“Recruiting leadership allowed me to bring together many things from my background: people management, process improvement, project management and vendor management, and make a significant bottom line impact to my organization. After years of enjoying my work, I somewhat stumbled backwards into what I was supposed to be doing: providing leadership to a recruiting function. After 3+ years in that role, I had a chance to move to a smaller bank and take over the recruiting director role, by far my favorite corporate role, which I did for the last 4+ years.”
“I left my 27 year corporate career to pursue a long time dream of starting my own HR consulting firm, the Bower Consulting Group.”
• Ron Bower, Strongville, Ohio
• President, Bower Consulting Group
• Alum Director of Recruiting and Employee Relations, AmTrust Bank
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• Ron’s Website: http://www.bowercg.com
• Personal Causes: Our church
• Office number: 440-846-6274
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Ron Bower is an accomplished Corporate Staffing executive. Prior to establishing his own firm, he served as
Director of Recruiting and Employee Relations at AmTrust Bank in Cleveland, Ohio and as a Recruiting Manager at Key Bank. Cleveland, Ohio. Ron has led a team of HR professionals accountable for recruiting, employee relations and employee records; supporting an organization of 1700+. He established a record of dramatic change effort within recruiting. Improved: quality of hire, staff and client satisfaction and reduced overall recruiting expenses by 40+%. He established his activities as “Best in Class” by improving employee referrals as source of hire from 29 to 78% and reduced search firm utilization from 27 to 2%. As a result, Ron Bower earned one of the industry’s highest honors, the 2008 “ERE Recruiting Excellence Award Winner for Most Innovative Employee Referral Program” and in 2007 ERC NorthCoast 99 Recruitment and Selection Award Winner. Afterwards he was selected as a judge for the 2009 ERE Recruiting Excellence Award competition.
“Six Degrees from Dave” is honored to have an opportunity to share Ron Bower’s fruits of knowledge, none forbidden and all desired as a proven leader in corporate staffing and today he shares his journey from maestro in Corporate America to establishing a firm in his own right to contribute in a bold, fresh way.
Six Degrees: Tell us of your home world:
RON: My wife, Wendy, and I met when we were juniors in college at Ohio University and I fell for her very quickly She was (and still is) smart, funny, full of energy, and beautiful! A few weeks after we met, she went home for the weekend and when she returned with the most amazing batch of homemade cookies, I asked her to marry me. She thought I was kidding. I wasn’, and we were married a year after we graduated from college. We have now been married for nearly 27 years and are the proud parents of two boys, a 21 year old senior in college and an 18 year old freshman in college (both attending Ohio University) and an increasingly better behaved dog, Misty, a boxer mix that we rescued eight years ago.
We have had a blast watching…and helping… our boys grow and develop into amazing (yet very different) young men. Our oldest will graduate with degrees in Finance and Economics with a minor in Political Science and is on a mission to attend law school. Our youngest is a great drummer (pop-punk/rock)and has had the tremendous opportunity to play publicly with a band on a regular basis and he hopes to pursue a career in music management/promotion (plan B)…unless he can make a living as a drummer in a rock band (plan A). Professionally, my wife is a college professor and owns her own communications consulting business. For what seems to be most of our adult life, we have been attending our boys sporting events. Our oldest played baseball and football throughout high school and our youngest is a runner, competing in cross country and track. We are, with mixed emotions, in the first week of experiencing life with an empty nest. So far, so good!
We love to travel, camp, hike, canoe, and kayak….just about anything that gets us outside. When I slow down long enough, I really enjoy reading. I have always been a little crazed by collecting and listening to music and making mixes of music for friends, parties, road trips…and one wedding reception. It’s all much easier today with digital music…when I started doing this I was making mixes by manually recording one track at a time from albums on a turntable to cassette tapes (my apologies to all of your readers that have no idea what I just said!). I grew up on 70’s rock and my favorite artist is still Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits. If you picked up my i-pod today you would find a crazy mix of nearly 6000 songs, with the likes of Pink Floyd, Johnny Cash, Counting Crows, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Eminem, Aerosmith, Doors, Neil Young, Genesis, and Santana among my favorites. My wife and I are both qualified facilitators of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) which we have both used for years in our work. Recently we began co-facilitating MBTI workshops for couples for one of her corporate clients. Our goal is to use our knowledge of MBTI (we are nearly complete opposite types ourselves – I am an INTJ and she is an ESTP) to help others gain insight into their personalities as a means to further improve their relationships. This has been an amazingly enjoyable and rewarding experience for us to work together and help others in an educational and fun way.
Six Degrees: How many years have you been in the staffing industry?
Ron: After 10 years in predominately operations and technology jobs in banking, I was given an opportunity to go to work on a “special project” in HR. My one month project turned into a three month project, which then evolved into a 17 year stint in HR jobs in three banks in Cleveland. The first 8+ years of my HR career were focused on generalist work; primarily OD, employee relations, executive coaching, and team development, along with a big dose of vendor management and process improvement work. I took on a recruiting leadership role about 8 years ago.
Ron Bower earned the 2008 ERE Recruiting Excellence Award Winner for Most Innovative Employee Referral Program and in 2007 ERC NorthCoast 99 Recruitment and Selection Award Winner. Afterwards he was selected as a judge for the 2009 ERE Recruiting Excellence Award competition.
Six Degrees: How did you get started as a recruiter?
RON: Much to most people’s surprise, none of my early HR experience included recruiting. I moved into recruiting in a leadership role, where I was managing a group of 40+ recruiters across 20+ cities for a large regional bank. When I first raised my hand to take on that first role, I was admittedly looking at it from a leadership perspective and to broader my experiences. My full expectation was to take on the job, learn it, improve the function and then go back to the “sexy” work of being a generalist. Quickly, and very unexpectedly, I absolutely fell in love with recruiting. Recruiting leadership allowed me to bring together many things from my background: people management, process improvement, project management and vendor management, and make a significant bottom line impact to my organization. After years of enjoying my work, I somewhat stumbled backwards into what I was supposed to be doing: providing leadership to a recruiting function. After 3+ years in that role, I had a chance to move to a smaller bank and take over the recruiting director role, by far my favorite corporate role, which I did for the last 4+ years.
Six Degrees: What single event had the most impact on your sourcing/recruiting career?
RON: Easy question. Very early in my first recruiting leadership role, I convinced my manager to send me to a two-day workshop In Chicago facilitated by Dr. John Sullivan. I knew I had a lot to learn about recruiting and the workshop seemed like a great place to kick-start my education. At that point in time (sorry John) I had not heard of John, but the agenda was packed with concepts that really resonated with me. Two days with John and Master Burnett (and about a dozen really smart recruiting leaders from around the country) gave me the insight, focus, and motivation I needed to go make a difference in recruiting. No-nonsense, aggressive, creative recruiting with a never-ending focus on the bottom line became my mission.
Do you have a mentor to whom you attribute your overall outlook on recruitment, capabilities, and/or model your career after?
RON: As I mentioned, John and Master have been a significant influence for me from the very beginning. Additionally, because I don’t believe that anyone has all the answers, I have surrounded myself with a network of really smart recruiting leaders that educate, inspire and challenge me every day. I have a clear bias for those that are trying new things, willing to stumble periodically for the cause, are able to put quantifiable business results on the table. In lieu of a formal mentor, I have consistently used a “personal board of directors” approach by keeping a small group of trusted advisors that are always there to guide, teach, slap me around when I need it and re-direct me as necessary.
Six Degrees: Tell us about your firm, the Bower Consulting Group:
RON: In February of this year I left my 27 year corporate career to pursue a long time dream of starting my own HR consulting firm, the Bower Consulting Group. I am focusing my efforts on recruiting effectiveness. I am passionate about working with companies that want to build or rebuild their recruiting functions to be more strategic, efficient and cost effective. I have a special interest in working with companies that want to build a world-class employee referral program as part of their strategy. I have already had the opportunity to help companies make significant changes in their recruiting strategy and results, have filled several HR jobs locally, have completed some interviewing training for managers. Additionally, I have several executive coaching clients and am doing some outplacement coaching for a locally based company, CareerCurve. My most recent corporate job was with AmTrust Bank in Cleveland where I was the director of recruiting and employee relations. At AmTrust I had an amazing opportunity to transform a recruiting function into the type of strategic business partner that I had always believed could be done. I was able to lead the efforts to upgrade strategy, staff, processes, and vendor relationships which drove significant expense out of the organization, improved hiring manager satisfaction and increased employee retention.
Six Degrees: (A) What other companies’ recruiting operations do you admire or have heard are best-practice examples?
RON: While I admire the great work and impact in some of the better known companies like Starbucks, Intuit, E&Y and Sodexo, I continue to pay attention to smaller growing companies that have been able to implement creative and leading edge practices. I think we should all pay attention to the small and mid-size companies that are aggressively trying to grow, are less likely to have bureaucracy slowing down their progress, and have cracked the code on creating bottom line impact with their recruiting functions.
(B) In what aspects are they superior?
RON: My view of “superior” is one where companies are willing to take the risk and go for leading edge strategies…not waiting around to see what everyone else is going to do and not bogged down by internal bureaucracy and politics. Right now, the people I admire have a meaningful recruiting strategy aligned with their corporate goals, have a recruiting leader and team that are creative and are able to consistently measure and deliver bottom line results. The companies that understand how to use social media, how to leverage technology, how to identify and attract the micro-segments of talent they need, and have creative business savvy recruiters are going to win the game.
Six Degrees: What recent general news story or industry trend do you feel will have an impact on your work in the future? Why?
RON: For recruiting functions in general, clearly the advancements in CRM technology and social media are changing the core of successful recruiting strategies. That’s the easy part of the answer. I really believe what is going to change us the most is what we just went through with the economic challenges of the last few years. I have not talked to a single recruiting leader that believes that they can lead their functions the same way tomorrow as we did three years ago. None of us ever want to go through the staff reductions in recruiting again; which means we need to get really smart, really fast, and create much more flexible recruiting staffing models. What worked three years ago will not work going forward. We all need to take a moment to rethink how to approach the improving economy and the increasing requisition loads…and the answer is not to rebuild our teams to look like they did before the recession. Flexibility and cost control should be at the top of everyone’s list of priorities right now.
Six Degrees: Tell us about your broader involvement within the staffing industry:
RON: I have had the great opportunity to attend multiple ERE conferences over the last several years, which have been amazing networking, learning, and inspirational forums. In 2008, I was honored to accept the ERE Recruiting Excellence Award for Most Innovative Employee Referral Program for AmTrust Bank. Of equal honor for me was the opportunity in 2009 and 2010 to be a judge for the ERE Recruiting Excellence Awards..and I will be participating as a judge again in 2011. An article I authored “Creating Business Results Through Employee Referrals” appeared in the Journal of Corporate Recruiting Leadership in March of 2008. In 2007 AmTrust Bank was recognized in the northeastern Ohio area as the top recruiting department as part of the NorthCoast99 awards. On a local level I have been an active speaker where I have presented on employee referrals, on-boarding, Recruiting for Retention, Adapting your Recruiting Skills in the New Economy, and social media in recruiting; and will be presenting on Proactive Networking in May. I regularly speak to college classes on topics ranging from: careers in HR, trends in recruiting, resume preparation, networking skills, how to handle illegal interview questions, and social media in recruiting. I have had the opportunity to be quoted in local newspapers and business magazines and have been a guest blogger for a number of friends in the business. I have recently written another article for the Journal of Corporate Recruiting Leadership, which is scheduled to be published in the October issue.
Six Degrees: Can you detail how the recession has affected your particular industry niche?
RON: First let me answer this from my corporate guy perspective. As exciting and energizing as it was to rebuild a recruiting team starting four years ago, it was equally painful to then have to slowly dismantle a phenomenal team of recruiting professionals. I had to reduce my staff by nearly 70% over an 18-month period as banking took an unusually hard hit. If I answer from my consulting guy perspective, I believe the timing is good for me to provide my expertise to other companies to build sustainable cost effective recruiting strategies and tactics to weather whatever the future sends our way.
Six Degrees: In terms of Networking, Are there groups, both online and in-person that have proved fruitful in extending your personal brand and job seeking prospects?
RON: Most of my “volunteer” time right now is focused on helping people build their networks and connecting people for open jobs. Working with a local non-profit to provide executive coaching and consulting for creating a performance based culture. I regularly speak to college classes on a variety of topics. I have participated in formal and informal groups of recruiting leaders on a local level that get together on a regular basis to share ideas, learn from each other, and share our unique views and experiences. Currently I facilitate the Cleveland Recruiting Leadership Group and co-facilitate The Talent Spot, a private LinkedIn community for talent leaders. I was also instrumental in starting a LinkedIn group for HR Professionals that are Ohio University alumni. From a personal branding perspective, I think my efforts with ERE and my consistent efforts to speak to groups and make myself available to the press have been most impactful.
Six Degrees: Given your own Trial and Error experiences as a Networker, what advice do you have for your peers on what NOT to do?
RON: Do not make networking a “just-in-time” activity. I find nothing more disappointing in networking than those that only show up when the need/want something. Networking is for life. Build and maintain relationships with meaningful two-way benefits. I do my best to offer help to people in nearly every situation I am in, whether someone is directly asking for help or not. Also, don’t have a hidden agenda…if you have built a meaningful networking relationship, then just lay the cards on the table; we all need help at some point. Personally, my struggle is not over-extending myself. In an effort to help people, especially those in-between jobs, sometimes I find myself a bit overwhelmed trying to keep up with the work that is paying me.
Six Degrees: What is your next career goal? What do you need to do to get there?
RON: My career goal is to build the Bower Consulting Group into a respected firm that makes a positive impact, allows me to do the work that I love, and creates the long-term work-life balance that I aspire to. To get there, I need to continue to build my brand, continue to leverage my website and blog, identify the organizations that are ready to change the way they approach recruiting, and continue to deliver great results for my clients.
Six Degrees:What song reflects “thee Ron Bower”?
RON: I would pick “Mr. Jones” by the Counting Crows…because I’ve always related to the line: “Mr. Jones wishes he was someone just a little more funky.” That’s me…
Six Degrees: Perhaps Ron your not funky, but I dare say what you have accomplished in your long career as a Corporate Staffing Leader is, well … “groovy”!
“I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge Ron Bower’s contribution to the field of human resources and talent development. Ron has always been the consummate professional and has a passion for developing talent that is seldom seen in corporate America of late. With the ever-increasing drive to reduce costs and increase productivity, Ron has been at the forefront of developing and implementing innovative recruitment and staff retention programs. I salute you, Ron, for your dedication, drive and passion and for being an inspiring professional coach and mentor. Personally, I am a better manager thanks to your coaching and tutelage.” January 6, 2010
Junaid Ward, EMBA, CAMS, LSSGB, Assistant Vice President – Compliance Operations, AmTrust Bank
“Ron is a true business partner in every sense of the word. Ron’s knowledge of his profession, passion for his work and dedication to his craft are unparalleled. His ability to draw on past experience coupled with his desire to embrace new methods is a tremendous asset. Ron is not only a valued business partner, but a friend and mentor.” November 4, 2008
Nick Fishman, Chief Marketing Officer, EVP, employeescreenIQ
“Ron is the consummate “pro”. He knows how to get things done while treating people with respect at all levels. Ron is well grounded and keeps his eye on the goals he has set out for himself and the company. He has demonstrated that he knows how to make the tough decisions. In addition to all of the above, on a personal level, he is really a great guy.” February 12, 2007
Norman Benke, Managing Partner, N.L.Benke & Associates, Inc.
“Ron is a visionary. He comes to work everyday with his A game energized and ready to do something no one else is doing or thought about doing. What sets him apart from others is his ability to turn his ideas into reality. Ron has a talent of finding ways to get his top people to continue to challenge and stretch themselves because he believes in them. Anyone who has worked for Ron or with him knows he is a true professional, an amazing leader, and someone who sees the best in people or situations when others would throw in the towel. I highly recommend Ron and hope to have the good fortune to work for him again as I learn something new everytime.” November 7, 2008
Alexandria Hayden Fontecchio, Senior Recruiter, KeyCorp
“Ron is a colleague and friend with whom I hope to always keep connected. He is an accomplished HR professional and business leader. Ron’s candor and vision coupled with his functional expertise and incredible coaching skills have led me to count him as trusted advisor. I would value the opportunity to work with Ron again.” November 5, 2008
Geri Ann Frisone, SPHR, Senior HR Generalist, KeyCorp
“Ron provided the HR support to my area when I first joined KeyCorp. Over the next several years I was often responsible for reorganizing groups, processes and functions. Ron’s teamwork and insight were essential to the successful creation of the new teams, and our successful efforts to improve productivity and quality. A true professional and exceptional HR manager with a good focus on business process.” May 5, 2007
Robert Dutile, EVP, KeyCorp
“Ron and I were colleagues at Key and have continued to network since continuing our careers elsewhere. Ron is focused on developing and maintaining relationships with his clients, colleagues and teammates. He is an HR professional who strives deliver state of the art programs to his clients, and share what he has learned and accomplished with his network of other professionals. He has a passion for developing people and celebrating in their successes. He has been a great contributor to the bottom lines of the organizations he has supported.” April 13, 2009
Karen Moyer, HR Project Manager, Recruiting Manager, Sr. Generalist (Vice President), KeyBank