WilliamCharles Expands Service

February 3, 2003
| By Katy Rent |
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GRAND RAPIDS — At a time in 2001 when the economy was tough, business uncertainty was in abundance and employers existed in an environment of rising unemployment; Bill Benson and Chuck Smeester did something a little out of the ordinary: They started a business.

WilliamCharles, an executive search firm, was started with the premise that placing the right people in the right positions can have a profound effect on a company’s success.

When times are tough, companies cannot afford to make hiring mistakes, and for some the difference the right people can make could mean survival during difficult times.

To demonstrate that growth can have a positive effect, over the last year WilliamCharles has added new staff members and moved into new offices.

“Our growth confirms our understanding that demand is high for companies to find the very best people,” said Benson, one of the founding partners of WilliamCharles Executive Search.

The company works with high-end professionals in several specialty areas. It provides recruiting and search services for companies looking for middle to executive level management professionals in human resources, marketing, corporate legal, information systems and the banking industry. WilliamCharles also focuses on retained executive searches as well as general recruitment in the banking and health care industries.

Now in the works is a new division, Financial Edge Executive Resources, which is a joint venture with the CPA firm, Hungerford, Aldrin, Nichols and Carter.

The new division will focus on the financial and accounting professions, a division that puts to use its founders’ expertise.

Benson, who has 23 years of experience in the recruiting industry, has worked in accounting, financial, banking, sales and human resources recruiting. Most recently Benson was a senior manager with a leading national recruiting firm and had the responsibility of managing operations in several locations.

Smeester has more than 15 years of financial service industry experience and for the two years prior to forming WilliamCharles served as partner of a retained search firm serving the health care industry.

His previous positions included vice president and director of human resources for Old Kent Bank, now Fifth Third Bank, and senior vice president of corporate operations for Old Kent Financial Corp., now Fifth Third Financial Corp.

“Chuck’s experience on the human resources and senior management side of the desk, combined with our extensive external recruiting experience, adds value to the process,” said Benson. “Also, putting together a team with proven recruiting experience as well as expertise within the functions in which we specialize has been a successful combination.”

The WilliamCharles team continues to grow with the addition of three new staff members. Brett Hoover and Michele Bishop are new senior associates and Maggie Holmgren will serve as research assistant.

Both partners also bring with them a deep-rooted sense of West Michigan business culture. Being locally owned and managed gives the business a familiarity with the market.

“We believe one of our advantages is our location. We understand the companies and culture in West Michigan,” said Smeester. “We also know how to sell the area and our physical presence here helps the interview and relocation process.”

Prior to beginning each assignment, WilliamCharles will meet with the client’s hiring manager to attain an understanding of not only the responsibilities and requirements of the position, but also the environment and culture of the company.

“Many recruiting companies post jobs on the Web or run ads. We rely on referrals and direct recruiting,” said Benson. “As a whole we understand that often the best candidates are not looking.”

After determining what the client is looking for, the search for the right candidate begins. Associates at WilliamCharles have access to a large database of possible candidates, as well as relying on referrals and direct recruiting.

“We try to add value in many ways. We have extensive research capabilities that enable us access to the hidden candidate market and perform extensive reference checks on such candidates,” said Benson. “Our office facilities are also available for our client’s use if they wish to interview candidates away from their office.”

The candidate or candidates are then interviewed by WilliamCharles and those that fit best with the client’s corporate mission and job qualifications meet with the client to discuss employment options. Benson added that each client is different, some requiring only a screening process for candidates and others requesting WilliamCharles serve up viable candidates only.

“We are focused on people and more importantly the right people,” said Benson. “And to complement that we also have a strong commitment to ethics and professionalism as well as the highest standards of client service.”           

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