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Continued: Minnetonka search firm launched with ex-employer's aid

  • Article by: TODD NELSON , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Last update: November 25, 2012 - 11:09 AM

Veteran executive recruiter Janie Finn didn't have to leave her corporate job to start Finnesse Partners, her Minnetonka-based boutique search and consulting firm specializing in the medical-device industry.

Finn instead launched her company with the blessing and support of her former employer, the U.S. division of Hudson Global, a billion-dollar, publicly traded, recruiting firm.

The offer came in May, Finn said, as Hudson announced it was leaving Minnesota. The move was part of a larger effort by Hudson to cut costs in the United States and refocus on information technology and legal recruiting, she said.

By then, Finn had been with Hudson and its predecessors here for 26 years. She had developed a successful search and consulting practice that had recruited hundreds of candidates to marketing positions at medical-device companies in the Twin Cities and nationally, from start-ups to industry leaders. The extensively connected and networked Finn also had built a reputation as the local go-to recruiter in her niche.

"I never wanted to have my own business," said Finn, who had worked in beverage marketing in her native New York before moving to Minnesota and getting her start in recruiting. "When Hudson said they were closing but would like to help me start my own thing, all of a sudden it felt right."

Finn quickly accepted Hudson's generous severance terms, which allowed her to take over the medical-device recruiting business and continue operating it under her own banner. The company released her and two employees working with her from non-compete agreements and let Finn keep her encyclopedic database. The company forwarded her calls and replied to e-mails with her new address.

With office supplies, equipment and furnishings and even microwave and toaster ovens from Hudson, Finn only had to buy computers and a small desk to get started.

Finnesse Partners launched Sept. 1. The company, which gets paid for its services by employers, is projecting $1 million in revenue this year.

"I wouldn't have a company without them," Finn said, tearing up as she recounts the transition Hudson made possible. "It's truly remarkable because you don't ever hear of something like that. A lot of people just think 'Big business -- they don't care about the little guy.' There are companies that do care, and this was a company that made it a point to do the right thing."

Finnesse Partners is profitable and growing, Finn said, thanks to Hudson's benevolent handoff, repeat business and referrals from longtime customers. An expanded search scope also is contributing, with Finn now seeking candidates for almost every function within a company, from engineering to finance and regulatory compliance. More than half the firm's business comes from searches conducted on retainer, rather than on contingency, a change that reflects its recent growth.

Looking ahead, Finn is exploring adding a side business that offers career counseling and other services, perhaps focusing on women returning to work after raising children.

Candidates Finn has placed over the years include Blair Allen, vice president of sales and marketing at Eden Prairie-based Acist Medical Systems, which develops contrast-imaging systems for use in cardiology and radiology. Allen, in turn, has had Finn conduct a number of searches for the company.

"I think she's an absolute expert in medical-device marketing," Allen said. "Her reputation is one of the highest. She knows everything that's going on, she's very in tune with the market. If there's a major marketing opening, she's usually involved."

Bill Little, vice president of product marketing at a Twin Cities-based medical-device company, also has worked with Finn as both a candidate and a client.

"She has the DNA, she's in the right role, and she's exceptionally good at [recruiting],'' Little said. "There are a lot of good recruiters in this town, but I do think she's the best that I've worked with. She genuinely goes out of her way to find the right fit, the best skill set for the job that we're trying to fill."

The expert says: Mike Harvath, president and CEO of Revenue Rocket Consulting Group, which develops growth strategies for technology services and other companies, said Finn is in a sweet spot both geographically and with her experience at Hudson to enjoy success as what he calls an ''accidental entrepreneur.''

The next logical growth strategy for Finn to pursue would be geographic expansion to other major medical-device markets, Harvath said. He cautioned against adding too many services too soon. Some entrepreneurs free of corporate constraints can run into trouble if they focus on doing new things instead of on both innovation and profitability.

"If I had any words of caution, it would be to 'stick to your knitting,'" Harvath said. "Do what you know, stay specialized in your market, avoid the gravitational pull of doing it all or becoming a generalist recruiter, as this will be a move toward a commodity business and will be the kiss of death.''

Todd Nelson is a freelance writer in Woodbury. His e-mail address is todd_nelson@mac.com.

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