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Meet Robin Toft of Toft Group

Today we’d like to introduce you to Robin Toft.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I have learned through interviewing thousands of executives that one’s career is rarely a straight line.  I like to say my career had three chapters, and I’m embarking upon my fourth now. My first ten years were spent in a foundational role within the clinical laboratory, and the second ten I found my stride in sales roles of escalating responsibility where I excelled and developed my relationship building skills. Then I experienced a career defining moment, when I landed in the Emergency Room and was diagnosed with colon cancer at the age of 45.  I knew immediately that the internalized stress of my current roles was a contributor, so I resigned my executive role in the SF Bay Area and moved to San Diego for treatment and recovery.

I immediately began planning my next career and determined, given my background in oncology product sales and now my personal treatment experience that I should create a very different executive search company now known as Toft Group Executive Search.  My mission was to change the future of medicine, and in turn the way cancer is treated in my lifetime. There are so many great products in development, and my mission became to help get them to market quickly, through identifying the best people for the jobs.  In the end – it’s all about the people! I started my firm as a solo practitioner, then hired the best and brightest people I could find to help pursue my mission of changing the future. The rest is history. We have grown from zero to approximately $10 million in revenue within eight years and there’s no end in sight.

My next 10 years will be about advancing women in their careers.  I love developing women and millennials, and they are the answer to the industry- and nationwide talent crisis. My intention with founding an executive search firm was to get groundbreaking new discoveries to market quickly – to continue to do that, we need to leverage all of the brilliance out there, and to develop NextGen talent as quickly and effectively as possible.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Of course, there are always challenges when building a company from the ground up. I was learning a completely new industry while also building and running my company…. “building the plane while flying it” if you will.  Originally, I was the main person running operations, responsible for the top-line sales and the bottom line, while also trying to find and attract talent and develop them into exceptional search professionals. About one year into my entrepreneurial adventure, I was personally impacted by the San Diego wildfires and lost all of my worldly possessions. It was a speed bump, but retrospectively only strengthened my commitment to making an impact in the world and my community since leaving a legacy became even more important.

Back on the corporate front, my next set of challenges included creating a strong, well differentiated brand with high customer value.  I needed to create a reproducible, reliable service model, that we could deliver with the consistency of a product. Given my very different aspirations, I was unwilling to hire seasoned “headhunters” from our competitors.  At Toft Group, we value a team-based, mission driven mindset. We needed to consistently deliver performance excellence to strengthen customer referrals, which remain our primary sales advantage today. Although teaching, training and developing people is my strength and passion, it was hard to delegate, train, and transition some of my responsibilities and become more of a mentor to my employees to help foster their growth and development while growing at breakneck speed. I needed to work “on” the business versus “in” the business – a common entrepreneurial challenge.

In contrast to most search firm owners, I have reinvested heavily to continue to scale and expand the company’s offerings. This is highly unusual for executive search firm owners, who typically opt to achieve similar profitability and comfortable compensation without the heavy lifting involved in significant growth. For me, building a search firm was imperative to meet the sizable unmet market need to find exceptional biotech talent, and to develop the talent pool (women and millennials) to get these lifesaving technologies to market.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
Toft Group is a global executive search firm fully dedicated to accelerating product development within rapidly growing life sciences and healthcare high tech companies, with a special focus on innovation-driven companies at the intersection of biotech and high tech. Our track record shows we quickly fill highly specialized leadership through CEO and Board roles with an incredible sense of cultural fit.

The life science industry is always in motion, adapting to new technologies, government regulations and pricing pressures. Toft Group navigates the fast-moving talent pool to build the strong, inspired and diverse teams our companies need to excel.

Toft Group is committed to building a more diverse, representative workforce. We truly believe that hiring more women and millennials (half of whom are women) is the bridge to achieving corporate diversity. Diverse organizations are more able to attract and retain talent and have higher profitability and overall financial performance on Wall Street.  Today, 47 percent of candidates we placed in 2018 are women and we aim to raise that number in 2019. My next ten years will be accelerating the advancement of women and millennials into executive roles to help accelerate innovation and to address the talent crisis all industries are currently facing.

What were you like growing up?
Growing up I was equal parts artist and student, both creative and intellectual in my pursuits. I was, and still am, programmed to believe that I can do anything by my parents and early mentors. So as a child, I pursued many different pursuits and aspired to achieve all challenges I set my sights on. I am the type of person who believes if you set your mind to it, you can do it!

As a child, I actually aspired to be a motivational speaker. Today, after a long and successful industry career, I’m on the podium, helping women build confidence to pursue their dream jobs.  I recently became an author and launched my first book entitled WE CAN™, The Executive Woman’s Guide to Career Advancement. WE CAN provides the confidence, language, and tools to help women design and realize their dream careers, and to “live their purpose”. I have hired by companies and women’s groups to talk about WE CAN, and to share my insights as a headhunter and career executive – this chapter of my careering is proving to be very fun and rewarding.  

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