Firstly, I’d say executive is a bit of an over-statement, I was very junior! With hindsight, I’d say that I was relatively immature and struggled to understand how my role fitted into the bigger picture. With 2 jobs behind me in 3 years, it was starting to become clear that a conventional career path may not be for me.
It’s trendy to say it, but I learnt first-hand that vision, values and objectives needs to be aligned between the management team. We grew a relatively successful business but ultimately, we weren’t aligned on those three things, and it did cause friction. We spend a considerable amount of time with colleagues, and if you aren’t aligned, there’s a lot of unnecessary tension.
I also did a lot of growing up at Cornell. I was 25 when we started and learnt management, business planning, sales, marketing etc all on the job. A fantastic ride but we could have done with more steering along the way. When I look back, our mixture of naivety and arrogance is stunning- especially given how small we were! Finally, I made a LOT of mistakes along the way, mainly with managing people but also the knock-on effect in my personal life. Over time, you start to resent it, despite being in control.
When we were first listed in the Start Ups 100 list- that was our first accolade, and it was great to have a feeling of validation that the risk was paying off, and we were really onto something. From an egotistical point of view, being listed in the Top 500 most influential people in the Sunday Times was a proud moment- it’s completely untrue, but always nice to have a belly rub from others!
Yes and No. Ultimately, people are people around the world and we work in a market that is competitive and that demands high service. There have been cultural nuances, especially around our own hiring and we’ve again, learnt the hard way. We are incubating Paris from London at the moment and have a team of 3 that will be on the ground on January 1st, 2020. We are also planning our entry into the US at the moment and hope to be on the ground mid this year.
As a business, our model is to focus on professional high-fliers which is largely how we landed on the sectors we did. Internally, we hold ourselves to an extremely high standard of work so it made sense to work with individuals and organisations with the same ethos. We’ve recently made some executive hires and expanded our business into CFO & Accountancy, Interim and Consultancy so look to continue growth in those areas while expanding internationally. In saying that, we don’t want to be everything for everyone – we’ll continue to embed ourselves across businesses that value professional talent that can move the dial for their businesses and provide the same level of exceptional service that we’ve become known for. Or, if possible an even better service!
Recruitment isn’t often thought of in the most positive way and it’s something we recognised very early on. Our ‘classroom to boardroom’ model truly is what sets us apart in the recruitment industry, we focus on efforts on building and nurturing long-lasting partnerships with candidates. This generally starts while they’re at University, working with students on building their CV and applying for their first internship and continues through the length of their career, taking our candidates through to an Executive role. For us, it’s about more than putting someone in a job and calling it a day, I suppose you could think of it more like a career consultancy that also has the ability to put you in front of key decision makers across Europe. In an industry known for short-term actions, our model deliberately lends itself to being long-term. This is something we embody internally too – we’ve recently partnered with leading Lecturers from the London Business School to offer leaders within our business the opportunity grow their skillset beyond managing teams and into growing businesses under the Dartmouth umbrella. It’s about empowering and investing in our staff to reach any height, one I’m sure will pay off.
I think the biggest and possibly hardest lesson is to be humble. There are a lot of lessons to learn and in building a strong team around you and being open to listen means you can move forward. Success can arrive quickly but disappear just as fast.
Aside from making the decision to found Dartmouth, I would have to say last year when we secured investment from closed-ended investment company Literacy Capital to support our continued domestic and international growth. In Literacy Capital we found a partner that shares the same vision and values, one that can help us move even faster – I’m really excited for the future. It’d be remiss not to say thank you to OakNorth at the same time!
I’m not sure if this is business advice, but on my commute in every day I used to walk past a church sign that had Mark 8.36 up: “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” Jesus’ words give us perspective on the bigger picture.
App – I’m completely obsessed with making sure I get my 10,000 steps, so the health app.
Book – Donna Tartt’s The Secret History and Jim Collins From Good to Great.
Holiday – not sure, with a young family we’ve done a lot of short-haul in recent years. Looking forward to that changing relatively soon! But anywhere warm and with a tennis court, I’m happy.