Since 1982, Jim Rudman, partner and CEO, Ashton Tweed, has held a variety of positions in the staffing industry. Prior to founding Ashton Tweed, he was the vice president of Acsys, Inc., the finance, accounting, and IT division of an international multi-billion dollar company where he was accountable for all east coast operations.
When Acsys was bought in 2004, Rudman decided to leave because he didn’t want to become part of an even larger company. This provided the perfect opportunity to do something he had wanted to do for a while – start something smaller on his own. He was opportunistic and decided to use this chance to start Ashton Tweed, Ltd.
Rudman was especially excited about interim talent, a service in executive recruitment that no one was specifically offering to clients. He wanted to provide industries with an alternative to consulting and he believed Ashton Tweed could present an organized approach to this staffing concept.
Rudman started working on his own from his home in Pennsylvania, filling roles across all industries. Moving from a large company to a small one, he went through the typical learning curve that leaders experience in that transition. In addition to learning new skills on his own, he had less people to rely on and had to find economic resources to get the work done he needed. Rudman quickly grew to love the small business world and says he “wouldn’t go back.”
As the business progressed, Rudman decided that narrowing down his specialty would be a good next step in order to provide better services. Fortunately, while speaking at a ChemPharma event in 2005, he met Jordan Warshafsky, and they hit it off right away.
Jordan Warshafsky had significant experience within the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and medical device sectors. Prior to joining Ashton Tweed, Warshafsky served as president and director of TyRx Pharma, Inc., a biotech company specializing in polymer drug delivery. TyRx licensed products to Boston Scientific and then Jordan left the company, which was eventually sold to Medtronic. Warshafsky was considering his next move when he met Rudman and had been interested in executive search for many years.
Soon after meeting, Rudman and Warshafsky got together at Ashton Tweed’s new offices in Chesterbrook, PA. They quickly realized their joint interests in executive search and life sciences. They began working together informally to see how well they fit and scheduled regular meetings with life sciences talent to network. Throughout this process, Rudman learned the specifics of the industry while Warshafsky familiarized himself with the recruiting process. That year, they formed a partnership and together narrowed Ashton Tweed’s focus to the life sciences.
Rudman continued to run the management and internal business of Ashton Tweed, while Warshafsky gravitated towards being the outside face of the company because he had the industry contacts to aid in business development and exposure. This made a perfect match for the company’s growth.
Later in 2005, James Laird, who had a life sciences background in Big Pharma, also joined the team and brought great marketing and sales ideas to the table. He helped build the business, even coining the term the “Life Sciences Talent Bank,” which Ashton Tweed still uses today. Satisfied after helping build up the company, Laird left Ashton Tweed in 2013 to pursue new opportunities.
As partners, Rudman and Warshafsky made the decision to differentiate Ashton Tweed as more than just a service provider, but a major contributor to the life sciences community in the mid-Atlantic area and beyond. Their aim was to become a “go-to firm for all sorts of help, going beyond what other search firms do and solving a variety of problems for life sciences companies,” says Warshafsky. To make this a reality, Ashton Tweed put extra effort in becoming completely involved and immersed in the life sciences ecosystem. For example, the company actively engages with organizations such as BioNJ, LifeSciences PA, Mid Atlantic Diamond Ventures, Pharmaceutical Consulting Consortium International, AdvaMed, ChemPharma, Licensing Executives Society, and others. They participate in most of these organizations at the board level or at least as a committee or program chairman. This participation and contribution to the life sciences community makes Ashton Tweed part of the industry ecosystem rather than just a vendor.
The biggest challenge throughout these formative years was the economy, which had gone through varying ups and downs. During this time, Rudman hired Lea Wolfinger, Ashton Tweed’s first full-time hire and now the Vice President of the firm. Wolfinger, who had been at Search Innovations for eight years, was hired as a full-time interim recruiter at the beginning of May 2008.
The economy was taking a turn for the worse, but Wolfinger’s go-getter attitude and determination proved that she was critical to the team’s success. She was hired permanently in December 2008. Wolfinger became an expert in the industry with the help of Ashton Tweed’s leadership and proved to be effective working with both clients and candidates. It was soon obvious that she was an invaluable asset, and she is now a very trusted leader of the Ashton Tweed family.
Other than their common goal, the Ashton Tweed team agrees that it’s the people that have kept them together all these years, especially during the tough economic times. “It is a wonderful thing when you can call your bosses and co-workers your friends,” says Wolfinger. Together, they are constantly learning new things in the industry to better serve their candidates and clients.
Over the years, Ashton Tweed’s experience has grown to include considerable work in all areas of the life sciences – in retained search, interim talent, and consulting placement – at the director through executive levels. Today, clients see them as total partners in their companies, adding strategic value beyond just human resources. Ashton Tweed could not fulfill their work without their accomplished and knowledgeable staff of recruiters – they make Ashton Tweed who they are. The team continues to grow and specialize as it fills narrow roles in the life sciences because they are fully committed to giving back to the industry they serve.
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