David Blair of BMC Recruitment
BMC Recruitment managing director David Blair provides his top tips for aspiring business leaders and reveals the secret to his success.
What is it the company does?
BMC Recruitment Group, situated in Newcastle upon Tyne, is the trusted recruitment partner to leading businesses regionally, nationally and internationally and specialises in a wide range of disciplines including: Executive Search, Finance, Technology, Engineering, Sales and Marketing and Human Resources.
The team consists of experienced consultants and utilises innovative search techniques to provide an affordable, transparent search service across a range of professional disciplines.
What does your role involve?
As Managing Director, I am responsible for the strategic direction of BMC Recruitment Group, overseeing the finance planning and performance of BMC and designing and implementing our process and systems. I also spend as much time as possible with our clients and I’m active in recruiting senior appointments.
Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?
I studied Economics at the University of Warwick before training as a Chartered Accountant with KPMG in 2005. I then worked in Corporate Finance for UNW advising amongst other things, on a number of recruitment sector transactions, and following that, I held the position of Head of FP&A with NCG, the UK’s largest FE group, and led that organisation through a 12-month strategic review process.
With 12 years of experience in the North East Finance market and having worked on some high profile recruitment transactions as a corporate finance advisor, it was a sector that I’d always had a keen interest in.
I joined BMC Recruitment Group as Managing Director in 2015, with the belief that I could bring about major change to the recruitment model, increasing transparency and implementing a process-driven methodology.
What do you believe makes a great leader?
A clear vision is crucial – have in mind the goals, short and long-term that will drive you through the good and bad times of business, ensuring that everyone in the business understands the vision.
By surrounding yourself with a team of good people who challenge you, and if you’re willing to listen to them, you can create a culture of shared communication, all adding to the development of the business.
Lead from the front and demonstrate a high energy and positive attitude - if you’re not doing this how you can expect others to follow?
What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?
When I joined BMC I had no prior recruitment experience and I inherited a business with no clients and no candidates. Trying to learn a new industry from the inside, grow and win clients within a highly competitive market dominated by established national and regional players was very tough and the challenges endless.
The biggest of those challenges was probably talent attraction. My vision for the business was based around a belief that negative perceptions of the recruitment sector could be overcome by pushing the bar higher in terms of transparency, consultation and professionalism, ensuring clients understand exactly what you are doing for their fee. Implementing that model required high intelligence, high integrity consultants, receptive to a fresh approach to recruitment and it turned out they were less enamoured by a business where the phone didn’t ring than I was.
I managed to convince David Lovenbury, BMC Associate Director, of that vision after 6 months and we haven’t looked back. Attracting talent has gradually become easier and we’ve become more discerning as to what constitutes a BMC consultant. I look at the hires we’ve made in the last 6 months and I’m genuinely excited about how talented the team is and what we can achieve over the next 2-3 years.
How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?
With three children under the age of five, it can often be difficult to de-stress with such a busy home life. When spending quality time with the family, there’s nothing better than getting out in the countryside and maybe visiting one of the National Trust’s incredible North East estates. I also love a game of five-aside football, and as a massive Newcastle United fan, getting the chance to go to the match at St James is always enjoyable and certainly takes my mind off work.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a footballer, or a writer but having decided both were not glamourous enough, I became an Accountant instead.
Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about them?
One of my biggest niggles is people who don’t take accountability for their actions, I encourage a ‘safe to fail’ environment at BMC and I’m a firm believer in people examining their performance in order to improve. If something goes wrong, to move forward, you often need to step outside of your comfort zone and analyse the factors you can control - rather than blaming the external factors you can’t control. Many people, in my experience struggle to do that.
Where do you see the company in five years’ time?
As an established leader in search consultancy – regionally, nationally and internationally.
We will focus on building our offer within several established markets, and I’d also like to see my team become business leaders in their own right. I’m passionate about developing people and promoting a positive culture, so for BMC to be widely renowned as a good employer would be highly satisfying.
What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?
Surround yourself with good people that you trust, who will deliver you both the good news and the bad. Building a business is undeniably hard work, be prepared for this and my advice would be to have systems in place for when times are tough and challenging. I’d also advise that sometimes it is good to step away from the business and work ‘on the business’ rather than ‘in the business’, which I confess I’m not always great at.
What do you wish someone had told you when you started out?
I was a new comer to the recruitment industry so there was an awful lot that I wish I’d known. Doing it again and cutting out some of the early mistakes I’m sure we could have got where we are now, quicker. With the benefit of hindsight some early appointments who perhaps were rushed and the bar for joining BMC has definitely gone up over time. I also think we tried to do too much too soon in terms of sector spread and expanding our offer within an existing client base is certainly proving a lot easier.
Finally, every time I have invested in greater back office support, whether it be marketing, finance or administration it is an investment I wish I’d made 6 months earlier as the impact has been significant.