Forward & Back
photographs contributed by RSR partners and Missy Wolfe
Looking to the Future
Recruiting executives is a bit like matchmaking. “Chemistry matters,” says Russell S. Reynolds Jr.. And Russ knows a thing or two about making perfect corporate matches. In 1969, with just $10,000 in seed money, the eleventh-generation town resident launched Russell Reynolds Associates; the elite corporate recruiting firm that helped elevate the stature of headhunting. To place hundreds of key executives in the C-suites and boardrooms of countless Fortune 500 companies, Russ (who has since left RRA) insists on meticulous, thoroughly ethical searches.
Sometimes, those demanding standards have even meant rejecting his candidates. Take the time that Russ heard something unflattering on the Greenwich train platform about a CEO prospect he recruited. “The company liked him. His [references] were exceptional, but I developed strong reservations about whether he really was a good fit.” The client thanked Russ for his frankness, but hired the candidate anyway. “He didn’t last a year,” Russ chuckles. “But my point is this is not a job you can do well without a tremendous amount of due diligence and candor. Your future relationship depends on it.”
In his new memoir Heads, Russ recounts similar anecdotes from his forty-plus year career. The octogenarian, who founded his second successful search firm, Greenwich-based RSR Partners in 1993, says he hopes his book demystifies the inner workings of top executive recruitment firms.
To that end, he shared his favorite tips for job hunters:
• Write letters (never e-mails) on personal stationery to people you admire. Explain your professional goals. And be flattering while doing so. “They can end up putting you in contact with people making the hiring decisions.”
• Do your interview homework. “Know more about the people you are meeting with than they could possibly know about you.”
• Limit “braggadocio.” There’s a fine line between selling yourself and exaggerating.
• Set clear goals. Be able to describe your dream job in five to ten years.
Reflecting on the Past
Elizabeth Winthrop, the daughter-in-law of Massachusetts Bay Colony founder John Winthrop, lived a life that possessed all the dramatic arcs of a sweeping epic novel: She left post-Elizabethan England to venture into the rugged beginnings of Colonial America, eventually settling in Greenwich. Elizabeth ultimately survived three husbands, birthed seven children, witnessed brutal Native American massacres (one launched from her Greenwich property), and even became embroiled in a political/religious tug-of-war over the legitimacy of one of her marriages.
Historian, author and town resident Missy Wolfe was understandably fascinated by Winthrop and the way her life offered a deeply personal lens into Greenwich’s earliest days. “In 400 years her life has been summarized into obscurity, and yet she had this amazing story,” reflects Missy, also an appraiser of fine and decorative arts. “She was integrated into a violent, much larger and politically tumultuous period that we learn a lot about just from studying her.”
Missy has told Winthrop’s saga in Insubordinate Spirit: A True Story of Life and Loss in Earliest America. The author says she literally had to “blow the dust off” old and obscure archival documents to research her book, which has been praised as groundbreaking by the historical societies of both Greenwich and Stamford. “As exhausting as the research was, it was also incredibly fun because it took me to a lot of unexpected places,” she says. No doubt it will take you to those places as well.