Case Study: Natural Gas Partners

Pearson Partners finds “perfect” candidate for “impossible” executive search

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As a $7.3 billion family of private equity funds that invests in energy companies, Natural Gas Partners does everything possible to ensure the success of the companies it sponsors. Because assisting those companies with risk management and environmental policies makes good business sense, in 2010 Natural Gas Partners created a new position to take on the task: Director of Portfolio and Environmental Risk Management.

The ideal person for the job would have both in-the-field operational experience and senior-level managerial experience, with a strong focus on risk management, compliance planning, policy development and implementation, crisis management, and strategic thinking.

“This person really has to be an expert in both safety and environmental issues,” says Christopher Ray, a managing director with NGP. “In most companies those are two distinct functions, or the person in charge of both has been out of the field for so long that they don’t have relevant operational experience. Finding someone skilled in both disciplines is like looking for a needle in a haystack.”

The task was so daunting, in fact, that many of the search firms Ray interviewed flatly told him that it was impossible. Pearson Partners proved that not only was it possible to find an ideally qualified candidate, the entire search and hiring process would be completed in under three months.

Ray chose Pearson Partners for the search because he felt the firm was the most competent of all that he had interviewed. “I had attended Pearson Partners’ breakfast events, so I had a comfort level with the firm, and I knew they wouldn’t say they could deliver if they really didn’t believe they could do it.”

Pearson Partners’ familiarity with the private equity space was also an important consideration for Ray.

“Pearson Partners understands the private equity business very well, and the cultural attributes that go hand-in-hand with that,” he says. “They were in tune with our need for this person to both fit internally and interact positively with our portfolio companies. If someone didn’t traffic in the private equity space, they wouldn’t be in tune with that.”

Ray was impressed that Pearson Partners worked with him to deeply understand this unique position and the skills and characteristics it demands. With this in mind, Pearson Partners carefully searched for viable candidates, narrowing the field to just four to five highly qualified candidates for interviews.

“They were very efficient with my time, and didn’t just send dozens of resumes for me to sort through,” he said. “That made it easier for me, because they did the hard work involved in screening and filtering. Some of the other search firms or headhunters I’ve used tend to put that work on the client.”

Because Ray felt that all the candidates he interviewed were excellent, he was faced with the tough task of picking the best person for the job. Luckily, he says, one was “perfect.” Three months after Ray retained Pearson Partners, that candidate accepted Natural Gas Partners’ job offer.

“His experience covered both the deeply technical capability level and the 10,000-foot managerial perspective we need,” Ray says. “He has the relevant experience, maturity, judgment, personality, and business style, and he has jumped right in with both feet and made a contribution in a number of different ways. It’s a great fit.”

“One of our favorite things to hear from a client is ‘we’ve tried to find this person and it’s impossible,'” says Keith Pearson, president and vice chairman of Pearson Partners. “Let’s face it: if it were easy, they wouldn’t need us. We excel at finding these needle-in-haystack leaders and attracting them to our client. What enabled us to succeed on the NGP search was the deep level of intimacy and partnership in our relationship with our client and a very clear understanding of the skills and attributes required for the position. In that respect, Chris’s leadership, combined with NGP’s exceptional reputation in the marketplace, helped us to complete this search quickly and effectively.”

Read other examples of how Pearson Partners helps clients build world-class leadership teams.

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