RJ Associates provides executive search services for companies seeking mid-level through senior level executives in the financial and accounting disciplines. Services are provided on a modified retained basis. Their clients are start-ups, middle market, and Fortune 500 companies representing a broad spectrum of industries. RJ Associates expertise encompasses all corporate positions that “touch the numbers.”
Judy and Ron Fischer joined us for a discussion about forty of years of being business and life partners.
Judy and Ron Fischer
1st Generation Partners
Can you discuss the significance of your 40-year anniversary and what it means to you?
Judy — To be in our business for 40 years is mind-bending! We marvel at creating a business that has helped so many companies achieve their goals and has provided great opportunities for individuals to build their careers. We’re very proud of the successes we’ve helped to create. We’re especially proud of never having to replace a candidate for non-performance! We believe we do it right the first time!
What was the genesis for starting the business?
Judy — I was working for a large, international search firm and was approached by another firm to start a new division. I thought if I was going to start a new division for a company, I might just start a new company for myself.
Who did you seek advice from before starting the business?
Judy — Ron and I spoke to a friend who was a business advisor. We were confident of the marketplace opportunity; however, we wanted to make sure that we didn’t miss any issues. When I left my previous firm we didn’t solicit any existing clients. We started from the beginning, developing new relationships with clients and candidates. It felt it was the most ethical and honest way to grow our business. We had to leave the previous relationships behind. We still subscribe to an ironclad rule of never soliciting anyone from an existing client. We value and protect those relationships.
Can you tell us how Ron joined the company?
Ron — My background is finance and accounting. I was being courted by a major CPA firm to lead their Pacific Rim consulting practice. I wasn’t really committed to this, but I decided to talk to them. I was very specific with my requirements if I was to join their firm. They agreed so I flew to Chicago and shook hands with the Managing Partner. On the flight home, I did some deep soul searching and realized that I didn’t want to consult anymore. I told Judy about my decision and she said “Come work with me.”
Judy — Within the first three months Ron started making as much money as the consulting firm was offering for the first year and we were off and running. But it was scary. When he was working with a major firm, we had one paycheck that we could count on. When he left that firm, we had no paychecks and only some money in the bank. No income, two kids and a mortgage. We knew that we had to make it, and we did.
Can you describe your role and your partners’ role in the business?
Judy — As we grew our company, Ron managed the operational functions and I did the hiring and training. Concurrent to that, we both worked on client search assignments from clients. After eight years of having employees we decided to go back to a boutique firm without employees, just the two of us. Ron still manages certain operational items. I keep the books and pay the bills.
Are your business roles the same as your non-business roles?
Ron — As far as the firm’s ownership, we’re 51 – 49 partners because Judy started the business. As business partners and spouses we have a 50-50 partnership. Judy has always been comfortable in front of people so she became the public face for the firm. She was the Vice President of NAWBO (National Association of Women Business Owners), Business Woman of the Year in Tarzana, active in Jewish Vocational Services, President and Board Member of our temple. Judy was serving the community as she was doing business development for RJ Associates.
What advice do you have for couples who decide to go into business together?
Judy — Talk, talk, talk about parameters for the partners and how you fit together. One important issue is separating the business from your love life. From talking to other couples in similar circumstances, we discovered that there are issues with the man not feeling superior and it effected their ego. Married couples in business together must have strong egos; they have to recognize that there are times when one partner is feeling more empowered at the office and you can’t let that effect other parts of your life.
What was the most significant moment in the business?
Judy — The decision to return to just the two of us without any employees. That decision allowed us to focus on what we love about the business – working with companies to source and provide excellent candidates to fill their critical needs; to devote our energies to fulfilling our mission of providing outstanding search services. We believe that is why we’ve never had to replace a candidate for non-performance.
How did you create boundaries so that your children wouldn’t be inundated with executive search conversations?
Judy — When we came home from the office, we would ask the kids for “15 minutes” so we could change clothes and decompress. Then we would go into the kitchen to get dinner going. When we went into the kitchen for dinner, we turned off the office. It was very typical household of two parents trying to navigate their lives. It was often very hectic with kids on different schedules and going to different activities (gymnastics, baseball, girl scouts, camps). But dinner time was family time.
Did you children work in the business?
Ron — Our daughter did filing and clerical work. Our son worked for us during two summers and occasionally after school. He did data entry and even designed some forms that we still use today.
In the late 1980s, we created a job fair, called JobQuest. Companies needed to hire teens for summer jobs and this provided a venue to interview and hire on the spot. Nobody was doing this. We held it at Northridge Mall and 6,000 kids showed up. The employers included McDonalds, Wendy’s, Magic Mountain and many other companies. Mayor Tom Bradley attended the event and we received extensive media coverage. Geoffrey, our son, was an integral part of the new entity. We did JobQuest in three malls the following year. We wanted to expand further; however, other better funded companies got into the Job Fair market, so decided not to move forward. Also, the malls started charging and that changed the calculus.
Would you like to see your next generation go into the business and why hasn’t it happened?
We could see our son taking over our business. His experience over the last 15+ years has been in Human Resources and Operations with private companies. He is well versed in all aspects of hiring, on-boarding, and human resource management. He also has had experience in sales and sales management. The combination of skills would serve him well in the search business.
At this time, with two kids in college, the risk of a commission-based business is probably too great for Geoff. A regular pay check allows him to sleep at night! It’s possible that in a few years he will be ready to consider going out on his own. We would be happy to see him become “the next generation!”
Our daughter has taken a very different career path. She is a physical therapist and after more than 20 years, still love what she does.
ABOUT YOU (Judy)
Biggest non-family idol or inspiration? President Zelensky
What keeps you up at night? Not much. I’m a sound sleeper.
First job before going into the family business? In HS and college, I was in retail. After college I was a teacher. When we moved to California I went back into retail, working for The Gap.
What are you streaming? Just finished watching “inventing Anna.”
What’s on your turntable or Spotify playlist? Anything by Chopin or The Beatles
Favorite Godfather Movie – Godfather I
Favorite LA Sports team – The Dodgers, of course.
Favorite LA College – Daughter went to USC; Son went to UCSB – have to remain neutral.
Favorite place to listen to music – Disney Hall
Quintessential LA activity or experience – Foodie places or Theater
Beach or Desert — Desert, definitely
Where do you take visitors to spot celebrities? Beverly Hills or Calabasas
Best part of LA – The diversity of things to do, see, or eat.
Least favorite part of LA – Traffic
Favorite restaurant – Our Kitchen
Favorite LA junk food – Red Vines
LA Social Causes
Pants Off Racing – Pancreatic Cancer Support
JVS – Jobs, Vision, Success – Career planning and job placement for people with special needs, out of work, in need of training, returning Vets, and other hard to place individuals.
Allen Esrock is the Founder of NxtGen Nexus, a platform for the next generation of family business owners which is based on his experience of growing up in a family business. Prior to that he started Jitter Fingers, the first safe, social networking website for tween girls and their bffs with Jitter Finger clubs in 12+ countries and 250+ cities in the US.