Reflections on the First Decade of Aequitas Partners

Author :
Tim Gordon

Reflecting on the 10th Anniversary of Aequitas Partners’ founding ended up being harder than I anticipated. Ten years is a long time – the longest I’ve done anything professionally or academically – and while some days it definitely feels like ten years, most days it feels like far less. I still recall sitting down at the dining “room” table in my Manhattan apartment on day one and it really sinking in that “hey, I’m doing this.” I knew what kind of company I wanted to build, what I valued, what I was passionate about - but holy smokes, was there a lot I didn’t know at the tender age of 31. I wanted to build a company that put its people first, that worked with mission-driven companies and entrepreneurs to build the best teams in the industry and amplify their impact. I wanted to make sure it was anchored in trust and integrity (..cough..where our name came from..cough), emphasized having as much fun as possible while doing really hard, complex work, and was built to last. You get swept up in the day-to-day, hiring, delivering, selling, new systems, new websites, new initiatives. You get in the current, you stay in the current, then you blink, and a decade. There is so little time to stop and think along the way. So as I came up for air to get my thoughts down, I looked at my notes and decided to skip over “it’s hard” or “it’s lonely” (duh, and duh), and focus on something else: gratitude. 

None of this exists nor provides a platform for us to make an impact without a tremendous amount of support from various humans. The first of which is our team. Past, present, and future, I’m eternally grateful to everyone who has walked through our doors and worked their tail off to make Aequitas better. Considering what we preach, it should come as no surprise that our biggest leaps forward have been tied to bringing great people into the boat with us at the right time. Every team member has left fingerprints on the organization. We have learned from them, we have innovated through them, we have touched more people because of them. Our culture and core values have literally been defined by and through them. They are the main characters in our story, and work tirelessly to tell it, alongside the stories of our partners and the executives we work with every day. 

Our partner base has been nothing short of personal and professional sustenance for me. I’m continually humbled and energized by their thought partnership, their advocacy, and now in many cases, their friendship. Many gave us a shot when they didn’t have to or it wasn’t the safe choice. Those folks know who they are, know they occupy a special place in my heart, and their names are still frequently tossed around not just our offices, but my dinner table. As a recruiter, and a pretty good one if I do say so myself, I tell stories for a living - about our clients and the executives we work with. What I underestimated, was when the spotlight was turned on me, how challenging it would be to parlay the Aequitas story, and by extension my own, into a brand that people trusted and hired. I learned quickly and painfully that "undersell and overdeliver" doesn't always win when you're not a household name (yet). But each year, brick by brick, we built this thing on the trust that folks placed in us when it probably would have been easier for them to go a different route. I hope we have lived up to our side of that bargain by being stewards of that trust. Even today, ten years on, I get just as excited welcoming a new partner to our family as I did at the beginning. You have my gratitude.

Equally important are the thousands of executives that have given us their time, attention and their stories, sharing their triumphs and failures, their wins and their learnings. It is not lost on me how much trust they place in us to represent them honestly, fairly, and compellingly - this is, after all, their career. But it can be magical to watch someone’s story come to life, told by someone who believes strongly in their full-throated advocacy of them, as a client nods along, ever more excited about the possibility that this person could become part of their team. They see the possibility of the company’s future with this leader in it, and here is where art meets science. We have a massive responsibility to provide every executive we engage with a great experience, and we are constantly working on doing it better. To those of you that have trusted us over the years, thank you.

“Grateful” falls woefully short of describing how I feel about my wife, Kristy. She has been the inspiration behind my commitment to building something unique and special, and has been my biggest cheerleader since the day I told her I was going to start a company. Lucky for me, she was unaware that “founder” is a synonym for “unemployed”; doubly so because we had just met and she could have run for the hills still. But her support has been unwavering, complete, and impressive. I’m quite certain I couldn’t have done this without her, wouldn’t want to, and consider her just as much a part of this story as I am. She jokes now about the days when she knew the names of every client and candidate we were working with at any given time and her interest in my work has always humbled me. She and our kids – Theo and Reese – are my north star, and where I look first on tough days. Theo’s good luck hugs before I leave in the morning have led to more wins than anyone realizes.

We have been through a lot together. COVID-19, toxic election cycles, social justice crises, two wars, soaring interest rates, rising inflation, a venture freeze. And that’s just the existential stuff. Along the way we’ve all faced our own struggles and adversity, and done our best to support one another with grace. What has impressed me is how adversity has made this company better at each turn. Down cycles were used to focus time and attention on things that needed improvement or fixing. Extra bandwidth gets redirected to special initiatives, new systems, data enrichment, and tending to the things that get overlooked when we’re too busy. One of my favorite traits of this company is that mindset. It has not been without pain or friction, but every setback we have faced has made us a better company. Period.

What started as an executive search firm has morphed into an organization that consistently meets our partners where they are while staying true to ourselves. We have invested in 15 companies via our search work, launched and delivered organizational design, market mapping, compensation benchmarking, and Board search engagements, among a number of other offerings. We’ve created transparency across the industry with our Health Talent Exchange and Digital Health Executive Compensation Study, volunteered as a company, and given back to causes we care about. And to be honest, I feel like we’re just getting started. Knowing how much of our growth has occurred over the last 5 years and during a period of industry-wide tumult, I believe our pace of growth and change is only going to accelerate over the next decade. We have incredible people, amazing partners, and a foundation on which an awful lot is possible. For those of you we haven’t crossed paths with yet, we’re looking forward to fixing that.  And for those of you who have played any part, however small, in our first 10 years - my humble thanks and gratitude! Our stories are interwoven, and I can’t wait to see the chapters we write together next. 

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