Socially Responsible Thought Leadership

Focus & Find seeks to cultivate more boardroom, C-suite diversity

BY JOE GARDYASZ, Senior Staff Writer

Friday, July 07, 2017 6:00 AM

A chasm exists between companies’ executive talent pipelines and the way in which people of color want to be considered based on their abilities, says Desmund Adams. 

As a result, many talented, diverse people aren’t even getting a shot at competing for C-suite or corporate board positions they could potentially fill, said Adams, who recently launched Focus & Find, a board and executive search firm aimed at presenting a diverse range of candidates to corporate clients. 

“We’re the only firm we know of in the area with a commitment to social responsibility in board and executive placement,” he said. “The feedback has been outstanding from the community,” he said, noting that he has made positive connections with some of the CEOs of the largest companies in the metro. 

Adams, who was in the political spotlight last year in an unsuccessful bid for the U.S. House of Representatives 3rd District seat, formerly led Talent Acquisition Group, a retained executive search firm that he founded in 2005. He has bachelor’s and law degrees from Drake University and was recognized by the Business Record as a Forty Under 40 in 2013. 

“I came back to what I used to do, with a different focus — creating a socially responsible board and executive search firm,” he said. “To me, community has always gravitated around business and industry. If I help business and industry, they’ll help the community.”

The firm’s areas of specialization encompass health care administration, digital technology and technological security companies, as well as some work with venture capital firms. Adams currently has a staff of six who work remotely from California, Illinois and Maryland as well as Iowa. 

As part of the search process it provides for clients, Focus & Find generates “blind” candidate lists with up to 10 top prospects, which further insulates the organization from bias, Adams said. 

“It’s really diversity through process,” he said. “We are not a diverse search firm — we’re focused on providing our clients the options they need. We purposely look in other areas to round out talent.” 

According to McKinsey & Co.’s “Diversity Matters” report, there is a linear relationship between racial and ethnic diversity and better financial performance by U.S. companies. For every 10 percent increase in racial and ethnic diversity on the senior executive team, earnings before interest and taxes rise 0.8 percent, the study found. 

People of diversity are often overlooked in board and executive searches because they’re not included in many of the networks that executive search firms typically pull from, Adams said. With his recent congressional campaign experience, coupled with an existing network of contacts from Talent Acquisition Group, “the database is definitely more broad and deep, and it’s more senior,” he said. 

Adams’ new for-profit venture mirrors efforts that a Grand View University representative is spearheading for the nonprofit sector. Rob Barron, special assistant to Grand View President Kent Henning, leads Building Better Boards, an initiative launched last fall to encourage more diverse representation on community boards. 

“I think that’s terrific,” Barron said of the enterprise by Adams, whom he knows. “There’s definitely a need for perspectives from different races and ethnicities for any board. I think the key is for the board to know that there’s value beyond the typical skill set they would look for in a board member.”

Focus & Find seeks status as B Corporation
Focus & Find recently qualified for pending status as a “B Corporation,” a designation that qualifies businesses based on rigorous evaluations of their environmental impact, corporate culture and governance and social responsibility to their stakeholders. As part of its commitment to social responsibility, Focus & Find donates $1,200 to a local cause or charitable organization on behalf of each client engagement, said the firm’s founder, Desmund Adams. Under the pending status, Focus & Find has the opportunity to earn full B Corporation status over the next 12 months. The growing movement of socially responsible organizations now includes more than 2,100 companies in 50 companies. For more information about the B Corporation movement, visit www.bcorporation.net

Board diversity still lags
A national barometer of minority representation on top company boards indicates that efforts to diversify America’s corporate boards with more minorities and women are still lagging, and Hispanics, in particular, are far behind other groups in being selected for directorships, according to a May 2016 New York Times article.
Of 399 new directors selected for Fortune 500 boards in 2015, just 16, or 4 percent, were Hispanic, the Times reported, citing the Heidrick & Struggles Board Monitor, which has tracked board appointments since 2009. By comparison, Hispanics now represent 17 percent of the overall U.S. population. 
The report found that African-Americans accounted for 9.3 percent of new directors in 2015, up from 8.3 percent in 2014. Asian and Asian-American directors accounted for 4.8 percent of appointments in 2015, down from 5.3 percent the previous year. 


This article was originally published in the Des Moines Business Record.

Desmund Adams