This week, I spent a couple of days in Melbourne. Apart from the weather (which was pathetic one day, perfect the next), Melbourne is one of my favourite places to visit. It has a buzz and a vibe and is always energetic. While I was there, I had the pleasure of having a lunch with a group of people from within the recruitment industry and we all had a walk down memory lane. We spoke about where we all started our recruitment careers and this led me to reflecting on the three people who owned my former employer. I had good relationships with all three and two of them are still working within the industry and are widely admired and even revered. One of them, however, retired over ten years ago and has withdrawn almost entirely from his old existence in recruitment. Ironically, he was the man that I most respected.

John was the Managing Director and major shareholder of the group. He was an Accountant by trade and I would describe him as a natural introvert. In a sense, he was a strange fit for the recruitment industry.

However, John was perhaps the most insightful person I have worked with. In general terms, the recruitment sector can be full of long winded and grandiose statements with very little real delivery. John was the antithesis of this in every way. He was concise (sometimes cutting) but would never promise something he could not deliver. I never reported directly to him as I was a mere pup at the time but he took a special interest in my career and informally mentored me when I started Optimum. Even today, I regularly use some of his philosophies to guide my own decision making throughout the business. These include:

  • Focus on key critical issues. John taught me the value of this early on. Most people get distracted with noise and lose the ability to focus on what really matters. In our industry, it is about service, depth and activities and remembering the equation that we all have two ears and one mouth and we should use them in proportion.
  • Always behave above your pay grade. You should expect better behaviour from your senior staff as they are the people that set and determine a culture. Never compromise on this and never apologise for it.
  • Energy and activity are key factors in making a good recruiter. John once asked me a question when I was mulling over hiring a key employee; “have you ever worked with a quality slow walking recruiter”? It sounds weird but his point was valid. Good recruiters have a bounce in their step and an infectious energy that their customers always feel.
  • Money at the bank is key. John spoke repeatedly about balance sheet strength as opposed to profit and loss…..wise advice in these times.
  • Play favourites. This one was a controversial one and there are thousands of text books out there saying the exact opposite. However, people only ever become a favoured team member by achieving and why shouldn’t they be recognized for it. This should serve as an inspiration to others to elevate as opposed as a point of envy

There were many others – too many to list and some that I could not list without breaking some laws. John was wily man before his time. He was prickly and could be ruthless in his decision making. He was a character who had a soft spot for other characters. He was eccentric and for me he was brilliant. He is the forgotten leader in the triumvirate who owned my former employer but he was indeed the key person and the captain who steered the ship. I owe him a great deal of gratitude.

Brad McMahon – Managing Director

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