Looking for Help After a Difficult Week

I am coming to the end of the most difficult week of my career, which is why I haven’t written much for the past few days. I had to sit across the table from some very good people and tell them they no longer had jobs. It wasn’t the first time I had to terminate people, but it was the first time I had to terminate people of this caliber, and for purely economic reasons. It was an experience I hope to never repeat, and I am determined to intervene in order to mitigate the impact on these individuals and their families.

The history here is that the company I have worked for over the past 1.5 years had built up an office in Dallas of about 30 people. The CEO of the company (Accsys PLC) had been based in Dallas, but stepped down at the beginning of this week. The new CEO will be based in London. In the aftermath of the change, a decision was made to restructure and shift certain functions back to Europe, which is where our first commercial plant is located. We lost a number of people, including several engineers who reported to me. These were people that I recruited and hired, and I feel personally responsible for them. As I indicated previously, I am relocating very soon to Hawaii, but before I go I want to help place those who lost jobs.

Given that we are in the midst of the most difficult economic conditions in decades, I thought I would do something unconventional here. I want to reach out to readers in the off chance that you currently know of an organization looking to employ someone with the skills of some of the people we lost this week. Of the following six, I personally interviewed four of them, and I can promise you my interviews are generally brutal. As a result, few of the people that I interview are offered a job. But because my screening process is so tough, I rarely make a hiring decision that I later regret. (Of course overly-restrictive standards also result in missing out on lots of good candidates). So all of the candidates below have my unqualified recommendation.

The following group includes 3 chemical engineers (representing Arizona State, Princeton, and Villanova), a mechanical engineer (Virginia Tech) who is a Six Sigma/lean manufacturing expert, a logistics expert with over 20 years of experience, and a business manager who excels at building and managing teams. All have international experience.

Here is a slightly more detailed synopsis, in no particular order:

1. First year chemical engineer out of Arizona State with a 3.6 GPA. Spent 8 years in the U.S. Army. Gets along very well with everyone, and established himself very quickly as a promising engineer in our Arnhem (Netherlands) plant. Ideally would like to work in process design or process engineering.

2. MS in Chemical Engineering from Princeton, with a BChE Summa cum Laude from the University of Delaware. Has been excellent in an R&D role for us. Interests are process design and improvement in the chemical, biochemical, pharmaceutical, or energy industries. Willing to relocate within US and Canada. Preferences within the following areas: Mid-Atlantic, New England, Pacific Northwest.

3. Chemical engineering graduate from Villanova. Enormous potential, but had barely started with us when the reorganization was announced. The all around best of a very good group of candidates I interviewed from the recent graduating Class of 2009.

4. Mechanical engineer by training; almost 20 years of experience with lots of management experience. Six Sigma/LEAN manufacturing specialist. Very good at building consensus, and superb at setting up and executing projects. Served as my stand-in when I was out of the office.

5. A natural salesman with an extremely smooth demeanor. BBA with almost 20 years of experience. Was responsible for commercialization efforts of one of our new product lines. Skilled at building, developing, and managing teams. Prefers to remain in the Dallas metroplex, but open to other opportunities.

6. Logistics expert with more than 20 years of experience. Experience in China, South Africa, and the Netherlands. American citizen but speaks some Dutch and German.

If you are interested in talking to any of these people, send me an email (my address) and let me know. I can send you any or all of their resumes. Just say “Send me #4 and #6”, for instance. If you want to speak with me personally about any of them, let me know and I will call you. I will update this as needed, and perhaps bump it back up in the future.

Thank you.

7 thoughts on “Looking for Help After a Difficult Week”

  1. Robert – I've gone through these types of cutbacks at a major oil company for the past 17 years, and the last few restructurings were terminating very competent, capable employees. Kudos for your decency in trying to do right by your people. Try not to take it too personally.

  2. Try not to take it too personally.

    My wife told me this week that I am not cut out for firing people. I told her "Well, I am certainly not Jack Welch."

    All of these people were good at their jobs, and I have traveled around the world with them. I have even shared an apartment with some of them in the Netherlands. So it is personal.


  3. I love the free-market system, but there are times I wish I had joined the post office. I ran a furniture-making company for years, had to fire people with every downturn or bad business decision. Had to look job-seekers in the eye and tell them I didn't have work, even though I could see the desperation in their eye.
    I guess it is better, certainly it reads better than the Great Depression. People forget a major reason for food programs–in the draft for WWII, a high fraction of draftees ended up 4F. Bad teeth, limbs, rickets etc, the effects of malnutrition and limited health care.
    Best of luck to RR, and everybody else in this business world. It gets better, but fat city it ain't.

  4. I guess this brings home the real meaning of the often misused term "sustainability".

  5. Good luck Robert! I am now retired from a different business but appreciate your consideration for your people.

    One's own success is driven only by those below him/her on the ladder. You understand that it seems.

    Different topic – ZeaChem is talking up cellulose based ethanol – sounds a bit too good to be true.

  6. Greetings Robert

    Attached is a link to what I believe is the most complete site on companies and news in the cellulose and algae biofules industry.

    Many on these comanies are loking for skills sets your former employees have.

    Best of luck to you and your staff on the new careers.


    Best Wishes


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