AN OBJECTIVE EYE FOR HIRING
Before starting Bluewater Advisory, Mark Debinski spent several years helping companies get ready for ownership transitions. The experience taught him that the right people can make or break a company. Today, Bluewater sets itself apart from other firms in the recruiting space through a focus on analytics and objectivity that’s designed to yield a better fit from the outset.
Q: What are the market gaps that Bluewater Advisory is designed to fill?
A: Bluewater’s mission is to provide our clients with high ROI by helping individuals and teams work at their highest and best use. Areas of expertise include leadership training, search and selection, team optimization, management succession, and focused executive coaching. We provide best-in-class assessment tools and training content, and our results are superior.
Q: Before founding Bluewater, you spent several years helping companies get ready for management or ownership transitions as a temporary executive. What did that experience teach you about running a company?
A: I learned that the people make or break the company, and it starts with leadership. Culture trumps strategy and marketing every day. We focus on putting the right people in the right positions and teach people how to effectively communicate, starting at the top. Sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it?
Q: What services did Bluewater start out providing, and how have you branched out since then?
A: We started out doing quite a bit of team development. We now customize training for individuals and groups throughout the U.S. with over 20 modules of content, often combining eight to 10 modules to tailor a program we call Graduate Level Leadership. Other specialty areas include management succession and retained search. Our Bluewater Search division is retained to recruit 40 to 50 mid- to senior-level management positions annually.
Q: Bluewater worked without its own office space for some years. How have you managed the transition into a more formal environment?
A: Establishing an office became a necessity to provide knowledge-share among our team. We managed the transition by maintaining flexibility. Mondays and Tuesdays are typically team days, i.e. everyone (who is not traveling) works together in the office. The rest of the week, we flex between office and virtual, depending upon our work priorities. While it is professional, it is also comfortable. We often use our office for client group training as well. Our clients love our office.
Q: Bluewater’s approach to recruitment includes a focus on objectivity and analytics. Can you elaborate on how this approach yields better results?
A: Think of the movie Moneyball, or the concept of counting cards at a blackjack table. Combining analytics and objectivity in a process that is largely subjective — like hiring — simply increases your odds for success. We don’t miss the cultural-fit piece, we simply overlay it with other job-fit measurements. Our clients — the companies and organizations who retain us to fill their key positions — are thrilled with the results, and the team members hired through our process are highly engaged in their jobs.
Q: In addition to running Bluewater, you’re also a published author. How do you balance these responsibilities?
A: I am not sure if balance is achievable these days, but I believe harmony is. It comes down to prioritizing and focus, and being able to say, “No thanks,” once in a while. With connectivity and the frenetic pace of things, distraction and dilution are constant risks. We all have the same 24 hours in each day, however.
Q: What expansion plans do you have for Bluewater in the coming years?
A: Smart and deliberate growth, with the right people, while maintaining service excellence. We have a 100-percent success rate in our advisory division with our training, organizational development and succession, and about 98-percent retention in our recruiting division, Bluewater Search. Engagement excellence comes first, then expansion. Plan to see an office out west, and one in the southeast, in coming years.
Q: What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs?
A: Know your strengths and focus. Planning is important, but execution is critical. You only get one first chance with each client or customer.