Archives for posts with tag: business

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what I do, what value I add and how as a headhunter I make money.  Of course one could argue it’s a fairly simple model, sell a retained piece of work, find an employee, get paid.  It’s elegant and simple, if not always particularly exciting.  Is that it though?  Is that all our business model amounts to?

Actually the bits I enjoy about my job and the bits that interest me the most aren’t really the day to day bits of search it’s the much more commercial aspects of what I do that turns me on.  I love meeting a Chairman or a CEO who tells me something interesting about what they do or what they’re looking to do and then connecting them with other businesses or other individuals who can help them achieve their goal.  It’s meeting the entrepreneurs with a great idea who just don’t have the contacts or the capital to get it off the ground and then introducing them to the right people or the right organisations who can help.  Those meetings where you have a great idea for a joint venture between disparate companies that later becomes reality with a bit of a push.  Those are the most interesting aspects of my work but they’re not really what you’d call traditional search work.  Ironically though the value of these to what I do is probably the highest of all, they build my credibility often pay better than a simple search if it leads somewhere and best of all actually creates something which changes the sector I work in just slightly.  

If you’re in recruitment, what other things outside of traditional recruitment do you get up to?  How does it benefit your business and does it make you money?  

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Networking, what a horrible word it is.  Perhaps a more apt way of describing it is socialising professionally so that you raise your own personal profile and gain valuable professional contacts. It’s not an easy thing to do and after several recent meetings discussing this recently I thought I’d do a bit of a blog on it. 

It’s fair to say that my job is all about networking, I meet people for a living and talk about lots of intangible things such as the ‘markets’ and trends we’re seeing within it.  I hope I’m reasonably good at my job though I fully expect that if ever anyone reads this I could have several naysayers!  With this in mind I thought I might give a few tips as to how to do this without seeming over eager or desperate.  The worst thing is to be the type of chap who is at every industry event and hands out business cards like confetti.  

Ideally you want to be in contact with people who are relevant to you, in other words the people of the right level who ultimately make decisions which could affect you in some way.  Be it your next job, your next non-executive position, your next client or your next sales target.  The problem with this is of course that these people are in demand, so how do you get to them without sounding like everyone else who’s trying to get to them?  In short, how do you stand out?

Without a doubt the best way to meet people and to network is by referrals.  If someone gives you a personal recommendation that is gold dust, people are far more willing to chat with someone if they’ve been referred to them by a friend or trusted colleague.  So the question becomes how do you get referrals?  Well that’s a little tougher but I believe there are two main areas to concentrate on, one is being damn good at what you do, whatever that is and do it for a long time, it builds word of mouth.  The second is to be an open networker yourself, by this I mean be generous with your own contacts.  Introduce people you know in similar fields, if for instance you know a pensions consultant very well and an in house head of pensions, why don’t you introduce them? It doesn’t cost you anything except a couple of minutes but it builds your credibility, of course assuming both your connections are good!  Ultimately both these people will be that little more willing to do you a favour and introduce you to someone they know when the time comes.  I’m a firm believer in what goes around comes around and if you share your time with others, help them with no thought of reward for doing so, ultimately others will come back and do the same for you.  

The more we all learn this skill and do it better, the more generous we are with our connections, then the more business will be transacted, new roles found and friendships formed.  It’s a valuable skill and one that benefits us all ultimately.  

You’d think I’d have far better things to do on New Years eve than write this but it’s rainy outside, all jobs are done and I’m waiting for the sound of bells so it’s as good a time as any to do it I guess.  Plus the chances of me finding any time at work when I get back are probably nil.  

Anyway today I want to actually write about work, well partly.  I also want to tackle the issues of sexism, women on UK boards and ‘diversity’.  Recently I’ve been working on several briefs for Non-Executive Directors at a range of companies from large to smaller sized, part of these briefs has been diversity policy.  Excellent, you might think, more women on UK boards, a jolly good idea!  Well, I absolutely agree, we need more women, minorities and diversity on our boards and I would love to be one of the people supplying it… there’s just one slight niggle.  Candidates.  

I work in a rather niche field so this problem may well be one of my own specialty and in the wider environment this may be totally wrong, however in the field I work there is a distinct lack of female/minority candidates.  There’s a simple reason for this, most NED’s are semi retired people in their late 50’s or 60’s, these people started work in the late 60’s or early 70’s when Britain was a very different place to what it is now.  The candidates I find are representative of this, 80%ish are white chaps of a certain age, the rest are a mixture of ethnicities and ladies.  Well you might say, that leaves 20% to go at, plenty of people?  Well no, most companies want the top 10% if not the top 5% of people on their board, those with the broadest experiences and the most to add.  That leaves plenty of the white chaps but significantly fewer of the female/minority candidates.  This means that those candidates out there who are in that group are incredibly in demand right now and frankly there’s not enough to go around for every company to increase diversity on their board.  

Now the thing is in the next layer down, the people who started their careers in the 80’s there is a comparable reflection of a changing society, far more women and minorities and far more candidates.  The thing is though these people aren’t at the stage in their career yet where they are looking for NED positions and don’t have the experience to do them.  In ten years time we will have greatly more diverse boards on our big companies as there’s a much more diverse workforce, in the meantime though, well that’s another story.  

I’d like to make it clear at this point, I’m not defending the status quo, boards must adapt, however this is not a short term issue we can simply fix with a positive selection method. There just aren’t enough quality candidates right now and the one thing that a business will do first and foremost is look after itself to make profit and continue to employ people.  Boards will always reflect society from 30/40 years ago which is something we can’t really change unfortunately, however on saying all that I would be more than happy to hear from female/ethnic minority candidates for NED work within investments and pensions!  Literally, the more the merrier.