Ted Muendel, Co-Founder and former Chairman, speaks of the Origins and Future of Stanton ChaseExecutive Search, Featured, North America, People Thursday, February 9th, 2012
Stanton Chase International’s origins can be traced back to a convention of working partners who, during October 1990, met in Amsterdam to focus on the restructuring of a London based executive search company called Marlar International. At that time, Marlar International, a Spencer Stuart Spin-off, was facing financial difficulty and high consultant turnover. As a result, four core offices from Marlar International decided to unite together and to form a new organization which became Stanton Chase International. These original offices were Amsterdam, Baltimore, Los Angeles and London.
Out of the convention came a unanimous commitment from the four Managing Directors – Koert Jansen in Amsterdam, Edward (Ted) Muendel in Baltimore / Annapolis, Ed Savage in Los Angeles, and Robert Watsham in London to set up a new company with a new business philosophy, clear performance objectives, and a structure focused exclusively on global executive search.
Ted Muendel, one of the original Co-Founding members and former Chairman of Stanton Chase International, speaks to the Executive Newswire on the origins and structure of Stanton Chase International, which was born from the downfall of Marlar International and has grown today to become a global organization with market access/presence in four regions of the world and a ranking achievement among the top performing executive search consulting organizations in the profession.
ENW: So Ted, who was the first to hold the helm of this newly formed Stanton Chase International back in 1990?
Ted Muendel: Well, following an endorsement of a formation strategy by all four companies present, Koert Jansen was appointed as the first Chairman of Stanton Chase International. In his role, Koert and his leadership were the catalyst for building the newly formed company. It was his ideas and incorporation concepts that became the early foundation of our legal entity.
ENW: What was your role in the beginning?
Ted Muendel: At that time, I served as Koert’s counterpart and “sounding board” and we closely worked together. I specifically focused on expanding our group in the Americas, including both North and South America, while Koert focused on developing new offices across Europe. During this formative period, we held several follow up meetings in Annapolis / Baltimore, Maryland for the purpose of further developing our new company, expanding its global reach, and establishing its name.
ENW: Did you know from the start that you would call the company Stanton Chase? How did that come about?
Ted Muendel: First we started with the development and structuring of the new organization, then came the selection of the new name. There were a number of proposals that were exchanged between the founding offices. We started by considering family names of the different members of shareholders from the four offices. The name “Stanton” came from the Baltimore office and the name “Chase” came from the London office. After legal confirmation and registration, it was adapted and all companies agreed to change over to the new brand name.
ENW: So from a financially challenged organization into the new and restructured Stanton Chase, what were the guiding principles that allowed Stanton Chase to succeed where not only the previous organization failed but other global structures also failed over time?
Ted Muendel: Earlier in our careers, Koert and I were both general management consultants, so we approached our company formation and structure in a unique way and wanted to make it enduring and lasting. When we studied and identified why other organizational structures did not succeed, we concluded that we needed to develop a different model. In this regard, we decided to base Stanton Chase on the concept of equal ownership and equality of status. This became our founding principle. in other words, we wanted Stanton Chase to become a holding company owned equally by all Shareholders which in most cases were offices, and in other cases entire countries. In turn, with unanimous approval, this “federation of shareholders” took hold as an organizational model and our new company gathered momentum in 1992.
As we evolved, the principle of “friendship and trust” became the driving force to keep our organization cohesive and unified and “inter office referrals” became the economic consequence that confirmed the soundness of our original concept. Actually, to this day, the cultural dynamics of our company are still valid and represent not only our system of values and beliefs, but also the foundation of our successful global organization. As you know, we are now a true international organization with a diversified and robust structure, which includes 72 offices in 46 countries. This achievement has not been an easy task, and certainly remains a sense of pride for all shareholders, and especially for me, being one of our original co-founders .
ENW: In an integrated organization which has a top down hierarchical approach to leading and managing across borders, the model is easy. I suppose it was a little bit more complicated for Stanton Chase, as you had to deal with “entrepreneurial shareholders” as you mentioned. Did this consideration complicate things?
Ted Muendel: To a certain extent, I suppose it had the potential to be more complicated, but we kept it straight forward. You see, if you take a look at Stanton Chase today, you will understand that throughout the company’s history, it has been our belief that building strong relationships based on trust, primarily between partners, and then also between us and our clients, represented a key pre-requisite for successful business development. Frequent communication and interaction were key drivers to achieve this trust. So we setup and emphasized that we should always have two Shareholder meetings per year, with an agenda which enabled consultants to interface on committees, to drive business development together and to participate in social activities, including a “significant others” program. In this way, our culture created a bond, which was both personal and professional, and unified our vision and commitment towards the organization’s growth and development.
Today, the evidence suggests that we have developed the correct emphasis and that our culture based on friendships has sustained the cohesiveness of our organization. As a result, inter office business development and referrals have flourished. Moreover, I personally believe that our culture remains our most important asset today, and it is what will continue to drive us forward.
ENW: Are you telling me that this is the only ingredient to a successful organization?
Ted Muendel: For sure not the only ingredient, but the secret ingredient, for in our profession, most organizations are boutique entrepreneurial structures and, to sustain both the independent and interdependent working relationships, a unique culture has to be put in place In short, I believe we got it right from the beginning.
Naturally, as our organization grew and became more developed and complex, we had to rethink our original policies, systems, processes, procedures, and revise and amend our bylaws and General Operating Procedures through committee and board recommendations and formal shareholders’ approval.
And today, they provide both a legal and procedural framework to standardize how we interact and conduct business between all offices and with our clients, ensuring that we operate as a single organization, serving a variety of clients in different industries across multiple geographic borders and cultures.
ENW: We understand that at some point, outside of being one of the co-founders, you also served as Chairman. What was your role about, back then, and what were the key issues and challenges?
Ted Muendel: I originally did not want a Board seat for reasons of including other shareholders from our early founding group. However, around late 1993, I was drafted and officially agreed to become on the Board from a “behind the scenes” role. At that time, my responsibility was to continue to scout for, find and add new offices in North and South America, starting with Brazil, where we recruited Eline Kullock, who remains with us today, Chicago headed then by Jim Piper, Argentina headed by Claudia Fernaud who is also still with us, and much earlier Dallas, founded and managed by Ed Moerbe who only recently retired. Other offices followed quickly. We also developed a New York affiliate office at that time.
Then, when shareholders elected me Vice Chairman in 1998 and later Chairman in 2000, a role I held for two terms, we continued to develop our global strategic plan for building an effective top ten global ranked executive search firm with annual growth revenue at $100milliion USD. Again, it was not so much the revenue target that was as important as the compass heading.
In defining our goals, we questioned ourselves on the type of organization we wanted to become and how prominent we collectively desired to be in the executive search profession. To assist us in this important water shed process, we brought in an outside facilitator who was knowledgeable about our profession and asked him to study and survey us and to assist in developing our strategy for advancement. One of the most significant challenges we faced then as an organization was how best to evolve from privileged geographic outreach to an organization based upon practice specializations. After much debate and assessment of what we all wanted, we voted to modify our strategy and to focus on specializations across regions and countries in order to provide the best collaborative expertise for our clients and assignments. Other elements of our strategic plan were also developed and approved and we advanced forward as an organization with to best redefine our future and to achieve the next milestone in our growth.
Today, we are almost there with our ranking among the highest 1% in the profession and our numerical recognition among the largest 15 executive search firms worldwide.
ENW: Any regrets?
Ted Muendel: On the contrary. In reflecting back, the opportunity to be a driving part of building Stanton Chase has been a unique responsibility which I hope many others may experience in continuing to serve. In effect, Stanton Chase almost doubled during my watch from 20 or so offices when I took over leadership from Koert.
In retrospect, my involvement has truly been a rewarding experience as well as a learning one to appreciate how the world economies and businesses interact to form “one market and one economy”.
Further, it has been an honor to serve Stanton Chase and as I think back upon the history of our formation, I have certainly enjoyed working closely with our various Boards and Committee members to develop and fine tune the way we operate and to expand our global structure.
Here is to a robust future for a great organization and team of excellent consultants and shareholders worldwide. Thank you, again, for the opportunity to serve and I am very proud of what we have all accomplished together.
Ted Muendel’s Profile & Background
Ted Muendel’s background has been one of international adventure and the creation of new business opportunities. He has enjoyed building many successful companies and leading great teams of professionals.
Ted’s career started with a specialty steel company in Pennsylvania (Allegheny Ludlum International) where over time, he was assigned various management roles at newly acquired subsidiary companies around the US. By leveraging this experience and after completing an honors night school masters (MS) degree in Business, Ted was recruited by one of the leading US general management consulting firms in Los Angeles and solved problems for many Fortune 500 clients. When he left management consulting and for a couple of years, Ted was hired to direct a California based consumer products company as the Vice President & General Manager.. Then, fast forward with other colleagues, he set up an executive search consulting organization which today has evolved into Stanton Chase.
Along the way, Ted Muendel became active in his alma mater, Lehigh University, and was elected President of the International Alumni Association and later served for 9 years as a Trustee. Lehigh has honored him several times for leadership achievements.
He has served on many for profit and non-profit Boards during his career including the United Nations Business Council, an international manufacturing corporation, several university entrepreneurial centers, and many non-profit organizations where he held Chair positions, and a vineyard wine business operation in Sonoma, CA.
Ted was appointed a Senior Fellow of the Business School at the University of Maryland and elected a Trustee of the Baltimore International College. He continues to enjoy leading management development seminar programs and contributing his observations on the “new reality” and on coaching management on how best to deal with the changing dynamics of the global markets.
Ted and his wife Diane have two grown children and having lived at many locations throughout the United States, they are now residing near Annapolis, Maryland.