Whitman Partners is a search firm placing the Director of Surgical Services within its portfolio of client hospitals and surgery centers. The firm tailors its solutions to solving the leadership challenge of surgical services recognizing the myriad stakeholders within hospitals and surgery centers. The company’s business model integrates retained executive search with interim or consulting placement based on each client’s unique requirements. Whitman Partners is dedicated to ensuring that new leaders, executive teams, surgeons and staff receive candidates who can successfully meet their business and patient needs.

OR Today quizzed Whitman Partners to find out more about the firm and how they operate. The following is a question and answer exchange with Managing Partner Josiah Whitman.

Q: What are the most sought after positions within hospitals and surgical centers at the start of 2014 and why is this the case?

A: The Director of Surgical Services is the most sought after position. As the bottom line of hospitals and surgery centers become squeezed, the profit areas become increasingly important. Within the surgery center it is the Administrator position as the top executive, specifically the Administrator with the BSN degree, that is the most sought after position because it represents the opportunity to combine two roles into one: Administrator plus Director of Nursing with one salary expense equals $120,000 of extra profits.

Q: What are the most difficult staff positions within hospitals and surgical centers to fill and how can they be more effective in finding the best candidates?

A: Again, it’s the director position within hospitals and the administrator role in the surgery center environment. We also get calls for the educator role frequently. As far as being more effective, I would recommend going to the experts like a recruiting firm with specialization in the role being filled. They will always be happy to talk about expectations. Hopefully their first recommendation will be to mine your own personal network of candidates. But they can also talk to you about salary expectations and the supply and demand of talent in your immediate vicinity.

Q: Whitman Partners recently helped fill some important perioperative services positions at hospitals. What is the process you use to be so successful?

A: Because the role is so challenging to fill, we try to bring clarity from ambiguity so our clients and candidates can make sense of it. We talk about how many candidates our client can expect to see from us in 30 days and how many candidates, on average, it takes to interview in order to fill the position. We also publish every opening in the country on the map on our website (whitmanpartnersinc.com/map/), regardless if we have the contract to fill it. That way, any director considering a job change will use our website as a guide. That traffic flows through us to our clients.

Q: What is your company’s mission statement?

A: Our mission statement is: To be the dominant national search firm placing interim and permanent director of surgical services into our client hospitals and surgery centers through, in part, our branding as the resource for Directors of Surgical Services considering new job opportunities.

Q: Please share a little bit about your company’s history and how you achieved success.

A: We are completely driven by the circumstances by which we were founded and survived the 2008 economic downturn. Going in to that time period, we operated in two lines of business: finance and healthcare. The finance line of business cratered in 2008 so we redeployed all the recruiters to healthcare. Then, we decided to focus on the “Director of Surgical Services” position because it was a profit center in a relatively recession-proof industry. And the opportunity to share the search work within the firm (sharing candidates and clients) provided a support system when times were tough for all of us.

Q: What are some advantages that your company has over the competition?

A: We offer to the candidate pool every opening regardless if we have the contract to fill the job. We have thus positioned our website to be the resource for the candidate pool. And by throwing so many resources (nine recruiters) at the problem of filling such a difficult position we are able to achieve systems and metrics that help our clients and candidates immensely. Behind that website is our database of candidates. As of today we have 7,706 Director of Perioperative Services candidates organized by experience, education and career plans. That number is staggering when you have one single position to fill. So we have a button that we can push and it will return the top results for a job, ranked using those three criteria.

Q: What are some challenges that your company faced last year? How were you able to overcome them?

A: We moved into a new space with a higher rent. We also added our first pure overhead, dedicated IT and research staff. Previously we were able to sleepwalk through our financials because of our business model. Now we are paying more attention to our growth and using more sophisticated tools because the stakes are higher. If you’ve ever read the book “Moneyball” or seen the movie, they talk about Sabermetrics – seemingly obscure statistics that tell the story. We’ve got some seemingly obscure data that we keep a close watch on.

Q: Please explain your company’s core competencies and unique talents.

A: We have “stumbled into” the most difficult position to fill and brought a systematic way of filling it. For our clients that start their search using another means of filling the role (internal recruitment or a generalist search firm) they refer to us as a “breath of fresh air.”

Q: What is on the horizon for your company? How will it evolve in the coming years?

A: We have too much talent internally to rest on our laurels. Someday we may open up a CNO, or hospital CEO line of business. We believe our approach can be applied to both of those positions.

Q: Please share some company success stories with our readers — one time that you “saved the day” for a customer.

A: We have had so many clients in geographically remote areas who can’t find someone to interview, much less take the job. One example was Cottage Hospital in rural, remote New Hampshire. There were zero candidates within driving distance. Through our database and knowledge of the market we were able to identify a Director of Perioperative Services from South Dakota who had told us, “If you ever find a position in rural, remote New Hampshire, I may be interested.” Our ability to fill those types of positions, time and time again, is a good way to conceptualize our value proposition to the marketplace.

Q: Please highlight any recent changes to your company, staff, and services.

A: We’re investing heavily into our Research Department right now and that will translate to faster fill with less wasted effort to our clients. 2014 will be a good year for many frustrated hospitals and surgery centers.

Q: Please tell our readers about your employees.

A: Keri Jensen who is leading our research department is a future star in this industry. Also Travis O’Conner, a relatively recent college graduate, is another future leader. Kent Van Vleet made partner last year. Finally, Greg Masson deserves all the credit for having a cohesive team that values cooperation and puts the clients’ needs first.

Q: Is there anything else you want readers to know about your company?

A: We’re young. The average age of our producers is less than 40. We’re ambitious and willing to work hard to get better. I think our firm will look very different when we have a bit more grey hair on our temples.