The truths of life & entrepreneurism


What better place to find that market mentor than to start with arguably the most successful enterprise recruiter and knowledgeable resource marketplace expert in the country?

You see, some 20 years plus ago, she and I were working together and she introduced me to the world of enterprise applications. We had been working with the now well-known entrepreneur, James Caan and I was at a point of some confusion as to the best direction in which to go with technology. The lady in question was moving into a new and revolutionary business venture that she had envisioned and self-created.

I’ll never forget the day when she came over to me and said “I’ve heard of this thing called SAP and I know it’s expensive, but you might like to take it on as many people are talking about it”.

Without that advice, who knows where life would have taken me? Because of her, I went on to build a business focused on the SAP Enterprise market and loved every minute.

I remember it was in October of last year, when I was meeting with an old colleague who mentioned how most the large firms had moved to Recruitment Process Outsourcing. Suddenly I remembered, it was she, my dear old friend who had invented the concept way back in 1997. I thought what better way to find out what’s going to be the future of resourcing than to see her once again. And so, a few days later, I reached out to her and to my delight she responded quickly despite her crazy schedule. We booked in a time to meet and then as days advanced, the meeting kept being rearranged again and again. Finally, last week we met!

I walked into her offices and the atmosphere was “pumping”. Even the lobby was full of people in mini-meetings, noise was all around and everyone was smiling. It felt incredible to see how this charming and always humble lady had built what most would describe as an empire over the last twenty years. I sat patiently in the reception, drinking my freshly prepared double espresso, waiting to be called into her huge and prestigious office. I now envisioned something akin to Gordon Gekko’s energy filled and aggressive atmosphere with deals being done right there and then all around her.

But then, in the distance I could see a blond head bobbing through the cubicles and desks. It was not her busy and efficient assistant, but instead it was she adorning a big beaming smile. She had not changed a bit. After 20 years we recognized each other in an instant and it felt like only yesterday. This was a lady who had built a 5,000 person global organization, awarded the OBE and has to be one of the busiest people I can think of, but as I had always remembered her, she was warm, welcoming and always appeared to have time for you.

I followed her to her office. As I walked through, the Gordon Gekko assumption couldn’t be farther from my mind as people were busy, smiling and unassuming. Her office had no view and was as simple as I have ever seen. Full of reading material and screaming of a focused workaholic that I know she is. This was a lady who meant business, only spending on things that matter and always looking to learn of new opportunities to make a difference in the world.

For the next thirty minutes, I just wanted to listen to her and what she had achieved and how she had done it, but instead as unselfish as ever she wanted to hear all about me. I tried to cover the ground as quick as I could so I could once again learn from a master. The minutes passed by so quickly and skimmed the surface of our lives and experiences, but it the end it was so wonderful to hear how someone from humble beginnings had built not only an amazing business but enjoyed the fruits of a loving family that traveled with her around the world, as she visited her offices.

It’s a great life that can be built, I realized by following some of her character traits and never forgetting the truths about life despite your success.

Allow me to explain what I had seen in her way back and ever present today……

go big or go home

It was back in 1997 and large consultancies were working recruitment preferred supplier lists at great expense with little efficiency. Her idea was to take over the entire resource function at a reduction in cost and greater efficiency and out of the blue she gained an agreement with one of the world’s largest, and did it single handedly. No one else dreamt of the approach as it was big and bold and very risky.

Did she have the team in place to deliver the entire agreement? No, but neither did Bill Gates when he started Microsoft……in fact he had nothing but an inner-confidence that he could do it.

But she did have amazing drive and focus and knew she could do it better than they’d been doing it. She was prepared to do whatever it took to deliver. She delivered!

Obsessed, detailed, driven to achieve something no one else had ever done and fulfilling a specific niche in the market. She went big!

tenacity to chase more and more

I remember when we both started out in our respective areas, we both had the tenacity to start from zero. No obstacle was too great when you know deep down what you’re doing is better than the competition.

But I have never seen such drive, having won the biggest deal she focused and wanted more. She wanted to keep building and delivering an incredible service to her customers. It wasn’t the money, it was because she loved what she did and I felt it again. She still does.

It’s painful to admit, but we often lose ourselves as we encounter success and the meeting reminded me, no matter how successful she has become she’s remembered the traits that brought her the success she deserves. For many it’s not an ego thing, but more a change in habits. The longer they do it, the less they try and often rest on their laurels.

emotionally intelligent

To have not spoken for almost twenty years and to feel like it was almost yesterday, is a reminder of her emotional intelligence. She felt more concerned about me, how I was, what I had done and how she could help.

She was nothing but thoughtful for others, realizing her success can only be achieved by helping others get where they want to be. Be that her people and her team or that of her customers.

grounded forever

As is so often the case “expenses rise to meet income”, but just by the efficiency of her personal office, you could tell she spends what she needs and with little wasted on the unnecessary. So many as they become successful, change their expenditure baseline. To downgrade would indicate you’re moving in the wrong direction! It is clear she spends on what’s important – her people and her customers.

And then there is the new “I’m too busy to do this and that”! too busy for a long walk or to spend quality time with those that you love; your family, your people, your customers!

It’s sad how many people fall into this way; proving to others how successful they are.

She has nothing to prove and remains one of the great entrepreneurs of our time

thank you and i hope this adds a little value to your moment,

by Andrew Sparrow