Psychology Today: Here To Help

"Wall Street Journal on CEO Agents"

"The Wall Street Journal Interactive Edition"
Managing Your Career:
If Career Needs Attention Maybe You Need an Agent?

Harvey Maslin was so busy running his business he had little time to run his career. When he left his job as the No. 2 executive of a $400 million personnel firm earlier this year, he hoped to land the top spot at another firm. Then, a friend introduced him to Joe Meissner of Executive PR, a San Francisco career agent.

Mr. Meissner convinced him to piece together his own company. He launched a public-relations campaign on Mr. Maslin's behalf to burnish the executive's image as a leader rather than as a subordinate and introduced him to potential investors, management talent and even acquisition targets.

Mr. Maslin eventually created WorldStaff, retaining Mr. Meissner as an adviser and career steward

"I probably could have done this without him, but I would have needed a half-dozen people to help me," Mr. Maslin says. "And I wouldn't have gotten it done as fast as we have."


Agents combine executive coaching and career consulting with marketing and negotiations. They plot career strategy, help build networks of business contacts, advise on salary talks and shape their clients' images. They also screen job opportunities for employed clients.

With executive jobs and career directions changing more frequently than in the past and the demand for so-called brand-name executives heating up, the concept of the full-service career agent, common to the sports and entertainment fields, has filtered into the business world.


Stybel Peabody Lincolnshire of Boston has a similar service, complete with a team of financial planners, attorneys and even a theater director to polish presentation style.

Most agents work for a percentage of their client's salary.


Well-known CEOs are candidates.

So are senior executives on the CEO fast track, rainmaking attorneys and consultants, cutting-edge technology wizards and successful turnaround artists. If you're thinking of getting an agent, ask yourself these questions: Are you at or near the top of the class in what you do? Is what you do in short supply? Do you lack the time or ability to plot career strategy and build business contacts?


Executive agents trade on their career expertise and contacts. Mr. Maslin, for example, hadn't conducted a job search in 30 years, and with few contacts in the equity world, he hadn't seriously considered an entrepreneurial venture. Mr. Meissner provided expertise, contacts and a vision for Mr. Maslin's future. "It took Joe to take me through that process to make me feel we could pull it off," Mr. Maslin says.


In some ways, executive agents operate from the shadows. Stybel Peabody Lincolnshire conducts anonymous job searches for executives who don't want anyone to know they're sniffing around. Mr. Meissner remains in the background if a recruiter balks at his participation.

To raise Mr. Maslin's profile, Mr. Meissner arranged interviews with trade publications and booked a road show for meetings with venture-capital and leveraged buy-out firms. For other clients, Mr. Meissner has arranged speeches and gotten them involved with charitable organizations that attract power brokers.

The Stybel Peabody Lincolnshire and Meissner role is similar To that of an entertainment agent. "The really successful stars in show business, if you look underneath, you'll see a great agent looking out for their long-term career interests," he says. "He'll decide to do this project or not do that album."

Once he lands his deal, Mr. McAdams says he will continue to retain his agent. "A guy like me, when I'm managing a business, my nose is to the grindstone," he says. "There's no one out there who represents my interests."

Since 1979, Stybel Peabody Lincolnshire has been retained to assist companies and individuals in achieving "smooth management transitions" for key executives.

Core services include retained executive search, Coaching, CEO Agent, and retained search.

Stybel Peabody Lincolnshire also has a program for the early identification and cultivation of Rainmakers.

Stybel Peabody Lincolnshire was selected as partners of The Massachusetts Hospital Association to provide assistance for key executives in health care systems. The American Medical Association refers physicians to Stybel Peabody Lincolnshire. The firm was selected as "Best" in class by the readers of the MASSACHUSETTS LAWYERS WEEKLY for the past three years in a row.

For further information, contact Maryanne Peabody at 617 371-2990.