Interview with our CEO

So, what’s it like starting up a new search business?

It goes without saying that it’s hard work, but more than that I believe it’s about having the humility to learn from your mistakes and move beyond your own comfort zone. Nobody will ever get it right first time and what has worked in more established businesses will often not translate into a start-up. It’s been a fantastic experience so far but we’re only at the beginning. 2020 is our year of growing, and growing up. I personally love being able to shape the way we work with our clients, by listening to clients and candidates and building on the depth of colleague insight we have. Being able to shape the culture is really exciting too, and is one of the reasons we have been able to get a strong team together.

What motivated you to create Starfish?

I think the world of headhunting has a mixed reputation. We really want our business to do our bit to challenge that. If you’re serious and committed about the work then your pride comes from the professionalism with which you carry it out. We talk about executive search very much as a profession, not just an industry; so standards are important. So is building a team of people who want the quality of their work to stand out. At the end of the day, what makes it all worthwhile is what our candidates go on to do once they are appointed. They really do change society. 

What does a great day look like at Starfish HQ?

We’re a close knit team; we have a really strong team culture with each new hire and this will define our business as we grow. A great day for us is a day when we’re all pulling together to achieve something – to land a new project we really want, or to organise our roles to deliver on a tricky assignment. But it’s also being able to come together when we don’t always get the result that we like and support each other. We’re great problem solvers and the team is very motivated and energetic.

How can you tell whether or not a headhunter is good at what they do?

Ask a client! We have built Starfish on what our clients have told us matters most to them – the list includes being a good listener; sound judgement and advice; honesty and someone who does what they say they are going to do. Good headhunters are usually influential and authentic about their work and because they enjoy it they go the extra mile. Speaking from within search, I would add that great headhunters can balance the received wisdom of their industry with common sense, flexibility and a desire to do the right thing. A good sense of humour helps – we’re in the people business and any headhunter will have had their fair share of events where those passing through our doors have done or said the unexpected.

What’s your message to people who might be thinking about moving into search?

Do it. Recruitment is quite often a misunderstood world and it is varied in terms of the approaches and specialisms involved. If you find the right company with the right culture for you, then it can be a fantastic career in which you will keep learning, build your own profile and specialism, and meet people you may not otherwise be able to engage with. I have met so many role models over the years – sometimes your clients and candidates can inspire you to think differently and that is an amazing experience. I remember all of those people and am still in touch with many of them. To do well, you need to be professional, reflective and interested in people, how the world works, and life. You can enter the executive search world from most backgrounds. It’s fast paced but it’s also exciting and you will forge strong working relationships that stand the test of time. 

And finally, why did you call the business Starfish?

Our values and culture are particularly important in how we deliver for our clients, so we wanted to choose a different and perhaps unexpected name. The starfish is a symbol of guidance, vigilance, inspiration, brilliance and intuition. It has represented friendship and guardianship across all cultures for millennia and is also a symbol of strength and longevity. The impact of our work is about all these things. Who knew that the humble Starfish was so significant?