How Varentec Won Its New Chief Commercial Officer Against the Odds

Regardless of how impressive a technology, it’s only as good as the team of people behind it. This is something Guillaume Dufossé understands very well. Being recently appointed the new CEO of Varentec, one of his first big wins was transforming a VP of Sales position into Chief Commercial Officer to secure the ideal ‘A player’ to carry the company into its next phase of major growth.

Varentec provides innovative solutions for the next generation of power grid control and management for the electric utility sector. The company has been growing rapidly in the past few years with customers like Duke Energy and Southern Company. In its new Chief Commercial Officer Mehrdod Mohseni, Varentec chose a person who held not only the expertise and skills to handle the sales job of today, but also the skills, connections and leadership that would be required three years from now.

“Enertech Search Partners was invaluable in helping to secure the absolute highest quality person in the smart grid industry for our Chief Commercial Officer position,” said Dufossé. “The deep industry expertise and strong candidate networking Enertech has built allowed them to know exactly who we should hire and how to make Varentec attractive to this A player.”

The Talent Search

In the summer of 2014, Varentec understood it should be poised to capitalize on the growing demand of its utility smart grid products. So, the company engaged Enertech Search Partners to further strengthen its commercial team with a new Vice President of Sales. Varentec hoped to conduct searches for a new CEO (who would eventually be Dufossé) and VP of Sales, simultaneously, closing both before the end of 2015.

“Highly qualified candidates are often cautious about positions that lack visibility into the entire executive team,” says Paige Carratturo, Founder and CEO of Enertech Search Partners. “We quickly counseled Varentec that if the VP of Sales search began too early, without a CEO in place or at least a shortlist, they could run the risk of market exhaustion and devaluation of the search.”

Much like a house that’s been on the market too long, a position can sour if it’s open for an extended period of time, especially in a small market like utility facing smart grid. Therefore, Enertech’s advice was to hold off on the VP of Sales search until after the CEO finalist was identified and fully vetted, regardless if that could land the start of the search in the last quarter of 2014.

“Even though this would require us to identify an exceptional candidate during the challenging December holidays and race to have an offer accepted by the first quarter of 2015, it would be more efficient and worth the wait. Of course, we were up to the challenge,” Carratturo continues.

The Strategy

Varentec agreed with Enertech Search and held off the VP of Sales position until a CEO was shortlisted. Once Dufossé was selected as the new CEO, Enertech went to work offering feedback on the VP of Sales job description and compensation target.

“As Guillaume had most recently lived in France, we offered a first round of candidates that were a cross section of the industry,” remembers Carratturo. “We presented people who were ideal candidates for the job today and three years from now. In addition, we presented candidates whose industryMehrdod Mohseni experience was more in-line with the job description and compensation outline. These were people who could certainly handle being Varentec’s VP of Sales today, but who might not be up to the task of carrying the company into the future.”

In this way, Enertech showed Dufossé what he could expect from the U.S. market and helped him tailor the VP of Sales position more precisely. Among this first round was Mehrdod Mohseni, then CEO at UISOL, an Alstom Grid Company.

Never Forgetting A Face

Four years prior, Carratturo met Mohseni at DistribuTECH 2011, where UISOL was an exhibitor. During their brief conversation, Carratturo learned not only about his skills and qualifications, but also about his career aspirations.

“I was impressed overall at the amount of responsibility he had so early in his career, not to mention his approachable personality. Back then, he was definitely an early thought leader in the space,” she recalls.

Thus, when Varentec engaged Enertech Search to fill their VP of Sales position, Mohseni was one of the first people Carratturo thought of.

“Even though Mohseni was “bigger” than the role anticipated, we understood that the long term objective and challenges Varentec was facing required someone with Mohseni’s experience,” adds Carratturo. “Even if they decided Mohseni was overqualified, we knew he was just perfect. We never hold anything back and wanted Varentec to explore all potential candidates.”

Much like a matchmaker, Enertech held an intuitive understanding of what Varentec was looking for and needed to reach the next level of success. It presented Mohseni, among other candidates, to round out the options for the company.

However, due to his outstanding resume, Varentec and Enertech were concerned that Mohseni might be out of reach for the VP of Sales position. Additionally, once word traveled in the industry that Mohseni was looking to make a move, the high demand he could likely garner within the industry could attract multiple offers from various companies. Reluctant to find itself in a bidding war, Varentec continued the interview process with other candidates more in-line with the initial job description and budget.

The Results

After several more rounds of candidates, Varentec ultimately recognized Enertech was correct on its initial assessment of Mohseni and the VP of Sales position. From this prospective, Enertech had selected and presented the perfect candidate for Varentec within the first two weeks of the search. After this realization and the strategic guidance of Enertech, Varentec embarked on a strategy to attract and secure Mohseni to the Varentec team.

After Mohseni interviewed with the Varentec board of directors, the VP of Sales position was elevated to Chief Commercial Officer, and the compensation target stretched to accommodate the title. Additionally, other tactics, like a considerate signing bonus, protected Mohseni from commissions he could make at his former company, and secured him against multiple offers. Within 60 days of the commencement of the search, Mohseni accepted the position of Chief Commercial Officer for Varentec.

“Enertech Search Partners is a true matchmaker,” said Mohseni. “This year, Paige spotted the perfect company for my experience and worked diligently to fine-tune the role of a Chief Commercial Officer with my skill sets, knowing it was the best thing for both the company’s goals and my own.”

Overall, Enertech Search Partners supported Varentec in every step of the search process. It began from choosing the ideal time to start the search, to presenting the ideal candidate within two weeks. The support progressed to helping both sides come to an amicable agreement that could position both Varentec and Mohseni for a successful future in the smart grid space. In this process, Enertech  Search showed itself as a partner to Varentec and a powerful career ally to Mohseni, for the benefit of both parties, and quite possibly the smart grid space as a whole.

About the author

Genevieve Phillips is a Managing Director at Enertech Search Partners. She specializes in driving customized recruitment strategies for complex roles in multiple industries such as technology, energy and biotechnology.