John P. Robertson

Falling into the shoes of an Executive Search Pioneer.

In a rapidly changing world, strong values and a vital pioneering spirit make all the difference. At the dawn of a new age in the midst of the aftermath of the Second World War, our founder John P. Robertson found himself with an idea that made him a true pioneer.

When John P. Robertson founded our company in 1951, the Marshall Plan was in full swing throughout Europe. Loans, goods, and other aid provided for a first post-war boom in Europe. To make this last, however, executives were urgently needed. Finding these people for US companies coming to Europe under the Marshall Plan was J.P. Robertson’s business model. It became a lasting success story – and ROBERTSON ASSOCIATES became incidentally one of the first, perhaps even the very first, executive search firm in Europe.

A ’typical’ pioneer

In the case of John P. Robertson, the term pioneer is hence undoubtedly justified – and that’s also evident in other typical pioneer characteristics of our founder. For example, his turn to executive search was not predictable at all. After all, John P. Robertson had initially been a language teacher in Philadelphia, then a pioneer of Esperanto before finally working for several years in the US Foreign Service, amongst other things as Vice Consul in Port Said (Egypt) with responsibility for the entire Suez Canal Zone and Cyprus.

His spirit remained ….

As said, executive search was not really ‘foreseen’. On the other hand, one could say that John P. Robertson recognised the signs of his very fast-moving times in sustainable change and continuously developed with them. What’s more: these two principles of development – continuity and change – are also what he has given ROBERTSON ASSOCIATES on its now more than 70-year journey. The fact that ROBERTSON ASSOCIATES today has its headquarters in Zurich and offices in Stuttgart, Frankfurt, London, Madrid, Paris, Casablanca, Miami, Singapore as well as in the EU capital Brussels is also an expression of the cosmopolitan mindset of our founder, which still lives on in all these locations – even if the pioneering spirit eventually drove John P. Robertson on.

…. the pioneer moved on

John P. Robertson remained a pioneer throughout his life: in 1983 he founded the first Swiss outplacement company named Outplacement AG and was subsequently involved in the creation of “The Europa Network”, which also focused on outplacement. In addition, John P. Robertson wrote one of the very first books on executive search published in Europe, which also underlines his – and also our – pioneering role.