Ten questions. One hot seat…

Climbing the career ladder is not always an easy pathway to navigate. We’ve spoken to experts in their fields to encourage them to share pearls of wisdom about how they’ve made it in their specialist sectors.

This month we put Mike Utting, Managing Director of SpringTide Consulting Ltd, in the hot seat to answer ten questions about his career.

  1. What did you want to be when you were at school?

I was very capitalist, all I knew is that I wanted to make good money and retire by 50. I think this started from selling perfume made from rose petals, which was syphoned into Corona bottles around the village. I must have been about eight. One lady commented that “it smelt like drains”…that was an early set-back! I went on to have a pretty successful car cleaning round and other ventures.

  1. When did you first start working in procurement?

6th Jan 1986 – my A-levels were a disaster so at the end of the first term my careers advisor found me a job as a Trainee Buyer with Hawker Siddeley Power Engineering. At age 16, I was too afraid to even answer the phone in the first few months, but, surprisingly quickly progressed and thoroughly enjoyed the cut and thrust of negotiations. In those days we would have 3-4 ‘cold’ sales calls a day, and I would go down to reception and listen to the countless pitches.

  1. How did SpringTide come about?

I think it was a natural progression. I had done the corporate world for many years, then joined a niche procurement consultancy, realised that this too had its ‘glass ceiling’, bureaucracy and limitations. So, SpringTide was the big risk of going it alone initially and gave me the opportunity to shape and grow the business as I wanted to. From the outset I built the business upon sustainable platforms, knowing that some would progress more than others and to also ensure they would be complementary, i.e. workshop and strategic sourcing activity would naturally segway into broader transformation programmes.

The name SpringTide derived from living in a small Welsh coastal village with an estuary and a large tidal range – with SpringTide representing the notion of washing away the old and bringing in something new. An enriching experience.

  1. What kind of sectors does SpringTide specialise in, and which areas do you cover?

If you had of asked me this a few years ago I would have provided a very broad answer! We have become known for our expertise in Transport Procurement, from performing deep and exhaustive data analytics and modelling through to leading and supporting complex tenders and supplier and relationship management. Our focus is very much on sectors that move products: FMCG; Food; Packaging; Retail; Construction; Engineering.

We help with the strategy and vision and how this shapes the type of relationship and commercial model with the supplier chain and then ensure that contracts are implemented effectively.

  1. What sets SpringTide apart from your competitors?

I think it would be the strength of our process and business model. Our clients can and do engage us for project work, ongoing support and task driven work. The governance is in place to then meet and hopefully exceed expectations.

  1. What has been the biggest challenge you and the company have faced in the eight years you have been operating?

Finding business! It’s always difficult to know which channel or avenue to take to market and how to create the awareness. We are still a niche provider, so there is a lot of trial and error in our approach. We continue to refine our approach and to listen to what the market is telling us

  1. There can be no doubt that technological advancements have had a significant impact on the procurement industry. How has it changed the way you work at SpringTide?

It has influenced the structure and operating model of our business and our product mix. We have strategic sourcing experts who know the vast array of technology platforms intimately, so we provide clients with support to implement and achieve rapid adoption over their technology platform. They demystify the process.

  1. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given and what advice would you give to other entrepreneurs starting out?

Know yourself, your own strengths and limitations and always have a ‘back-up’ plan for when a curve ball is thrown at you.

For entrepreneurs, I’d say you need a strong vision of where you want to be and why. It’s important to understand the motivation: money; achievement; being the first; innovating; helping others – be clear, and put the small steps in place to get you there

  1. What’s the latest news at SpringTide?

We have had a couple of wins in the transformation and strategic sourcing arena for which we are currently mobilising resources and aligning processes. Also, just last Friday we have been announced as a CILT Finalist within the Supply Chain Best Practice category, which is a really great testament to the hard work and dedication undertaken by the team.

  1. What would you like SpringTide to look like five years from now?

From 2010, we have grown the business from virtually zero to +£3M. I would like to be in a position that we establish ourselves as a market leader in the Procurement of Transport and to have grown our client base considerably in the UK and overseas. To also have matured our outsourcing and transformation propositions which are a far broader solution with multiple competitors, and to be recognised as being a stable player in these markets with value to bring.

The 5 Key Points towards Building Rewarding Relationships

At our head office in Manchester there is a graphic on one of our walls which simply says “Building rewarding relationships” and earlier this week I interviewed a potential new recruit for our business who saw the graphic and asked how much emphasis we actually put on that. On reflection my response was possibly too detailed and in hindsight maybe went on a little too long however the question made me really reflect on its meaning & how important it is in business for everyone.

Every business no matter what industry they operate in needs to build rewarding relationships in some form or other, but how they go about it differs greatly.

As a Sales Director working in the service sector, for me, the single most important factor for building relationships is trust. After this, I seek to build relationships in a variety of ways, with the emphasis being mainly on the following;

  1. Meeting face to face, it is very hard to initiate or maintain a relationship remotely, no matter how great modern technology is.
  2. Treat others the way you expect to be treated in return.
  3. Make sure both sides have mutual benefit in doing business together.
  4. Tackle any problems head on & don’t let issues fester.
  5. Try to view your company through the eyes of your customers so that you understand their perspective enabling you to go the extra mile to maintain the relationship.

I think it’s also worth mentioning that any good business should seek to build rewarding relationships internally too, it’s not something that just applies to customers. We work really hard to create the best possible conditions to cultivate meaningful long lasting connections and we have reaped the benefit of this, both by having several members of our team that have been with us for many years, as well as resulting in 70% of our business being repeat business.

Building Rewarding Relationships is vital to any successful business.

Interim consultants are too expensive…… aren’t they?

Daylight Robbery?

So you think you will benefit from bringing an interim consultant / project manager in to the business to help out with an impending project or to help improve a service issue and you are quoted £500 PER DAY!

EXTORTIONATE! You instinctively do your calculations and determine that the equivalent of a ludicrous £130K PER YEAR!

Be Cautious in Comparing Pay

If you are a PAYE employee it’s easy to get confused about interim consultant rates. The thing to remember is that interim consultants can only charge for the time they are actively working for a client. However, they are not necessarily active for a client for 40 hours a week, 52 weeks of the year. Therefore their rates have to take into account all the time they are not billing a client as well as their overheads. Let’s take a look at the details.

Why Have Interim Consultants?

Interim consultants play a vital role in the economy. Without interim project managers and consultants business would have to find ways of training and upskilling their own staff. Can you imagine hiring a procurement or supply chain consultant to carry out a specific review that only needs doing once a year?

 Analysing a Day Rate

Consultants providing services in many industries such as Procurement, Buying, Supply Chain & Logistics generally base their charges on day rates. These can be the source of confusion or contention for the companies who need to hire firms using day rates as the headline rate can seem high.

Often, when evaluating rates, people will take the headline day rate, multiply it by 261 (the number of weekdays in a year) and assume they are being ripped off. For example, a day rate of £500 is made to look like a salary of – 261 (52 weeks) x £500 = £130k! Nice money if you can get it.

In fact this is far from the truth. In simple terms day rates are calculated in 3 steps.

  1. Billable Days

Number of weekdays in a year = 261

Less – 25 Holidays
Less – 8  Bank Holidays
Less – 5 days allowance for being ill
Less – 24 days of non-billable time between projects
Less – 10 days for marketing and business development

Total – 72 days

Total billable working days in a year = 261 – 72 = 189 Days

  1. Overheads

£500 – advertising
£500 – Hardware and Software
£1000 – Servers etc
£100 – Affiliation costs (professional bodies such as CIPS, CILT, MoID’s )
£2000 – Interviews and visits to client sites etc
£150 – Insurances such as indemnity etc
£500 – Accountancy fees etc
£2000 – Phone/Office etc

Total = £6,750.00

This equates to a daily overhead of £35.71 (overhead divided by billable days)

Now the required salary including Employers National Insurance Contribution etc

  1. Summing it up

A well-qualified and experienced consultant salary = £65k

This gives a day rate of £384 (salary + EE NI divided by billable days)

Next comes profit and 20% is an accepted level of profit = £76.8

Now add it all up – £35.71 + £384 + £76.8 = £496.51

So the day rate of £500 gives the consultant a salary of £65k and the company a profit of £15k.

I am sure you will agree that this is by no means the colossal amount that you might have initially thought it was, for someone who has Experience, Availability, Objectivity and a track record of delivering results?

How to get the best out of your Recruitment Consultant

I have worked in recruitment for 7 years after joining Cast UK in 2008. I spent the first couple of years as a consultant then moved on to manage a number of successful teams. During that time and even to this day, it surprises me how many candidates and clients don’t make the most of their recruitment consultant.

In our office, our consultants are encouraged to be consultative in their role. We want to be maximised and challenged and we take an immense amount of satisfaction in finding someone their ideal next role and finding a client their next rising star.

To get the best out of your recruitment consultant I recommend following these simple steps;

Candidates;

1) Communication should be two way. Don’t shy away from regular contact with your consultant to ascertain what they are doing for you in your job search.

2) Carefully consider the vacancies that you apply for. If you’re unsure if you fit the criteria then speak to the consultant for advice before submitting your CV. A scattergun approach will not work in your favour and may even work against you.

3) Be clear from the outset why you’re looking and exactly what you want from your new role. If you don’t know, then you can’t expect the consultant to find what you want!

4) Set yourself realistic expectations for your next job & salary and seek advice from your consultant if you’re unsure.

5) During any interview process be up front with your consultant when discussing your feedback. Address any concerns immediately and after each stage of the process rather than at offer stage. It’s often too late to ask critical questions at offer stage & if you do the client may wonder why you haven’t asked them earlier, leading to doubts about your commitment.

6) Use your consultant to proof read any presentations that you need to do as part of the recruitment process. It is likely that they have already met the client so be sure to get as much information as possible on the client’s preferences.

7) Take the time to meet your consultant. The chances of your consultant finding you your next role will increase significantly if they have a clear understanding of your personality & who you are. Often “culture fit” is just as important as skills & experience.

Clients;

1) Be really selective in which consultant you use and how many consultants you engage with. Too many consultants can be counterproductive and can also result in extra work, swamping your desk with CVs.

2) Choose an industry specialist who knows your market inside out. High street recruiters won’t be able to fill specialist positions as quickly as someone who knows your function or sector in depth.

3) Insist on meeting your chosen consultant before they go out into the market and represent your organisation. Company image is crucial to attracting the best talent & any consultant you use needs to portray the best impression on your behalf.

4) Be 100% transparent regarding what you do and do not want in a candidate, this is often taken for granted and can add significant time to a process if not clearly identified at the outset.

5) Set agreeable strict deadlines for the recruitment process. The longer a process the more likely you are to miss out on great talent.

6) Take advantage of your consultant’s knowledge. A credible consultant will provide advice guide on the state of the market, typical salaries and where the best candidates can be sourced from.

7) Seek to build a long term relationship. Recruitment consultants are an extension of your business and potentially developing a working partnership can save time and money recruiting future roles..

Whether you’re a candidate or a client, to get the best out of your recruitment consultant you must communicate regularly and openly with them. Omitting important information will cause problems later or could even ensure you miss out on the perfect role or candidate!

What came first, the unsolicited email or the client relationship?

So what do you really think when you get an email from me highlighting an exceptional, hot property candidate who has just come on to the market? Genuinely I’d like to know.

On my first day in recruitment (many, many moons ago) the order of the day was to get acquainted with candidates in my area and to build up market knowledge, splitting the ‘ear to the ground’ folk from the more active individuals. It’s been recruitment practice for years to offer to ‘proactively market’ candidates to our client base if they see the value in it and give their permission…

Why?

Why do I do it when clearly it irritates some clients? it is far too easy to hit the delete button or send, and sometimes send impolite and abrupt replies back (isn’t it funny how some people are far more bold with email than they would be verbally?) 8 years in recruitment has made me very much immune to unkind responses however because, more often than not, this approach to sourcing opportunities and interviews for my candidates works time after time.

If

I know that you may not have a requirement today just like you may not want to order a domino’s pizza when the ‘two for Tuesdays’ flyer floats on to your doormat (or did i mean mine…?). This is my marketing opportunity and just as with any marketing the ‘direct’ percentage return is always expected to be low. and like domino’s I know that you may want one but not have budget at the moment or may not have planned to have one initially but then decide you will because it will free up some time to do something else etc,

Cheap shot lazy recruitment?

Believe it or not I go through the process of working out if this candidate is going to be able to add value to your business (based on their background and achievements) and whether you are the right level of client to influence. It’s in my interest to make the process as targeted as possible since sending you irrelevant information will damage our brand image and my own credibility.

Of course there are times that i might get this wrong and the profile I’m sending you is irrelevant and if this is the case then why not give some feedback?

There are many ways that i have gone about engaging and building quality relationships with clients over the years and this method never ceases to start the conversation, secure an interview for the respective candidate and provide an opportunity to grow genuine long term relationships (recruiting relationships of course).

What’s the alternative?

well; I could call you and give you my best ‘patter’ but the beauty of the email is that i don’t have to go through the switchboard and you don’t have to think of a reason tell the gatekeeper that you can’t take the call. The fact is that by not doing this i miss out on the opportunity to market myself and my company’s brand – my competition won’t hesitate and therefore I can’t afford to either! To quote Zig Ziglar one of the world’s most famous salesman

“For every sale you miss for being too enthusiastic, you will miss a hundred because you are not enthusiastic enough”

Shout it from the rooftops

I am proud of what I do and I know I have the ability to find talent that will contribute positively to your team. Read any book on starting and growing a business and it will tell you to promote your brand, tell the world and scream it from the rooftops.

So which came first?

My parting question to you would have to be this: the people you work with, be they a client or colleague, how did that relationship start? I can make a pretty educated guess that it came from a cold call or email.

 

Top Ten Client Excuses

Continuing our celebration of Cast UK’s 10th Anniversary, here’s another blog based on the number “10”.

After my post about “Top Ten Candidate Excuses”, it only seemed fair to balance it out with a “Top Ten of Client Excuses”. I should point out that the excuses listed below have been collated over the ten years we have been operating!

Here goes;

10. “The candidate had a limp handshake.”

9. Our MD was once escorted off a client site after refusing to negotiate on fees!

8. A client decided not take on the candidate because their personality profile was too similar to the hiring manager’s.

7. A client came back with feedback and confirmed the candidate would not be taken through to second stage. Apparently, when he sat down for the interview he asked the client “How’s your wife and how’s your mistress?” the Client did not think it was an appropriate way to start the meeting!

6. A candidate was rejected as too boring and making them almost fall asleep during the interview.

5. Once a client refused to offer a candidate a role following an interview process as the commute was too far. The candidate however, lived in the same town as the client and would have been travelling to exactly the same location…

4. The most common excuse from clients is “the role is now on hold”. We have even had it once when we have asked for feedback on a candidate that the client had interviewed, and they told me “the role is now on hold”. Yet we had placed that role with another candidate and they simply forgot that we were the same recruiter who had placed it!

3. A client admitted the reason for the vacancy was that the previous person was fired for sleeping with his wife!

2. “The candidate had a ponytail and the Operations Director doesn’t like men with ponytails.”

1. A client rejected a candidate as he stood in dog muck before the interview and walked it through their office!

 

Worst Top Ten Candidate Excuses

Cast UK are excited to be nearing our 10th birthday in May this year & to celebrate we have decided to produce a series of blogs around the number “10”.

Our first showcases some of the worst / best or most unusual candidate excuses we’ve had over the last ten years to get out of an interview. Some of them we hear time & time again, while others are somewhat less common!

10.The most common excuse used is that “I’ve had a car accident on the way to the interview.”

9. Candidate calls to say “I’m not taking the job at ____” after watching the Panorama exposé the previous night.

8. A candidate called to say he couldn’t attend his interview after a member of his family was beaten up.

7. Someone once turned up 23 hours early. He was a day early and even if he had got the date right, he would have been an hour late!

6. A candidate went AWOL when he should have attended an interview. He then sent us a ‘selfie’ from his hospital bed hooked up to oxygen.

5. A candidate who used the same excuse twice, which was that his mother had died – 6 months apart.

4. Someone emailed in: “Apologies for the late notice. I’m going to be unable to attend today. There was an issue at my wedding involving others and I have to go back to my home town to make a statement. Please apologise on my behalf.”

3. We had a candidate start a job then after two weeks go missing in action. When we finally tracked him down we found out that he had not quit his last job but instead simply taken two weeks holiday to test out the new role!

2. Someone we’d put forward for an international role, called in the night before the interview to confess he’s afraid of flying….

1. Foreign language speaking role: One of our candidates calls the day before to explain they think they have forgotten the language, despite having originally been a native speaker!

Are your Procurement Skills transferable?

If you have worked within a procurement or buying environment, you have probably worked alongside people with quite a diverse set of backgrounds. So why is it, when you see a job advertised it will usually ask for experience in the same industry?

Generally speaking there appears to be two main schools of thought regarding the relevance of industry experience when it comes to securing that next challenge.

“If I can buy helicopter parts I can buy cake ingredients.”
The first school of thought is simple: procurement is a process of finding the best value source of a material or service. It doesn’t matter what that material or service is, just that you know how to run the process surrounding it. Some would argue that it doesn’t matter if that material is steel from China or pineapples from the Caribbean, because at the end of the day you are buying X of Y for Z and are pineapples and steel really so different?

The advantages of this argument are that by moving into a new environment you can discover a whole new way of approaching your procurement strategy, taking on brand new challenges and diversifying your skill set (and who doesn’t want that?). From the employer’s point of view, adding somebody with a different set of experiences and background to their team adds a fresh perspective and can produce unexpected and exciting results.

On the other hand, sometimes the leap can be too far. The culture might be completely different within a different industry and maybe moving from Cake Inc. to Jet Fighter Corp wasn’t the best decision for you!

“If they haven’t worked in automotive they wouldn’t fit with us.”
The second school of thought is the polar opposite. There are plenty of people who believe that unless you have had direct experience in a particular sector that you won’t have the knowledge or understanding of the product or processes necessary to make an impact.

Something I’ve often seen is engineers or other workers on the production side moving into purchasing, where their depth of understanding of all the different materials, machinery and processes gives them a huge edge when dealing with suppliers.

The advantage to this approach is that you are getting a like for like fit: you know as a candidate that the area you are going into is familiar and that you can and will achieve results. From the employer’s point of view it is far less risky to hire somebody that you know has worked in the same sector and can hit the ground running.

The only obvious disadvantage here is that you are dramatically shrinking the pool of positions you can apply for and who knows, that job within the steel industry might be a great fit for you, despite your Caribbean pineapple exploits.

Best of Both?
Personally, I think that the best approach varies massively depending on the environment you are going into. If the company is quite small and only has one buyer then it would probably be best to make sure that that the potential candidate understands the industry! If, however, there is a large procurement team, wouldn’t it make sense to have a whole range of backgrounds and experience to make sure that you are covering every possible angle? My approach as a recruiter is to get to the heart of what the client needs from a candidate and, although often they may be convinced it has to be someone from the same industry, they will usually be more responsive to the idea once I’ve explained why!

What do you think?
I’d be really interested in hearing your thoughts on this! I’ve recently had some very interesting conversations with hiring managers as to why a guy working in the dairy industry could be relevant to an automotive business.

Which side of the fence you are on; are steel and pineapples interchangeable, or do you have to have to come from the same industry background?

YOUR CV IN 6.25 SECONDS

As I turn my attention to the world of interim recruitment, I wanted to share some advice regarding CVs that I have learned over the last 8 years of working in recruitment.

People spend hours preparing CVs and what you are about to read probably doesn’t meet your expectations about how clients review them.

“F” PATTERN READING:

Firstly, you should think of your CV as a marketing tool and not necessarily an information provider!

Hiring managers and recruiters generally scan in an “F” pattern when speed reading CV’s, which generally means that text isn’t read thoroughly. Recent research from the job search site TheLadders shows that we only spend 6.25 seconds looking at a CV before deciding whether the candidate should be considered for the role. The study also showed that 80% of the six seconds is spent looking at just six things;

  • Name
  • Current Title/company
  • Pervious Title/company
  • Previous position, start and end dates
  • Current position, start and end dates

The other 20% is spent looking for keywords that are relevant to the job that is being recruited! As harsh as it sounds, I have to agree with the research.

It’s all very well telling you that we read in an “F” Pattern, but how can you use this to your advantage? Here are a few tips that will encourage the reader to review your CV in more detail.

Tip 1:

Firstly, give the reader all the above information that they are seeking at in a condensed format for each job, for example:

Macro Tak Limited       LOGISTICS DIRECTOR August 2013 to March 2015

Macro Tak Limited is a major supplier of dispense equipment for the beer and soft drinks industry.

If you then set it out as I’ve done below, then it gives the reader everything they need by scanning down the left:

Macro Tak Limited

August 2013 to March 2015

Logistics Director

Macro Tak Limited is a major supplier of dispense equipment for the beer and soft drinks industry.

Tip 2:

The second bit of advice that is always well received is relevant to the ‘summary’ of the company you work for. Taking the example above, I can bet that you said to yourself “I don’t know that company” (probably because I just made it up). Micro Tak may be a high flying company but by the very fact that you don’t know them, it makes your perception more negative rather than positive. Expand on this summary to give a “macro to micro” view highlighting company turnover, stating reach (national/international/global), their most recognised product/type, sectors and finally the names of your most prestigious or well-known customers. By referencing these you are creating commonality and increasing credibility of your company because the reader can now connect the dots by association:

Macro Tak Limited

August 2013 to March 2015

Logistics Director

Macro Tak Limited is a major supplier of dispense equipment for the beer and soft drinks industry for customers such as Coca Cola, SAB Miller, Heineken and Diageo.

Notice how those commonly recognisable names conjure up affirmative feelings……this is the power of associated marketing!

Tip 3:

So, you’ve got your headings and summary right, what information do you put in the body? Many of your responsibilities will be alluded to by your job title and company, so don’t regurgitate your job description unless you can quantify it and it is something worth bragging about i.e. holding accountability for an £8m budget.

Do take the time to quantify your achievements; this might not be something that you do on a regular basis in your current role but for candidates in the Purchasing and Buying, Logistics and Supply Chain fields it is a worthwhile exercise, focusing on cost, service and accuracy improvements. Think about the performance level before and after you introduced any changes:

“Implemented lean/agile management disciplines in order to significantly improve Stock Record Accuracy from 91 to 99.9%”

Tip 4:

Don’t separate achievements sections at the top of your CV because as we already know, the hiring manager or recruiter is going to look at who you work for, what your job title is now and how long you have been there for. Therefore, if your achievements section has been positioned above this then it is highly unlikely that the reader will double back to find it.

6.25 seconds is such a short time to make an impact, but if you have a crisp and clearly laid out CV with the most relevant information in the right places, then you stand a much better chance of someone reading through the rest of your excellent resumé!

Cast UK launch “Workout Wednesdays”

We are pleased to announce that we have launched a new health initiative to help everyone in our business lead a more active & healthier lifestyle.
As of this week, we are now offering our team Insanity-style workout sessions every Wednesday morning in our on-site gym run by our very own personal trainer Tony! Starting at 8am we are running the free weekly sessions in an attempt to help our teams improve their cardiovascular fitness and boost the start to their day by having a team workout.

In addition to offering the sessions, Wayne Brophy confirmed that everyone taking part will be able to start work ½ hour later than usual to allow time to shower & get ready for their working day. Wayne commented “We are really excited to be launching this new Workout Wednesday initiative, as we feel that anything we can do to help improve peoples’ fitness can only be a good thing.”

Alongside “Workout Wednesdays”, we are also offering free fruit & decaffeinated tea to offset the slightly less healthy honesty chocolate and snack box we have had in our office for a long time.

Tony summed it all up “It’s a really great way to start your day with a high-tempo workout. It gets the blood flowing & really motivates everyone to start the day in an energised state of mind.”

Judging by the red faces of those taking part afterwards, it certainly looks as though Tony is not going to cut anyone any slack!