from three to two finalists. When we went to offer with the top candidate, we knew we had the perfect person. At the time, she held a very senior communications position at one of the largest fast-food chains in the US, which just so happened to be family owned.
Across the past two years in the seat, this placement has made enormous strides at the company, both leading a strategic proactive external communications strategy and building the relationships internally to be successful. She has the trust of both sides of the family tree and the executive committee.