The North Pole, the world’s oldest family run business, has engaged Standish Executive Search, LLC to lead the search for its first non-family CEO.
A complex logistics operation based the North Pole, the organization was conceived over 1,700 years ago, and since has been managed by Mr. and Mrs. Claus. As the couple acknowledges, “we’re not getting any younger” (of course they’re not getting any older either), and they have no family members to succeed them.
Burgeoning complexities require the organization to consider broader and current expertise. They’re specifically interested in seasoned leaders who will bring expertise in developing transportation, packaging, navigation and delivery options. In addition to its logistics operation, The North Pole also runs a manufacturing organization, doing business as Santa’s Workshop, which will also be overseen by the new CEO.
The current pandemic is a serious concern to the Clauses, but the staff is experienced and has successfully worked through pandemics, depressions, plagues and natural disasters many times in the past.
Despite the global popularity of its home deliveries, no effective competitor has yet to emerge. The main barrier to entry is the breadth of services and the “reliable personalized delivery of any product, anywhere on the globe.” The North Pole balances its staffing and other resources throughout the year by the re-deployment of manufacturing and order fulfillment functions.
Operational consistency is achieved through what Mrs. Claus observes is, "low turnover of committed employees." Their high retention rate has been achieved, in part, by the hiring of individuals who would otherwise have limited opportunities. She explains that those opportunities, and the competition for their employment, are in the less challenging forest and garden occupations. Mrs. Claus views this asset as “no small matter,” and this view is underlined by a company history that has never seen any unionization activity.
While a truly global operation, The North Pole is exempt from tariffs, taxes or business regulation so the new CEO will not necessarily need to bring expertise in these areas. While being recruited to lead multiple complex disciplines, the new CEO will also not be required to oversee cash management, as there have always been sufficient resources without it. The North Pole is the ultimate mission-driven enterprise,
In recruitment of their new CEO, the family prefers someone from the region, looking to avoid the turmoil and cost of relocation. Yet the pool of regional talent is limited. The nearest city is Longyearbyen, Norway which has a total population of under 2,400 and lies 650 miles to the south of the business (from Santa’s Workshop, everywhere is south). While daily commuting is not recommended, regular travel via air flights to the Barneo Ice Station, and then from there by helicopter to the Pole, are available.
This is a challenging and optimally rewarding role for the right candidate.
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EPILOGUE: In March, 2021, The North Pole engaged Ingeborg Nilsen as their new CEO. Ms. Nilsen is a seasoned Norwegian business executive who has brought her substantial operations and business transition experience to the North Pole and the Claus family.
Stan Davis is the Founding Principal of Standish Executive Search, a New England-based firm that advises business owners, executives and boards who are positioning their companies for accelerated growth, change or succession.