Growing Great Companies


Chicago Again

November 07, 2017

Proof that you can truly work from anywhere:  In this picture, I’m in the Atlanta airport, squeezed inside the coat closet behind the Delta desk.  When it comes down to it, we do whatever it takes to meet the needs of our clients… Even if that means squeezing into a little cubby in a crowded airport to take an important call, where they can hear me speak.

Last week was a whirlwind.  In addition to high-level discussions with a major brand name in consumer products for a large multi-search project, a new retainer with a leading skin care and cosmetics company for a senior executive and finalizing the placement of an exceptional candidate into a CTO role with a major chemicals manufacturer; Robbie and I made our way back to Chicago at the request of a global Food Industry client for meetings with key leaders to develop and drive an aggressive growth strategy with over a dozen new searches.

Looks like this last quarter of 2017 is going to be very busy, my favorite kind of busy, helping our clients Grow their Great Companies. 


YMCA Corporate Cup Games

November 01, 2017

One of Ropella’s more fun traditions is participating in the local YMCA Corporate Cup Games.  Last weekend we made our second annual appearance… And took home Third Place for the Small Company Division!  (Robbie and I are pictured above, accepting our award.)

Of course, most of my employees and I are extremely competitive, as we all really want to win.  Those of you who follow my blog know I’m a fan of compiling the pictures I take at various events.    As you can see from the smiling faces, we didn’t take ourselves too seriously. I think one of our Executive Search Consultants, Cathy, said it best: “The whole day was fun… [and it was] great to see our team laughing and having a good time.”

In addition to the athletic events, each company had two optional creative tasks to undertake before the day of the competition.  One was designing shirts for the team to wear, and one was to create a homemade banner.  Both the shirt and banner had to keep with the theme of the day, which was “Reach for the Stars”.  The banner was all about recreating Starry Night by Van Goh, with the addition of a few people reaching for the stars.  All day, we had people asking whether it had really been hand-painted, or if we’d had it printed.

Tug of war was the final event of the day, and even though we didn’t make it past the first round, my team dug down deep.  I am constantly appreciative that my employees put their all into everything they do, and this was no exception.  While most of the faceoffs were decided quickly one way or the other, our battle took by far the longest, and our resolve did not slip once.

Overall, it was definitely a great day.  We’ve got more exciting adventures on the horizon around the office, including our yearly pre-Christmas getaway to Destin (and our annual Gingerbread House Competition, which is always fierce). Stay tuned!


Branson Fun

September 21, 2017

As I mentioned in my last blog post, I’ve spent the last couple of weeks vacationing in beautiful Branson, Missouri.  Despite my initial reservations (no offence to country music fans, but Dolly Parton just isn’t my cup of tea), Branson is a great place for a vacation with the family.  It certainly helps that this is finally a trip that is all about fun, 100% pure vacation… I’ve been so busy lately that I was starting to think the scale that measured my work-life balance was broken!

Those who have been following my exploits know that I’m always up for a little adventure – during my latest business trip to Las Vegas for a trade show, I found time to take a helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon and drive a McLaren around a racetrack at 155 mph.  (Side note:  Those were two separate adventures; even I’m not quite extreme enough to do them back-to-back… Though, now that I mention it, it might be fun to go sky diving and land at a racetrack, with a sports car ready for you to take the wheel!  I’d consider that as the concept for my next business venture, but the insurance prices would probably be outrageous.)  My adrenaline-filled excursion this trip was ziplining.  The tour we went on took us down Wolfe Mountain and over the beautiful Ozarks canopy… and concluded with a heart-stopping 40-foot freefall!

Even outside of the ziplining, we really enjoyed getting to see the autumn scenery that Branson has to offer.  In Pensacola, Florida, we don’t really have a “fall” season.  Sure, it gets cooler in the later months of the year and some of the trees lose their leaves, but it’s nothing like what the Midwest has to offer.  Much of the foliage was still a vibrant green, but many of the trees along Route 66 were beginning to sprout their fall colors.  As beautiful as it is, though, I’m glad we’ll be settled back in warm Florida before winter settles in.


My Mistake

September 19, 2017

If you follow my blog, you know that I have been doing a ton of work-related travel recently, from client visits in the Northeastern Tri-State area to a trade show in Las Vegas. My latest trip, though, was designed to be just for FUN. Robbie and I have both been needing a little time away to recharge our collective batteries and talk about something other than work. (As much as Robbie and I love working together, one disadvantage is that work has a way of creeping into almost every conversation we have.)  All that said… For our latest adventure, Robbie and I met up with her parents and one of our nephews to spend a couple of weeks in Branson, Missouri. 

Even though I desperately needed the adjustment to my work-life-(im)balance, if I’m being honest, I was not excited about this trip.  If I’m being really honest, I was dreading it.

Before you start judging me, though, my dread had nothing to do with the fact that I’m vacationing with my in-laws!  I love Robbie’s parents as if they were my own, and I was happy to see them again, and to have the chance to catch up.  (Just remember, they raised Robbie to be an amazing woman; how could I not love them?)

Instead, my lack of enthusiasm sprang from our destination.  I mean… Branson, Missouri… Really?!  When I thought of ‘Branson’, I thought of Dolly Parton.  Big belt buckles.  Rodeos. I’m not big into country music or rural life; give me New York; Chicago; Florence, Italy; or London, England.  I will choose big city destinations over small towns every time.  No offense to those who love them (or to Dolly Parton herself!), but we are all wired differently, right? Those are just not my areas of interest.

You know what, though?  I could not have been more wrong: we are having an absolute blast!  Branson is beautiful this time of year, and there’s more to do here than we can actually fit into our schedule.  Wonder what we’re up to?  Well, stay tuned!  I’ll let you know in my next post. (Sneak peek:  If you know me, you know I’m always looking for an adventure to get my adrenaline pumping!  Branson was no exception…)


On the Road… Again

August 29, 2017

Lately, I have been travelling so much I’m having a hard time keeping track of which time zone I’m in!  As Ropella has grown and added teams serving distinct industries and functions, it has been very interesting for me to travel and meet our diverse clients; in fact, it might be my favorite part of the job. 

I was on the road again this week, this time with Jeff Bennett, my Vice President of Client Partnership Development.  We headed up to the Tri-state area at the request of three new partners. Trips like this just continue to drive home how hot the economy is right now with top companies across the industry spectrum adding new leaders, growing technical teams and in some cases even building out entire new divisions due to growth.

Luckily the airline treated us well this trip, and we arrived in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, at the perfect time to enjoy a delicious dinner at Lancaster’s only authentic Irish pub, Annie Bailey’s.  The next morning, we met with Executives at a leading foundry; from there we hopped on I-76 and I-276 to New Jersey, where we met with the commercial team for one of the household names in Food and Beverage (and Chocolate!).  We lunched with the Global Commercial Director of one of the largest chemical companies on the planet, who also happens to be one of our favorite clients to work with, and rounded out the trip by meeting with a leader in the water treatment industry.

Travelling for business is never boring, to say the least, and we stayed especially busy on this trip!  Unlike our recent trip to Vegas, there was very little downtime on this trip - which explains the delicious desserts (pictured above) which we indulged in during our layover in Atlanta. 


My Greatest Asset

August 16, 2017

I have been fortunate enough to enjoy many successes in my life so far, including being the Founder, Chairman and CEO of Ropella, the leading Executive Search firm specializing in the chemical industry.  Hands down, though, my greatest asset in life is my beautiful wife, Robbie.

From the day we met, Robbie has never stopped challenging me, both personally and professionally, and that’s one of the things I love about her.  Before starting Ropella, I was a partner at a health club.  Robbie applied for a position, and the other decision-makers wanted to hire her because she looked like an NFL cheerleader.  I didn’t want to hire her, because hiring on appearance wasn’t how I wanted to run a business.  I got out voted, and within a few weeks, Robbie showed us all just how wrong we were.  She wasn’t going to fall for men drooling over her (as they had hoped), and she was the top membership sales representative (showing me that she had the brains, ability, and personality to rival her good looks).  It took me seven years to get a first date with her.  From there, I didn’t waste any time: on our first date, I told her I loved her, and on the second date, I proposed.  She turned me down, of course, but after several more months of badgering, I finally got her to say yes.

Robbie has always been a hard worker; when we met, she was working several jobs, putting herself through school, and she still had time to be an amazing single mother.  Nowadays she does much of the day-to-day work of leading Ropella, and I can attribute much of our success to her leadership and perseverance.  She especially shines at trade shows – while I would be just one out of a thousand guys attending, she’s one out of maybe 20 girls.  She’s beautiful, she’s charming, and she knows how to attract attention.  We were at a trade show once where I was trying to connect with the President of Shell.  Suddenly, I hear this angelic voice piping through the speakers – Robbie is up on stage at the Shell event singing karaoke.  The key executives nearby were talking about her, asking each other whether this was a professional that they had hired to perform; I happily stepped in and proudly declared “No, that’s my amazing wife!”  Thanks to her amazing voice, self-confidence, and adventurous spirit, I got that meeting with the President.

Finally, Robbie is one of the most compassionate people I know.  She is always looking for ways to give back to family, employees, and the community.  (I’ll be talking about our latest efforts to give back next week.)  She has a huge heart for people, and an endless love for God.  Even though we occasionally drive each other crazy, I can honestly say that she makes me a better man and that every day of my life is better for having her in it.


Birthday Extravaganza

August 01, 2017

My wife, Robbie, and I have birthdays that are very close together, and we both celebrated the beginning of another year last month.  It has me feeling a bit reflective, and I’ve been considering the journey that brought me to this exciting point in my life.  It hasn’t always been easy, but all of the trials and hardships have led me to the multitude of personal and professional blessings I now have.

Our awesome team went all out on our present this year – a cooler that we can take out on our boat, packed full with goodies.  Snacks – most of which I (semi-playfully) claimed, since they aren’t on Robbie’s diet.  (You know, the diet I’m always insisting she doesn’t need to be on, since she’s already perfect.)  It also included a gift card for each of us; Robbie’s was for her favorite store, Lilly Pulitzer, which she insisted on using immediately, even if it made us late to the movie we were going to see.  (Turned out that we arrived just on time, and even if we had been late, it would have been worth it for how happy the new bag and flip flops she got made her.)


No Place Like Home

July 05, 2017

After a whirlwind week in Las Vegas for IFT17, it is great to finally be back home with my beautiful wife, Robbie. The Ropella IFT2017 team – myself, Scott Schmieder, Jeff Bennett, and Travis Oran – had an amazing time meeting with food industry leaders, but (as Dorothy would say) “There’s no place like home.”

I’ve been showing Robbie our pictures from the show; it’s a good thing I came home with a lot of new business, or, based on the pictures, she might have thought I just took the guys on a vacation without her. Somehow, we managed to fit a number of adventures into our jam-packed schedule: We jumped in on a Stein-Holding Contest (Jeff took first place), experienced Cirque du Soleil’s “Ka”, took a helicopter tour of the Grand Canyon, and – my personal favorite –drove exotic sports cars at top speeds around a race track. (I won, with a top speed of 152 in a Mclaren.)

For those of you who attend such things, what is your all-time favorite convention/tradeshow and location, and why? Looking forward to my next adventure….hope to meet many of you in my upcoming travels.


Grand Canyon Helicopter Tour

June 29, 2017

Wrapping up my last day here in Vegas. Whew, what a whirlwind. I had a blast catching up with colleagues from the food industry that I haven’t seen in a while. Back-to-back meetings are sending us home with exciting new projects. I better warn the home-team, they are going to be very, very busy!  

Stay tuned for more on what we did during the show next week. For now, we’re ready to get home to Pensacola, Florida (where, perhaps ironically, it’s not nearly as hot) …

Our flight doesn’t leave until later today, so we decided to embark on one last adventure before we leave: A helicopter tour of the Grand Canyon!  The Grand Canyon itself is a humbling experience, but the birds-eye view from the helicopter was even more so. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that none of us will ever forget.  


What Happens in Vegas

June 27, 2017

After a long day of air travel with a pre-dawn departure, my team and I decided to kick back and enjoy a well-deserved dinner at Hofbräuhaus, Las Vegas last night ( If you have never been here, it’s an experience worth having. We got into the spirit of the Biergarten and decided to compete in the Stein-Holding Contest… Jeff Bennett – Ropella’s Vice President of Client Partnership Development – took first place! Jeff is seen in the below picture on the far right, with his game face on. I love the energy here in Vegas; opening day and my schedule is packed For those who haven’t seen my previous posts: We are in Las Vegas meeting with key clients and new partners at #IFT17. If you’re attending the conference, stop by Booth V314 to say “hello”.


IFT 2017

June 24, 2017

Las Vegas here I come! Heading to IFT2017 next week. The Ropella team will be exhibiting and my schedule is packed with meetings with key clients and new partners; it’s exciting to see how many organizations are aggressively growing their organizations this year. I’m looking forward to catching up with food industry colleagues while at the conference, and have a little bit of fun as well. Last time I was in Vegas I took my team to experience Ka, one of the amazing shows put on by Cirque Du Soleil. It’s something they still talk about, might have to check out another one of their shows while we are in town…any recommendations? It’s been a whirlwind of a year here at Ropella. If you’re going to be at IFT2017, stop by Booth V314. I’d love to hear what 2017 has been like for you so far.


Back From Chicago

June 07, 2017

Had a blast while in Chicago, visits there always go by too quickly. Robbie and I walked the Magnificent Mile before we left. Even though this was a business trip, we took time out to revisit some of our old stomping grounds. Our client is setting up interviews with several exceptionally talented candidates, and we enjoyed a trip to one of our favorite restaurants, McCormick & Schmick's, so a successful trip on all levels.


Heading To Chicago

June 03, 2017

Heading to Chicago with my beautiful wife and business partner, Robbie. We will be in town to meet with a key client who has significant senior-level hiring needs due to expansion, but this trip means much more than that to me. For me, it’s a personal homecoming, bringing my journey full circle. After all, Ropella's headquarters may currently be located in Milton, Florida, but the company started in downtown Chicago over 25 years ago. (In my one-bedroom condo, to boot.)