Craig Buffkin & Tom Truitt | Executive Q&A
Buffkin / Baker has acquired MusicRowSearch, the leading executive search firm for the music industry in Nashville and nationwide. This positions both firms for continued growth in a variety of top industries. The two leaders recently outlined their goals for the firm.
1. Buffkin / Baker has been in growth mode lately. How did this MusicRowSearch acquisition come about?
Craig: I have known Tom since just after college. I really give all of the credit to Tom. He was looking at taking MusicRowSearch to a new level, and was searching for a firm to partner with. Last Thanksgiving, he approached me about the possibility of joining Buffkin / Baker to position MusicRowSearch for the future. Frankly, I got really excited about this because if you look at Nashville’s landscape, it’s really led by health care and entertainment. We have established a foot hold in health care and have dabbled in entertainment, but really never had an entry point to get into entertainment in a deep way to go along with our inch wide and mile deep philosophy – meaning that we do work where we can truly add value. This partnership creates a great opportunity. I knew Tom was a man of integrity and of like values. I knew it would be a good fit. We have done some things in the past together, so we are excited about the platform in entertainment and what can happen.
Tom: Craig is right, this conversation was the offspring of a couple of similar conversations I was having with other retained search firms. What started was their attraction to WHO KNEW, our popular “Inside Music Row” networking and speaker series. As our conversations progressed, I realized that if I was going to do this I was going to do it with someone that I know, trust and respect. I have a long history with Craig and Roland, and have admired what Buffkin / Baker has achieved in the marketplace. I realized that this is the right place for me to take it to the next level.
2. How does this leverage both firms?
Craig: I think in a couple of ways. One, music is becoming increasingly more digital, and the platform to distribute and experience entertainment and music plays well with our digital roots both locally and nationally. There are some great synergies on the search front and the WHO KNEW platform of events really caught our attention. We are excited about taking the WHO KNEW brand to our health care and digital verticals and use it as a springboard to thought leadership. We are excited about exploring how to leverage MusicRowSearch.
Tom: I have been a one-man band for the last several years, and I am excited about having a team help me, and to really blow up both my search work and the WHO KNEW platform. Also, I have developed a heck of a Rolodex of contacts in other verticals that I have never been able to leverage for search work, and with Craig’s existing team and infrastructure, I’ve now got an outlet to turn some of those relationships into client work.
3. How will MusicRowSearch be positioned within Buffkin / Baker?
Craig: We are developing strategy to position the firm for growth on many levels, but the thought process initially has been to create a dynamic entertainment practice, and MusicRowSearch becomes that practice with Tom heading the practice as a partner in the firm.
Tom: There is a lot of brand equity in that name. And a good example of that is in Google search. If you Google entertainment recruiter or entrainment headhunter or any combination of those words, MusicRowSearch is the first hit on the first page. And I don’t invest in any sort of Google ad words. So, that is just a lot of years of building that in the marketplace.
4. The WHO KNEW events have created a niche as a key networking, professional development and thought leadership initiative. How will it continue to thrive at Buffkin Baker?
Tom: It is a networking event first and foremost, which enables people inside the music industry and those outside to come together in hopes of doing deals. It is a really smart marketing platform for Buffkin / Baker and the entertainment practice/MusicRowSearch to shine a light on companies and executives, and in doing so shine a light back on the firm.
5. How will you leverage the WHO KNEW events into other verticals?
Tom: One of the things I’m really excited about is replicating WHO KNEW in our other existing verticals. For instance, Buffkin / Baker has a very mature practice in health care. We plan to do WHO KNEW Health Care. We have a higher education practice, so look for WHO KNEW Higher Education. We have a practice that focuses on the digital space, so look for WHO KNEW to expand there as well.
Craig: I share Tom’s vision and thought process. And that was one of the key synergies that emerged in our partner meeting in January. Tom presented the WHO KNEW initiative, and how it came about with incredible results. The health care partners got excited, the digital partners got excited and the technology partners got excited. It’s a great platform, and a great way not only to create networking as Tom mentioned, but also building a brand and adding verticals that are truly refreshing for the search industry.
6. Craig … what attracted you to Tom and MusicRowSearch?
I would say a few things. One, we touched on it earlier. In this business, it’s all about relationships and it’s all about trust. I have known Tom for many years and there was a comfort in that relationship. We share like values and I know he is a good father and a good husband – that is important. Those types of things make a big difference because we work hard and spend a lot of time with people with whom we work. So his character fits our culture perfectly. Tom has also built a lot of brand equity in the entertainment space, so this is a great opportunity for both of us to take it to the next level together.
7. Tom … what attracted you to Craig and Buffkin / Baker?
Well on a personal level, we both went to UNC, we both sold books for Southwestern, which says a whole lot about his character. We’ve more or less raised our children together. My son went to school with his daughter all the way up. So there are a lot of personal synergies there. Professionally I have admired for years what he has built with The Buffkin Group and now Buffkin / Baker. And it’s a perfect opportunity where one plus one is three.