Performant Scout continuing in growth mode
It was eight years ago that recruiters Stacey Rouse and Vanessa Garcia launched their executive search firm, Performant Scout, to connect premier talent to mid- to executive-level positions in produce, agribusiness, and food and beverage throughout North America.
The two colleagues had met at a previous executive search firm in 2012 and shared an office in Phoenix as they grew that company’s agribusiness division. Garcia noted that they also shared a work ethic, which led to discussions about forming their own company in 2015. Since they opened their doors and began building their business from scratch (as they had a non-compete agreement with their previous employer), the partners have built a successful business that includes a firm of six people and has grown to the point where it is typically working on about 40 recruiting projects at a time. Four members of the firm are headquartered in Phoenix, with another colleague on the East Coast and one more who works the international scene.
The founding partners credit Rouse’s husband for coming up with their company name. “He is in marketing in the tech industry and he suggested performant,” Rouse said.
In the computing world, performant means functioning well as in a highly functional data base. And, of course, scout refers to the team’s never-ending hunt for talent. “It represents us well,” said Garcia. “We are always out there hunting and looking for top performers.”
“We feel grateful for our partnership as we know it can be hard for partnerships to survive,” she said. “But we are effective colleagues and have become very close friends. I consider Stacey a close business partner and a mentor.”
Rouse said the pair is very proud of what they have accomplished. “We feel super blessed,” she said. “The first year was difficult as we had to rebuild from the ground up. But with hard work and dedication, we succeeded.”
Rouse has been in the recruiting field for 25 years working in many different business sectors before joining a company in 2009 to help build their list of agribusiness clients. “I knew nothing about produce and ag,” she admits. “But I spent that first year networking and learning about the industry. I was amazed at all the different parts and pieces that make up the produce industry.”
Having worked in the recruiting space in other industries, Rouse said she was initially attracted to doing work in the produce sector because it was underserved. “Other industries are saturated with recruiters but there were not a lot of recruiters in the ag space,” she said. “There was a lot of opportunity and there was definitely a need.”
By the time she closed her first major project, she was hooked.
Garcia came into the recruiting field in 2007 working in the legal industry. From 2010 to 2012, she worked in the cruise ship business “strengthening my sales muscle” before returning to executive recruiting in an office with Rouse in 2012.
Though Performant Scout is broadening its business a bit by expanding into other food sectors, Rouse said about 90 percent of their projects are in the produce and ag space. The company will work on either a retainer basis or contingency on performance, whichever works best for the client. “Many of our clients opt for the retainer option for their searches,” said Garcia. “We like that option. We are involved from the beginning and we have skin in the game.”
She added that Performant Scout does not bombard its clients with a lot of resumes. “We do our job and like to give them a few candidates that are right for the job. That’s what we bring to the table,” Garcia said. “We think it’s important that the client has to make a tough decision (as to which qualified candidate to hire).”
Rouse said high-level produce company managers, including CEOs and other C-suite executives, is the company’s specialty: “This is our space and we are passionate about it.”
As they move down the road, Performant Scout is planning to continue to grow by adding staff and representing more clients. Some of the company’s employees work remotely and Rouse said in today’s work environment that is perfectly acceptable. In fact, she added the company represents clients and projects all over Canada and the United States and even in Mexico. And on occasion it has worked on international projects, so the firm’s partners are not strangers to remote work.
“The whole remote thing is great. But we love going to the office and collaborating,” said Rouse, indicating that the relationship business they are in extends to their own office.