The CEO Series: Leadership Observations From The Front Line
Interviews with CEO'S from the For-Purpose sector with Liska Turner
Usually, I interview CEO’s from the NFP sector however this month I sat down with my CEO, Nikki Beaumont who has been a champion of the NFP sector since 2009 when in the middle of the GFC she opened a brand new division to provide an at-cost recruitment service to the NFP sector. In June 2018 she won the Lifetime Award and recognition from the recruitment industry association for her contribution, so how could I not profile her this month!
Q: CEO’s lead from the front. What are the most important decisions you make as a leader of your organisation?
A: There is a myriad of decisions made at all levels but what is important to me is finding a balance that works for the people as well as for the business. I often find that if you make decisions with your people being at the heart of your decision making, they turn out far better than when you find yourself putting “the business” and profitability first.
You also can't underestimate the value of hiring the right people for your business and then nurturing and supporting and developing those people. I know you would expect me to say that as the founder and CEO of a recruitment business, of course, but I say that from a business owners perspective, from someone who hasn't always made the best decisions and has experienced the difference.
Right now, we have an incredibly passionate, talented and successful team, the best I have ever seen in my 30 years in the industry and believe you me, the difference that makes is incredible. I don't just mean to the bottom line and the results, I mean the culture, the whole feel of the business. I mean the everyday experience of doing what we do, not just for me personally but for each and every one of us within the business and those we interact with. It's the biggest lesson I have learnt in my career. Don’t underestimate the value of hiring the right people.
Q: Culture was identified as a priority for 2018 in the 2017 AICD NFP Governance and Performance Study. How do you help a new employee understand the culture of your organisation?
A: We are very proud of our culture at Beaumont People, it’s one of the things that attracts people to join us, and you can't underestimate the value of attracting the right calibre of people in the first place. I always say to clients, you can't hire the best people if you can't attract them in the first place! When new people join us they always comment on what a remarkable culture we really have, we discuss culture as part of the recruitment process but it's only once people start that they get to actually experience it and become an active contributor in our culture. So, it's important that new people understand and embrace our culture.
We place high value on a thorough induction process, which includes a module on company history, culture and values usually conducted by myself or one of the executive team. But that's just the very tip of the iceberg. Yes, we do have our values on the wall, they're huge, it's pretty much all we have on our wall and it helps us all remember and connect with our shared values daily which we all truly believe in. We include our values in our everyday conversations, we celebrate success in line with our values and we recognise achievements that relate to our values daily, we really do live and breathe them. The other way the culture is shared is through our everyday experiences, through how we interact with each other, through how we support each other and celebrate each other’s wins. It’s how people learn that that’s the way we do things around here. The team themselves are proud and protective of our culture.
Q: No business operates in isolation. When you’re considering partnering with another person or business, what factors are deal-breakers for you?
A: As a recruitment business we are partnering with all of our clients and candidates all of the time. That's how we like to work, we don't see ourselves as a supplier, our aim is to earn the right to be a trusted partner, that's where the magic happens.
When it comes to partnering with business’s, what is absolutely essential is finding companies and people who believe in the value of the people in their business. We like to work with clients who believe in the value of working with us, we like to work with people to truly want to find the best people and are dedicated to working together towards a successful outcome.
Q: Succession planning is key to building a sustainable organisation. How do you choose who to promote?
A: Again I choose to promote with a people first mindset whilst finding a balance that works for the business. I have created new roles and opportunities many times that gives people the opportunity to develop and grow or change their role at a time that suited them. This has invariably worked incredibly well and contributed without doubt to our low turnover and high retention rates. I have promoted people just weeks before they go on maternity leave, I have given people the opportunity to open a new office because that was their dream, how else would one find themselves with an office in Byron Bay.
Q: What leadership decision are you most proud of?
A: The success of the charity team without doubt. I have always been a keen supporter of a many of charities and causes over many years and the one thing I always struggled with, was that this one pair of hands could never contribute enough. I ran for this, trekked for that, held trivia nights, movie nights, made jewellery and slept on the streets and have raised thousands of dollars but never felt that it was enough. So, when the GFC hit in 2009, and our job flow reduced dramatically, I took the bold decision not to cut head count as most others chose to do, I chose to divert our spare capacity to helping charities in the best way I know how, by helping them hire the absolutely best people.
We created a model whereby we aimed to just cover our cost of delivery at its absolute lowest. I had no idea if this would work, but it did and 9 years on, we now have a team of 10 who focus purely on recruiting for charities at all levels. We measure the difference in what we charge charities, compared to what we charge corporates and that is what we have saved charities, as I write this, we are just shy of $17 million!
It doesn’t end there, we have developed some amazing relationships, networks and partnerships and now give back to a wide variety of charities in so many ways, including a fully funded mentoring program for emerging leaders in the charity sector.
I could never have dreamed it would work out as it has and there is still so much more we can do, so watch this space!
Liska Turner is an executive recruiter that specialises in the For-Purpose Sector. She works with Boards and CEO’s to build sustainable organisations through connecting people and ideas. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 02 9279 2777.