Yanouk Poirier at the head of Penrhyn International: Changing the world one leader at a time

Yanouk Poirier

Penrhyn International marked an exciting 40th anniversary appointing entrepreneur Yanouk Poirier to its Chairman of the Board position. It was a move that brought the media and telecommunications expert into a new position to oversee business strategies. Poirier’s diverse background in business and leadership gives him a unique outlook as Chairman of the Board. It also offers Penrhyn International the chance to incorporate new elements and technology into their executive searches.

Poirier aims to continue Penrhyn International’s strong strategic watch across the globe while keeping a finger on the pulse of business. Penrhyn International works in a variety of industries to search for the best leaders in business. Poirier’s experience of leading numerous assignments to find top-level business executives makes him ideal for his new role. The Chairman of the Board has a strong vision for the network’s future that will see it soar higher than before.

Yanouk, you were recently named Chairman of the Board at Penrhyn International. Can you tell us about your vision for the future of the network?

My vision is of soaring higher. Breaking through different industries across the planet and getting the right fit between companies and leaders. For that, we will have to think outside the box. We must use a digital mindset, being more agile, collaborative and open to change. At one point, we are doing some business intelligence and one of our goals is to make our clients win with top talent and information. We have an amazing opportunity to have access to great leaders across the world and discuss about strategy. A great example of leadership is how we manage when in a crisis situation. And a true leader doesn’t have only one style of leadership. A true leader assesses a situation and adapts his leadership style to the situation at hand.

Penrhyn International was established 40 years ago. How much of a challenge is it to move into a role such as the one you have as chairman of the board with such an established organization?

I am first and foremost a partner at Leaders International, which is a Canadian executive search firm. From our Montreal location, I led Penrhyn’s Technology, Media, and Telecommunications Global Practice Group for years until I was appointed to the board, then I took the chairman position only last May. I take the challenge of leading Penrhyn with the same mindset I take towards executive search.

The economy is changing, technologies are evolving with AI, industries are changing, circumstances are changing right before our eyes and we must learn to change with it. Penrhyn International is an umbrella organization where 15 independent companies across 43 major cities on the planet collaborate on talent executive search. In the 40 years of its existence and my involvement over the past decade, Penrhynas evolved into a very strong global network. The challenge is to align all independent partners under a strong vision of growth, client-centric and quality work. A vision where everyone can participate to the success of the network. It is a humbling and very fulfilling challenge to lead Penrhyn.

Penrhyn International has built a reputation for its customised solutions to the issues organizations face when searching for executive talent. Its network spans 40 major cities around the globe and works in all corners to help organizations find the best possible executive manpower available.

Current and Former Chair

Yanouk Poirier, Chairman of Penrhyn International and partner at Leaders International (Montreal, Canada) with Michael Herst, Former Chairman and current Treasurer at Penrhyn International (from Osprey Clarke, London, UK)

Can you explain exactly what Penrhyn International does and how it is unique in the executive search for companies around the globe? What can clients expect when working with the organization?

Penrhyn International is a leading global network of retained executive search firms, with offices in more than 40 major economic centres. Our members provide their clients with customised solutions to identify world-class talent for their organizations. We need to be engaged in our work, helping our clients in their executive search and be open to technological innovation and collaboration. Being agile and flexible to change will help us grow stronger. I also believe that we should have a social impact as a global network. To this effect, we are really proud to launch our international mentoring program, connecting passive and active candidates with international partners and consultants.

I also believe that not only me, but all my colleagues on the board should also answer this question. The board leading Penrhyn is a team of independent executive search professionals from around the world. We bring our local knowledge to those who need it, wherever they are. Former Chairman and now Treasurer Michael Herst from London says: “We are unique because we have deep long-term relationships with our clients and our international colleagues. We have the strength of a truly global firm but are able to demonstrate localized expertise vital in many searches. We are true partners to our clients, collaborative, experienced in their markets and business partners on a mission to ensure their ultimate successes.” Frank Beyer, our Vice-Chair from Munich is on the same wavelength: “A client could expect the luxury of not only a global reach but a much deeper local knowledge inspecific markets.”

The Penrhyn network allows us to bridge smaller markets on an international scale, but our client-care goes above and beyond. Greg Gable, our board member from New York, will argue that “our clients expect the high touch service of boutique firms that are led by owners. Entrepreneurs who are actually leading the searches rather than delegating them to junior level associates. This is a major point of differentiation from the large global “integrated” firms.”

This is quite revolutionary, thinks Luce Nordon, our board member from Paris who believes “Penrhyn offers a global service, with a very entrepreneurial, audacious and agile mindset.” For Rikke Dolberg, our board member from Denmark, it’s all about trust: “Our clients get a trusted advisor who understands the industry and the business.” That is what makes us unique.

Penrhyn International’s success is due to the individuals’ and network of search consultants’ hard work. The various industries, cultures, and backgrounds that each search consultant brings to the network improves the overall efforts of finding the best executives for clients.

Former Board

FORMER BOARD. From left to right: Frank Beyer, from LAB & Company, Germany. Yanouk Poirier, from Leaders International, Canada. Jo-Lee Aw, from The People at Work, Singapore. Rikke Dolberg, from Unique Human Capital, Denmark. Connie Adair, from Focus Search Partners, USA. Luce Nordon, from Agora Search, France. Michael Herst, from Osprey Clarke, UK

How would you describe Penrhyn International’s global vision and approach to working with clients?

At Penrhyn we are conscious that strategic and more in-depth research is what turns industry information into strategic intel for our clients. That makes us very unique. We are a network of executive search consultants from around the world. Different industries, cultures and people that come together on a regular basis to explore recruitment trends, industry intel and potential clients. A company from Asia may open a division in Canada, Argentina or Germany and they may want local leaders with specific experience. They will need a local partner to help find them.

In executive search, we do our homework on a candidate to determine whether they have the right skill sets and align with a company’s values and overall goals. In the end, a candidate must be the right overall fit for a role. At Penrhyn, what we do differently is taking it globally, with a real research and understanding of business models and different corporate cultures around the world.

Poirier has a rich background in a diverse range of fields. His experience shows Penrhyn International’s exciting move into the future as they integrate new technology and other innovations into the work the network currently undertakes.

Yanouk, can you tell us what led you to work with Penrhyn International and the journey you took to get to the organization?

I have spent the last 20 years creating and growing many companies and developing projects that impact society. I see myself as an entrepreneur with a fair dose of emotional intelligence as well as someone who believes that we should open our minds and work in a collaborative fashion when facing the future. I’ve been also working in executive search for the last 10 years in Canada and have completed more than 300 mandates, both for board and executives. My specialization in finance, technology, media, and telecommunications led me to Penrhyn International and my recent nomination as chairman is a sign that Penrhyn is leading towards innovation and digitalization. It’s a new vision and a new way of doing things.

Your goal as Chairman of the Board is to bring innovation, collaboration, and diversity to the organization. How will you implement these three ideals into the company’s work culture?

First of all, I bring these characteristics from my professional background and I am lucky to work with the best Canada has to offer. Leaders International is now a combination of Leaders & Co., Higgins Executive Search, the pioneers and innovators in Indigenous Executive Search and Davies Park Executive Search. We were able to build a national enterprise by a combination of these factors.

I believe we will be able to do the same with our global network with a clear vision, the collaboration of all the board members and global partners and by being able to be open to change. Some of our members are developing innovation labs, testing new applications to align or upgrade our practice. Our members at Penrhyn are thinking outside the box.

At the end of the day, all of us, all the members of Penrhyn International, we’re all entrepreneurs that decided to regroup so we can learn from each other, facing both challenges and opportunities in the market. Under the network’s umbrella, we have the opportunity to build better links between partners which allows us to grow as professionals—and that is a return on investment.

Women and men of different nationalities and cultures that come to our organization need to have an open mind. It doesn’t matter where you’re coming from—only where you’re going. We operate in a market where men and women of different backgrounds work together. There is no space or time for sexism, racism or bigotry.

The next leader of Penrhyn could very well be a woman. Luce Nordon is getting ready to take on the role of vice-chair. Perhaps one day, she will also lead the network.

Current and Futur Chair

Yanouk Poirier, Chairman of Penrhyn International and partner at Leaders International (Montreal, Canada) with Luce Nordon, from Agora Search, France. Image credit: Patrick Pépin

As an organization on the forefront of executive searches, Penrhyn International has seen it evolve in the last 40 years. How have executive searches changed and are they far more rigorous than they once were?

Leadership, technology and research has evolved. We strategize and understand the business model of our clients. We know their environment and we analyse the market with real-time data, which is much more transparent now than in the past. Also, we keep the same mission, which is to help them acquire the best talent. Our main goal is to understand the client’s industry and all their respective needs, be it in on a local, national or international level. When we meet with a potential candidate, we promote the client and the industry’s culture in order to make sure they are a good fit. Once we’ve met with a good candidate, our strategy combines rigorous methodology, testing and analysis. We use tools to help us assess potential candidates, such as updated psychometric tests. Once the candidate has been selected and starts his new role, we also strongly encourage and assist clients in good onboarding.

Greg Gable, who has more than 30 years of experience in executive search, is on the samepage. He says that “executive searches have become much more rigorous than they once were in which weekly or bi-weekly client status reports and status review calls are now typical. Clients also now have an expectation of reducing the cycle time of searches, ideally to 90 days or less from inception to completion. The assessment of candidates has become more rigorous, with multiple rounds of client interviews now the norm as well as frequent third party assessments (often including cognitive and strategic thinking testing).”

A lot of work goes into an executive search at the network. Each organization is different in the persons they need to lead them forward. Penrhyn International knows organizations have certain criteria that needs to be met. Through its years of experience, Penrhyn International is able to source the right people for the executive positions available and meet its clients’ needs.

What are some of the main features that corporations look for in executives during a search?

Organizations today need employees or partners who can lead and who are connected to the business and its objectives. I wrote a business report for CEOS that explores leadership and some of the traits companies are looking for in their leaders. I would say they’re not looking for someone perfect, but for someone who’s the right fit. Different industries and cultures hold their own set of issues and crisis situations. Corporations are now looking for emotional intelligence, versatility, adaptability and agility.

(You can find Yanouk Poirier’s report at the website address provided: https://leadersinternational.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/BusinessReportCEOs_final_logoPenrhyn.pdf)

You have said previously that all businesses need to make “technological change”. How important is that to a company’s future strategy and its success?

Embracing change to drive growth. Innovation is moving up the corporate agenda in the financial services world and changing the way everyone does business. Big data, cloud technology and artificial intelligence are evolving with seemingly ever-increasing speed. Financial services companies must adapt and transform their business models to take advantage of the opportunities they bring. Anticipating and embracing future technology advances is key if companies are to remain competitive as they come up against new and more agile players entering the market.

Also, innovation equals surviving. We can no longer close our eyes to the digital revolution. Technology will help companies to rethink the way they are working and will help to develop new skills sets. We have to know from where the next Amazon is coming, and competition is everywhere. That is why it is very important for Penrhyn to have a strong strategic watch across the globe. We have the advantage of having people everywhere around the world, in every domain. Competitive intelligence brings all the information to the table and with this data, we can be more strategic and efficient.

Executive searches, like most things in the world today, have been affected by new technology. Where does new technology and artificial intelligence come into play when it comes to executive searches?

We’re now moving into a new phase of digital leadership – leaders with disruptive vision, who delegate authority, ferment new cultures, and who understand that everything is about client-centric execution based on constant interaction and experimentation with customers.

Businesses looking to capitalise on this digital change require innovative leaders capable of delivering effective solutions to new business challenges. Vision, the ability to drive growth, identify new revenue streams and embrace emerging technologies to transform existing business models are essential.

(Please find Penrhyn International’s latest whitepaper at this website address: https://www.penrhyn.com/images/Attachments/Penrhyn-Whitepaper—Finding-NewLeadership-Talent-for-FinTech.pdf)

Poirier stresses that Penrhyn International is all about adapting and moving with the times. Regardless of the financial situation and economic outlook, the network will continue to search out executives to fill major roles at companies as well as coach those who are seeking new employment.

Current Board

From left to right: Yanouk Poirier, Chairman of Penrhyn International, from Leaders International, Canada. Rikke Dolberg, from Unique Human Capital, Denmark. Greg Gabel, from Coleman Lew Canny Bowen, USA. Luce Nordon, from Agora Search, France. Michael Herst, Treasurer at Penrhyn International, from Osprey Clarke, UK. Frank Beyer, Vice-chair of Penrhyn International, from LAB & Company, Germany

There are growing fears of an economic downturn and recession on the horizon. How is Penrhyn International preparing for this possible economic situation?

Whatever the state of the economy, one way or another we always need good leaders. And our mission is to find them. We focus on what our clients need, which doesn’t just stop at finding candidates. On one hand, we can help companies evaluate the management teams in place. On the other hand, we can coach executives who have lost their jobs and are looking to the future. We must adapt to the economic situation: if the economy is changing, we have to change with it.

My colleagues from Europe are bracing themselves for the opportunities an economic downturn can bring. Frank Beyer is optimistic, “As it is not the first downturn in the last 20 years, we will survive as we did before by our entrepreneurs in our member firms who prepare their firms for any signals of recession in an appropriate and timely manner. Penrhyn International is working in different markets and as they are normally not affected all at the same time, it’s a great contribution to stability and strength even in difficult market conditions.”

Luce Nordon takes a closer look at our clients and the type of leaders needed: “In the current perspective of economic downturn and recession, we must more than ever retain our customers, by providing them with a relevant and comprehensive analysis of their ecosystem, growth paths and associated risks; we also need to be able to look for entrepreneurs, brave and bold managers.”

When economic slowdowns occur, how do businesses react and what is the executive search market like? Does it increase or decrease?

Penrhyn International is preparing in the same way most executive search firms are. Depending on the type of recession and industry in question, businesses first tend to react by reassessing their way of doing things. A restructuring of a company im plies a lot of thought goes into who does what and to what purpose. Researching and truly understanding a company’s business model allows us to detect a company’s weak spots and help in strengthening them.

Greg Gable has good insight in the way businesses react to economic turns: “Overall there is usually some level of decrease in executive search activity during recessions. However, some industries are countercyclical and actually hire more talent during economic downturns. In addition, companies will often change the focus of the types of executives they are hiring from growth oriented positions (sales, marketing, business development) to more operationally oriented positions (operations, supply chain, lean/continuous improvement leaders). Searches for CEOs/General Managers shift from those who have advanced up through the commercial route (who are adept at growth) to those who have advanced up the operations route (adept at cost cutting, eliminating waste, driving operational efficiencies). Turnaround/restructuring experience becomes more valued during downturns.”

Penrhyn International works with a broad range of industries. Which industry does Penrhyn International regularly find itself completing executive searches in the most? Is there one industry that seems to have more turnover than others?

Penrhyn has extensive experience and contacts within the industrial and auto, financial services, consumer, retail and luxury goods, energy, utilities and renewables, life sciences, education and not-for-profit, technology and tele communications, professional services, and logistics & supply chain sectors.

We also have many global practice groups led by partners around the world who regroup monthly to share insights about the global market, about candidates and best practices.

Collaboration between Penrhyn members through global practice groups ensures they can share up to date market knowledge and valuable insights with clients.

Despite new technology and advancements made in artificial intelligence, Poirier stresses the human touch will always be needed in executive search. However, he is quick to point out that technology will be used to help complete the process for searches.

Yanouk, can you explain what the future of global and local executive searches will be like?

In my mind, there will always be room for executive search. AI can affect entry and middle management—we’re seeing thriving recruitment departments in different companies. But the human element cannot disappear when it comes to assessing real leadership and talent. We work on confidential mandates for our clients: AI can help guide us to a pool of candidates, but it cannot replace trust, creativity, emotional intelligence and the human instinct.

Greg Gable, New York: “Search firms must continue to prove their added value through how we evaluate talent and how we consultatively challenge our clients to think outside of the box to consider non-traditional candidates and/or even different organizational structures.”

Frank Beyer, Munich: “Executive Search won’t be a single approach service but more and more combined with different consultant disciplines like management and organizational consultancy, assessment and coaching.”

With Penrhyn International now 40-years old, what do you feel is its legacy, to this point, in the business world?

A legacy of quality, success, and a network of amazing qualified experts. As one of the world’s leading networks of independent retained executive search firms, our strong presence in 22 countries enables us to deliver world-class services to meet the cross-border talent requirements of worldclass organizations.

Yanouk, what is a day in your life like?

I like to connect with people, and I energize myself with the contact of others. I start early in the morning by reading the global news and by having client meetings or candidate interviews. I appreciate coaching and sharing information with my partners and our team. I’m trying to combine quality family time with work, exercise, and social involvement. I’m on the board of the Breast Cancer Foundation and an active mentor of Enablis International, a global non-profit organization supporting SME entrepreneurs who create jobs in developing and emerging countries, leading to sustainable economic development.

Yanouk Poirier

Yanouk Poirier new global chairman for Penrhyn International. Image credit Patrick Pépin

What is something most people don’t know about you?

I’m a humanist and a connector who believes we can change the world, one project and one leader at a time. To this effect, I wrote in collaboration two books in French, one on leadership called “Qui a peur du Inc.” about the key factors of success for young entrepreneurs and I also published a second book about Breast Cancer called “You are not alone” which we gave all profits to the Breast Cancer Foundation. I’m also involved in many social projects in collaboration with different actors in society.

Can you share two of your favorite quotes with us?

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. […] And as we let our own light shine, we subconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we’re liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” — Nelson Mandela

Translated from French: “What you see here, gentlemen, is only a seed, but […] I have no doubt that this little grain can produce a big tree, that it will one day make wonderful progress, that it will multiply
and spread on all sides.” — R.P. De Vimont

If you had the power to change just one thing in the world what would it be?

Inequality, and that starts with water accessibility for all humans.

Poirier will bring is entrepreneurial mind to his new position at Penrhyn international to advance the network further. The network’s decision to promote Poirier to Chairman of the Board shows the direction in which Penrhyn International is heading.

His diverse background will be an asset for the organization as it works with clients from around the globe. As Penrhyn International states, it is securing world-class talent to drive business success. Poirier will oversee that this continues, while growing and evolving in the 21st century.

For more information on Yanouk Poirier https://www.penrhyn.com/consultants/region/americas/leaders-co-montreal/yanouk-poirier

For more information on Penrhyn International www.penrhyn.com





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