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How I Got Here: The Story Of My Origins

January 2021
Jan-Bart Smits
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Stanton Chase recently held its biannual board elections, which were a welcome tradition in an otherwise unprecedented year. Like the rest of the world, we had to adjust to working, meeting, and communing online, which was a challenge considering how valuable personal relationships are to us here at Stanton Chase.

Stanton Chase International Chair Jan-Bart Smits share his history and his vision

The elections were also conducted virtually, and my predecessor, Mickey Matthews, was rotating out of his role as Chair after serving the maximum amount of terms. A new board was elected, and I was appointed as the new International Chairman.

In lieu of the face-to-face meetings that we normally thrive on, I’d like to open up this space to start a discussion with you, our clients. To start, I’d like to tell you a bit about myself and how I got here.

Broadening Horizons

Born in Italy to Dutch parents (which explains my love for red Italian wines from Tuscany) I had a great childhood. Unfortunately, my father passed away at a young age, just before I met my wife-to-be. We were university lovers and basically became adults together. I studied astrophysics and she law, which was an interesting combination. Only now am I starting to appreciate how much she taught me. Looking at my life as a young man, a student totally enthralled with his subject, I realize that tends to create a narrowness of vision. She helped me broaden my horizons, and I believe that helped lay the foundations for who I am today.

Jan-Bart Smits, new Stanton Chase International Chair

Whilst I loved my chosen subject, I quickly realized I would never be the best in the world at astrophysics. Looking at my hero, Richard Feynman (whose book “QED” I can strongly recommend; note how he explains to his 6-year-old niece what he does using just one simple formula), I realized I would never even get close. So, after finishing university, getting a job became a priority. I was lucky: I joined a local search and selection firm and quickly realized that this was my chosen profession.

Having worked for a local boutique, an international selections firm, and a global executive search firm, which gave me an opportunity to work and live in the Middle East, I joined Stanton Chase in 2009. At the time, the firm was looking for a Dutch Partner responsible for the technology market. I had chosen that field of specialization early on in my career and never wavered.

To me, technology is the most exciting industry in which to operate. My clients in this sphere really change the world: how we work, live, communicate, and stay in touch with friends and family. Just imagine the complexity of telephone networks and their simplicity of use. Any person in the world can be reached if you can push a button with a number between 0 and 9 – how great is that!

‘Go Fix It’

I attended my first Global Partner Meeting about 10 days after I joined the company. Just like at many companies, the mantra “If you have such strong opinions, go fix it” also applies at Stanton Chase, and soon I was asked to run the EMEA practice for technology. This grew over time to a global responsibility, and later my responsibilities expanded to include professional services, which are close to technology in so many ways.

Fast forward to 2021. We now face the largest pandemic in the living memory of mankind, and there are huge economic issues stemming from that as well as the trade wars. People are becoming polarized; the benefits of great technology have also turned against us: Everyone has an opinion and can throw it out into the world. People tend to read and search for information that confirms their ideas and stop listening to the opinions from others.

“In a changing world, we need to change, too.”

Jan-Bart Smits, SC International Chair

Stanton Chase is facing many challenges. Mickey Matthews often told me that he viewed Stanton Chase as a person – born about 35 years ago, journeying through young adulthood, and now at the phase of a high-potential successful young executive. We need to adjust to our new reality. We are a major player in the search industry. Gone are the days of happy-go-lucky, do-the-best-you-can individualism. In a changing world, we need to change, too.

A Global Perspective

These observations made me raise my hand. My passion of working internationally with global clients, candidates from all continents, and colleagues from all over the world drove me to come up with a plan and gather a team of great people to join me on the board. We are proud to be literally living diversity every day in nationality, gender, race, ethnicity, national cultures, subcultures within countries, sexual orientation, disability (visible or invisible), age, and generation – but luckily with the same shared values.

Together we will start working tirelessly to help support Stanton Chase achieve what everyone hopes for when they see high potential in their team – success, greatness, the joy of working together, and hope that this individual will become the leader we all look up to. I sincerely hope Stanton Chase can achieve that, and I believe we are well on our way.

About the Author:
Jan-Bart Smits is the new International Chairman of Stanton Chase.

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