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Super-Connectors: McDermott + Bull

Business aviation has powerfully expanded the executive search firm’s connections among nearly 100 professionals and their partners.

Meeting Clients and Candidates Globally in a CJ2

Meet Rod McDermott for a minute, and you will get a story, with the name of somebody you should meet, and probably an offer to make an introduction.

He arrives at the office from a morning workout, greets each employee as he walks by their desks and changes into business clothes. Before the Keurig has poured two cups of coffee, he has discovered friends we have in common. Surprisingly several – a pilot in Denver, a startup CEO, an NBAA safety speaker.

McDermott personifies what author Malcolm Gladwell calls a “connector” in his book “The Tipping Point.” Gladwell defines connectors as “the people who link us up with the world,” with a social circle “four or five times bigger than other people’s” and “a truly extraordinary knack for making friends and acquaintances.”

A broad personal network is essential in the executive search industry, and business aviation has powerfully expanded not only McDermott’s connections, but also those of his partners and the nearly 100 professionals at McDermott + Bull.

“We’ll leave Orange County with five people, fly to a mid-morning interview in Denver, pick up three more colleagues and onto Chicago with every seat full. We’ll have dinner with clients and fly back that night. There’s no chance we could do that if we had to go commercial. ”

ROD MCDERMOTT CEO and Co-Founder, McDermott + Bull

“As I’ve flown more capable aircraft, our business has expanded,” said McDermott, the firm’s CEO and co-founder. “We need to get out there, and we’ve picked up a lot of new clients just because we’ve gone out and met them.”

McDermott + Bull is a global talent development boutique, based in Irvine, CA, with offices across the United States, Canada and Europe. It provides three lines of service: executive search for full-time placement, McDermott + Bull Interim Leaders for short-term assignments and Activate 180, offering coaching to all a client’s employees.

McDermott performs a pre-flight walk-around at California's John Wayne Airport (SNA).

McDermott performs a pre-flight walk-around at California's John Wayne Airport (SNA).

New Deal to New Energy

Since 2017, when McDermott traded the Eclipse jet that he was flying for an eight-seat Cessna Citation CJ2, McDermott + Bull’s revenue has quadrupled to over $30 million.

“Usually I’m flying at least three, often six employees,” said McDermott. “We’ll leave with five people from Orange County, fly to a mid-morning interview with a candidate in Denver, pick up three more colleagues, and on to Chicago with every seat full. We’ll have dinner with clients in Chicago and fly back that night. There’s no chance we could do that if we had to go commercial.”

Flying makes it possible for the firm’s leaders like Jared Moriarty to provide the hands-on client service that defines their collaborative approach. A partner who leads McDermott + Bull’s aerospace and defense practice, Moriarty is a pilot himself and flies with McDermott several times a month.

“Flying really comes in handy, as we have offices throughout the U.S. and clients all over,” said Moriarty. “Actually meeting someone in person and shaking their hand, creating that bond, is important.”

Personal connections are good for business as well as safety. McDermott regularly attends the NBAA Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (NBAA-BACE) and is involved with the Citation Jet Pilots (CJP) owner-pilot organization. “We share a lot of safety and training tips through CJP,” he said.

Business/Safety Networking

McDermott has connected with CJP Safety Committee Chair Charlie Precourt, a former astronaut and retired U.S. Air Force colonel who also serves on NBAA’s Board of Directors. At NBAA-BACE in 2022, Precourt gave McDermott a recommendation for improving his recurrent training.

“Because I’ve upgraded the avionics in my CJ2, there has not been a simulator like it,” explained McDermott. “So, I’ve done a mix of in-aircraft recurrent training. In the sim, it was always a different avionics package.”

True to McDermott’s “connector” nature, Precourt’s safety tip came in the form of a personal introduction.

“Walking the floor at NBAA-BACE, Charlie told me FlightSafety was outfitting a simulator in San Antonio for pilots in my situation,” McDermott continued. “He walked me over to their booth and introduced me to the president of FlightSafety International, who said they have a new sim with my airplane’s exact layout.”

“If we can tour their facility, meet the employees, we can speak to the company’s culture when we’re talking to candidates. ”

JARED MORIARTY Partner, McDermott + Bull

That enables McDermott to practice unexpected scenarios, such as an engine-out during takeoff. In that way, networking fosters safety improvements, business leads and friendships.

“Aviation is a tight-knit community. I’ve met pilots through CJP, and they’ve become real friends,” said McDermott. As a CJP sponsor, McDermott hosted a dinner at his house with a dozen pilots and their partners. One pilot, who worked in the life sciences industry, told McDermott his company had just hired a new executive using a different search firm, and was hoping for a better experience.

“He wanted to meet my partner who leads M + B’s life sciences practice,” said McDermott. “The three of us got on a Zoom call that same week.” Soon, that pilot may become a new client whom the company will fly to visit.

McDermott, left, uses his CJ2 to travel to multiple markets in minimal time, maximizing his company's performance and output.

McDermott, left, uses his CJ2 to travel to multiple markets in minimal time, maximizing his company's performance and output.

Getting Out There

“When we’re recruiting executives, it’s important for us to understand the environment we’re recruiting them into,” explained Moriarty. “If we can tour their facility, meet the employees, we can speak to the company’s culture when we’re talking to candidates.”

People working in virtually every practice area across North America fly with McDermott in the CJ2. A recent five-day business trip included stops in Scottsdale, AZ, Chattanooga, TN, and Greensboro, NC.

“We can hit three major markets in two days,” said McDermott. “Often it’s clients we’re going out to meet, but we can combine that with touching down and meeting candidates for searches – wherever they are.”

He also flies McDermott + Bull’s head of coaching to client offices and retreats. And he flies to meet candidates for internal hires, to keep pace with the firm’s rapid growth.

“We can hit three major markets in two days,” said McDermott. “Often it’s clients we’re going out to meet, but we can combine that with touching down and meeting candidates for searches – wherever they are. ”

ROD MCDERMOTT CEO and Co-Founder, McDermott + Bull

Phone a Friend

If he’s headed into a flying situation with a higher degree of risk, McDermott often calls his certified flight instructor (CFI) to talk through various scenarios.

“I was flying into Toronto in January, and it was -20 degrees,” McDermott recalled. “We had recently trained on cold weather operations, so I called my CFI.We talked through hangaring the plane already fueled and pre-flighting inside the hangar, to get the wings heated up, just in case. And everything went off without a hitch.”

Moriarty often helps raise the level of safety by taking the right seat, making radio calls and spotting traffic.

“We’ve been in situations where weather has popped up,” said Moriarty, “so it’s helpful that I know how to hop on ForeFlight and check out reports for the surrounding airspace.”

Theirs is just one of many connections enhancing safe operations while pushing the business forward.

Learn more about McDermott + Bull at mbexec.com.

Angel Flights Spark Special Friendships

Melanie & Rod McDermott

Rod McDermott has long supported Angel Flight and commits to flying four missions a year for the charitable organization.

“It’s been really fulfilling to work with them and the amazing job they do to help people,” said the CEO and Co-Founder of McDermott + Bull. He usually picks up patients in distant towns and flies them to treatment centers in Southern California, where the firm is based.

“We even met one of our very best friends through Angel Flight,” McDermott said. He met Melanie on an Angel Flight from St. George, UT, to cancer treatment at the University of Southern California, and did two more flights for her over the years. When she came to Southern California, she would often stay with McDermott and his wife at their house.

“She became a fast friend,” said McDermott. “Then six years ago, we were expanding in Orlando, FL, and we hired her as an in-house recruiter. She got married last March. I actually officiated at her wedding.”

The following November, McDermott’s friend passed away. A few weeks later at a holiday party, somebody asked how many of the people present were hired by Melanie. “And at least 25 hands went up,” said McDermott, with a mix of sadness and fondness. “She really touched so much of our firm and our family.”

Then he paused and just said, “People become special in your life.”

Snapshot: McDermott + Bull

Aircraft: One Cessna Citation CJ2

Base: Orange County, California, at John Wayne Airport (SNA)

Personnel: CEO Rod McDermott is the owner-operator and pilot.

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