Before Leslie Cooper, Managing Director of InterSearch Chile, started her career in C-level executive search she was a high-performance athlete and extremely successful 100-meter sprinter. Leslie not only held the Chilean record but was also South American champion. “I had the privilege to represent my country in many international meets, and this experience forged my temperament and my way of seeing life,” she says.
What does that mean? “I live with passion,” Leslie explains, “I give my best, work hard, persevere, learn from my mistakes and celebrate the achievement of goals.” Sports taught her that limits do not exist, she says, that results are better when you work as a team and to be flexible to changes, adapt to circumstances, and take on new responsibilities.
Taking responsibility in the family business
Leslie received a sports scholarship to study for a Bachelor of Science in Economics at TWU and a Master of Arts in Economics at North Texas State University in the United States. Her professional career began when her father died and she had to take over his position at the family business Chilefrut, an agro-industrial and export company.
After serving in the public sector, she gained valuable experience in the financial industry and served as an advisor to institutional investors. She then founded the executive search company that became HK Human Capital S.A. in 2002 and joined the InterSearch Network in 2007.
Managing HK Human Capital – InterSearch Chile
For more than 20 years Leslie has been responsible for the strategic orientation, leadership of the team, development of solid relationships with clients and industry expertise. She believes staying up to date with industry trends, market dynamics and best practices, continuous assessment of the competition, identifying emerging trends and maintaining the company’s competitive edge is crucial. “My role is to oversee and manage the company so that it performs according to the standards set and to the expectations of our clients while assuring the financial performance and sustainability of the company,” she says.
“We as a team establish the goals, objectives and long and short-term plans.” Leslie leads, manages and supports the executive search team, providing guidance, counselling, mentoring and support, as well as ensuring the successful execution of the searches.
Chile is going through tough economic times right now. Many investors have left the country, unemployment has increased and there is more uncertainty of the future. One challenge Leslie and her colleagues are facing: Companies are being more cautious in their decision-making process and more searches are being cancelled or redefined. Candidates and executives, on the other hand, are less willing to take the risk of moving to another company and more often accept counteroffers from their company, Leslie explains. They prioritize job security and stability rather than taking on a new challenge. Due diligence both towards candidates and towards clients as well as confidentiality and integrity are paramount in these times.
As Leslie points out it is essential to stay up to date and care about clients and candidates. “Part of our philosophy is to stay connected and advise our network of clients and candidates to help them formulate strategies that would benefit their company and career,“ Leslie explains. “If they feel you are supporting them, they value that.” Leslie believes that these times bring along opportunities in companies to strengthen their teams and persevere on detecting talents that are willing to take a challenge.
Even though the market of executive search in Chile is less mature, and most searches are managed internally by companies, either through their HR department or through recommendations of their network, there is approximately a 20 percent of all the C-level searches that are conducted by executive search companies. “In our market, establishing credibility, fostering trust and cultivating strong relationships with our clients and candidates are crucial factors in securing executive search assignments,” Leslie explains.
But the industry still has a lot of growing to do and therefore it is important to break some paradigms and make clear the following:
Executive search firms not only rely on their existing networks.
“Relationships and networks are important,” Leslie confirms, “but, in our searches, we strive to make sure we have a diverse and inclusive candidate pool, seeking qualified candidates from a wide range of backgrounds, industries, and locations, using a variety of sources, including technology and data-driven approaches.”
It is not only for large corporations.
There is a perception that executive search services are for large corporations and multinational companies. However, the service Leslie and her team of consultants provide is relevant for all sizes and industries. “Small and medium-size companies can also benefit from partnering with us, not only to find top-level executives who can make their companies grow, lead transformation and provide new strategic views, but also to receive advice on market trends, best practices and solutions for problem areas.”
It is not just about filling the position.
“While filling the position is important, our service is more than that,” Leslie says. It often includes consulting support to the clients, offering market insights, talent mapping, succession planning and leadership development. “We help clients assess their leadership needs, develop effective search strategies, and identify high potential candidates who align with the company’s long-term goals and values.”
Each search is unique
“For us each assignment is unique, tailored to the specific needs, requirements and culture we are dealing with,” says Leslie.