By  on June 4, 2007

Corporate cultures vary from company to company, and also from one part of the country to another. Here Brad Smith, senior consultant at executive search firm C-Suite Inc., which has offices in Boston and New York, discusses some of the issues connected with executive moves from one coast to the other.

WWD: How different are the work cultures when comparing the East and West Coasts?

Brad Smith: A company's culture is formed by a number of different factors, and geography is just one of them. The most significant determinant of corporate culture is the executive who sits in the corner office. Having said that, there are some generalizations we can make about cultural differences between various geographic regions. New York is the undisputed fashion capital of the U.S., but the talent pool [in fashion] is also quite strong throughout the country, especially in Orange County, Los Angeles, San Francisco, as well as Portland and Seattle.

WWD: How great is the impact from the local lifestyle on the work environment?

Smith: The impact of the local lifestyle on the work environment is very real. Whether it is weather, community, cultural events or proximity to nature, these are factors that are important to potential candidates, and are a part of their decision-making process. We know there is the perception that companies in California are more "laid-back," and to a degree, that may be true. Certainly when talking about dress code, companies in California are more casual than many of those in New York. However, when talking about the elements that go into building a successful brand or business, you can find the same level of professionalism and commitment throughout the industry, regardless of geography.

WWD: What about, on the West Coast, the difference between Los Angeles and San Francisco?

Smith: Los Angeles and San Francisco are so different when it comes to weather, environment and culture that the people who live and work in these cities tend to be drawn to one or the other by key quality of life issues.

WWD: What about the areas further north, as in the Pacific Northwest?Smith: The Pacific Northwest is a good example of a region where local lifestyle plays heavily into the culture of the local apparel businesses. You'll find a greater percentage of people who stay with one company for a longer period of time, if not for much of their career. People are somewhat less willing to leave their current jobs because they're able to live the lifestyle they are looking for and see no need for change.

WWD: How does lifestyle in an area impact the ability to recruit for jobs located in other parts of the country?

Smith: The more strategic the role or seasoned the executive, the less that geography plays into the equation. Executives tend to be more career-centric, in search of opportunities that will be a good strategic move for the overall path of their career. The opposite is true for more junior roles. This presents a greater challenge to the hiring company to provide a compelling experience where you have to sell the region along with the job.

WWD: When seeking to hire someone from an entirely different geographic area, what can companies do to make the transition easier for their chosen candidate?

Smith: Like any business decision, do your due diligence. Learn as much about your candidate and their family as you can. Then provide information to the candidate on the latest demographics, information on schools, diversity, employers in the area [if a partner or spouse will be accompanying the candidate] and relevant social information. We have gone so far as to provide a chief operating officer candidate who was relocating with local babysitting resources. The goal is to help the candidate and their family to transition into the new area with as little stress and distraction so that they can focus on assimilating into the culture and performing their job.

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