Oliver Esman - Strawn Arnold

For many companies, job boards are the place to be when sourcing for new hires. However, it might not be the best option when you’re looking to fill in executive positions for premier clients. In this episode of The Staffing Show podcast, Oliver Esman of Strawn Arnold shares how to hire top executives more efficiently, especially during the pandemic.

David Folwell: Hello everyone. Thank you again for joining The Staffing Show today, I’m joined today with Oliver Esman from Strawn Arnold. Super excited to have you here today, Oliver. Why don’t we kick it off by you just telling us a little bit about who you are and what you’re working on today.

Oliver Esman: Okay. Well thanks for having me. So I have an HR career in life sciences, previously with Sandoz prior to going into executive search. I always liked executive search. I did not like having to fire people and do performance appraisals. And so I’ve concentrated for the last 15 years on executive search in life sciences. So we are a life sciences focused firm and we know a lot about life sciences and we don’t know a lot about retail and building and all that kind of stuff.

Folwell: Awesome. And how did you get into life sciences? What was your career path?

Esman: So my last HR job was in a pharmaceutical company, and I met somebody as I was leaving who said, “Well, what do you want to do for the rest of your life?” And I said, “Well, I don’t want to do this, but I’m thinking about executive search.” And they had this company called Strawn Arnold and they were looking for partners on the East Coast. And so about four months after I met him, I went to work for them and subsequently had become a partner and equity owner and for a second career, this has been at least as good as my first career. So it’s great actually. If you like meeting people and working hard and working funny hours, this is a great profession.

Folwell: Awesome. And tell me a little bit about Strawn Arnold and kind of what problems you guys are solving for the customers you work with?

Esman: So we work in life sciences, we work in medical devices and diagnostics and vaccines and generics and through the whole range. And 15 to 20 years ago, we used to get sort of vanilla searches like, “Would you please do this search for me?” Which might be easy. And now companies have their own internal staffing organizations, which turn out to be our biggest competitor.

And so we generally get things that are harder now – quality searches, regulatory affairs searches, “needle in a haystack” searches. That’s what you generally get because these internal recruitment departments use very good technology and they generally are pretty successful unless it’s a really needle in a haystack kind of search and then they don’t have the time. In this business, working harder is often part of the key to success. And so not just smarter using technology but spending more time grinding through people. Sometimes that’s what ends up finding the right candidate.

Folwell: Got it. I second that. I think it’s funny with most corporate HR companies or even I used to do a lot of hiring when I was a CMO at a company and I would always take the easy jobs and then thought, “Well, we don’t need to work with a search firm.” And then we got into IT and started trying to find people and I was like, “I can’t solve that, this is going to take way too much time to solve this.” And started seeing the real value there, which is great. How have you seen staffing change for your team over the last few years?

Esman: The last year has been the granddaddy of all change, but over time more competition from internal resources, more competition, more competition. And then in March of 2020, the world of going to a coffee shop or meeting somebody internally, meeting somebody in person, just the door slammed on that. And people had to figure out well what to do next. So that’s really been the focus of the last year, is how do you adapt and how do you put all those pieces together to be successful? But it has been getting more and more competitive over the years like we just talked about.

Folwell: And with that you mentioned one of the strategies you’ve put in place to kind of work with the new competition and as things are, you’re competing with more internal resources, as being working hard but are there other activities, tactics, anything that you’ve done, anything else on that front that you find that is a good way to make sure you’re beating out the internal team?

Esman: So technology in the search business is becoming more and more critical. So everybody uses LinkedIn now, and it’ll be interesting to see, well what’s next after LinkedIn? Because LinkedIn is remarkably flexible and you can do so much with it that it has taken the place of almost everything else. People’s internal databases, they’re great but they’re not as good as LinkedIn. LinkedIn is just remarkable and to be able to use all the pieces of LinkedIn, learning to do that is just an added benefit for anybody in recruitment now.

And everything else really, honestly sort of pales in comparison, I mean you can do all the other things on the internet and you can go to meetings but LinkedIn and that technology is remarkable, particularly for management jobs.

Folwell: Yeah. I would imagine for exact search that that’s got to be a key target. 

Esman: And globally, by the way. Everybody, everyone is on everywhere. So we’ve done searches in India and Japan and China and that’s the first place you go to sort of start your roadmap, because everybody’s there.

Folwell: That’s amazing. Are you using any tools and combination or any other technical software that is unique to what you guys are doing, or anything that you’re willing to share with the audience?

Esman: So nothing we’re willing to share, but honestly we don’t do a lot. We have our internal database and we do a lot of updating on that and we do that because in terms of when we have an outsourced vendor who can help you look outside of LinkedIn in various ways to pull things together, but that’s not as easy to use, we can’t do that ourselves. But there are things to do outside of LinkedIn but it’s harder for a mere mortal to do that.

Folwell: Yeah, no that makes sense and I’m just curious, sourcing continues to be a huge struggle. Finding the right qualified talent is almost every year the number one challenge with staffing agencies. And I know that there’s always kind of transitions in that. I still hear a lot of people talking about Indeed and the job boards, are you guys leveraging those at all or are you just full on LinkedIn?

Esman: We rarely use job boards, because job boards create their own problems in the marketplace, we rarely, rarely use them and clients don’t like paying us and seeing their job on a job board. They can do that themselves so why are you paying for that? But also, unless it’s a very specialized job board, otherwise we don’t use them. But clearly somebody is using Indeed and ZipRecruiter, well they use them for lower-level jobs. We work at the sort of senior executive and technical head but we don’t use those at all.

Folwell: That’s interesting to know. And I know it’s still heavy for a lot of agencies, but I’m hearing rumblings on not always the most exciting spot to put a lot of spend.

Esman: You get a lot of stuff and you have to weed through the stuff or unqualified people. Your time is what you’ve got, and that’s just not a very good use, particularly for anything over a director kind of position. It’s just not a useful way to do things.

Folwell: That makes sense. So one of the things I wanted to talk about, kind of shifting gears a little bit, is how things have changed. The hiring process has changed during the pandemic and how your company has adapted to that. What are you guys doing differently? What has worked for you over the last year?

Esman: The main thing we’re doing differently is we are not chalking up miles on United Airlines anymore. That is just a remarkable change for people in my industry. People in my industry used to, let’s say you were doing a job and you had five candidates at the senior level, you met those people at airports.

Folwell: Oh wow, I didn’t think about that.

Esman: You met those people at airports, I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been to Denver, but only to the airport on my way to SFO and Sky Harbor. I mean that has changed dramatically, it’s so much better not to sit on an airline seat for six hours.

Folwell: For an hour meeting.

Esman: Exactly, for an hour meet that could turn out to be a dud. You want to kill yourself when that happens. So, that change has been so dramatic, it’s made everybody so much more efficient. We’ve had to learn how to do this better. Because we did this before but not to the extent that we do it now. Now it’s almost 100%.

I haven’t sat in a coffee shop since March of last year.

Folwell: That’s so wild. It’s crazy to think how much change was in the last year. With that, I know it’s more efficient to not have to travel. Do you think you’re able to get to the same quality of kind of the process and really get to know people?

Esman: So we all worried about that in the beginning. There were people who did what I did who never used Teams or Zoom because it wasn’t professional. When you’re getting paid the kind of fees we get paid, it wasn’t professional. And they had to learn, but people like me, I used to go to an outsourced video conferencing store to do my thing let’s say 10 years ago before Teams and Zoom came along. So I was getting used to all that but various people took longer to get used to it, but in our business now, you either do this or you’re dead.

And so people learned, and you have to learn to be comfortable in this online environment and you do some things differently than you did before. When you’re sitting at a coffee shop with somebody or you’re having a meal with somebody, there are all these cues that you see, because you’re closer. Is the person shaking their foot? Are they actually paying attention or are they looking around? Do they seem engaged? Those kinds of cues you don’t get as easily this way, you have to learn to get them. And so I think the whole learning to make this interview as effective or more effective than the coffee shop or meal thing was the learning for all of us.

Folwell: That sounds amazing. Do you have any specific techniques that you’ve used, anything that you’ve kind of applied that could be shared?

Esman: So one thing I will say. I hated having a meal with a candidate and having to eat the food and write and make sure that you were sort of managing that. I’m so glad I’m not doing that anymore, I really am. But the main thing I do is I’m more disciplined. So I make sure that I ask the same questions multiple times. I make sure that I make good use of my time, because some people, even though it’s COVID time, people are on very tight schedules because they’re constantly in meetings still. They’re just in these kinds of meetings so I try to be very disciplined in my questions and I always start with the technical questions to make sure the person can meet the technical base of the job whatever turns out to be and then I spend more time on fit and culture than I did before, because in the end that’s what really matters and that’s what’s more difficult to figure out.

Folwell: And when you’re digging into kind of the fit and culture, do you have a specific set of questions that you dig? And that’s one of the harder things I like to pull out of general conversation and really make sure people are aligned on, I’ve heard of kind of a principle-based hiring where it’s making sure your core values or core principles of candidate align with that of the company but do you have a process or strategy that you use to ensure it happens?

Esman: So I ask sort of multiple levels of questions. I usually ask the question “Tell me about your 360,” because that’s very helpful in listening to what the candidate has to say about their strengths and weaknesses. Some people even though they’re a mature executive, they can’t name their areas of development. When somebody tells me that you’re 45 to 55 years old, you’re going for a senior job and you can’t tell me what your performance appraisal has said for the last 20 years, because mostly they don’t change that much, I worry about that, I worry about that and I try to dig into that.

So I ask about 360s. I ask about the last performance appraisal. I ask about sort of situational, I ask for examples, what’s the most difficult project you ever worked on? What’s your greatest success? What’s your greatest failure? And what I’m really looking for is a level of maturity and can you answer those questions. Because if you can’t answer those questions and you’re going for a senior role, I’m worried about you. If you can’t answer those questions and you’re going for a technical role, I’m not as worried about you but I don’t think you’re going to grow as much.

So I go through those kinds of questions and I try to ask them in more ways than one. So that I can dig in. And when somebody doesn’t answer a question, I didn’t use to do the pregnant pause thing, that’s very effective, you do the pregnant pause and you never know what you’re going to hear if you’re willing to wait 20 seconds. I never used to do that before but I definitely do that now.

And then the other thing I do, just because it makes people more comfortable, I always ask people to the extent you’re permitted about what are your hobbies? What do you do for fun outside of work? Because that’s often telling about what people are into. It’s amazing what people will tell you, and then depending on what that is, you can dig into that and you just learn more about the person. So I mean I do all of those things in a very disciplined kind of way to sort of get into who you are, and I look for themes, that’s what I do, I look for themes.

Folwell: And well, one thing that you mentioned there that I just always find is the, tell me about your biggest weakness, sounds like sometimes that’s coming up with lies but in the days where I was doing a lot of interviewing, that was always one of my favorite questions, just because of the answers could be, “My biggest weakness is that I can’t stop working.” And you’re like, Okay. Well, it’s always a tool, do you have any good stories on that one?

Esman: I personally hate that answer, because that’s not, I don’t use the word weakness by the way, I use the word development, what’s your development needs? When someone tells me they’re a workaholic, I basically say, “Well, that’s not necessarily a weakness or a development need.” Some companies love that, private equity companies live for that, they love that answer. So what’s a better answer, what’s a better answer that I’m a workaholic.

And some people just aren’t willing to do that, and sometimes that’s cultural, my practice is global is often much more difficult for me to get that answer out of different groups of people, because that’s a sign of weakness versus a sign of knowledge. And so that is often difficult to get and you just have to keep that in mind, you have to be culturally aware when you’re talking to people globally.

Some European countries, those people are all set with that question, but in Asia they’re not. And so you just have to understand that when you ask those questions, like asking about family in parts of Asia, that’s just not done, you don’t do that.

Folwell: That’s interesting. I didn’t know that.

Esman: That’s called “trying,” and you just don’t do that in some cultures. So yeah. But I try to go off to the same question to try to get a rounded view of the candidate.

Folwell: That makes complete sense. Do you have anything that… like a key part of this and just talking with other staffing execs is that it’s understanding the core values of the client and making sure that you’re aligning those. Do you have any process on that front? Is it more of just kind of meetings, is there any standard process that it would be valuable for our audience?

Esman: So I used to say that that whole making sure, getting the culture to the candidate was to some extent the client’s job. But nowadays to engage people, I tell people to go to the website, because on websites now they talk about, the whole people section on a website is about values and citizenship and what we’re looking for. Some of that is real and some of that isn’t real, and so what I tend to ask questions that I think reflect what the client wants. Some clients for instance want people that are very autonomous and independent and will work unsupervised and there’s a whole sort of freedom aspect.

And there are some clients that don’t like that at all that are very nuts and bolts, I want you in the office, I want you to be available to me and I want you to be in that meeting. And understanding those differences are really important. And also being able to work in a matrix or not, lots of people are in a matrix organization and if you’re not experienced in working in a matrix, maybe a global matrix actually, you’re not going to be a good fit, and the fit thing is what makes it or breaks in lots of companies now.

Folwell: Absolutely. And with that, I mean where do you kind of see things progressing? I mean, now we’re kind of, not out of the pandemic, that’s going to be going on for a while, but things are starting to open back up, kind of where do you see staffing going forward?

Esman: Hey, this is just something that happened to me yesterday. So I thought I would share it with my peers. I didn’t use to do this, some companies do. We look at social media now, for a candidate social media page. We didn’t use to look at somebody’s Facebook page or what they’ve been posting, and we sort of do that more because clients do that, I just ran into a situation where somebody’s email address had the word “whiskey gut” in it, whiskey gut 704. And all of my radar immediately went up, really, whiskey gut 704?

So I went to a website that they refer people to and there was a lot of whiskey involved in this guy’s life. And the client, he’s a senior executive, the client would have looked at that and would have been horrified to see that. And so I encourage people who are professional now to make sure that their email address and their social media posts deliver the right message.

And we have multiple examples of people let’s say whose email addresses are off color.

Folwell: It’s unreal.

Esman: I just find that just remarkable actually in this day and age, I ask somebody the other day, “Do you use whiskey guts 704 for your professional stuff?” “No, I don’t really use that.” I said, “Well you sent something to me on it, I now have to ask you about that. How about sending me another email address that you use so I don’t have to look at that again, and we can talk about it.” And he had a second email address that he used. That kind of thing needs to be cleaned up I would say, because that just sends the wrong message and it makes people like me nervous, because in the end my client trusts me to use good judgment. And I have to worry about that, when I see things that I know I shouldn’t see. It’s like you can’t unsee things, that’s an example of that.

Folwell: That’s pretty amazing, I’ve actually experienced that as well, not on the executive search side of things but I’ve experienced that on a different job type side, I’ve been blown away at the emails that come in, like hot guy, whatever. I’m like, “you know we could read these, email accounts are free.” So it’s pretty wild to see that and at the executive level too.

Esman: What were you thinking? What were you thinking there? Anyway we can move on.

Folwell: Great story and also pretty funny to hear that it’s happening at all levels. So what we’re jumping into next is kind of where do you see things going from here? There’s been a ton of change, there’s been more adoption of technology, but how do you see things kind of progressing in executive search and life sciences for staffing agencies?

Esman: So number one, we’re never going to ever go back to meeting people face-to-face for initial interviews and screening interviews. I would be very surprised if that happens again, because it’s so much more efficient to do this. I think that for senior level executive positions, we’re going to go back to some hybrid, I’m going to start traveling again for final interviews and I’m going to end up in coffee shops and meals again, because the client in the end wants that because they want that extra bit of comfort but it’s going to be a hybrid.

Some organizations aren’t going to do that, they’re going to be okay until the final interview with the Zoom calls and I think that those kinds of changes will make me more efficient and will make it easier for candidates to engage in a process. I think that that’s going to be the main change, because most life sciences companies except manufacturing, they’re still not back at work.

And I don’t think a lot of those guys are coming back to work until the fall. So I think that there’s still time to see what all this is going to look like. But I think that efficiency and quickness have been things that we’ve all learned through this process. And I think that candidates need to learn how to use technology more comfortably. So they need to learn this, they need to do things to keep up.

Younger people already have, it’s people that are farther along in their career who never thought they would ever have to do this, those guys have to catch up and a lot of them are, a lot of people are catching up and I think that’s just going to all continue.

Folwell: I think it makes sense and I think it’s great what I’ve seen just as a kind of shift towards people used to never jump on Zoom, period. Even when you have conference calls, nobody would go on video. And now almost everybody just assumes it’s the new norm and honestly it’s made things for the software company that we have more efficient. A lot of things are more efficient but I do miss the human connection for a lot of it. I’m ready for conferences to be back online.

Esman: Well, I think from an HR perspective, the whole onboarding of new employees is something that everybody is grappling with, because if I’m talking to you and I’ve known you for three to five years and I’m in a meeting, I already know you, I’ve already had a cup of coffee, I know you. New people, it’s harder to get to know new folks online, but interestingly it’s happening now every single day.

And so companies are being more aggressive or more efficient with onboarding, onboarding used to be very haphazard, onboarding is not haphazard anymore, there’s a script, there are interview dates. It’s a way more effective process than it used to be and I think that’s a benefit to tell you the truth. But I think along with the whole remote work thing, you have to invest the time to do this, because otherwise knowing your colleagues and peers, that makes a difference when you work together. Particularly in the bad times and when things are tough. So I think that that whole onboarding thing still needs work and still needs discipline and companies are working at that all the time.

Folwell: Yeah, absolutely.

Esman: They figured the remote thing out already, because they had to but the onboarding thing is, shall we say ongoing?

Folwell: Do you assist with that when you’re working with clients or is that on them to have their own process?

Esman: So that is on them to have their own process but we sort of push to make sure that something happens. So on day one, we didn’t ask as much, where you show up at the front door and you have a schedule, people are going to meet you and we didn’t really get involved in that. Now we don’t micromanage it, but we make sure there’s some kind of onboarding and we sometimes, if it’s a smaller company, have to push that, to make sure that that happens because the success of a recruitment is often based on how did that first two or three weeks ago? And if you’re sitting there and you’re not getting fed information, you’re not meeting people, it’s not going to go well.

Folwell: Yeah. It’s been interesting, I’ve actually onboarded a couple of employees last year, this has been such a weird experience being like, “Hey, we’re not going to meet in person, we’re just going have as much Zoom time as we can possibly have and try to go through and make it as normal as possible.”

Esman: But don’t you think it becomes a little more normal?

Folwell: I think we’ve gotten to a spot where it feels it works, we get to the same spot that we would have with that person. I think maybe you miss some of the nuances to connecting with somebody in person. But as a whole, I think, I mean I know for our business that proved it successful and I know I’ve talked to a lot of companies who were anti-remote work as a whole, “We’re never going to go remote.” And now they’re like, “I don’t think we’re ever having an office again.” I mean that’s the wild thing of so many staffing executives I’ve talked to are like, “We got rid of our corporate lease and we’re going to maybe have a shared workspace with some flex time for people.” But it’s everybody’s kind of rethinking how business is done as a whole, which is wild.

Esman: Well, I’m glad I’m not in commercial real estate, because you can be sure that many of those office buildings are going to be less filled than they used to be, because of this. But it’s a lot of us used to have global colleagues. We didn’t use to see those global colleagues except a couple of times a year and that’s what it’s becoming like and the Zoom calls help with that, but it’s like the global colleague that you had in Turkey that you saw once a year, well that’s what this has turned out to be and you’ve learned to work pretty well with those people in the past and now you’re just figuring that out on a larger level.

Folwell: Absolutely and to your point on the commercial real estate, I was hanging out at WeWork quite a bit over the last few months. The building, the WeWork next to where I live, I mean I would say there’s probably 40 offices on the floor that I was at and maybe five people there on average on any given day. So there’s just absolutely nobody there.

Esman: Well, WeWork is a nightmare now. It used to be the company that everybody wants, now WeWork is just, because the price of their leases has not dropped yet, but they have like 10% occupancy right now.

Folwell: Yeah. So with that I’ve got some kind of more personalized questions so I can end the session with. Some of them have a little bit more rapid fire so if you’re good with it we’ll go ahead and jump in.

Esman: Go ahead.

Folwell: All right. So first one’s actually just related to COVID, but where are you going on your first trip? Do you have anything planned?

Esman: We are going to Florida.

Folwell: Awesome.

Esman: We’re going to Florida. We’re going to west coast of Florida because we have a place there, we haven’t seen it in a year and we are just dying like everybody else to go and do something. So we’re going to go do that in June.

Folwell: Awesome. The excitement around that, I just like asking that bit of question because you’re going to see their faces light up.

Esman: We have not been to a restaurant, eating indoors yet, we’ve been eating outdoors but not indoors, because I’m older than you and I wanted to get my second shot, which I’ve gotten now but now people like me we have PTSD. We’re just can we really go indoors and eat? I mean it’s going to take a little time, but yeah, I can’t wait to do that either, that might be this weekend actually.

Folwell: Well, that is super exciting, it’s a good feeling, it’s a good feeling. I’ve gotten out of Denver, Denver started opening up a little bit more and most of the people I know now have the vaccine or at least have their first shots. So life feels like it’s going to happen again.

Esman: Can’t wait to go to the mall. Can’t wait to go to the mall.

Folwell: There’s a lot of things that I never thought I’d be so grateful for, just like having a conversation with the bartender. It was like, “I’m meeting a stranger.”

Esman: Shaking somebody’s hand. Giving somebody a hug.

Folwell: Absolutely. All right. So in the last five years what new belief, behavior, or habit has most improved your life?

Esman: Oh God, what a terrible question. So I guess my answer is, so we just had our first grandchild, and I would say that that is a humbling and wonderful experience in that all of a sudden you have this child who’s not yours, it’s your child’s, but you are supposed to love that child immediately and you do, because there’s something very compelling about that. And all of a sudden that person, that kid becomes part of your life and it changes things. And it’s humbling in that this kid has all this power over you and you just thought like, how did that happen? And it just gives you a different perspective on life. And also you get to try again after, “How did I do as a parent? Well, am I getting better as a grandparent?” So it’s humbling in that way too.

Folwell: Well congrats on that, that’s super exciting. My mom has been pushing so hard for that. What is one of the best or most worthwhile investments you’ve ever made? Could be an investment of money, time, energy, etc.

Esman: That’s really easy for me, so people that do the work that I do often work alone or you work in an office all day and you have to figure out some way to keep yourself socially engaged. So I played tennis three days a week and I’ve invested in lessons and I’ve invested in equipment, because I can either take a tennis lesson or I can sit on a shrink’s couch. So I think the tennis lesson where I get to work out my problems and actually see things happen in a positive way is a much better investment for me than sitting on a couch and going through that process whereas I think when you play tennis you have physical exercise which is good for you, you play with people that you like and it’s both humbling when you lose an exciting when you win but it’s good to be outdoors.

Folwell: That’s amazing, I suck in that and for it’s running and running is the meditation that I need. So it’s giving yourself time to work through the problems you need to work through.

Esman: Have you ever actually had that zen moment when you run?

Folwell: Oh man, yes.

Esman: So, sadly, I run numerous marathons with my oldest daughter, half-marathons. I have never for even one second experienced that.

Folwell: Really? Are you kidding me?

Esman: So for me it’s just two and a half hours of plodding pain to keep up with this person that’s 35 years younger than me and so I have never had that experience but I know a lot of people have.

Folwell: Oh man it’s almost once I’m in shape and I’m doing anything between five and 10 miles, it’s 50% of my runs. I think doing that is where I’ll just have the runner’s high as they call it. But I’ll have a moment where everything feels, I don’t know how to explain it exactly but pretty powerful and I’m a big marathon guy as well.

Esman: I know it exists. I just never experienced it, which is why I don’t run anymore.

Folwell: I don’t know. You’ve done a few marathons though?

Esman: So I’ve done, I don’t know, half a dozen half-marathons. Most of them are in Central Park or in places like that, which is a really beautiful place to run so you think you would feel that. But not for me. But I’m glad you have.

Folwell: Well, that is awfully fulfilling. So what are the bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?

Esman: Bad recommendations. Well, I guess that probably has to do with ethics. So in my business, my clients expect me to be ethical and to do things that are in their best interests. And some people who do the work that I do, they move people forward who maybe they shouldn’t move forward, they look in places they shouldn’t look, they do things that don’t keep the client’s perspective at the top of the list but they keep their own. And I try very hard not to do that, because that always backfires and bites you.

And so I try to be very cautious about anything that is ethically challenged, because that’s part of the problem with my industry, lots of people think that search people have ethical issues and some do. So I’m careful about that, even if I occasionally can’t go after a candidate because of it.

Folwell: You mean all of the agencies that just act like they never saw the whiskey gut.

Esman: That’s correct. And don’t think twice about moving the whiskey gut guy forward, they just want the money and I’d rather have the long-term client, because clients know when you’re, shall we say not having their best interests in mind and they go to somebody else, and that is painful, because once you lose a client you’ve got to go find another one, whereas if you treat them better, they generally will stay.

Folwell: Absolutely. Last question I have here is what is an unusual habit or an absurd thing that you love?

Esman: So it’s not really an unusual habit, but most people who are in business, you have your superstitions. So when somebody calls me and says, “I have this role for you.” Some of my colleagues immediately think they have it, they’re going to get it. I don’t do a single thing. I don’t put a file together, I don’t do anything that is going to ruin the karma of getting that search by thinking I already have it and being overconfident.

So until I have a signed agreement, I don’t make a file, I don’t do the work because I think that you’re just overly confident and you might not get it so I just wait until I get things before I assume I have them.

Folwell: A great practice.

Esman: I know it’s not great wisdom but if you’re in business, or your business, you’ve been burned before and you just, you want to use your time wisely, let’s put it that way and so that’s what I do.

Folwell: And actually I think that is pretty insightful and also something I was, and I cannot remember what book it was in, but they were talking about how a lot of people think you’re supposed to assume the close when you’re in a sales process, have the assumed close, I’ve got it and go in with the thought of, and they actually said that there was some study but they said that instead of going in with assuming that you have it, going in with the asking the question of how do I get this and why wouldn’t they take this and having that be your stance going into it, increases your close rate by quite a bit. So it sounds like you’re, I think pretty much doing that.

Esman: Right, I don’t assume I have something until I have it, and I feel I have to earn it. You have to work for it, and so I just, I’m cautious in that way, like a lot of other people are because there is a lot of competition. There are a lot of places people can go.

Folwell: Absolutely. So last comment. So is there anything, any closing notes, anything else that you’d like to share with our audience today?

Esman: I would just say that the whole COVID thing has impacted everybody in different ways, and I think that over time some of it, from a business perspective will be positive as long as the economy comes back for everybody. And I think that we all have things to learn, and I think that learning and adapting to whatever the new reality is is yet to come. And some of it will be good and some of it will be different, let’s say that. And we will continue to adapt over the next year as we sort of figure out what the new world looks like.

Folwell: That was great advice and it is going to be interesting to see and I’m just happy to see that we’re moving. I have to say the vaccines came sooner than I anticipated. A year ago this time I thought this would be a two-year deal in that, it still will be but things are at least moving down a good path at the moment.

Esman: Well the whole vaccine thing is a freaking miracle of modern science and we should all be just hard to believe it happened so fast, but it’s a great thing. I like being in my industry because of it, the life sciences, pharmaceutical, everybody who works with some of those companies are so proud. People at Pfizer and Moderna and J&J, they are so proud of those companies, because we have a bad reputation, we charge too much, pharmaceutical companies, but this is an example of how wonderful it is to work for a life sciences company where you save lives every day.

Folwell: Literally changing the world, and doing it faster than any of us anticipated a year ago.

Esman: And no negatives about overcharging, yet. Not yet.

Folwell: Awesome. Well thanks so much for joining us today, Oliver. Really appreciate it, really enjoyed the conversation and thanks again.

Esman: Great. Very nice meeting you and good luck and have a good day and I’ll think of you when I go into my first restaurant over the weekend.

Folwell: Awesome. Great. Thank you sir.

Esman: Take care. Thank you. Bye.