Rob's career began at M&S before he founded recruitment company Drayton Partners. He tells us about pessimism, cutting the red tape and embarking on commercial adventures.
Role and company:
Joint founder, Drayton Partners
Growth forecast for the next three years:
We hope to hit £1m turnover by 2014.
In fewer than 50 words, what makes your business distinctive in its marketplace?
We recruit for some of the biggest global brands in consumer goods, food & drink and retail. They have very specific mid to senior management requirements, and we take a bespoke, smarter approach to each assignment. We understand the needs and challenges within our specialist sectors in the current economic climate, and we believe this is what sets us apart.
What's the big vision for your business?
To be consistently recognised as the recruitment partner of choice for senior management projects within our specialist sectors.
Current level of international business, and future aspirations:
10 per cent of our business this year has been international - we are aiming for this to be 30 per cent by 2015. By summer 2013 we hope to have added another member to the team and over the next three years double our workforce.
We have enjoyed an excellent two years of trading so far and our performance has exceeded all our forecasts. We operate across all of the key disciplines; including finance, manufacturing, sales and marketing, and this breadth of experience will also allow us to further grow our proposition.
Biggest career setback and what you learned from it:
When I worked in retail for M&S I was seconded to their European Division to turn around their performance in chilled food. It was only when I started in the role that I grasped how much money we were losing, and that, despite my grand plans, making this division profitable would be impossible. I learnt that before embarking on any commercial adventure it’s crucial to assess the basic business model, and decide whether there’s a true margin to be made.
What makes you mad in business today?
Pessimism and procrastination. People who worry all the time about what could go wrong, rather than what could go right, and therefore never make a decision.
What will be the biggest change in your market in the next three years?
The biggest change is technology, and the impact it will have in making distant markets more accessible. In our business it will change how, with whom and when we communicate with people. It will also have an impact on where, when and how our people work.
Can businesses in your sector/industry access the finance they need to grow? If not, what can be done to improve things?
In our industry the barriers to entry and growth are not typically financial, as our cost base is relatively low. Accessing finance is less of a challenge than for, say a manufacturing business. We have funded our expansion from cash and have no debt, not even an overdraft. However, when we started up and approached banks about simply setting up business accounts, they felt very like a civil service type entity; certainly compared to FMCG businesses.
How would others describe your leadership style?
I like working with a team who are comfortable with autonomy, and bring solutions, not problems. I try to remain focused on the result, rather than how people got there, as everyone does stuff differently.
Your biggest personal extravagance?
Holidays – I always take my full holiday allocation, and typically in big chunks in the summer, rather than dribs and drabs. I believe in trying to give my kids as many different experiences as possible, and holidays are perfect for that. I am one of those sad people who checks his emails most days while I am away, though.
You've got two minutes with the prime minister. Tell him how best to set the UK's independent, entrepreneurial businesses free to prosper:
I would say continue to reduce red tape and simplify employment and tax legislation. No doubt, the situation is much better than a decade ago, but there’s still room for improvement.