I expect like many that end up building a career in this industry, I actually ‘fell’ into it. At school and university, I was expected to conform and go for a ‘safe’ career – and in my case that was law. Having completed my study however, I quickly realised that I was a square peg in a round hole – law just wasn’t for me.
How did you get into recruitment?
I expect like many that end up building a career in this industry, I actually ‘fell’ into it. At school and university, I was expected to conform and go for a ‘safe’ career – and in my case that was law. Having completed my study however, I quickly realized that I was a square peg in a round hole – law just wasn’t for me. Whilst I was ‘between jobs’ having had a lucky escape from a career in law, a school friend of mine heard I was a bit down on my luck, called me and recommended recruitment as he was having a ball and doing very well (it was 2001 and everyone was doing well in recruitment!). It was then actually my mother that walked into the lounge one evening showing me a newspaper advert in the Evening Standard for graduates interested in a career in recruitment – I believe the advert had a bottle of champagne in it to denote earning potential (tacky in the extreme I know). It was a very different era then within the industry, but I was hooked very quickly…
Who is your role model as a leader?
It’s very difficult to answer with one figure. To use opposing examples, I guess the good side of me would say Barack Obama for his principles. The bad side of me would say Frank Underwood for his pragmatism. So that’s not much help and both are quite predictable candidates. If I were to choose the football manager that I most respect it’s actually Jurgen Klopp – not that I even support Liverpool, but he brings a compelling combination of qualities that I think do embody what the ‘modern’ leader is all about: passion, belief, intelligence and humility.
"Passion, Belief, Intelligence and Humanity"
What inspires you?
I can speak of 2 things that inspire me. Firstly, the small things that are really important. Things like getting great feedback on customer service. Such things are terribly over-looked in the modern business environment – I think the human factor will always be there and the opportunity in business will always be to excel in this area by connecting with the customer. I’m also inspired by my relationships with others. My experience of making deep personal and professional relationships in Asia has not only helped me build my career, but has also helped me develop significantly as a person. Connected to the second point, I would also add I am very proud of my connection with Malaysia – I truly believe it’s a wonderful country with a bright future.
What is the most valuable advice you have been given?
On old MD back in the UK was actually my allocated ‘mentor’ as part of a scheme run by a previous employer. I remember we sat for lunch and I asked him what one piece of advice would he give. His response didn’t do much for me at the time as I was too inexperienced to really understand it, but its significance has grown with me with time. He said if you are asked to produce a piece of work such as a report or proposal, then never send the result as the final version. Always present as a ‘draft’, send to all stakeholders and ask for their feedback. There are many good reasons why this is such a good piece of advice and I will let the reader work that one out! I’ll share one interpretation though and that is to be ‘self-aware’ and the importance of this.
"Always present as a 'draft' , send to all stakeholders and ask for their feedback."
What is your greatest achievement?
The obvious but true answer to this was to build a viable business case to open a Malaysia business within Ambition and then execute on that. We certainly got the support where it was needed, but I had only been in Singapore for 2 years when we got the ball rolling and if I’m honest, looking back, I didn’t really know what I was letting myself in for. It required considerable determination to make it happen over at least a 1 year period. Once we were on the ground we knew we had done the right thing, but the process of getting there was the really tough bit. Outside of this, I guess completing 9 Marathons is something I’m proud of – whilst I lived in London, I used to do it every year from 2000 through to 2009, so looking back, I guess that’s quite an accomplishment. At the tender age of 38, I’m not quite as sprightly as I was so I think I’d struggle, though I did complete the Bintan Olympic Triathlon 2 weeks back, so I’ve still got it in me!
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career and how did you overcome it?
Aside from setting up the Malaysia business, I would say the toughest period in my career was during the last GFC. I was actually a Manager with a competitor back in London and suffice to say, it was a very bleak period in the world of London Technology recruitment, which was the focus of the team I was managing. I actually inherited a team of 8 and we ended up having to make the whole team redundant and build up again. My approach was to really focus on simplicity and it was the first time I truly asked myself the question ‘How would I define my market’. It was also the first time I developed a truly niche offering and in this case it was Java. We build a team of 6 from scratch over a 2 year period just focused on placing Java professionals mainly across digital and within vendors. It was actually a decent business by the time I left and I learnt a lot in the process of setting it up. The main message here is be specialist and keep it simple.
"Be specialist and keep it simple"
Can you give me three things on your ‘bucket list’?
I’d love to take an extended period out and do something genuinely charitable, e.g. building homes in Cambodia
Own a Porsche
3 words to describe yourself
Driven, conscientious, unconventional.
What would you like to achieve next?
I have many things that I would like to achieve, though my most immediate priority is to take our existing Malaysia business to the next level. We are in that tricky stage of moving from a start-up business to a mature operation with multiple business lines for perm, a contract business and of course the shared services component. I’ve set myself a goal of consolidating all of this and making 2017 a truly profitable year based on the platform we have created.
by Sam Baxendale