My Interview with Todd Hutchings About His Career in Executive Recruiting

Todd Hutchings recently joined Catalyst Advisors as a Partner, expanding the firm’s presence on the West Coast. Todd has deep expertise across sectors such as diagnostics, med tech, pharma/biotech, and tools and instruments. He is widely recognized as a trusted partner for boards and CEOs seeking leadership talent and guidance on succession planning. I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Todd to discuss his career arc, along with the insights and perspectives he has gained along the way about the industry and himself.

Tell me about your career path?

My career path has been focused on building things, and it has taken me into different industries and roles– and across borders. I grew up in Ontario, Canada, got a degree in business and became a CPA. But I wanted to move to the U.S., and GE had a great opportunity in their financial management program, working at an aerospace facility. I worked for them in a number of small cities — Evendale, Ohio; Plainville, Connecticut; Burlington, Iowa. I started out doing audits, which I didn’t love, but then got to work with people in corporate business development, which was really exciting. Many of those partners were recovering consultants, from places like Bain, BCG and McKinsey. They were super smart, and I was intrigued.

I decided to go back to school and get my MBA from the University of Western Ontario (now called the Richard Ivey School of Business), in part because I noted that it was one of the schools from which McKinsey recruited. I eventually got an offer from McKinsey, and wound up working all over North America, with my last stop being San Francisco. With a second child on the way, I wanted to move back to Canada, and left to join Mitchell Madison Group, a consultancy started by some ex-McKinsey partners. I saw the opportunity create something with some really great people. I eventually became a partner, and moved back to the U.S., to Chicago, to build the company’s office there.

Then all of a sudden, the company was acquired and merged. I was 32 years old. I had 650 employees, and I was the head of talent acquisition globally for the company, reporting into the COO. One day I said to myself: This seems a little too good to be true—and it was. This was during the dot-com bust. I was the head of recruiting, but I didn’t hire anyone, because within a year the company went bankrupt and I had to lay off 650 people. I learned in that job that cash is king.

I moved to another professional services firm called The Monitor Group, and helped build their Chicago office for a couple of years. This is where life comes into play again. My son was diagnosed with autism. I was traveling every week, all week, and I decided that I needed to be more of a present father. One of my clients was Roche Diagnostics, and I took a job with them in Indiana, where we stayed for two years. That was a great experience.

But I realized that it would be difficult to have a career at Roche, given that their headquarters was in Europe. A close friend of mine started talking to me about moving into recruiting. I turned him down twice, but accepted the offer the third time, realizing that I loved the ‘win-win-win’ of executive search. Fast forward a few years, I ended up taking a role at Egon Zehnder in California, and went on to run their Los Angeles and Palo Alto offices.

What made you willing to take that kind of leap into executive recruiting?

Probably like a lot of people, I am an insecure overachiever who likes the opportunity to have an impact and is OK with ambiguity. The thing I like about professional services in general is that the longer you do it, the better you get at it. You have the ability to control your own destiny, successes, and failures.

Do you think your unique background enables you to operate differently from other executive recruiters?

Honestly, I believe it’s my ability to think laterally and problem solve from my previous experiences that set me apart. My background in accounting and strategy consulting has taught me to think critically, analyze data, and identify patterns and trends. These skills are crucial in executive search, as we need to understand the market, the client’s needs, and the candidate’s capabilities in order to make successful matches. Additionally, my experience in building teams and organizations has given me a deep understanding of organizational dynamics, which allows me to effectively assess cultural fit during the search process. One of the fun parts of the job is not just listening to your client, but actually hearing them. Sometimes what they’re saying is not what they’re meaning. Overall, I believe my unique background has allowed me to bring a different perspective and approach to executive recruiting, resulting in successful placements for both clients and candidates.

What are you passionate about?

It sounds so generic, but I’m just passionate about people. I love connecting with individuals from all walks of life, hearing their stories, and helping them reach their full potential. I can get energy from just having a simple conversation with someone and learning about their challenges and dreams. That’s what I love most about executive recruiting—it allows me to connect with highly talented individuals and help them find roles where they can make a real impact.

Additionally, I’m also passionate about my children. As I mentioned, I have a special needs child, and advocating for his needs has taught me so much about empathy, patience, and resilience.

What inspired you to join Catalyst Advisors?

It is really simple: It was the people. From the moment I walked into Catalyst Advisors, I could feel the positive energy and genuine passion for what they do. People had smiles on their faces, and there was a sense of camaraderie and belonging. When I was talking to people, they genuinely listened and showed interest in me, rather than just talking about themselves. It was clear early on that this was a team that truly cared about each other and their clients. This was something that I wanted to be a part of. Catalyst did an unusual thing and invited me to join their full-company offsite last fall when we were still in discussions about a role there. Over several days, I had the chance to meet everyone at the firm. I saw the caliber of people and the strength of their community, which immediately drew me in.

What’s one important lesson you’ve learned throughout your career?

If I were to summarize it in one phrase, it would be: Success is earned, not given. Hard work, dedication, and a positive attitude are essential to success in any career. You have to earn your achievements and continuously strive to improve and grow. Regardless of your seniority or title, there is always something new to learn and ways to develop yourself both personally and professionally. I always tell people to operate at the next level, not where you currently are. This mindset has helped me constantly push myself and achieve more than I ever thought was possible.

My Interview with Todd Hutchings About His Career in Executive Recruiting
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