Executive Search, Talent attraction, ‘Headhunting’ and Recruitment. For some businesses, they are key components of their growth strategies. For others, they’re seen more as a ‘necessary evil.’ Regardless of a business’ stance on its acquisition strategy and activities, one common theme tends to endure; the industry is insular, meaning that these types of businesses almost always hire from other businesses within the industry. There are myriad reasons for this, but it mostly holds true across all sectors. At Rowan Executive Search, we try to think ‘outside the box’, and we’ve bucked this trend with two of our latest appointees. Johnathan Massey, Head of the Rowan NED Practice, has had a long and successful career in PE and Corporate Finance. Mark Fahy joins Rowan as an Associate Director in the Sales & Marketing practice, having spent his career advising on Capital Markets, IPOs and perhaps most significantly for Rowan, the journey of SMEs from privately-owned entity to first investment, right the way through to flotation on the public markets. Rowan inhouse Copywriter and Content Designer, Luke Williams, sat down with both Johnathan and Mark to find out about the journeys that led them to Rowan. What were you doing before Rowan, and how did you come across the business?
JM: I spent more than 15 years in Private Equity and Corporate Finance, mainly in business development and origination roles, focused on Owner-managed businesses. I’ve known the guys at Rowan for most of that time and have seen how they operate from a client perspective and the quality of their work and approach. I actually started out in Executive Search, and knew David Anwyl from his time with Robinson Keane. Over the years, I got to know MD Paul Waite, Head of Finance Peter Holt and Katie Seabrook as the relationship developed.
MF: During 14 years with the London Stock Exchange, I was responsible for quoted company relationship management, the LSE’s Elite programme and the IPO pipeline across the regions. Later, during my time with Corporate Finance boutique Rickitt Mitchell, I was responsible for supporting North-West SMEs on their growth and funding journeys. I knew Rowan through one of the Founders, David Anwyl, who has been a friend for over 10 years. Were you considering a move to our industry, and if not, when did you first become interested in Rowan?
JM: No, I wasn’t, and the opportunity came to me a bit unexpectedly. I was working for a Canadian investor called Ardenton, who were a Rowan client. The Pandemic meant that Ardenton were potentially looking to curtail their investment plans, and were also considering making redundancies. I came in to speak to Paul to get his advice on what I should do next. We discussed what I enjoyed, frustrations, aspirations and what could be of interest. Paul then suggested coming to work with Rowan. He was keen to build out the non-executive practice and thought that my network and experience could be a good fit. I was unsure at first, however, what I enjoy is working with people and entrepreneurs, day-to-day variety and working with interesting and forward-thinking clients, all of which Rowan provides. So, I decided to take a bit of a ‘leap of faith’ and come and work for Rowan, to develop our non-executive practice.
MF: I was interested in a new challenge and open to considering a variety of positions in different industries. After talking to the Paul and the rest of the Board at Rowan, and carefully considering my options, I felt that Rowan would offer me a new challenge and afford me the opportunity to build out new skills. I felt it would enable me to continue to work across the growth company ecosystem and, as Johnathan mentioned, work alongside some prescient, innovative North-West businesses. Why did you choose to join Rowan, over any other opportunities?
JM: There were a few things that really stood out for me about Rowan. Firstly, the quality, rigour and thoroughness of the Search and Assessment process. Secondly, the nature and breadth of the client base is exceptional; they are great businesses to work with. Rowan also has a great reputation in the industry and beyond, and everybody I met in the process seemed very authentic, and to enjoy doing the best job possible for their clients. As I mentioned, I hadn’t really been considering a move back into Executive Search, and there were no other businesses in the industry on my radar. However, the way the guys at Rowan approach their business and the nature of the client base there really appealed to me, and I realised it was something that I wanted to be a part of.
MF: I was seeking a new challenge, in a different industry, which would enable me to develop new skills, whilst at the same time utilising the relationships I had developed across my career. Rowan felt like an excellent fit given their consultative approach to conducting business. I also really liked the fact that Rowan provides supplementary Consultancy services alongside its Search and Assessment activities. As an IPO and growth funding expert, this is something that I look forward to being able to offer clients in the future, and it seems that Rowan is unique amongst Executive Search in providing this service. What skills/knowledge will you bring to the role and your team specifically, twhich a typical Executive Search professional might not have?
JM: I obviously bring experience of Corporate Finance, and understanding of Private Equity and raising investment. Working in that environment, you meet a lot of businesses and Management teams and learn a lot along the way. I have a good understanding of how deals work and what investors look for in the Management teams that they back. Some of Rowan’s clients are high-growth businesses, and I know what the likely challenges are going to be on their journey. It is no surprise that those challenges are often people-related, and we can help them get through that and continue their growth. Also, I’ve always been of the opinion that it doesn’t do any harm to bring someone with a different viewpoint or perspective into a project. It is a very collaborative environment at Rowan and sometimes the right answer can come from left field.
MF: I’ve built a broad and deep network across the SME ecosystem, including entrepreneurs, Management teams, funders, investors and advisers. More specifically, I bring deep understanding of Capital Markets and IPOs, including the rationale behind those decisions and the available routes to Market. I’d like to echo Johnathan’s general point about bringing different views and skillsets to the table when undertaking a project, and I look forward to imparting some of the knowledge I have to my team, as well as imbibing some from them too! Are there any gaps in your knowledge, which a typical Executive Search professional wouldn’t have?
JM: I would say the candidate assessment process. It’s one thing to see it written down or have it explained, but actually undertaking that process itself is a different matter. The level of detail that is gone into with a candidate is something I have not done before. In many cases the level of detail goes beyond what I have experienced in private equity and corporate finance. Of course, there is management due diligence done on deals, but it isn’t in an interview scenario like we do here. Again, it reflects the quality of the process and desire to deliver the right match and fit for clients here.
MF: The same as Johnathan really. The mechanics of Executive Search and the assessment process itself are new to me. We both come from a client-facing background with plenty of BD experience though, which seem like transferable skills. How is the role going so far, and does it differ at all from your expectations?
JM: It’s been great. I’ve been made to feel really welcome by everyone and had a lot of support from colleagues as I learn the ropes. There is a lot of collaboration and teamwork across the disciplines so you get to learn a lot quite quickly. The pace of the business is a lot quicker than where I have worked previously, and there is also the balance of winning new work whilst delivering on live assignments. Opportunities and assignments can come from a variety of sources so you have to spin a lot of plates. MF: It’s been great fun so far, the team has been so supportive and it’s been fascinating to learn the role of an Executive Search professional. I’ve gotten to know the team really well over the past few weeks, and I already feel like ‘part of the furniture’! So there we have it, key insights from two members of the rarefied group of senior Executive Search professionals, who have spent their career in industry – in this case, the Financial Services industry – before successfully making the switch. Johnathan and Mark have both hit the ground running, and their individual expertise has already proved useful and interesting to some of our clients. If your SME could benefit from either or Johnathan or Mark’s skills and experience, please contact us directly.
Here at Rowan, we’re always on the lookout for the right talent. If you work in an industry outside of Executive Search but are curious about what we do and whether your skills would be transferable, take a look here.