You may have seen a new logo on our Web site.  It is the logo of Signium International, a worldwide consortium of executive search firms.  Tyler & Company became a member/shareholder of Signium in April 2008.  Signium membership allows us to keep our own ownership and control, while at the same time serving clients on a worldwide basis. We are happy to be a part of Signium, and Signium is happy to have us.  This blog is an opportunity for me to explain what led us into this relationship and how we can both prosper from it.

About Signium International

Signium International was formed out the remnants of the Ward Howell organization post its acquisition by Lamalie Associates. (Lamalie went public in the 1990s.)   Although Ward Howell was international in scope, Lamalie did not acquire Ward Howell’s international sector, which apparently didn’t want to have anything to do with a public company.  That is, each Ward Howell office was free standing and owned by its local partners.  So, this remaining European group set about to recast itself and selected Signium International for its trade name.  I am told that it is a “made-up” name – as so many corporate names are nowadays – but I enjoy telling people that Signium means “outstanding executive search consultants” in some obscure and defunct language. 

As Signium grew, the consortium was successful in adding other offices grounded in various countries, but the consortium remained fairly weak in the United States, which happens to be the largest executive search market in the world.  Because of the size of the U.S. market, most search firms (even those with only one office and one search consultant) spread their search wingspan to cover the entire country.  In addition, most search consultants specialize in a few market segments. 

The generalist search consultant is a dying breed.  Most search firm consortiums offer a license based on geographic territory, be it a city or region.  This is a complicating factor when trying to attract a member in the States. For example, while a consortium might need an office in Atlanta, it also has to attract non-competitors of the Atlanta firm to its existing membership.  Consortiums rarely can attract mid-size firms (like Tyler & Company) with multiple offices without running into conflicts.  Signium solved this issue by redefining its licenses by service line.  This breakthrough I’m sure will be replicated by other consortiums in the future.

Tyler & Company and the life sciences

For some time, we’ve desired to diversify our practice beyond the provider sector.  Why?  For one thing, our provider clients are heavily dependent on the government (Medicare and Medicaid) for their income.  When the Balanced Budget Act of 1996 was implemented, not only did our provider clients suffer, we did too.  We are continuously concerned with how healthcare policy in Washington affects our clients.  Simply put, we needed a more diverse client portfolio. Secondly, we noticed the trend that many of our clients were stepping forward into the research and commercialization of medical devices and so forth.  A progression of other research opportunities soon followed after our placing of Nick Jacobs, CEO for Windber Research Institute.  Then we made the commitment as a firm at one of our annual strategic planning sessions to change our mission statement to specifically state life sciences in addition to healthcare. 

Beyond the changes in healthcare and in our mission statement, Marcia Champagne came on board as a senior vice president.  Marcia had been a generalist search consultant who left the business to run a company with her husband.  Returning to her search roots, she had a fine reputation and was very interested in doing work in life sciences.  (She had a taste of it in her search career.) 

After our company’s planning retreat in 2006, we decided to incorporate a strategic initiative to conduct searches in biotech and medical devices, focusing on the Southeastern market, and specifically Atlanta, Birmingham and the Research Triangle.  Marcia agreed to be the internal practice leader for this endeavor.  This was not to be a firm-wide endeavor, and we specifically did not focus on pharmaceuticals because we did not have the international presence needed for that practice.  While we were one of the founding members of the Taplow Group, another international consortium, we saw little results from that affiliation.

How this all came together

In March 2007, I received a call from Sue Speight, corporate secretary and Chief Administrative Officer of Signium.  Sue and I had talked previously, and during this call she asked if I was attending the AESC (Association of Executive Search Consultants) meeting in New York City.  Sitting on AESC’s Council of the Americas, New York was a definite trip.  Sue asked if I would visit with a few members of the Signium team, and I agreed to meet with Ignacio “Nacho” Bao, Chair of the Board, and Glen Anderson, Managing Partner of Signium’s Cleveland Office.  Dennis Kain, our Executive Vice President and COO, accompanied me.  Our breakfast was both entertaining and enlightening.  At the end of the meeting, we agreed to continue our discussion as it seemed that there were some promising opportunities. 

Our next meeting took place in our Atlanta office, and Nacho and Glen both came to town for further discussions.  Then at our firm’s October 2007 planning session, Sue and Glen made a presentation to all of our consultants.  That same month, Marcia and I agreed to travel to Tokyo for Signium International’s annual meeting.  We had the opportunity in Japan to meet more consultants from other countries and to also have a break-out session with the consultants who had life science practices.  That session was eye-opening, as we found numerous touch-points and possibilities of synergy. 

After returning to the United States, we began the internal debate to possibly join.  We ultimately decided that our commitment to the life sciences was such that it made sense to join an international consortium; and so, in November 2007, we started the paperwork process of joining Signium, which turned out to be more massive than we had thought. 

Some interesting changes

As a result of the decision to join Signium, our thrust into the biotech, medical devices and life science industry has changed significantly.  Tyler & Company’s strategic initiative no longer is confined to the Atlanta office and a few people.  It is now a firm-wide initiative.  It is international in scope and includes the pharmaceutical sector.  As of this writing, the initiative is beginning to have legs.

Previously, before Signium, we decided to rejoin the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce.  The Chamber’s support has been outstanding.  In addition to placing Marcia on the Advisory Council for Life Science and Technology Economic Development, I was named to a healthcare task force to form an initiative to advance healthcare in metro Atlanta.  The participants on the task force essentially are a “who’s who” of Atlanta healthcare leaders, and to this day it’s a puzzlement how I got named to that group.   From this taskforce, recommendations were made to focus on areas that already were identified in our firm’s strategic plan.  I just love convergence and synergy.

In June, we attended the 2008 BIO International Convention in San Diego in full force as a part of the Georgia contingent.  This was good preparation for when BIO will have its meeting in 2009 in Atlanta. Marcia has been placed on public relations committee for BIO 2009, and our entire team will be volunteering in some capacity.  Two Signium partners, Linda Gadd from Sweden and Angela Westdorf from Germany, who joined us in California, will return in 2009 to Atlanta.

Keeping the lines of communication open, we began monthly conference calls with our international colleagues as we develop clients individually and together.  A quarterly newsletter is on the drawing board. 

We’re excited about our new initiative and look forward to bringing our expertise to Signium. Additionally, we are eager to learn from our international colleagues about healthcare and life sciences in other parts of the globe.