The Royal New Zealand SPCA (RNZSPCA), acting for the prevention of cruelty to animals, is one of New Zealand’s best known and loved charities. Every year, SPCA centres receive 60,000 animals through their doors, and respond to 14,000 animal welfare complaints.
Operating 47 centres across the country, its National Support Office is based in Auckland.
The national board of the SPCA is elected at the AGM by representatives from SPCA branches and member societies. In 2013, the board went through a number of changes in directors, and Iain Torrance found himself immediately in the role of chair.
As well as board discontinuity, the CEO of 10 years had left. It was a time of high tension with an urgent need for an experienced leader who could “steady the ship”.
Iain and his board were clear that the type of person required would have:
Drive and confidence to guide the organisation through change
A collaborative approach
An understanding of the operational aspects of running a Not for Profit
However, they were unsure if the skill sets that were required for the transition, would be the same beyond this period of change. The board’s preference was to make an interim appointment, to allow time for a strategic review and business planning process to confirm the organisation’s requirements in a permanent CEO. “We really wanted to do the right thing. It was a volatile time. We didn’t want to just get ‘someone’.”
RNZSPCA sought proposals from a range of executive search firms.
Sheffield was chosen because of its:
Experience in the Not for Profit sector
Flexibility of approach (Interim and Permanent options)
Strength of reputation
Ability to relate to what the organisation needed and be a trusted adviser.
Once the decision was made to appoint Sheffield as its selection partner, Iain says the organisation “never looked back”.
Iain Torrance – board chair
Sharon Ward Duncan – Sheffield senior consultant and lead of the Interim Management practice
What We Did
The first step was to finalise the brief. “We debated it with Sharon – she suggested other ideas based on the skills and candidates she had seen in the market. That enabled us to always have one eye on the future.”
Sheffield then employed a three-pronged approach to assess possible candidates:
Input through its networks
Search of the Sheffield database (developed over 55 years)
Out of this we produced a long list of seven candidates, and the RNZSPCA’s selection committee chose four for interviews. Iain says the calibre of candidates put forward was very high.
On the shortlist was Ric Odom, an experienced Not for Profit CEO. At the time, he was not considering a new role, but the strengths and purpose of the RNZSPCA attracted him.
In his due diligence process, Ric discovered fantastic opportunities, including the ‘Blue Tick’ certification programme for humane farming. But there were also significant challenges, especially financial. “The challenges might have turned people off, but they appealed to me.”
From his experiences as CEO of YMCA, which had a similar federated structure to the SPCA, and a tier-two role in MOTAT, Ric had confidence he could right the ship, and then be able to lead it through its next phase.
He had some reservations around the interim nature of the role, and says he valued the role Sharon played in the application process. “It was very well managed. I felt there was transparency and fairness all the way through, and that my interests were looked after.”
Sharon facilitated the interview process at Sheffield’s offices. When the board settled on two candidates, she then guided the process to determine a final choice using a matrix scoring system.
“Sharon brought an objectivity and experience that meant the whole process was painless,” Iain says. “She offered a deep level of insight that you look for when you bring in an adviser.”
Ric Odom was appointed in September for a nine month contract. His role became permanent before the contract had expired.
“Ric grasped the situation and took ownership of the challenges,” Iain says. “He believed in the organisation, and could see the potential and wanted to work with the board to achieve it. I was able to transition to a governance role very quickly indeed.”
For both the board and Ric, there is satisfaction that the role has become permanent. Though Ric says there is still a lot of work to be done, the organisation is now through a difficult period of change.
For him, a high-trust and transparent relationship with the board has been essential to success. “From a career point of view, I was taking a risk going from permanent to interim. But it has worked out well.”