Reprinted with permission from Canvas Rebel.
We’re excited to introduce you to the always interesting and insightful Alissa Henriksen. We hope you’ll enjoy our conversation with Alissa below.
Hi Alissa, thanks for joining us today. Let’s go back in time a bit – can you share a story of a time when you learned an important lesson during your education?
The importance of a positive mindset is a critical lesson I learned early in life. When I was seven, I was diagnosed with auditory dyslexia, a learning disability that led many to believe that I would have to depend on others for the rest of my life to read and write. Name calling and negative assumptions from others were rampant. My parents were huge supporters, with my mom being my constant advocate due to her own educational background and activist mentality. She was relentless to get me the support I needed – when my school and teachers didn’t understand. I felt lonely and worried because others made me think there was something wrong with me. I had to use a different lens to see that there wasn’t anything wrong with me. This is how I was created. I didn’t fit their path but that didn’t mean I couldn’t find my own path.
So often, when we are ‘different’ from the masses, people tell us we can’t do something. “You aren’t capable of X. You can’t do that. You don’t have that ability.” These negative messages follow us if we don’t fight against them. Others don’t get to define who we are, where we go and what we want to accomplish in this life. That decision is made by the individual.
Despite these childhood experiences, I chose hard work and dedication. Through years of tutoring, practice, and a solid support system, I conquered my diagnosis – making it a foundational differentiator of who I am for the better. My hard work led me to a full scholarship at South Dakota State University as a Division 2 volleyball player. My academic life completely changed in an environment where learning differences were supported versus ostracized.
This foundational experience brought to light that people can be judged and written off too soon today. I continued to grow my academic success, writing my first business plan as a teenager, and refining throughout college. I couldn’t wait or rely on others for my future. I had to do it myself. It wasn’t until years later that I realized it was the people business I was most interested in to start my career. I always loved the concept that recruiting was a match. Learn about a business and a person and match them together. Over time, I was only seeing the transactions of this business. Money, speed, money, speed, money, speed. I asked myself what it would be like to have a business that supported the business AND candidate for a longer-lasting fit. From there, Grey Search + Strategy was born.
The name “Grey” comes from my experience. Many in the recruitment industry operate that if boxes aren’t checked in five minutes, individuals are written off. I will spend my whole life with a mindset to see the whole person, not just what initial judgements and noise point to instead. It’s powerful to go through a terrible aspect of my childhood to learn how to give others a chance and new opportunities that others will not. I set my mind to fight for people every day. Grey Search + Strategy finds the right matches and cares deeply for the whole person along the way.
Alissa, before we move on to more of these sorts of questions, can you take some time to bring our readers up to speed on you and what you do?
Grey Search & Strategy is a boutique executive recruiting and consulting firm servicing all major industries and local markets – started 15 years ago by my husband, Lucas Henriksen, and me. Our team – now grown to 12 employees – has decades of combined experience in recruiting, consulting, research and team building, making it the go-to alternative to transactional recruiting firms. We offer strategic, long-term solutions to match talent with opportunities at Fortune 100 to 500 companies. Our focus is driven by a passion to understand unique challenges, discover exceptional talent, and bringing the two together for extraordinary results. 49% of our 2022 placements were diverse hires across all major industries, 50% faster than industry standards, and 100% of our business comes from satisfied clients and partners. In 2023, we were honored as a Top Executive Search Firm in the Twin Cities metropolitan area by Minneapolis-St. Paul Business Journal, landing at number 12.
We made a huge jump to start Grey Search + Strategy 15 years ago. Every single day since we’ve started, the boutique experience has stayed intact. We visit. We learn. We feel. All so we can explain to candidates what day-to- day life will be like at that business. This discovery phase is so important that we always travel and put in the time – on our dime not the client’s. Every client should ask their recruiting firm, “What are you willing to invest to get to know us?” A lot of companies won’t provide this level of investment and commitment. For us, it’s non-negotiable.
Our team works hard to build trust with the company and with the candidate. It’s a match on both sides. Grey Search + Strategy is here to elevate the best businesses through the best people. We give people the full shot to be known and give our clients a shot to know outstanding talent. I’m proud that we’ve never wavered on these commitments.
What do you think helped you build your reputation within your market?
We’ve never given our clients a reason to be unpleasantly surprised. And it comes together in how we approach client, candidate, and employee communications at Grey. Given my background, I know the importance of communication and how much it can derail a relationship. We do what we say we are going to do. We speak honestly, openly, and professionally. We are true to our values of grit, compassion, unity, excellence, authenticity and fun. Every time.
What’s been the most effective strategy for growing your clientele?
We are so fortunate to get most of our business from current clients, client referrals and partner referrals. To be a service-based business, like Grey, we must execute. And we’ve continued to execute repeatably over the years for our clients. We make it a point to ask clients to refer us if they know of another company in need. Clients love it because they want to help a partner who delivered.
We also express gratitude to our clients consistently. Every month, I reach out to tell clients how much we value them and their commitment to Grey. This conversation often leads to feedback to share with the team. We share experiences during these conversations and follow-up with actions, which builds trust with our clients.