Meet the MD: Ken Wilson of Ken Wilson & Associates

Meet the MD: Ken Wilson of Ken Wilson & Associates

Ken Wilson started working in recruitment by chance, but now he's been running his own recruitment company since 1987 and he's never looked back. He told BQ about his career so far.

What is it you do?

I’m the chairman of Ken Wilson & Associates (KWA), the business that I set up in 1987. In my day-to-day role I try to give my team of staff advice and strategic direction. I’ve been in recruitment for more than three decades and I’ve met some really interesting people.  


What is it the company does?

KWA specialises in permanent recruitment in the following sectors; sales & marketing, business development, IT, customer service, finance, and procurement to a varied client base. Our parent company, Direct Recruitment, places temporary blue-collar workers into companies operating in the healthcare, logistics, catering and hospitality sectors.


What do you believe makes a great leader?

It seems an obvious point to make but great leaders will take the initiative and lead from the front. They’ll maximise the potential of their workforce and possess exceptional people and man-management skills.


What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?

My biggest challenge was having to overcome a serious illness and then return to work. It has changed my perspective on life and allowed me to understand the importance of a good work life balance.


How do you alleviate stress that comes with your job?

I have plenty of pastimes. I play golf as often as I can, enjoy fell walking and like to lose myself in a cryptic crossword. I started watching Sunderland in 1966 and have been a season ticket holder since well before the relocation to the Stadium of Light, although watching some of the stuff served up on the pitch hasn’t done much to reduce my stress levels! 


When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?

When I was at school I wanted to be an architect but discovered that I had no creative ability whatsoever. Now I just appreciate the aesthetic appearance of buildings rather than design them.


Any pet hates in the workplace?

A quiet office is a real irritant. The advent of modern technology has led to greater correspondence through e-mails and texts. There’s nothing wrong with social media but I’d rather spend more time talking to people on the telephone.


Where do you see the company in five years’ time?

I hope to be spending more time on the golf course! My plan is to sell the company via a management buy-out or trade sale – although I did say this five years ago and I’m still here! Succession planning is key to any successful business and I want KWA to be in somebody else’s capable hands in five years’ time, preferably the current management team.  


What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?

Surround yourself with positive people who are more capable than you. Recruiting the right staff with exceptional people skills is key to running a successful company. Other than that, it’s important to be yourself and enjoy what you do.


Where did you start your career?

After leaving school I started my career in the reprographics department of a Sunderland-based crane manufacturer on the banks of the River Wear. Like most 16- year-olds I didn’t really know what I wanted to do after realising that I wasn’t going to make it as an architect.


Give us a brief timeline of your career so far?

After working for the crane manufacturer, I moved into sales of print-related products before entering the recruitment industry in 1982. I spent five years working for a North East-based agency before launching KWA in 1987. I had to take some time out of the business when I fell ill but now I’m back at the helm as chairman – for the time being.