We sat down with Leadership and Executive Search Experts, Paul Flavin and Craig Gordon, to mark a special milestone in the Rethink US journey so far, and to reflect on the unprecedented workforce challenges they had to overcome to standby their vision.
Here's what they shared with us.
Craig and I had been talking for years about setting up our own Search business. Craig’s experience was directly within Search, while mine was in broader TA Management or RPO/Project Recruiting, managing the most senior roles. When we first spoke to Rethink about opening up the US business, we saw that Leadership Search wasn’t a current service, and knew our combined experience could be useful to a broader range of clients, as a complimentary solution to the Rethink portfolio.
In hindsight, launching in February 2020 might not have been the smartest move! We had to deal with the unknown of how companies were reacting to the sudden impact on the economy and the fear spreading around this, while also seeing unprecedented workforce changes, from new remote environments and headcount reductions.
The initial challenge, and probably the biggest we experienced, was seeing around $250k of potential business we were in conversations about, vanish almost overnight. We’d spend several months building business plans, defining budgets, refining our service offerings, then suddenly had to pivot and throw all of that out of the window!
Many of our contacts were telling us they were now on the market as they’d been let go and frankly, it was scary. We just wanted to help - so we did. We started reaching out to our networks, making introductions without any fee, then once the major lay-offs started and the lists of impacted staff impacted were published, we consolidated them by job function and shared these with companies we knew were still hiring.
Paul: It was unquestionably the toughest year in my career (and I was a tech recruiter back in the days of the dot com bust and working in banking during the credit crunch!) Trying to launch a business during such stressful times, adjusting to having a spouse working from home, and simultaneously home-schooling a very lively 6-year-old created a huge amount of pressure. Despite this, I felt extremely grateful, to have a job and my family for support.
Craig: I had a different lockdown experience, as a sociable, single guy with no children (although my dog, Bonnie, is more pampered than most people's children), so I was suffering from the isolation that many experienced. There were times where Paul and I would joke about happily swapping situations during the lockdowns we had in New York and Los Angeles, but we got through it due to our great partnership. When I was feeling flat and deflated, Paul was positive and could pick me up - and vice versa.
We were so fortunate to have a company that was willing to stay the course and believed enough in us to keep us employed, but that shows you how important the US market is to Rethink and their long-term view. Our CEO, Mark Lee, also had an uncanny ability to pick exactly the right time to reassure us that our UK business was supportive of us and still believed building the brand in the US was an important, long-term, strategic decision.
We were fortunate that we had 3 loyal clients (who are still clients today), 2 in the ecommerce space and one bottled water company, who were seeing rapid growth as everyone started shopping online during lockdown.
The pandemic showed you can deliver anything from anywhere in the world, so we were also able to support Rethink clients on UK based Leadership roles from the US.
Surviving 2020! Both economically and emotionally.
From a business perspective, we’ve built a base of fascinating, engaging and loyal clients, who we work with consistently and enjoy being partners with. We’ve done this through truly getting to know their business and culture to attract great talent to their businesses. We also try our best to make working with us fun, even when we’re having to give our clients some challenging feedback or advice.
We hope to continue to grow the team with equally as passionate professionals, so we can support and help grow the businesses of a broader range of clients. Our strengths lie within identifying the key aspects of a company, whether it’s their product, growth plans, culture or their existing talent. We're then able to successfully articulate that to the outside market, and identify the right talent to help our clients continue their growth trajectory.
Being a trusted advisor to our clients, having a seat at their table in providing insights for their succession planning, and ultimately offering a full leadership talent service is what we'll be continuing to develop.
Craig: I'll be having a little moment of reflection on how we were able to pivot so quickly as the pandemic hit, while feeling grateful to be able to scale the business larger in 2022. Apart from that, I've just finished installing the disco ball above my pool!
Paul: Hopefully we'll be celebrating by filling more jobs! It’s amazing how the market has turned in the last year and we're excited to support that by adding to our team. Bourbon will also be playing an essential part in my celebrations...