Last year enough was spoken about my 50 years in business to spur me on for another 50 years. Thank you to longstanding colleagues, clients, candidates and industry stalwarts who were in touch and recalled our times together. (Eating carnations from the vases on the tables after a big boozy dinner in the 1980s was one I’d forgotten, but the year we hired over 50 executives for the one organisation was one I still remember – long days and satisfying results.)
Other than to sit and watch some good footy on the weekends, I’m a restless soul; thinking, adapting and staying abreast of sector trends and new ways of working. Celebrating the first 50 years gave me to time to reflect, but my mind is clearly focused on the future.
In this blog I thought I’d share the fact that in recent years we’ve restructured the broader business and set ourselves up for future success. In doing so my Advisory Board and I considered a number of points:
We now have four discrete businesses, and whereas I was once the sole proprietor across the group, the future for professional services firms lies in distributed ownership and partnerships. I first stepped carefully into a new way of thinking (for me) and now three of the four businesses have equity partners and we’re seeing the growth and stability that comes from this model.
Yellow Folder was the first partnership I entertained five years ago, with Julian Doherty, Slade Group’s previous Director of Research. Now working with many in the ASX 200 and across education and also Government, it is a research-based management consultancy that delivers corporate knowledge advantage, providing clients greater agility in business planning and talent acquisition strategy.
The service offerings are:
TRANSEARCH. Most of us now agree with Peter Drucker’s comment “culture eats strategy for breakfast”. For many years, what I saw missing from the Executive Search landscape was an assessment tool or process that could untangle the knotty issue of culture fit at a senior executive level. Canadian Organisational Psychologist Dr John Burdett and Orxestra©, developed the tools that TRANSEARCH International uses to provide a unique perspective regarding culture, performance, leadership, and team ‘fit’.
As the result of a formal partnership agreement between TRANSEARCH International and Slade Partners, four years ago I brought two long standing executive search leaders Bill Sakellaris and Sandra Brown into the TRANSEARCH International Executive Search partnership. Recently Di Gillett has become a Partner of this global alliance with Grant White leading our Finance Practice. TRANSEARCH International is one of the foremost international Executive Search firms; a Top 10 in the sector by reach and reputation. TRANSEARCH is pivotal in identifying and securing Board members, ‘C’ suite executives and senior functional experts who have led the growth of global organisations.
Slade Group. My name’s still on the door and I hope will be for many more years. Securing high performing talent at the professional, specialist, middle management and senior levels has been the mainstay of Slade for years. The development of technology, AI, Boolean searches, job boards and social media have for the most part been a blessing, but sometimes also a curse. There is so much happening in the HRIS space that it’s sometimes hard not to be distracted by the next ‘tech start up offering’. We decided a few years ago that we would, until Artificial Intelligence finally eats our lunch in 40 years or so, wisely invest in systems, and even more wisely in our people.
This year, for the first time, I’ve also welcomed the first equity partner into the Slade Group business, Chris Cheesman. Chris, in his mid-30’s, is the future of recruitment and new ways of working. He has a very different leadership style to mine and his team of mainly Gen Y and Millennials work to a new work order – together with our clients who are also now mainly Gen Y and Millennials in that space.
We’re very focused on knowing particular industry sectors and talent really well. If I could sum up our strengths it would be in the following areas:
The Interchange Bench. The name says it all. For the last few decades the business, then known as Slade Temps, placed mainly short and long term temps in administrative support roles. Two years ago that changed and a huge up lift in demand for digital, technical, marketing communications, events, accounting and payroll staff, as well as payrolling teams of casuals, meant we no longer felt the name served the business.
The Interchange Bench not only attracts premium talent for short term assignments but works with the 121 Modern Awards that cover the 1000s of roles our temporary and contract talent are asked to do. The team runs all day ensuring clients can secure talent on and off the ‘bench’ and into their workplaces for short and long contract periods. We’ve invested heavily in systems and processes and also reduced the risk for organisations who want to outsource their payroll as well as trusting us with their FairWork and the Modern Awards compliance.
When I recap where the business is right now, I feel we’re right sized, focused and structured for the immediate future. It will be interesting for me to re-visit this blog in five years and report back on how the business has continued to change and evolve.
What are you doing in your world @work to set yourself up for future success?
Photo left to right: Aged Care Minister The Hon. Ken Wyatt AM MP, Dementia Australia Ambassador Jessica Origliasso (The Veronicas), Dementia Australia CEO Maree McCabe, Dementia Australia Ambassador Lisa Origliasso (The Veronicas) and Dementia Australia Ambassador Ita Buttrose
We all want to make a positive difference at work, home and in the community.
Being part of a supportive and compassionate workplace can make a positive difference and can influence our society. One way is to increase our awareness of other people’s lives and their challenges.
An estimated 425,000 Australians are living with dementia. People with dementia can find it challenging to participate actively in the community, often due, in part, to a lack of knowledge or understanding by the community about their condition.
In fact, a recent survey by Dementia Australia found people living with dementia and carers reported experiencing embarrassing situations, feel strongly disconnected, feel less competent and sometimes feel useless.
Thanks to our friends at Dementia Australia, they’ve created a program – the Dementia Friends program – that aims to transform the way we think, act and talk about dementia.
Registering to become a Dementia Friend means that you can increase your understanding of dementia. Every day, you can make a difference to someone living with dementia or make a difference to the carers and families of those people living with dementia.
When registering to become part of the Dementia Friends program, participants can utilise a free online learning tool, through which they can increase their understanding of dementia, and be empowered to do small, everyday things that can make a big difference to a person living with dementia.
What can your organisation do to be dementia-friendly?
Look for the signs. Allow extra time for inclusion in a conversation, or offer assistance if someone appears disoriented or confused. It will make all the difference. Empower someone living with dementia and make them feel safe, accepted and involved.
Become a Dementia Friend today. Visit dementiafriendly.org.au and start making a difference.
“All businesses experience growth,” says Cindy Batchelor, Executive General Manager – NAB Business. “It’s in their nature – at some stage in their life, they must grow to survive.” In the following article by Nigel Bowen, written for NAB Business View magazine, Geoff Slade credits a longstanding relationship with the bank as having an important part in the growth and success of his business enterprises over the years.
After half a century in business, Geoff Slade has learnt a thing or two. Here he shares seven truths about what it takes to make it in the business world.
Back in 1967, aged 21, Geoff Slade began his first recruitment agency. A couple of decades later he received an offer for the company he couldn’t refuse and sold it, moving on to become HR Director at Pacific Dunlop. In 1992 Geoff launched another recruitment business, Slade Group. In recent years, with the likes of Seek and LinkedIn affecting the recruitment industry, he’s adapted by moving away from commoditised services and launching business intelligence services, such as Yellow Folder Research, which harvests and sells talent intelligence. Here, the 72-year-old shares what he’s learnt after half a century of launching, building and selling businesses.
Whether it’s recruitment or any industry, you’ll usually find that 10 to 20 per cent of companies are doing well, 50 per cent are doing okay, and the rest are on their way to going broke. What separates out the 10 to 20 per cent? I’d argue it’s that they put the effort into truly understanding what their customer wants. Of course, often the customer doesn’t fully understand what they want. That just makes it more important to spend time with them, ask them searching questions and help them formulate what their real needs are.
I remember buying my first IBM golf ball typewriter and marvelling at the advanced technology! No matter what technological, economic or social changes are occurring, the two questions to keep asking yourself are: “What can I do to differentiate myself from the competition?” and “What can I do to enhance my relationship with the customer?”
It took me seven years, living on the smell of an oily rag, to make my first profit. People seem to want things quicker these days – to reap all the rewards before putting in the hard yards. Of course, you need to make a judgement about whether the industry you’re in is growing or contracting, and whether your efforts will pay dividends. But even in the most favourable of conditions, you should accept that you’ll need to work hard for a long time.
I launched my first business because a job offer fell through, not because I had an issue with being an employee. After selling that business I worked for a big company for a couple of years. There are things you learn as a business owner that make you a better employee, and vice versa. For example, business owners often don’t pay enough attention to collecting and analysing financial data. A stint in a corporate role is useful for learning that discipline.
I had no intention of selling my first business, but a buyer asked me to name my price. I thought of a figure, doubled it, and sold when they accepted that price. That meant I’d achieved financial security by my mid-forties. Whether it’s your company, your house or anything else, you shouldn’t be so emotionally invested that you pass on a great opportunity to sell.
Two pieces of business advice have always stuck with me. The first is: “Nothing happens until someone sells something.” That’s very true. The second is: “When you negotiate, you have to care, but not too much.”
After my first marriage ended, I realised I was guilty of not paying enough attention to my family. When I got remarried, I was determined not to make the same mistake. Thankfully, I haven’t. That’s involved decisions such as limiting the number of offices I open, which might have resulted in the business making less money than would otherwise have been the case. It also helps if you have a bank that is supportive during the tough times. I value the good relationships I now have with my children, my wife and my ex-wife. I lead a full life and have all the money I need to do what I want to do. Another $10 million, or even $100 million, isn’t going to make me any happier.
This article was originally published in Business View, the business magazine of NAB, Issue 24 Summer 2017.
In the following article by Maggie Chen, which appeared in the Autumn 2017 edition of the Victorian Chamber of Commerce & Industry Business Excellence magazine, Slade Group Chairman Geoff Slade shares his story and the insights he has developed over decades in business, in an industry he is proud to be a part of.
Geoff Slade began GW Slade & Associates 50 years ago, in a small office in Melbourne’s CBD. Before that, he worked as an assistant HR manager at an oil refinery at Western Point Bay. After almost taking up a job in consulting, at the age of 21, he decided to start his own employment agency in 1967.
His father had doubts, but his mother took a leap of faith and lent him $300 – all the money she had in the bank. It just covered his first month’s rent. “I had to make a placement in the first month; otherwise I couldn’t have paid the second month’s rent,” Slade recalled.
That he did, and for about 21 years, he built the business – by then called Slade Consulting Group – to be, by 1988, “the biggest executive recruitment company in the country”, spanning seven cities in Australia and New Zealand.
A UK-based multinational approached Geoff and bought the business from him. In 1989, he commenced a two-year stint as HR Director at Pacific Dunlop.
When the multinational exited the Australian market a few years later, Slade re-established Slade Group in 1992. This time, as a 43-year old with four kids, he decided he would only have offices in Melbourne and Sydney so that he could spend more time with his children and less on planes.
Starting from scratch again at Slade Group was “great”, he said. Pacific Dunlop, which at one stage had 45,000 employees, retained him as a preferred supplier for over 20 years.
How did Slade manage to build and maintain such a successful recruitment company that has already outlived most businesses?
Building trust is crucial, according to Slade. “Companies don’t build long-term relationships with you unless they perceive you’re doing the right thing by them and they trust you,” he said. “The same goes with candidates. I’ve had candidates who I didn’t place, who came back to us to give us work when they were hiring, because we built a significant trusting relationship.”
Secondly, he suggests that persistence really does pay off. Recruitment is an industry with plenty of ups and downs. “When the economy’s going well, business can be very good. When it’s not going well, you can really struggle. And a lot of people bail out when things start to get tough.”
Thirdly, for a long-term business in HR, you need to really understand customer needs. “You have to understand what their culture is like to provide them with quality people that will fit into that culture,” said Slade.
Finally, for business sustainability, it’s important to stay in touch – and that means some ‘face time’. One issue Slade sees today is that young people tend to communicate by email or text and don’t actually go out to meet the customer and really get to know them.
The recruitment industry has faced some challenging times. Seek and LinkedIn both changed the game, as did the global financial crisis, said Slade. A lot of work went to internal recruitment teams. In the face of this, he set up a company with Julian Doherty called Yellow Folder Research, which sells information on talent.
Slade’s wife, Anita Ziemer, Executive Director of Slade Group, took over running the Slade business about five years ago, when Slade became Chairman of the group. He says this allowed him to spend more time developing Yellow Folder Research, which now provides research to public companies and multinationals around Australia. It has also freed him up to focus on the Slade Group-affiliated executive search practice TRANSEARCH International Australia, which is part of a global practice. Slade points out that particularly in the case of senior positions, you really need to understand your client and their needs, and the personalised filtering services that recruitment companies can provide can be invaluable.
Slade is keen to mention his wife and family. He “wouldn’t have survived if it wasn’t for them”, he said.
Slade has seen attitudes to health and wellbeing in the workplace change significantly over the decades. “As late as the 1980s, we would regularly walk into offices where there were ashtrays on desks, smoke in the air and meetings held amongst cigarette smoking executives,” he recalls. “Now, of course, you’ll be hung, drawn and quartered if you’re caught smoking on the forecourt.”
At Slade Group, there have been many individuals who have been proud and passionate about their sporting and athletic pursuits. And since early last year, they’ve been taking steps, led by General Manager Chris Cheesman, to create a company-wide healthy culture, Slade said. “We’ve had people in to give us talks and information emphasising a holistic approach: the value of good sleep, e-downtime, and agile work practices. We’ve introduced standing desks, removed the soft drink vending machine, encouraged walking meetings and provide bi-weekly healthy breakfasts.”
Finally, Slade adds, “A healthy workplace is more than just the physical and mental – it’s also the emotional connections and working relationships built on camaraderie.”
The future ain’t what it used to be. Continued globalisation, wide-scale disruption, uncertainty, exponential change in technology and a new generation joining the workforce are changing how business does business. To compound the challenge, the organisation we created in the last century – a veritable engine of wealth creation – is out of step with the emerging reality.
Tomorrow’s organisation will be fast, flat, focused and built around followership. If how you do business is pretty much the same as it was three years ago, you are already losing ground. If you are not fully invested in tomorrow’s conversation, you are being squeezed out of the game! If you are “dancing” as fast as you can and discover that the competition has stolen a march … it’s fruitless to try harder. You have to change the game!
Traditional management thinking is that strategy drives culture. Figure out the strategy and then make the culture fit. In a steady state world, it’s thinking that makes perfect sense. Except, we don’t live in a safe, predictable environment. In a world of uncertainty the only thing that is predictable is that your strategy will be “subject to correction”.
A scenario approach helps but that only makes the notion that strategy drives culture even less meaningful. Strategy clearly can’t drive multiple cultures. Even with scenario thinking, long after the strategy has shredded, what will endure is the culture. The new reality – culture enables strategy.
Based in Canada, John Burdett’s research and the work of others suggest that only about 20% of organisations manage culture. Organisations put culture on the back burner because of an attitude to change that is best described as “cultural drift”. Cultural drift is the misplaced belief that even if we fail to invest quality time at the top of the house on culture, somehow the secondary initiatives unfolding in the organisation (e.g., six sigma, process improvement, town hall meetings, an emphasis on safety, engagement surveys) will get us where we need to be. Are you managing your culture?
John’s new book, The A-Z Of Organization Culture, is a compelling playbook outlining how to leverage culture for competitive advantage. It draws on his extensive international work on culture with some of the world’s biggest multinationals, mid-size organisations, successful start-ups and not-for-profits.
Look for … how to have the “culture conversation”; breakthrough learning strategies; why your culture is your brand; working at the level of mindset; “re-engaging the middle kingdom”; and measuring culture. The latter will enable you to, literally, chart the
“roots” (where you are today) and “wings” (where you need to be) of culture in your organisation. If you don’t measure it, you can’t manage it!
Accessible and wonderfully illustrated, The A-Z Of Organization Culture is a unique “road map” that will enable you to make tomorrow’s culture come alive in your organisation, today.
An advisor to TRANSEARCH globally, we are delighted to say we are bringing John out to Australia in late March. We will also be launching his new book at that time.
Read more about the theme of John’s visit: If you’re not managing your culture, someone else is
Being genuinely interested in everyone you meet may be second nature to those of us in the executive search business, but contrary to the popular saying, the reverse isn’t always true. In London for an AESC conference recently, I met John Niland. John is best-known as a conference speaker on doing higher value work and for the last 15 years, has been coaching others to achieve success. He has a particular passion for supporting independent professionals to adapt and thrive in today’s challenging economies. In the following article he makes some valid points about the nature of trust – applicable to all of us, no matter what business you are in.
1. Cognitive trust and Affective trust
To win wholehearted trust from another person, you need to win both their head and their heart. However, not everyone we meet places equal reliance on these two faculties.
Some people (and cultures) are primarily cognitive. When building trust, they look for evidence that is factual: e.g. evidence of credibility, track-record, process, reliability, tangible results and useful insights. If you can answer their questions specifically (or guide them to ask better questions) then you build trust.
Other people (and cultures) are primarily affective. They first decide if they like you or not, then they listen to what you have to say. Bombarding them with evidence of your credibility is unnecessary and may even be counter-productive. Their decision to trust is intuitive rather than rational … and is often uncannily accurate. They take in your body language, your attentiveness to them and a host of non-verbal cues.
While most people will use both dimensions (i.e. cognitive and affective), in practice the majority of people have a tendency to rely more heavily on one dimension than the other. For example, in large organisations, the greater the likelihood that trust-building is cognitive… at least in northern Europe. But beware of stereotypes: I have come across senior managers in finance who build trust affectively, just as many freelance professionals are as cognitive as you can find on the planet.
In a team environment, affective trust tends to win out. If team members like each other, this generally makes for greater performance and mutual support than if they simply cognitively respect each other. However, in many teams, it’s worth noting that cognitive respect plays a big part in whether one professional likes another or not. So it’s always worth considering both dimensions… not just the one that most reflects you!
2. Trusting yourself
How do your build trust? Cognitively (via the head) or affectively (via the heart)? Which is your primary mode of trust-building?
Perhaps the person that it’s most important to trust is yourself. This is usually expressed as confidence: confident people have trust in themselves. Indeed, in some languages (such as French), the same word ‘confiance’ means both trust and confidence.
If a person is not particularly confident, then they struggle to trust themselves. So they furiously prepare for meetings, feel anxious in negotiations, worry about the future, avoid difficult conversations, postpone decisions, have difficulty with business-development and often with personal relationships, too.
Most people would agree that confidence is built though action, rather than by reflection. Certainly this is likely to be true for cognitive trust-builders. By creating their own track-record in dealing with scary situations, they see increasing evidence that they can trust themselves.
However, for those who build trust affectively (or intuitively), how do they deal with low self-confidence and lack of trust in themselves? In my coaching work, I see that affective trust-builders often have a harder time overcoming a poor reputation with themselves. Unlike the cognitive trust-builders, they cannot easily grow self-confidence through affirmative action… because they don’t like themselves very much to begin with.
Self-worth is about liking ourselves – with or without the evidence. It’s not the same as self-esteem and certainly not the same as confidence. It’s a fundamental pre-requisite for career-development, for charging better fees and raising the value of our work.
John Niland is a Brussels based management consultant. email@example.com