Beginning more than fifteen years ago, Keith Mann has been shaking up the executive search industry with new and innovative techniques in hiring strategies, staffing, and hedge fund compensation. At Dynamics Executive Search, Keith Mann worked as a recruiter specializing in global financial services, but when he foresaw the necessity for search companies to address the hedge fund market, he launched Alternative Investment practice in 2002. As CEO of Dynamic Search Partners (DSP), the firm he established in 2009, he works on a day-to-day basis with clients hiring professionals with investment and marketing experience and building relationships. We had the chance to sit down with him and discuss his background and his exciting thoughts for the future.
How did Dynamics Search Partners get started?
The idea really came from seeing the need for search services in the hedge fund and alternative investment markets. I was familiar with the industry, and we decided it was a great time to get started into that market. We didn’t want to start with a whole new brand, so we kept the name Dynamics Search Partners, since the old firm was Dynamics Associates. It’s also a pleasure to run a company myself.
How do you find the time to stay motivated with your daily schedule?
It can be hard, since my day is filled with meetings and emails, but the key is to just work at it. I also try to keep my mind focused by exercising the body, which starts the morning off right.
What inspires the ideas that drive the firm?
It’s not so much about coming up with unique or original ideas. The key is to be aware, really aware of the industry and to try to identify the best places to fill a niche. When you are focused on serving the customer, the ideas for improving services just come to you.
You have made your career at the forefront of some exciting technologies. What do you see on the horizon that gets you up in the morning?
You know, it’s not so much about the technology or the services, but the diversity of eligible candidates is very exciting for me. We are always trying to find the best person for a position, and in recent years there’s been a trend of a wider and wider group of people suitable. That’s a new and much-welcomed reality.
We often talk about bad habits hurting productivity; what’s a good habit that you swear by?
Exercise. I know it sounds trite, but sadly modern work is often focused around keyboard and monitor time. By starting out my day with a morning jog or exercise routine, I find it energizes and motivates me like you wouldn’t believe. But it works!
You seem to love your job now, but have you ever found yourself stuck in a position you hated?
Oh absolutely. I worked at a large bank in their foreign exchange department as a trading assistant. It taught me, though, the value of perseverance: I knew immediately that I would have to work hard so I could start my own company to get out of that place.
How would you change your career path if you could begin again?
I’m happy with where my career’s taken me–trading assistant position and all. Everything has taught me valuable lessons, and to end up where I am today with great people and exciting opportunities is a blessing.
What is the single most important piece of advice you could give to a starting entrepreneur?
Ask questions constantly. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Even if you’re starting a company doing something altogether new, business is business, and there are thousands of clever people who have worked through similar situations as you. Always weigh decisions rationally and gather as much data as you can.
What one early strategic decision in the life of your company do you think contributed most to your success?
I cannot overemphasize the value of technology. A lot of the businesses that have been around for a long time seem to think that they can carry on without innovation or change. This is simply untrue. If it doesn’t exist yet, hire someone to make it happen. Technology is a brave new world, and to fail to get on board with change is to be left behind at the station.
Let’s talk about failure. What’s one failure that you’ve had to overcome in your career?
Well, honestly it’s hard for me to think of one, not to be arrogant. But I guess one time we did hire someone who just wasn’t the best fit for the job. We had to end that relationship. But really, I can’t talk highly enough about the people I work with now.
What was the best $100 you’ve spent in the past month? What lessons can we take from it?
I don’t know what kind of lesson you can take from it! I suppose the importance of family, but I took the kids to make pizzas at a class. They had a ball.
What is your favorite software, and why?
Google products are fantastic. The collaborative nature of the way Google’s online word processing works means fast and engaging correspondence in a way that just wasn’t possible before. I use LinkedIn all the time, obviously, but other than that, I think I’ll have to leave your readers with just a little bit of mystery!
What is one book you recommend?
Daniel Kahneman’s great ideas in Thinking, Fast and Slow. You want success? That’s your book.
What would you say are your greatest influences?
I would have to say Michael Bloomberg. The man leads from the front, and you can draw a lot of important ideas from the things that he has accomplished.
Thank you so much, Mr. Mann!