I started as a mechanical engineer for a building services business. I enjoyed getting to know people throughout the process and decided that I’d like to try sales. After being in sales, I found recruitment which opened my eyes to a fascinating industry that could create so much change across other businesses that I fell in love with it. During my time in recruitment, I met my now business partner Bill at a networking event. He had been working with Mark (my other now business partner) to create an online platform to allow lawyers to resolve disputes online. After seeing the platform, I met with them both and we decided to go into business together to bring a new video product to market. We decided to focus on the recruitment sector, and after 5 years we are proud to have become the UK’s largest and most popular provider of Video Technology for Recruiters.
Leadership to me is about setting the right examples. It’s about behaving in a way that inspires others to be better and empowering those around you to achieve their ambitions. Consistency is a very important pillar of good leadership, alongside the ability to remain clear and calm in the face of complex and stressful situations. For me, being a leader means empowering others around you to become the best version of themselves.
Trust. I need to be able to trust what my team tells me because I will make decisions based on their information. I need to be able to take my team at face value. If I can’t do that, and I have to check the information for myself, I can’t move at the speed required to keep our team at the top.
I was in the office, and I received a WhatsApp from a client in Hong Kong. He said he needed our help because his team was using Odro more and more due to this Coronavirus thing. At that point, we checked our stats and our SE Asia usage had gone up 20x. We pulled the whole team together the next day and prepared for a manic few weeks. Within one month we were working from home, and within 6 weeks the UK was in lockdown.
Personally, I miss seeing the team face to face. I miss the office - I especially miss the kitchen. The kitchen was the place that the software team met the customer success team, and the accounts team met the operations teams. It was the melting pot of the office and I believe a lot of our culture was born and cultivated in the kitchen. It sounds small, but that environment forms a huge part of who we are - and I personally take a huge amount of energy from those people.
We’ve seen a huge acceleration of digital transformation. This has had an impact on our business as more recruitment agencies move to a digital hiring process for their clients. However, we have had a negative impact on cash collection and financial support to our clients as they struggle with their own financial issues.
Daily updates, with a lunchtime quiz to make sure everyone stayed in high spirits. These things naturally slide away when things start to become the norm again, so now it’s down to a weekly Friday Beers video call and a monthly all hands. However, when we started WFH we began daily stand up meetings for every department, and these have stayed. These are great to keep the team aligned.
We became a Work From Anywhere business, forever. I wrote an article to announce it on Linkedin ‘Announcement: We’re Now A 'Work From Anywhere' Business.’
Deciding to live one of our biggest values “Take The Pain Early” - it became more important than ever to do things properly, even doing it the hard way, to make sure that we stayed at the top of the industry. It was difficult at times for us not to make knee jerk reactions to the market conditions, but by standing firm and working harder than ever, we’ve managed to support thousands of recruiters through this period.
Another decision was to help bring the recruitment community together with something other than business. We started Active Recruiters, a worldwide half marathon / 10km run that managed to raise over £10,000 for Teenage Cancer Trust. It was amazing, with the average donation less than £20, it rallied the community together and everyone spared what they could afford to help these children through the scariest times of anyone’s lives.
Finally, I’d say that keeping myself active during lockdown and maintaining that has kept me sharp enough to keep the business steady throughout this period. Looking after yourself mentally and physically is very easy to forget, and I have done over the years, but I’m proud to say it’s a priority for me now - and discipline is key to this.
Quite simply I regularly ask “What do you want next?” and “Are you getting everything you need out of this? We are, so I want to make sure you feel the same way.”
I see most leaders try and guess what their teams want, and it baffles me. Just ask the question!
Ask more questions than you answer. I hire people on the questions they ask, rather than the questions they answer.