Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Headhunting firms project a surge in promotions and new business

Companies in industries from financial services to supply chain and technology to engineering are in need of executives and leaders across Tampa Bay. That means search firms are busy.

  • By
  • | 5:00 a.m. March 26, 2024
  • | 2 Free Articles Remaining!
  • Tampa Bay-Lakeland
  • Share

Looking to move on up to the leadership ladder? Eager to work in the C-suite, be a VP, manage an office or dive in as a director? 

This could be the year you get the nod, according to a global recruiting firm with a Tampa office.

Many Tampa Bay executive slots will be filled by candidates from other parts of the continent, says an official with Phaidon International, headquartered in London with three offices in the South. Executives with a local accounting firm, meanwhile, counter that regional or internal candidates could also be competitive.

Either way, the Tampa Bay region appears to need more board directors and executives in 2024, say several headhunters. How many? Well, Phaidon's Tampa Bay office says judging by its own Tampa Bay revenue surge, it could see as much as 15% more executive recruitment for regional businesses.

Phaidon's Tampa office, which services all of Florida, is getting ready for that surge by going on hiring binge of its own: it grew from five people in 2022 to 34 in late 2023. The "more boots on the ground" strategy paid off, says Jamie Remp, Phaidon executive director and head of Florida operations.

And it appears to be the higher-ups being soughtPhaidon clients' hiring managers have been focused more on placing executive-level leaders over the slots for what might be defined as the standard experienced employee. 

Remp says the statewide demand for talent is coming from Tampa Bay, Orlando, Miami and Jacksonville. But Tampa Bay is doing especially well.

Phaidon's Tampa Bay business grew by 70% in revenue across the first quarter of fiscal year 2024 compared to the same quarter in 2023, he says. (Phaidon's fiscal year starts Nov. 1.) To Remp, that suggests the 10-15% range in more executive hires in the Tampa Bay market. The company declines to disclose specific revenue figures. 

But why the burst of activity? Remp says there are fewer hurdles in the way as corporate budgets are strong. Those budgets include contracting with recruiters: Phaidon's recruitment fees can differ and be dependent on variables, and are usually up to 35% of total candidate compensation, a normal industry range.

Another reason for the surge, Remp says: people's openness to move outside of bigger, more traditional, more expensive and more crowded corporate cities like New York, Chicago and San Francisco.

That is not just talk for Phaidon — it's part of their Tampa story, too. Its three Southern offices are in Tampa, Dallas and Charlotte, North Carolina. A global recruitment firm based in London, it has 15 offices on three continents.

Remp, a Briton, was tasked with starting Phaidon's Florida office in 2022. He flew into Tampa and noticed it was 25 degrees warmer than the United Kingdom that day. 

Come on down 

Tampa Bay's financial services and technology companies, in particular, are structuring themselves for growth, and Remp says that means more slots open for executive and leader offices.

One example Phaidon gives is Tampa Bay's supply chain and logistics sector.

Taylor Gerkin, head of supply chain operations and logistics for DSJ Global, a Phaidon subsidiary and a Tampa logistics recruitment company, says 75% of 2023's candidate requests were for executives at the level of director or above.

Taylor Gerkin, DSJ Global associate vice president and head of supply chain operations and logistics.
Photo by Mark Wemple

"Professionals from all over the country are more than happy to relocate to the area, and migration is something that many of our clients support," says Gerkin.

Gerkin says that new leadership will likely be used for aggressive expansion of business and new projects.

Executive job growth may seem counterintuitive. January's layoffs across the nation were sometimes brutal. Yet Tampa Bay and Florida's cushion from bad economic times has been, of late, its enviable net migration: people move to the Sunshine State at a faster pace than people leave.

And there are other factors keeping executive recruitment competitive. Baby-boomer retirements will cause a wave of vacancies in leadership roles, and the Financial Times noted last month that about 75% of CPAs are near retirement age. The insurance industry has also been grappling with a similar challenge.

Yet fewer universities are training students to be accounting majors, and that has tightened the market for talent, says Jessica Espaillat, chief people officer of SBF, a St. Pete business advisory that focuses on accounting, business consulting and tax preparation.

The accountant crunch is so real that when SBF was about to lose a manager to Knoxville, Tennessee, a result of her Air Force husband's transfer, SBF simply added an office in Knoxville.

Jessica Espaillat, chief people officer of SBF, a St. Pete business consulting firm.
Courtesy image

SBF prefers to recruit from inside for leaders, but outside recruitment is a must too.

When a outside candidate arrives in St. Pete, Espaillat and Kiana Lunay, SBF's talent acquisition specialist, make sure to show off the comfortable office and sunny Pinellas County.

It's a strategy that works for more than a few Tampa Bay companies.

Executives come to work in Tampa Bay because it offers a better work-life balance, environment, no income tax and a lower cost of living than other U.S. metro competitors, says Remp. Executive candidates at the level of vice president or director are the ones who most often mention this to Phaidon, Remp adds.

Sometimes the executive or manager, once placed, keeps old homes in other regions.

Phaidon is seeing executives buying second homes in Tampa Bay and working on a hybrid schedule, says Remp.

"They'll come to Tampa regularly to visit the office for shorter periods, or in some cases, live and work in the city often enough that they secure the tax benefits, but they have additional properties elsewhere," Remp says.

Internal change

Some major Tampa Bay companies look inside for leaders first.

On Nov. 20, such a move happened at Publix, the Lakeland-based grocery giant, a chain where longtime loyalty is often rewarded. Publix promoted Kevin Murphy to CEO effective Jan. 1.

Murphy began his Publix career in 1984 as a service clerk at a Margate store. He then worked in various positions before becoming a store manager in 1995.

Letting it be known that executive or leadership roles can be won is an important message to employees, because it helps retention, says Espaillat. SBF recently gave two major internal nods for leadership roles, something seen by SBF's 100 or so employees.

"We've had two homegrown partners (promoted) in the last few years," says Espaillat. "Our goal is to hire and retain."

When SBF has to go outside the firm or region for people, it uses LinkedIn Recruiter and takes recommendations from employees, among other tactics. And Espaillat and Lunay say they let Tampa Bay and Florida work magic for SBF, as many experienced candidates eye the Sunshine State because of its weather, low taxes and its lifestyle opportunities.

So when will a business leader consider a move to another organization? 

Manager-level candidates with between three and 10 years of experience begin to weigh change, Espaillat says.

Florida caught the attention of those people because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Remp says. Candidates eyed the Florida lifestyle and its opportunities. Now the third-largest state in population (Florida overtook New York in the last decade), Florida is growing opportunities and the wages to attract top managers and executives.

"It's just a constant flow of talent down here," says Remp.


Latest News


Special Offer: Only $1 Per Week For 1 Year!

Your free article limit has been reached this month.
Subscribe now for unlimited digital access to our award-winning business news.
Join thousands of executives who rely on us for insights spanning Tampa Bay to Naples.