With the New Year just a few weeks away and year end books to be closed it is common to post a round-robin about the year that has gone and offer some thoughts on the year to come. Economists are certainly making their usual guesses as they try to weigh the recovery from eighteen months of the pandemic and the concerns around the Omicron variant against the trillions of dollars still being poured into economies around the world. It’s a reminder that, as Laurence J. Peter noted, “An economist is an expert who will know tomorrow why the things he predicted yesterday didn’t happen today.”
Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark
My thoughts on the economy and its impact on the future recruitment of financial professionals are simple and do not require input from the Fed, the Davos gathering or Elon Musk’s musing about Dogecoin. Top talent is always needed to make struggling businesses operate more efficiently, transform themselves through technology and use systems to help develop insights into more profitable options. If the economy should founder through inflationary pressure, supply chain failure, more expensive money, a resurgent pandemic or consumers drawing back on spending, the skills of tight financial control and shrewd judgement will be needed.
It will also be needed if there is runaway growth and access to the wall of investment money available to entrepreneurs, tech-oriented start-ups and mature businesses that meet the needs of a pandemic-recovering world. Venture capital investment is up 78% year on year in Q3 with $160bn invested globally and global M&A activity could surpass $6trn by year end. Finance specialists with specialist skills, an appetite for adventure and the ability to manage the shift from start-up mentality to compliance and stock market reporting will be in high demand
In either context what I really want for Christmas is good answers to three big questions for 2022. How can TALTRAN best continue to help our clients find the people that they need and deserve? What is the best way to support top talent as candidates look for new options in a fluid and complex job market? How can I help my team to grow their capability and capacity and where should I invest to bring in new talent that adds value?
Walk Through A Storm
Two years of 100% growth in revenue, even as the storm of the pandemic was in full swing, suggest that we are doing something right at TALTRAN but like all founders I am constantly looking for new ways for us to improve. My perspectives are always sharpened by the views of Jurgen Klopp, manager of Liverpool FC, whose leadership and management views are both profound and pragmatic. He recently said of last year’s relative failure, “It was not a lost season, I learned more than in other seasons…”
He’s in his twentieth year of management and has been successful in two of the most demanding leagues in the world. In just six seasons he has transformed a side that could not perform with consistency into a juggernaut with a club record equalling 25 game unbeaten streak earlier this year. Along the way he has picked up six trophies at country, European and global level as well as setting a 68-game record for not losing at home.
Delving into the lessons he is talking about I found a lot to encourage and inspire me. For example, one of the mistakes he mentioned from last season was not trusting some of his younger players and compromising on the team line up as a result. It was a stark reminder that not trusting people to step up has two effects – it can demotivate them and it can cause you to disrupt a team by putting other people into roles that do not optimize their talent.
Hope In Your Heart
Like many managers and team leaders I have always tried to find the perfect candidates for every role, sometimes to the point where they would have to be superhuman to have the blend of skills, maturity and personality I wanted. What I’ve learnt over the past three years of building TALTRAN is that with the right amount of development and support individuals with limited experience can significantly outperform expectations. It is my confidence as team leader that is more likely to fail than their ability to deliver outcomes.
As well as developing players, Klopp has demonstrated an acumen for selecting and merging external talent into his teams. He was prepared to invest heavily to secure the most expensive goalkeeper and the most expensive center half in the world as he built the team. But he has also developed hometown talents like Trent Alexander-Arnold and Curtis Jones who cost the club nothing, while buying other players shrewdly and at low cost.
Team building is about getting the right people and being willing to back your judgement. There are moments when the headline grabbing appointment is the right answer but there has to be consideration of ego, temperament and impact on team performance. Equally, there has to be space for recognizing internal capability and establishing slots for performers who may never make the headlines but deliver outcomes consistently.
Walk on, walk on
I’ve also been taking a tip from Klopp’s signature line that, “we always just go game-to-game and I think that is important” because great client service is about focusing on client recruitment needs every day. We also heed his notion that, “Eight times 1-0 is more important than one times 8-0” because it keeps perspective. It’s easy to revel in finding eight amazing candidates for a single role but there has to be equal satisfaction in securing the one candidate who is able and willing to take on a particularly hard to fill appointment.
While driven by the pragmatism that comes from facing tough competition every single match Klopp also has a vision that informs my thinking about the business I founded and the longer term. He once said, “My dream was always that we can play in any random shirt but if you watch us playing you say, ‘Ah, that’s Liverpool.’” His point is that the identity, values and performance of the team comes through in everything they do and creates an instantly recognizable culture and style.
You’ll Never Walk Alone
People throw the terms “company culture” and “corporate values” around far too easily but they are among the hardest things to establish and the easiest things to see drift away. I spent a recent session with colleagues considering the stated values of our business with a focus on what practical steps we take every day to live them. Each of our values was discussed and colleagues answered with examples of how they had fulfilled the promises we make to our clients and candidates.
That is the ambition we have as we reflect growth of the past year and a business that is accelerating into 2022. To create a company with a culture that lives its beliefs every day of the year and where the team is happy and confident in its work and the way it is achieving growth. If we can do all that it may be time for me to send Jurgen Klopp a few pointers for his consideration.
This month’s title and sub heading are taken from the Liverpool fan’s anthem “You’ll Never Walk Alone”.
The song was written for the 1945 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Carousel. Liverpool fans adopted the song after local Liverpool group Gerry and the Pacemakers achieved chart success with it in 1963.