Restoring a Competitive Edge for Chicago Switchboard

Roberto Ferranti was looking for a needle in a haystack. The veteran businessman with a wealth of experience in strategic finance had recently accepted the role of CEO of Chicago Switchboard (Chicago, Ill.), a custom builder of electrical distribution equipment with an equally impressive history. Having been in business for more than 80 years, Chicago Switchboard had a long-established reputation for quality in the industry. This family-owned company had recently sold to private equity investors who saw tremendous growth opportunities with Chicago Switchboard, and plans for acquisitions and sales team expansion were in the works. Roberto was tasked with ensuring the company was poised to handle this expected growth and all of the challenges that come with it. In December 2020, Chicago Switchboard acquired a competitor in Detroit, which doubled the company’s size, increased its market coverage, and expanded its service offerings. But it also added the need to standardize processes across the board. Roberto had his work cut out for him, and he began the arduous search for a qualified vice president of engineering who could unify the two locations while energizing the team around the company’s expansion and future growth.

As a busy chief executive, Roberto would have to rely heavily on external recruiters to conduct the bulk of his search for a candidate. His initial experience with a recruiting firm was unsuccessful, due in part to the unique qualities necessary for success in the open position, which required someone with a high degree of technical prowess who was also a proven leader of people and shared in Roberto’s strategic vision for the company. Equally at fault for the lack of success was recruiters’ tendencies to pile resumes in bulk on Roberto’s desk, leaving him with the job of vetting each and every one for the desired characteristics. In his frustration, Roberto began looking for another recruiting firm and came across Goodwin Recruiting. He was paired with Goodwin Recruiting Partner Amy Hermann, who immediately impressed Roberto by taking the time to learn about his industry, his company, and the qualities he was looking for in a candidate.

As a former member of the corporate world, where she worked in change management for a large financial company, Amy was uniquely equipped to take on this new challenge. Armed with the knowledge from her thorough research, she got to work pouring through resumes. After identifying a pool of potential candidates and narrowing it down to a shortlist, Amy interviewed a particular candidate who impressed her especially. She sent his resume along to Roberto, who wasn’t initially convinced he was right for the job. But Amy demonstrated the same resilience in her determination to find the right candidate and pushed back emphatically to Roberto, dissecting the story behind the candidate’s resume and tying these findings with Chicago Switchboard’s needs. In the end, Amy won Roberto’s trust. After a three-month search, the candidate was placed and started work in February 2021.

Since his start, the new vice president of engineering has made remarkable progress. He executed on the overall strategy set forth by Roberto, standardizing the engineering processes across the Chicago and Detroit locations to allow for greater productivity. He became a mentor and coach to the company’s legacy team, increasing team members’ competitive edge by instilling a sense of urgency to go above and beyond. He led by example, in one instance designing and building a breaker from parts found in-house or on eBay for a customer in dire need, which wouldn’t otherwise have been available due to supply chain and labor shortages. Under his management, he’s decreased the lead time for custom equipment design drawings from 4 weeks to 1.5 weeks, improving customer satisfaction in a particularly crucial time. In an environment with supply gaps impacting vendors everywhere and unprecedented material cost increases across the board, providing design drawings on time and expediting order placement has proven critical to keeping Chicago Switchboard ahead of the game.

Today, with his unified culture and engineering processes, Roberto is poised to pursue his goal of expanding to other regions and becoming a national player. He plans to continue building and upgrading the team he has now, and he’s taken Amy on as a partner in his future growth. Since placing the vice president of engineering, she continues to help Roberto recruit new staff across a variety of functions, including sales, engineering, operations, and finance. Amy and the Goodwin team placed three sales engineers and plant manager and are continually on the search for the best in the business to add on to Roberto’s team.

“There is a personal approach to recruiting that is refreshing with Amy and Goodwin Recruiting,” said Roberto. “They look at the person behind the resume, which was exactly what we needed. Too much of the recruiting arena is a volume game, letting the client do the work and hoping something sticks. Goodwin doesn’t use this approach. They act like a partner, not like a transaction.”

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