Search Firm CEO Gene Rice: Youthful Ego and an Impulsive Decision Could Have Ruined Him

Search Firm CEO Gene Rice: Youthful Ego and an Impulsive Decision Could Have Ruined Him


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My guest for Episode #182 of the My Favorite Mistake podcast is Gene Rice, the Chairman and Co-Founder of Rice Cohen International. He's the co-author, with his daughter, of the book Grad to Grown-Up: 68 Tips to Excel in Your Personal and Professional Life. You can learn more at the book's website.

Gene has been in the recruiting industry for nearly 30 years and has been recognized as one of the top Executive Search professionals in the world. He has completed over 1,000 retained searches which have included 211 in the C-suite. Having also filled over 300 Partner, Principal, and Director level searches in the Management Consulting, Performance Improvement, and EdTech verticals, Gene is considered to be the #1 search executive in the space. He has even been recognized by as one of the “100 Most Influential People in the History of the Executive Recruiting Industry.”

Gene also co-founded Rice Cohen Training & Consulting, the largest training firm focused on improving the skills of executive recruiters. Gene is very passionate about this space and believes in supporting the industry he loves. He has become an Executive Coach to the CEOs of many search firms. 

As an active member of the community, Gene finds various ways to give back and contribute. After years of being involved with the Make-a-Wish Foundation and serving on the board, Gene and his wife Michele founded the Plant A Seed, Inspire A Dream Foundation. The 501 c-3 non-profit helps financially challenged youth to pursue their passions. Since being founded in 2008, the foundation has awarded over 700 scholarships and has been featured in People Magazine.

In this episode, Gene tells his favorite mistake story about quitting a job to start a competing live music venue on Long Island and how his “huge ego” led him to be “impulsive” in the decision to do so. Why does he say it “could have destroyed” him, why is it better to make mistakes like this when you're young, and how did he apply the lessons learned in his successful career?

We also talk about questions and topics including:

  • Coaching young professionals who make mistakes?
  • Mistakes in working with an executive retained recruiter as a candidate?
  • Selecting C-level executives? — what helps make for a good match (3 things you really need)
  • The importance of C-level executives also having personal success and professional fulfillment (not just a job) — get your arms around that as a young professional 
  • Coaching college interns — helping them the first time they fail… looking at failing differently
  • Charity that he started in 2008 with his wife: “Plant A Seed Inspire A Dream Foundation

Scroll down to find:

  • Video of the episode
  • Quotes
  • How to subscribe
  • Full transcript

Find Gene and/or his book on social media:

Watch the Full Episode:


Gene Rice "It could have destroyed me, but I learned so much from that mistake. I never, ever took success for granted again."
gene rice "I think real failure is making the same mistake twice. If you can fail, but you can now look at with a different set of eyes and more information, then it can really be a learning experience and it can really propel you in life. "
"Failure is part of life, right? You gotta take ownership of it. You can't blame someone else." gene rice

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Automated Transcript (Likely Contains Mistakes)

Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker who has worked in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. His latest book is Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More. He is author of the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, as well as The Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen. He also published the anthology Practicing Lean that benefits the Louise H. Batz Patient Safety Foundation, where Mark is a board member. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus. He is also a Senior Advisor and Director of Strategic Marketing with the healthcare advisory firm, Value Capture.