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Edwards-based search firm evolving in the COVID-19 era

Cheryl Grimaldi's Tangent West has broadened beyond matching executives with assistants

Owner Cheryl Grimaldi, left and research associate Ann Woodworth at the Tangent West search firm's Edwards office.
State stats Unemployment rate, July
  • Colorado: 7.4%
  • U.S.: 10.2%
Job growth (loss), Colorado
  • June to July: 6,200
  • July, 2019 — July, 2020: (186,200)
Source: Colorado Department of Labor and Employment.

Who’s hiring and who isn’t is among the many surprises that have come with the COVID-19 pandemic. Cheryl Grimaldi’s business may not be booming, but it is evolving.

Grimaldi is the owner of Tangent West, an Edwards-based executive recruiting firm that also has an office in Denver. For a number of years, Tangent West has focused on finding the right executive assistant for the right executive.

A recent conversation with Grimaldi and research associate Ann Woodworth at Tangent West’s office in Edwards focused on how Tangent West’s business is changing.

Grimaldi said that in March, as the pandemic shut down much of the local, state and national economies, she feared a repeat of 2009, when the local economy was in the depths of the Great Recession.

Now, she said, she’s fielding calls from a number of different businesses looking to recruit the right people.

“We’ve become generalists,” Grimaldi said. “We can recruit for anything.”

While the recruitment market has slowed in Denver, Grimaldi said Tangent West is seeing a lot of movement. People who are relocating to the area are seeking out assistants to run homes or businesses as they work remotely.

Who’s hunting?

For other fields, Grimaldi said the health care, insurance, mortgage and construction industries are all seeking good people. Senior care services are also looking.

Hospitality-related businesses are still questionable, as the COVID-19 fallout is still settling.

Given the demand in certain industries, Grimaldi said this might be a good time for people to explore their options.

The industries that are hiring are creating a competitive market for qualified people, Grimaldi said.

“We’ve seen probably the greatest number of counter offers we ever had,” she said. In those counter offers, a person’s current employer may sweeten that person’s compensation or benefits in order to keep a good employee.

Those counter offers, and other factors, mean search firms have to really focus on employers, possible employees and both personal and professional situations.

“We’re really talking through (situations) with people,” Grimaldi said. We want to understand someone’s motivation.”

Woodworth added that potential employers are also looking more deeply at potential employees.

Someone seeking a change is often motivated by factors other than money, Grimaldi said.

“Life has become more precious,” she said, adding that careers are part of those evaluations.

Those evaluations these days often include whether or not to work in an office, she added. Some people want to be around others, she said, while some are fine with working remotely.

Finding that fit

Finding a fit has become more complex in a time when most of us are wearing masks. It’s hard, if not impossible, to read the facial expressions of those who wear masks. Now, final interviews are sometimes conducted in a park, or on an outdoor deck that allows for social distancing.

That’s going to be more difficult in the winter, but that will have to be a further evolution. Besides, who knows what the next six months will bring?

“We’re just going to keep pivoting,” Woodworth said.

Just about everyone is pivoting these days, but that’s something people in the valley have done for a long time, Woodworth added.

“We all do a little bit of this and that,” Woodworth said. “That’s what we need to keep doing, and that’s a positive.”

But those seeking a change, or thinking about one, will have to dig deep into thinking about what they’re looking for or trying to do, and not just in the workplace, Grimaldi said.

The white board in the Edwards office has a lot of ephemeral information, but one written truism is driving much of the search firm’s thinking these days:

“Rather than asking what you want from life, ask what life wants from you.”

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at smiller@vaildaily.com.


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