martens and heads

Portrait of a Young Lady (c.1535). Parmigianino (Italian, 1503-1540). Oil on canvas. Museo Nazionale di Capodimonte, Naples.

The lady is dressed in elegant clothes, with a yellow dress made of atlas silk. The top is patterned with lozenges, while below is a narrow white apron. Over her right shoulder, which curiously is far too broad, she is wearing a pine-marten fur stole complete with head. Importance was attached to the depiction of the expensive fabric and of the lady’s wealth; if one excludes the courtesan thesis, she must be a lady of rank. 

Martens & Heads: No More Executive Bargains

Kate Benson, managing director at Martens & Heads, explains why luxury brands are again willing to pay top price, for executives that can hit the ground running

No doubt the past two years have been a challenge for everyone. We saw businesses fail, jobs lost, inventories cut, marketing budgets slashed and lots of markdowns. The job market has also been affected in a drastic way. Senior level executives have been accepting jobs with pay cuts and junior titles. When they were hiring, employers were constantly asking, “What can we get him or her for?” Everyone was ready to pounce on a bargain.

While some employers have taken advantage of this, many HR professionals acknowledge that when the economy gets better, so do employment opportunities – putting the people they have gotten in for a bargain, at risk of being recruited away.

That day is here – the tides seem to be turning. In the past few months, we’ve seen candidates bidding for higher compensations – even if it means losing the opportunity completely. What happened to the past few years when we were all just happy to have a job? The “buyers’ market” is subtly shifting.

“ Many companies have recently found their teams to be too young, too inexperienced, and frankly, too cheap ”

Businesses have been starting to employ again since 2010, but many looked to bring on junior executives and offer smaller compensation packages. This year, that trend had seemingly continued, until recently. We have had to often change direction mid search to find more senior level people.

Meaning, the clients were finally willing, and able, to invest in talent again. It seems to have finally happened – the lacklustre economy had not only hurt their annual volumes, it had caused detriment to their home talent pool as well.

Many companies have recently found their teams to be too young, too inexperienced, and frankly, too cheap. What happens when you have one person doing the job of two people – and that one person is wrong? That will be more costly than any margin error or marketing budget snafu.

It is time to pay for experience again. Companies are beginning to realise that if the economy is starting to turn around, even slightly, they will need executives who can hit the ground running – people that carry the know-how, superiority and rank to carry a brand forward.

“ they need executives who can hit the ground running – people with the know-how, superiority & rank to carry a brand forward ”

When it comes to the economy, our world leaders have been more than frank. Europe’s indexes are down, the unemployment rate is still soaring and our world is confused and edgy under the weight of war and natural disaster. The market realities are still very volatile. And yet, people seem to be buying again.

This small change is causing companies to invest in talent again – this time with larger bonuses, better stock options, higher base salaries and company incentive packages. They have realised that if there is a chance of an economic turnaround, their products better be representative of their brand and capable of grabbing the attention of even the most prudent spender.

Executives who are at the helm of a brand, need to be capable of not only acting conservative in situations of strife, but also able to make bold decisions when the timing allows for it. The emphasis is finally on the more seasoned titles again, those capable of such assurance. We have always believed that talent and confidence are the primary differentiators – even if they’ve been ignored for a few years.