Ventura Partners Recruits President for Zildjian

February 16, 2017 – Executive search firm Ventura Partners has recruited John Stephans as president of the Zildjian Company. He will report directly to chief executive officer Craigie Zildjian. Bob Damon, a partner at Ventura, led the assignment. Mr. Stephans is the former CEO of IdeaPaint. Earlier in his career, he held a series of senior level marketing and sales positions with Gillette, Ocean Spray and Monster.

“This type of assignment exemplifies what makes Ventura different,” said Mr. Damon. “We have a unique ability to truly understand the cultural and leadership traits necessary for success in a founder / family-led business with a very distinctive culture.” Since fit trumps resume every time, he said, “I will focus on the fit aspect of why John was selected: Trust, strong family values, authenticity, and self-awareness were critical components of the position.”

Using Experience As Assessment

A dominant brand with roughly 400 years of family history has a very distinctive culture, Mr. Damon acknowledged. “John was the first candidate I met and within 30 minutes, I knew he was the right one,” he said, calling the candidate “totally authentic.” Mr. Damon said the candidate “never let any of his executive positions define who he was in life,” and said he turned down a big promotion to keep one of his sons in the right school. He also said the candidate was a successful coach at the college level, and he didn’t take himself too seriously. “Those experiences told me more about John and his fit for Zildjian than any assessment tool ever developed.”


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Zildjian is the oldest family business in North America, founded in 1623. The company is headquartered in Norwell, MA and is the global leader in drum cymbals, drum sticks and other percussion products.

Advantages for Clients

Ventura Partners, an executive search firm with particular depth in recruiting senior leadership talent for private equity-owned and owner / founder-run companies, and sports management concerns, specializes in recruiting CFOs for private equity-owned companies, C-level executives for consumer and retail companies, and directors of athletics, coaches, and administrators in professional sports organizations, colleges, and universities. Julie Ford founded the firm in 2010 and the business maintains offices in Los Angeles, Chicago and Atlanta.

With over 30 years of search experience, Mr. Damon has been a senior strategist recruiting for boards and C-suite executives on organization and talent management issues. Although he has recruited chief executive officers for well-known organizations such as Oakley, Under Armour, Levi Strauss, Burger King and the National Football League, he has focused the last 15 years on talent acquisition projects in small and mid-sized private equity-backed companies as well as in companies with existing strong founder-inspired cultures. Currently, Mr. Damon sits on the boards of directors at Zildjian, Pearsports, TRX Training, the Special Operations Fund and serves as chairman at SHEEX.

Mr. Damon recently sat down with Hunt Scanlon Media and discussed the advantages for clients of doing executive searches for companies where he serves as a board member.

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Bob, you sit on the boards of several companies. You do search work for all of them?

Yes, all the companies whose boards I sit on have worked with me on numerous talent management and organizational issues. However, it was my business training coupled with my talent management expertise that were the reasons why I was asked to initially join these boards. All of these companies are growing consumer brands where the business strategy has pivoted many times and they require very distinctive types of leaders.

What upper hand do you have, or what extra benefit do you bring to companies where you sit on their board?

Sitting on these boards allows me to gain an in-depth understanding and knowledge of the company’s business, people and culture that is not possible if I were just an outside partner providing a service. It also allows for greater insight into identifying candidates who will strengthen the company and the leadership team.

So how do these relationships work?

The relationships are all quite straightforward. If any of these companies are looking to fill a position that lines up with my expertise, I will personally lead the assignment. If the position is not in my wheelhouse, nor one my partners, then I would engage another firm to conduct the assignment, with guidance from me.

What sort of positions have you completed for companies where you serve as a board director?

I have recruited presidents, chief marketing officers, board directors, chief merchants and e-commerce heads for these companies.

Contributed by Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor, Hunt Scanlon Media

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