Located forty miles east of Oklahoma City along Interstate 40, Pottawatomie County isn’t where one would typically think to look for an executive search firm. Yet in the heart of Shawnee, Oklahoma sits Wolf Gugler Executive Search, a human resource consultant for retailers and their suppliers in Canada, the U.S. and the Caribbean.
Gugler sat down with OKGIT.com to speak about his firm’s mission, its international scope and his life as a Canadian working in the Great Plains.
Where are you from?
“I’m originally from Toronto, Canada. My parents were immigrants from Austria in the 1950s after WWII. I graduated from Ryerson University in Toronto specializing in human resources management.
“I relocated to OK in 2000. I was fortunate enough to meet a wonderful woman from McLoud, Oklahoma who I married in 2000.”
Do you only focus on Oklahoma-based recruitment now?
“I began in the executive search field in the late 1980s in Canada. I worked for two national firms before incorporating my own practice in 1997 when I realized that clients were calling me to partner with them, not the company I worked for. I’ve recruited on behalf of multinationals (Rust-Oleum, Home Depot, Jeld-Wen, Emerson Electric) and entrepreneurial firms or those owned by PE’s looking to make significant strides.
“When I relocated to Oklahoma most of my Canadian clients followed me, especially those doing business in the U.S. and the Caribbean.Fortunately with the advent of online video and research tools, where I’m based really doesn’t factor into how successful we are; it has more to do with investing the necessary time to meet with a client, understand their environment and human capital needs, draw up a competency profile for each position and then set out to identify the appropriate types of candidates to succeed in each role.
“I’ve always been a fan and student of technology, so invest the necessary resources to ensure we have the latest sourcing tools available to cast the widest candidate net possible. Oklahoma firms we’ve recruited for include Blastrac, Petra Industries, Mills Machine Company and others.”
Have you found it challenging operating a business that does business in Oklahoma and in Canada?
“When I first moved to Oklahoma, I was concerned that Canadian clients would think I’d ‘deserted’ them in my move to the U.S. This is far from the truth; I’m still back in the Toronto area at least on a quarterly basis where I maintain an office and attend trade shows and visit with clients and candidates on each trip. With the technology available to us, I can video-interview candidates and flight schedules are friendly enough that I can return to Canada on short notice when necessary. I obtained my NEXUS card to make frequent travel that much easier.
“I am still very current on Canadian market conditions and opportunities. On an average I’d put my business split now at 50/50 Canada/US with some Caribbean clients in addition.”
What are some challenges and benefits to doing business in Oklahoma when looking at your experience?
“At first, I didn’t know anyone in the business community other than Tinker Air Force Base folks my wife worked with. I looked for opportunities to engage myself in the local community; I volunteered and became the first Emergency Manager for McLoud which did expose me to others in local businesses and tribes, especially when assisting them with disaster preparedness plans.
“Because of my human resources background I joined the local Society For Human Resources Management chapter and currently serve as president. I also became involved with the Canadian Association of Oklahoma; a number of members are GIT members too. This gave me good insight into the challenges Oklahoma employers face with respect to exporting products to Canada in addition to human capital issues such as compensation, labor law and employee recruitment and retention.
“This has all morphed into where now it seems that no matter where I go, I meet someone who I already know. I also have to say that my first trip to Oklahoma convinced me that this would be a great place to live and work; the people I’ve met are genuine, engaging and as you know, stand together during tough times. I’ve seen it time and time again through our extreme weather and other disaster events when everyone is there for one another. What more can one ask for?”
What makes Wolf Gugler Executive Search stand out in your view?
“I still take great pleasure in working with repeat clients; to me it reaffirms that we’ve met their hiring expectations to the point of calling when another need arises. Typical retained searches are VP, Sales, Marketing Director, General Manager, Distribution Director, Human Resources Manager, National Accounts Manager. With Oklahoma clients, I meet face-to-face to ensure we have a good fit.
“I think we’re great at what we do, based on what clients tell me. I do have an excellent network of experts in their own human resource specialty areas, so if an employer is in need of advice regarding compensation and benefits, labor law, skills training I’m happy to recommend someone I know that may be able to assist them without the thought of ‘what’s in it for me?’
“That’s the ‘Okie way, isn’t it?”
To learn more about Wolf Gugler Executive Search, please visit www.wolfgugler.com for a full list of current searches the firm is engaged in, articles themed around various human resources aspects and more company background information.