An Interview With Chad Silverstein
Idea is Nothing, Execution is Everything: It’s the implementation of your business idea, not the idea itself, that determines success.
We are starting a new interview series about the world of entrepreneurship beyond the classroom — a realm where theory meets grit, and education meets real-world challenges. We want to hear about critical business wisdom that often goes unspoken in academic settings. I had the honor of interviewing Edouard Thoumyre.
Edouard founded ACCUR Recruiting Services in 2006 after relocating from France to the U.S.. ACCUR Recruiting Services, an executive search firm focusing on consumer industries such as Beauty, Wine & Spirits and Luxury Goods. Edouard’s academic background includes Master’s degrees in Entrepreneurship from HEC Paris and Industrial Engineering from Centrale Lille. Since its inception, ACCUR has gained steady recognition and has been listed as a Forbes Top 100 Executive Search Firm since 2018. His client list includes notable companies like L’Oréal, LVMH, and Constellation Brands reflecting the firm’s specialized approach. Outside of his professional life, he is a father to three boys and is an avid enthusiast of outdoor sports, which allows him to enjoy adventures with his family.
Thanks for being part of this series. Let’s jump in and focus on your early years. Can you share who was your biggest influence when you were young and provide specific examples of what you learned from them that helped shape who you’ve become and how you live your life today?
The most significant influence in my early years was undoubtedly my grandfather. His impact on me was profound, both in terms of deep admiration and the influence he had on my life. His recent passing at the age of 101, leaving behind my grandmother at 100 after 77 years of marriage, has only highlighted the legacy he left.
My grandfather was a prominent public business figure in France, and despite his demanding career, he always made time for family. My siblings, cousins, and I were fortunate to spend quality time with him, particularly during summer vacations. He was a remarkable combination of intellect and humor, always eager to engage both his mind and hands in building things around the house with us.
He had high expectations when it came to academic achievements, but he was also appreciative of the diverse talents within our family.
His example taught me to do things seriously, without taking myself so seriously.
Staying on the topic of influence, who has been your biggest catalyst more recently and what can you share that you’ve learned from them that led you to making changes in your life?
Certainly, the most significant catalyst for change in my professional life, while not exceedingly recent, has been the HEC-Entrepreneurs Master’s Degree program at HEC Paris. This unique educational experience diverged from my initial, more traditional Master’s in Industrial Engineering, which, although comprehensive, did not fully encompass the realities of my potential career path. The HEC-Entrepreneurs program was revolutionary in its approach, replacing standard academic instruction in favor of hands-on missions for companies and interactions with seasoned entrepreneurs. It was really meant to teach what traditional colleges and business schools would not. It illuminated the viability of entrepreneurship as a career choice and instilled in me the belief that learning is limitless.
In this interview series, we aim to reveal what seasoned entrepreneurs wish they had known when they were starting out and capture what the textbooks and college professors left out. Mistakes are invaluable. Can you name one specific mistake that you made early on, and learned the most from, but wish you’d been forewarned about?
A pivotal mistake I made during my first entrepreneurial venture before ACCUR was partnering with individuals whose goals and perspectives on entrepreneurship didn’t align with mine. My partners pursued an aggressive, fast-growth, high-pressure strategy with an untold expectation of an early exit strategy. Initially, I didn’t recognize the misalignment, and it took me some time to understand that this approach wasn’t for me. In hindsight, even if I had known about their strategies from the beginning, I still would have joined them — I needed that firsthand experience to truly grasp my own entrepreneurial values. This taught me the importance of building a business that not only seeks long-term growth but also nurtures quality interactions and a stable environment that reflects my view of entrepreneurship as more than just a job — it’s a lifestyle that embodies freedom, independence, and balances risk with responsibility and reward. It was with this understanding that I founded ACCUR Recruiting Services 17 years ago, shaping it into the business I envisioned.
Is there a leadership myth you believed early on that you’ve since debunked through your real-world experience?
In my early career, I held the belief that larger businesses were inherently more successful and had a competitive advantage due to their size. I equated size with resources, reach, and market power. However, through my real-world experience, particularly in the executive search industry, I’ve learned that this isn’t always the case.
I’ve observed that, while some industries benefit from economies of scale, in many others, smaller can actually be more advantageous. Small companies can be very profitable, agile, and simpler to manage, all the while maintaining resilience and the ability to adapt quickly to market changes. In the executive search sector, this is especially true, where niche boutique firms can effectively compete with global corporations. Their specialization and personalized service often allow them to meet specific client needs more effectively than their larger counterparts.
What’s the key operational insight you’ve gained since running your business that was never mentioned in any classroom?
I would say that selling is the name of the game, especially to get started. The realization is that, unless you possess an exclusive commodity that is in high demand by everyone, the ability to effectively sell your product or service becomes the cornerstone of your entrepreneurial venture. This insight places a spotlight on the often-understated truth that while innovation and quality are essential, their value is only realized when paired with strong sales strategies.
Moreover, my journey has taught me that the learning curve in entrepreneurship is not insurmountable. Contrary to the structured learning in classrooms, I’ve discovered that persistence is an essential tool for entrepreneurs. It’s this relentless pursuit of knowledge, the willingness to continuously learn and adapt, that enables an entrepreneur to overcome obstacles and master the skills necessary to succeed.
Did college prepare you for scaling a business? What specifically was missing?
College education, especially in engineering, provided a foundational skill in learning how to learn, which is invaluable. However, when it comes to the specifics of growing my business, there were significant gaps in my academic preparation. I prefer saying growing rather than scaling, because we are still a boutique firm, and we haven’t necessarily scaled our model… Initially, my professional journey began with personally delivering services to clients. The transition from this individualized trust to delegating tasks to a team posed a challenge. Ensuring the team maintained the same service quality required a shift in focus and approach.
The second phase involved stepping back from day-to-day operations to strategize on the business’s growth. Influenced by the message I always remember from Michael Gerber’s book “E-Myth”, I embraced the concept of working ON my business, and not IN my business”. This shift was crucial for our development as it allowed me to concentrate on improving the business through process optimization, tool implementation, and fostering a culture of efficiency.
Any unexpected challenges in team dynamics that your academic experience didn’t prepare you for? How did you handle it?
One particular challenge that I encountered, which my academic experience hadn’t fully prepared me for, was managing a team in a remote work setting.
After several years of intense work, including many 80-hour weeks and delayed vacations, I realized that entrepreneurship offered more than just professional achievement; it offered a lifestyle I valued.
When I established my business, I chose a model that would allow for location independence, focusing on the export and travel retail of luxury goods. This niche was geographically diverse and even global, spanning cities like Miami, Paris, London, Dubai, and beyond. As the company grew, I moved to New York City, not only for the business but also for my wife’s career progression. It was then that I decided to leave our first Recruitment Consultant to work remotely back in 2010, long before remote work became mainstream due to COVID-19.
This decision to be location-independent turned out to be a strategic advantage. We have been operating almost entirely remotely for about a decade, which has allowed us to form strong bonds with key employees. This was made possible by requiring a foundational period of office work to build trust before transitioning to remote work.
Have you had to unlearn any widely-accepted business ‘wisdom’ in your journey? What was it and how did it affect your strategy?
In my professional experience, I’ve had to challenge the widely-accepted notion that longer working hours were equivalent to better performance and dedication. This belief is particularly entrenched in French business culture, where leaving the office before 7pm often prompts the half-joking question, “You are taking the afternoon off?” However, I’ve come to understand and embrace that it’s far more beneficial longer term for employees to work effectively and efficiently, allowing them to finish their workday at a reasonable time, unless there’s an urgent matter that demands extra hours. This approach aligns with the American work culture, which I’ve very rapidly learnt to appreciate. Adopting this philosophy has led to a healthier, more balanced work environment without compromising productivity or success.
What’s your advice for new entrepreneurs? What are your “5 Things You Won’t Learn in College But Must Know to Succeed in Business”?
- Persistence is Essential: Success comes from relentless pursuit and overcoming challenges, not just formal education.
- Clients Over Investors: Focus on acquiring clients to drive revenue and growth instead of relying on finding investors.
- Idea is Nothing, Execution is Everything: It’s the implementation of your business idea, not the idea itself, that determines success.
- Launch Early: Start your business without waiting for perfection. Market feedback is crucial for refinement.
- Lifestyle Choice: Entrepreneurship is a full-time commitment that encompasses both your personal and professional life.
How do you ensure your team not just understands but embodies your business principles? Any techniques you wish you’d known earlier?
I am relying on trust and truth. This can be achieved through open communication and transparency, showing how employees’ long-term goals align with those of the company. Encourage a sense of shared purpose by demonstrating how success is mutually beneficial. Lead by example, regularly communicate the importance of these principles, and recognize behaviors that exemplify them.
If we were sitting together two years from now, looking back at the past 24 months, what specifically has to happen for you personally and professionally, for you to be happy with your results?
I’d be pleased with my achievements if I had been able to better diversify our channels of business development, while also keeping the support and trust of our regular clients. Getting this right in my work life is really important; it means growing my business in a way that can last and having a solid base with customers who have stuck with us for a long time.
Personally, my joy would come from the fun times I’ve spent with my kids. I’d like to remember all the different adventures we had together, special moments that we won’t forget and that have made our relationship stronger.
Looking back over the last two years, what key accomplishments make you satisfied with your progress?
The successful structuring of a new central role within our executive search team — the Research Manager. This pivotal position has significantly strengthened our backend operations, providing robust support to our team of Senior Recruitment Consultants. The introduction of this role has streamlined our processes, allowing our front-end staff, particularly the Consultants, to dedicate their time more effectively towards critical tasks such as conducting interviews, selecting candidates, and managing accounts.
As someone with significant influence, what’s the one change you’d like to inspire that would benefit the most people?
The one change I would aspire to inspire is the widespread adoption of a mindset that values time over money, particularly once basic financial needs are met. This perspective emphasizes the importance of working smarter, not just harder, to conserve time. By establishing efficient processes and best practices, we can alleviate stress and uncertainty in professional settings. This approach not only enhances productivity but also ensures that the time spent outside of work is of high quality, allowing individuals to fully engage with their loved ones and pursue their passions. I really like my work because it facilitates continuous learning and progress. This mindset even makes Monday mornings moments to look forward to.
How can our readers keep up with your work?
Readers can stay in touch via our site where we publish news, job opportunities, and case studies: https://accurservices.com
Thank you so much for joining us! We wish you only success.
About the Interviewer: Chad Silverstein is an accomplished entrepreneur and visionary leader. He started his first company, Choice Recovery, Inc., while attending Ohio State University and grew it to become an industry outlier before selling the business after 25 successful years. With the launch of his second venture, [re]start, a career development platform, Chad aimed to help people find meaningful career opportunities. Under his leadership, his team was recognized as a “Top Workplace” award winner for over a decade, twice being ranked the #1 small and medium-sized business to work for in Central Ohio. Chad sold [re]start in 2023, enabling him to focus on building an online community of high-performing leaders and continuing to make a positive impact in people’s lives.
Edouard Thoumyre Of ACCUR Recruiting Services On 5 Things They Forgot To Mention In College was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.