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Carly Drum, Managing Director, Drum Associates

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Carly Drum was born a manager. Firing her friends from her own little office and handing out her own business cards when she was only seven, she role played being a good manager at a very early age. Today, as the managing director of Drum Associates—an executive search firm in New York which places candidates with Wall Street companies, Carly Drum is an account originator and relationship manager who helps corporations fill their executive search needs. The Penn State University graduate oversees all aspects of the recruiting firm’s operations and helps manage a 40-person staff.

According to Carly, internal clients need to be managed before external clients. She trusts her good communication skills. Her rationale: “When people are left to figure it out on their own, they spend more time trying to fill in the blanks. It becomes very distracting. Giving them the necessary resources and information keeps people from speculating and from becoming distracted and consumed by the situation.” At Drum Associates, the sales team is given a state-of-the-company address every Tuesday morning. Furthermore, all financial information is shared with every Drum employee. Carly has successfully expanded the staff’s client relationships throughout the company. This gives each client the benefit of every Drum employee’s expertise. “As a manager, I encourage our employees to embrace the concepts of synergy and teamwork so that the whole can become larger than the sum of its collective parts,” says Carly. In an industry notorious for commission-driven employees, Carly and her father, president and CEO of Drum Associates, Brian Drum, have been able to successfully turn Drum Associates into a company defined by its total commitment to a winning team concept. Carly believes in the power of relationships. She proved this at the age of 23. At a New York business event in 2002, Carly walked up to Alexandra Lebenthal, president of a New York financial service company, and asked Lebenthal to have lunch with her. For Drum, approaching one of the busiest women in the world was no big deal. Soon after, she was sitting across the table with Lebenthal, who provided her with confidence and inspiration. Today, Drum and Lebenthal continue to work together, and Drum has placed a couple of people with Lebenthal’s company. Carly had always wanted to join the family business, although her father initially encouraged her to work elsewhere. She joined ESPN for its sales training program and to gain a better understanding of how large organizations are structured—two areas which she feels are extremely important to success in the search business. Then 9/11 came. Drum Associates, which was located 100 yards away from the World Trade Center, faced the possibility of bankruptcy. Prior to the disaster, the company, founded by Carly’s father more than 30 years before, was having its best year. In an instant, however, demand for recruiting services came to a complete halt. No companies were hiring and no employees were changing jobs. But Brian Drum wasn’t about to give in to the economics of terrorism. The senior Drum focused on rebuilding. He told his employees, “We have a choice. We’re in this lifeboat together. We can row together or we can sink.” Needless to say, they chose to row. Brian decided it was the right time to switch his business model and expand into new markets. He sought Carly’s help to change the business structure and corporate culture at Drum Associates. Together, Brian and Carly changed Drum Associates from a commission-driven company to a classic matrix organization—which requires every employee to try new areas, develop new skills, and discover new aptitudes. “By switching from a silo to a matrix philosophy, we were able to increase productivity while improving employee morale and customer satisfaction. We were also able to stay a step ahead of the competition,” says Carly. Brian gave up his salary and took out loans to make ends meet. His compassion in the face of crisis earned him New York City’s 2004 SBA Small Business Person of the Year Award. Mayor Bloomberg and Senators Hillary Clinton and Charles Schumer recognized Brian’s tremendous courage and commitment to his staff and to society. Q. What do you do for fun? A. I’m a big sports fan, so going to games or playing sports with my husband is what I like to do in my spare time. I also really enjoy speaking about hiring trends and managerial issues as a workplace expert/resource for various media outlets like Fox News Channel,, and The New York Times. Q. What books would you suggest to other managers? A. Use What You’ve Got & Other Business Lessons I Learned from My Mom by Barbara Corcoran and Bruce Littlefield and Naked in the Boardroom: A CEO Bares Her Secrets So You Can Transform Your Career by Robin Wolaner. Q. What else are you passionate about? A. I am actively involved in helping women in the workplace and working mothers. I belong to a number of networking groups for businesswomen and some terrific charities like “Dress for Success.” The Drums’ fighting spirit saw their firm through the worst times. The 9/11 experience helped Carly emerge from the situation as a better manager. She summarizes what she learned: “As a manager, you need to be able to adapt to any situation, and you can’t be afraid to change the way you do business if the market changes radically.” While some of her efficient managerial skills are innate, Carly found a great boss and mentor while working at ESPN whom she thanks for impressing upon her the importance of details. Carly believes in managing through setting an example: “Your standard of work is a reflection of you as a professional and as a leader. If you present a standard of consistent excellence in all you do, the partners you work with, both internally and externally, will also be inspired to show that same level of effort when working with you.” Winning is about repeated successful innings for any business; Carly is working toward ensuring this for Drum Associates. However, in the next 10 to 15 years, a “war for talent” is expected to take place in the recruiting industry. How is this manager planning to lead her company? “By developing new strategies for recruitment and retention,” answers Carly. Above all, she feels that one’s commitment to quality governs everything one does. Each step at Drum Associates is geared toward providing its clients with the highest possible service. Carly is confident that this approach will take care of everything else!
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