Procuring your Executive Search Partner

As global director in a blue chip FTSE 200 business and a mentor with an impressive track record, Jonathan Wiles, Managing Director of Page Executive UK, has a professional background that covers the UK to Australia. He started his career in Search and Selection at the Page Group, was fast tracked through to management, and progressed to directorships in the marketing and HR Division, before becoming the MD of Page Group Australia.
Today, Jonathan leads a large team at Page Executive, a leading global supplier of talent search solutions.
Rob Turner, Business Director, Michael Page Procurement & Supply Chain, talks to Jonathan about business, the importance of attracting the right talent at a senior level to an organisation, people development and his career.

1. Why did you decide to join Page Executive?

It represents a huge opportunity for growth – one of the biggest we have. It allows me to own and transform a multi-disciplinary brand that has an impact not only on our UK business, but the PageGroup offering globally. 

2. How does Page Executive differentiate from your search competitors

Currently we are a challenger brand to some of the more established search firms but we take a fresh approach to executive recruitment by dispelling some of the myths around the senior search market. In addition, and what cannot be underestimated, is the resource we have behind us and the relationships the entire PageGroup hold without relying on a traditional black book. This enables us to be quicker to go to market and deliver a more efficient and effective return. In reality what this means is that our standard time to fill a role is nine weeks against an industry average of three months
We also stand out from competitors based on return of investment to client - we invoice based on success and delivery only. We charge a commencement/engagement and shortlist fee (on acceptance) then only on completion, and success when the candidate starts. This is against most search firms charging a full 35% for the ‘process’ irrespective of outcome and we often see processes that have failed to deliver, yet a full fee has been charged. Understandably clients find this frustrating. 
Crucially Page Executive has a success rate of 92% vs 64% as an industry average, with the 8% non-fill rate coming from, either client cancellations due to internal reasons or a market change, rather than an inability to deliver. 

3. What is your vision for Page Executive?

We have a five-year plan that started in 2014 and in 2015 we delivered the first year on track. This is to expand our core business areas in the UK as well as invest across some of the key sectors such as industrial, consumer, and healthcare etc., whilst continuing to invest in our own processes to challenge our offering and added-value.
In the UK our current head count is 37 fee earners and revenue in excess of £10m. By 2020, we expect to have 55 heads, £17m and this feeds into Page Executive global five- year plan which currently has 110 heads. By 2020 this will be 300 fee earners which will make us one of the top five search firms globally. 
As part of this journey we will invest in our brand, talent and continue to develop our track record of senior placements.

4. Should retained and search campaigns be restricted to senior and board level positions or is there value in them at all levels? 

I believe there is value for retained work at all levels. A retained search gives rigor and process. It partners with a recruiter and adds value at all levels. However, true search is relevant for key niche roles with a defined target audience and therefore tends to lend itself to a more senior market.

5. When is search not the right solution?

If it is a senior executive that an organisation is looking to hire then I believe search should be a part of the process. It may not be the only aspect of the cradle to grave process but should be a part of it. The only time it is not relevant is if it a benchmarking exercise and there is not a commitment to hire. 

6. Amongst your C-suite clients how is the procurement function perceived and do you see it as being a growing demand?

Definitely. If you talk to the CEO, COO and CFO community procurement and supply chain is now a key part to the organisational structure. Procurement has raised its profile over 10 years. However, in some sectors we have seen a plateau amongst the senior procurement community. The function and candidates often sit on senior management teams but are not necessarily part of the executive board. There are some exceptions to the rule, notably in retail but generically procurement is rarely on the board. 

7. What affect is increased globalisation having on senior level roles and appointments, such as a CPO of a multi-national business?

We have found about 30% of the work we do requires us to search for candidates from an international background on a global scale.
If it is a global role then by default you do an international search. There is a definite increase in the demand for people with global/international experience, even for those roles that are  UK focused, as it’s about finding the ‘best in market’ candidates. As a trend we tend to find that for global organisations, CPO’s are based in-country with number 2’s in key positions around the world. When engaged for a CPO we expect we will search globally. 

8. Do you see procurement as being any more challenging than any other senior search?

I don’t see the difference. All senior search can be challenging to secure the right balance of technical ability and cultural fit. We adopt a rigorous and thorough process and keep going until the job is done hence our success rates, so if the organisation selects the right partner they should get the result they desire. We recognise that procurement candidates are often more aware of their market value and therefore most of the negotiation (around remuneration) is often completed at the front end, rather than the tail end of a search process, so expectations are highlighted early which often helps the process.  

9. What is your top tip for managing a career at a senior level successfully?

Look ahead and identify changes and trends that will impact your market and, or, what you do. Senior leaders need to constantly challenge their own expectations, adapt, and in effect ‘future proof’ themselves. Failing to do so may get you labelled as a ‘traditionalist’ which can be the beginning of the end.

10. What are the most common skills and experience requirements across the searches that you have conducted over the past year in procurement & supply chain?

The ability to deal with complexity and an understanding from a technical perspective. A requirement for candidates to possess more awareness of geographies and different markets as Global firms look to diversify there in house skills and knowledge base. The ability of individuals to engage and influence in often challenging and well established environments. 

11.  Give me three words to describe the immediate future as you see it for those working as a lead in the procurement industry

Opportunity, change, and risk management.

12. Finally, what advice would you give to prospective clients embarking on the search partner/campaign/process? 

Explore two or three search partners to ensure you pick the right collaborator who you can get the most from and be as flexible as you require. The partner must have ability in the field but must also the passion and desire to work hard for you. Often for Page Executive there is more pressure to get it right as often we are recruiting roles that will have a direct impact on the other businesses within the group, so we need to ensure we work hard to deliver for all stake-holders and that also makes us stand out from the crowd.  
If you would like to discuss any of the above in more detail, feel free to contact either Rob Turner or Jonathan Wiles.
Rob Turner
T: 0121 230 9358
Jonathan Wiles 
T: +447880 722 947