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.”



Presenting the 2013 winners:

Desmund Adams, Principal, AdamsDouglas
Lindsay Alderman, Client operations manager, LightEdge Solutions Inc.
Erica Axiotis, Director of development, Mercy Foundation
Kate Banasiak, President and CEO, Diversified Management Services Inc.
Erin Beamis, Senior vice president of logistics and operations, IronWorks
Jonathan Brendemuehl, Marketing events coordinator, Bankers Trust Co.
Curtis Brown, Economic development director, city of Ankeny
Matt Connolly, President, Generation Green Builders Co.
Lawrence Cunningham, Director of business development, Catchfire Media LLC
Angela Dethlefs-Trettin, Director of community investment and initiatives, Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines
Josh Fleming, Digital strategy director, Lessing-Flynn Advertising Co.
Felix Gallagher, Principal, PharmServ Solutions
Lori Gelhaar, Director of career services/ corporate relations, Kaplan University
Tina Gray Carstensen, Marketing coordinator, Shive-Hattery Inc.
Shane Greenleaf, Vice president/commercial banker, First American Bank
Danielle Haindfield, Shareholder attorney, Ahlers & Cooney P.C.
Emily Harris, Patent attorney and shareholder at Davis Brown Law Firm
Matthew Harris, Division administrator, Iowa Arts Council, Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs
Angela Hilbert, Sales and marketing director, Deerfield Retirement Community
Joey Hinke, President, Miller, Fidler & Hinke Insurance Agency Inc.
Hannah Inman, Director of communications, Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation
Keegan Kautzky, Director of national education programs, The World Food Prize Foundationn
John Lozier, Pediatric interventional cardiologist, Pediatric Cardiology P.C.
Dennis McDaniel, Police chief, Windsor Heights
Rachel McLean, Vice president/consultant, Ruan Cos
John Mickelson, Associate managing director, The PrivateBank & Trust Co.
Keith Olson, Commercial associate, NAI Ruhl & Ruhl Commercial Co.
Matt Ostanik, President, Submittal Exchange LLC
Benjamin Page, Director, Des Moines park and recreation
Dustin Peterson, Partner, McGladrey LLP
Nick Renkoski, Director of marketing and communications, Des Moines Metro Opera
Rachel Rowley, Partner, BrownWinick PLC
John Ruan IV, Vice president, financial institutions, Bankers Trust Co.
Jennifer Soma, Business lead, IDI Actuarial and Product Development Group, Principal Financial Group Inc.
Heather Starr, Real estate agent, RE/MAX Innovations
Aimee Staudt, Director of development, Knapp Properties Inc.
Courtney Strutt Todd, Shareholder attorney, Davis Brown Law Firm
Nikki Sylverson, Event Director, Des Moines Wine Festival Foundation
Howard Tempero, Experience design strategist, Spindustry Digital
Tony Timm, Executive director, Central Iowa Shelter & Services