Photo by Duane Tinkey
Photo by Duane Tinkey


Age 39 | Principal, AdamsDouglas


For Desmund Adams, it all comes back to helping people.

Adams founded his own executive search firm, AdamsDouglas, in 2005, because he enjoys working with people and helping them achieve their goals.

“I really enjoy serving, and I feel as though, in the space dealing with executive searches specifically, that I’m able to serve both my clients and serve candidates, really to match make and bring the best of one another together,” Adams said.

Adams describes himself as an optimist, something he learned somewhere along the way when he went from being a high school dropout to a graduate of Drake University Law School.

If it wasn’t for the people in his life, Adams says, he wouldn’t be where he’s at. That’s one of the reasons he now believes so strongly in serving.

Of course, it was challenging being an optimist during some of those times. But again, it comes back to people.

“There has to be something that focuses you on tomorrow,” Adams said. “If not, that’s a greater challenge. During those times, what was really encouraging were the people I was able to interact with, and the stories I was able to learn. ... That motivates you. People motivate you.”

His passion to serve led him to run for the Iowa Senate in the most recent election for District 22, which includes Clive, Waukee, West Des Moines and Windsor Heights. He lost the election to Republican Charles Schneider.

He continues to be involved in the community, though. He is on the Mercy College of Health Sciences board, as well as the board of the Zeta Kappa Lambda Educational Foundation.

“I think that to be successful in whatever it is that you do, you need to focus on how you make others better,” Adams said.

Adams graduated from Drake Law in 1999, and worked two jobs in Chicago until 2003. A commitment to his oldest son, who will graduate from high school this year, brought him back to Des Moines to work at Principal Financial Group Inc. before starting his own company.


Five reasons he’s a 40:

• Started a successful minority business enterprise in 2005.

• Adams is accountable for more than 50 percent of gross revenues and 40 percent of net profit for the company.

• Adams has been invited to the White House twice to talk with economic and political leaders about stimulus policy.

• He developed the Champions of Change Internship Program in Des Moines, part of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity.

• “Desmund has proven himself over and over in the business community with his entrepreneurial contributions, such as an executive search firm for diverse candidates,” said Loretta Sieman, owner of LJS Consulting.

Mentor: Fred Buie, CEO of Keystone Electrical Manufacturing Co.

Fun Fact: Adams’ hobbies include golf, reading and “burning food,” he jokes. He likes to tell the story of the time he made “daddy goulash” using whatever leftover ingredients he could find. His children and wife weren’t too thrilled with the meal. “I don’t think anyone appreciated it, not even the garbage man,” Adams said. “I appreciated it, though.”