Success was in the Cards

January 19, 2022

What a year it has been.

One of my earliest passions, for as long as I can remember, is playing cards in one form or another―from when I was growing up playing with friends, to the underground card rooms in New York City, to the casinos in Atlantic City, to winning the $25,000 H.O.R.S.E event at the 2021 World Series of Poker. It’s been a journey filled with a lot of ups and downs, and one that so many people have asked me about. This blog addresses some of the questions I’m asked most frequently, and touches on the many similarities between achieving success in poker and success in business. 

For those who don’t know the story, essentially, it’s your perennial underdog story. It’s about a recreational poker player who played in one of the most difficult poker formats, against an elite group of professionals, and won in a decisive victory. That’s a look from the outside in.

From the inside out, I can share that before I moved back to Philadelphia to help build a recruiting business, I was torn about if I should play poker fulltime instead. I had put in countless hours at the tables, learning the intricacies across a variety of games and developing instincts that helped me immensely. I’ve come to find these same skills have also had a tremendous impact in my business life.

The Synergies Abound

Poker, to me, is representative of everything in life. And the parallels between success in poker and success in business are many.

First off is the ability to read people. It’s one of the most important skills in poker, and in business as well. You need to understand why someone is taking certain actions, what’s driving their behaviors and their decisions.

On par with reading others is the need to be aware of, and in control of, how you’re being perceived. What are your strengths and weaknesses? Which strengths do you want to accentuate? And how do you ensure you’re always keeping your emotions in check?

In it for the Long Game

Also key to success in both poker and business are patience and persistence. You have to put yourself in the best possible position to achieve success over a long period of time. It’s not about short-term gains. It’s about making the right move at the right time. It’s about never quitting. And always perfecting your craft.

At Klein Hersh, each employee, on average, has been with our organization for over 10 years. We know it takes someone one, two, three years to develop the right skills. We’re patient. We invest in our team members as they master the various aspects of executive recruitment and immerse themselves in the winning culture at our firm. And with patience and persistence, we’ve built one of the most successful sales teams in the world.

Just like in poker, you can’t get caught up in the lure of immediate results. You have to build the right foundation. Always learning more. Always getting better. And always thinking two steps ahead. It’s a long game. Results come over time.

The Art of Risk-Taking

Then there’s the need to take calculated risks. This is as inherent in the game of poker as it is in the world of business.

In business, you might be starting a new venture, or for us at Klein Hersh, launching a new practice area. How well do you understand the given environment? Who are you competing against? How much are you willing to invest? When information changes, do you shift your direction? And if things aren’t going according to plan, when do you cut bait and find another avenue?

These considerations are also essential in the game of poker. How do you protect your money but still have the wherewithal to make a significant bet when the odds are tilted in your favor?

On the flip side, there is a substantial difference. When you’re playing a card game, you can’t be afraid to part with the money sitting in front of you. Your mindset has to be, “whatever happens with this money happens.” There’s a much bigger element of chance in poker and the results often even themselves out over time. Of course, in business, you need to be significantly more cautious and reserved when taking financial risks.

Regardless of the scenario, your focus must be on gathering as much information as possible. The more you know, the lower the risk of the bet you’re making. In poker, I want to know as much as I can about the other people at the table.

At Klein Hersh, this translates to being exceptionally thorough in our searches. We strive to learn as much as we possibly can about every candidate, along with every company we partner with. We want to reduce the variance encountered within our business. We want to decrease the timeline for organizations to hire world-class talent. And we want to help build the most successful organizations in the world. Our ability to ascertain information allows us to deliver on these objectives.

It’s important to note that in both business and poker, you’re always dealing with incomplete information. Learn as much as you can and then make a decision. Indecision is a killer in business and in poker.

Trusting your Instincts

I think instincts are everything. People have different ways of making decisions. Some may be more cerebral, with every “t” crossed and every “I” dotted. For me, I think the more you do something, the better you understand it.

In poker, and in business, you have to trust your instincts. And while some instincts are natural, better instincts can be developed with experience. And this development is critical, because you have to rely on your instincts before you invest too much in people or in poker.

A Big Deal

I don’t think my success in poker has led to my success in business, or vice versa. But I do think both require, and sharpen, many of the same skills.

Klein Hersh has transformed the executive search landscape, and our approach to the business has led to results we couldn’t have imagined years ago. Getting a little bit better every day has helped our organization, and the biotech and healthcare communities, achieve extraordinary outcomes. In 2021, our organization had a record-breaking year, helping our partners hire 700 executives. We’re looking forward to building on those numbers in 2022.

Personally, I’ll also be looking forward to building on my 2021 tournament win and competing again in the 2022 World Series of Poker. No matter how you look at it, for whatever reason, money won has a different feeling to it.

Click here to read more about Jesse’s $552,182 win in the H.O.R.S.E. event at the 2021 World Series of Poker.

About the Author

Jesse Klein serves as a Managing Director and Chief Operations Officer of Klein Hersh International. He has played a formative role in advancing the firm’s leadership within life sciences executive search and is one of the driving forces in developing Klein Hersh’s winning culture. Jesse’s responsibilities include leading the physician recruitment practicerecruiting scientific leaders for emerging biotech and global pharmaceutical companies across multiple therapeutic areas such as oncology, CNS, and immunology. He also co-manages all pharmaceutical-related executive search practice areas, including discovery, clinical, and commercial.

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About the Author
Jesse Klein is a Managing Director of Klein Hersh International and has played a formative role in advancing the firm’s leadership within life sciences executive search. He is one of the driving forces in developing Klein Hersh’s winning culture, creating an environment with an extensive focus geared toward delivery, accountability, collaboration, and fun. In addition to his role as a ...