John Kiernan of Management Pathways

When you spend a career in large corporate organizations hoping to climb the proverbial ladder of success, your focus is typically on finding mentors, proving yourself on special project teams, presenting to executive teams, and positioning yourself in the right place at the right time. Entrepreneurs are able to take a different approach because their proverbial ladder of success is frequently “a horse of a different color.” In this issue of The Office Link we explore this concept a little deeper with John Kiernan, Managing Director of Management Pathways.

John founded Management Pathways in 2003 as an Executive Search Firm for the healthcare industry. The firm helps healthcare organizations, ranging from start-up private companies to large not-for-profit health systems, in identifying and recruiting mid-level to senior executives. They are known for building teams within their client’s organizations by connecting individuals to leadership roles within business development, operations, finance, clinical, HR, technology, and quality disciplines.

Management Pathways has a clearly defined three-pronged approach for being successful – all of which are far different from large corporate America.  According to John, “I wanted to build a firm that was nimble and responsive, and offered flexibility for clients; one that truly understands our clients’ business and culture, and develops relationships that allow us to build teams and grow careers. All of these are personally rewarding and define what success is for me.” Let’s explore these three areas of success-building approaches that John has defined for Management Pathways:

Differentiation with a Consultative Approach

John set out to move away from the traditional model of retained search firms by focusing on quality over quantity and offering his clients alternative service options to meet their needs.  “We have taken the best practices of executive search, and incorporated more flexibility to respond to our client’s unique needs,” says John.  For example, Management Pathways structures many executive search engagements based on a project consulting approach, in place of the percentage-based fee that is typical of most firms.  This enables John and his team to serve as partners on a wider range of assignments.  He added, “Our clients frequently hire us for multiple searches and get a much higher ROI through our project consulting service.”  The consultative, less-transactional type of service structure allows Management Pathways to be responsive to clients and understand more deeply who they are culturally as an organization.

John found it imperative to develop a performance-based model to win new business and share the risk financially with clients.  He commented, “When organizations hire an executive search firm, they expect results.  We focus on executing a process that delivers a quality outcome and move with urgency.”  Management Pathways identifies and recruits high caliber candidates that not only fit the job criteria but also match the culture and intangible environmental characteristics of the clients’ workplace. They remain focused on the client’s needs and provide their expertise in a manner which best suits the situation, whether it means acting as an HR extender to source candidates, facilitating a comprehensive review of an organization’s talent acquisition process, or developing a new job description. The performance-based model and customized service offerings challenge the traditional way in which executive search firms work with clients.

Partnering on a Larger Platform

Working with healthcare professionals didn’t happen by accident. “I didn’t have a formal healthcare background but I was drawn to the mission – taking care of patients and improving health.   I admire the people that work in healthcare – they are dedicated, really smart and motivated by values more than personal financial gain. They are here to serve our communities,” says John.  The pace of change in healthcare delivery is rapid, requiring organizations to innovate and redefine leadership roles.  He added, “It’s an uncertain, yet very exciting, time in healthcare.  People who are comfortable with risk-taking, or at least can adapt to change, will be successful.”  To stay current on trends, John volunteers with the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE) and is a board member of the regional chapter.  He co-chairs Events & Education for the group and helps to develop a series of programs each year that feature subject matter experts on current healthcare topics.  His involvement in a professional organization has helped Management Pathways stay connected to a wider audience and increased visibility for the company.

“I actually held educational events for clients at Executive Office Link before I moved my office here. It is a perfect way to build your network and establish thought leadership,” says John. “Because of the numerous philanthropic events and educational series we are involved in, we decided to establish roots at Executive Office Link. Plus, EOL provides the support and makes us feel we are important to them.”

Building Teams and Individual Careers

Staying focused on the healthcare industry allows Management Pathways to establish a repository of very accomplished people and a strong referral base. Really understanding individuals and the clients’ organizations allows them to effectively build out entire teams. Additionally, since they get to know the inside workings and challenges within the client organizations, Management Pathways can assist candidates with career coaching and assistance as they onboard to their new role. John finds that healthcare professionals tend to stay in the field, so the career transition consulting and ongoing coaching that Management Pathways offers differentiates them and keeps them connected as a long-term partner.

When considering how to be successful, it is important to realize what differentiates you and to define what actions to take to move you along the ladder of success. Management Pathways has clearly defined their space and established an approach which has created invaluable relationships and quality performance.

To contact Management Pathways, call (610) 415-0888, or email