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A year in Tile Hill, but not the place!

by Anthony Lewis


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Today marks a full year since I stepped into the relative unknown, and with world events as they are, it feels like a poignant time to reflect on the last year, what I’ve learnt, and on the future.

I'm very fortunate to have a job that I love. I get to work in a sector, and with people, that I have tremendous respect for. Unlike many, I have never really had a day where I’ve woken up in the morning and not wanted to go to work. That is partly due to my own ambition, desire to develop, and love of hard work. But I got to a point in the middle of 2019 where I wanted more fulfilment, a new challenge and, importantly, more control. I was working for a good company, part of a hugely successful team, growing year-on-year, increasing headcount, never once missing a target, and part of a much larger and robust service group. But therein lies the challenge; being part of a much larger organisation meant we were playing to someone else’s tune, and the measure of success in their eyes didn’t align to mine.

I’ve always believed in a few simple truths for executive recruitment. Client and candidate experience being the most important factor. Operating with honesty, transparency, integrity and delivering personalised recruitment that truly makes a difference to the individual and positively impacts the organisation. In my mind, this is much easier to do in smaller, more bespoke organisations where shareholder value isn’t the only driver.

Integrity and passion are two driving values in my approach to life, whether that is work, family or sport. And I wanted to be part of something that gave me more control of my life, enabled me to question and challenge the relationship we have with work, and allowed me to try new things and play with new ideas. Again, being part of a smaller, more bespoke organisation allows you to do this. But it is also about the mindset of your colleagues and working with people that share the same passion for challenging norms and thinking differently.

The more I thought about what I wanted from my career and life, the more important these things became. And it seemed the right time to make a change. So, with the confidence that comes from ignorance, I handed my notice in and got into bed with a former colleague, David Weir. Only it wasn’t ignorance, and it did not feel like a risk to me.

David had set up Tile Hill in 2017 with a clear ambition to build an executive recruitment business that would focus on identifying leadership that delivers. Thoughtful, personalised recruitment that made a lasting impression on the candidate and client. It was the natural step to partner with David. Not only were we good friends but we also shared similar passions, and our goals were aligned.

What has the last year felt like?

A year on, and I honestly could not tell you where the time has gone. I’ve never worked so hard for so long, but I’ve also never been this fulfilled and satisfied with work. My wife comments on a noticeable difference in my happiness and whilst she now has a very good relationship with the back of my laptop, she knows that this is not forever and it offers us freedom in how and where I work, and how work fits around our family life in the future.

What has made the difference is the emotional and physical connection to work when you're doing it for yourself, and in partnership with someone you care about. You do not resent the hard work, you do it because it is important, and because you are choosing to do it. No matter how menial the task, it is for the greater good and you appreciate this; a feeling that we want to create for anyone that joins Tile Hill. 

The last year has had many highs and lows, and I now share more empathy with the interim managers we work with. A shared understanding of what it is like to go from a world where your diary is planned for you and your day is spent in meetings, to one where you have more control over what you do in a day and the type of work you take on; the fear of needing to make it a success, balanced with the excitement of being successful.

It has been hugely liberating as we build momentum along with the fulfilment that comes from creating something. Before long, you are flat out and reaping the rewards of the hard work you have put in. But flat out has a different meaning at Tile Hill. It is flat out pursuing what is important, and ensuring you are providing the right experience for people; that you are adding value in places that require it. 

I initially started with the bold ambition of recording my ‘outlook’ at the end of each day. I’ve enjoyed reading the journal entries I made in the first few months and it has given me a renewed sense of purpose. The entries of excitement because something relatively small, but equally important, happened. Or the entries of fear when things don’t go to plan and you question your decision and how it has exposed your loved ones. Or the feeling of frustration, anger, and determination when bigger companies throw their weight around and try to restrict and limit your ambition.  

My learnings

Stepping back and looking at the entirety of the last year, it has given me everything I had hoped: passion, control, and the ability to work with someone to create a company that values customer experience and celebrates doing the right thing. It has also been an incredible year of learning and I’ve summarised some of those below:

  • Create value for others first, and the rest will happen.
  • Aim for what you want to create rather than aiming to avoid failure.
  • Nice people can succeed, and the majority of people want to help you succeed as a result of this.  
  • Your way of thinking and doing things is never the only way. And we should look for learning in the most obscure of places and be open to challenging our thinking.
  • Trust in the process and plan. It might not feel like it is working when you are in the trench, but by trusting the process it will all come good.
  • Celebrate the joy that comes from operating without restrictions and structure and enjoy the fulfilment that comes from connecting people together.
  • There is plenty of space in our industry to work alongside other executive recruitment providers. We do not need to peddle negativity; we can all prosper by working positively.

These are all lessons that hold huge significance as the country deals with the impact of Covid-19. A deeply worrying and concerning time for us all. It is a time that will see many recruitment businesses struggle, and particularly those who do not have the financial backing of large institutions.  But this independence is what gives us freedom to innovate at Tile Hill, to make decisions that are right for our team, and to offer them the flexibility they need to protect their family.

Tile Hill will continue in its ambition to be courageous and entrepreneurial during this time. To focus on creating value for others and ensuring we are providing the right emotional support to the communities we support, and being on hand to help them in any way possible.

Coming out the other side of Covid-19, you will see Tile Hill continue in its ambition to provide personalised recruitment and to identify leadership that delivers. You will see us grow organically in numbers and in strength, and you will not see us growing in a way that conflicts with our values. We would welcome feedback from anyone who thinks we may be straying from this, or those who think we are doing the right thing.

We love what we do, and we are hugely excited about the future.

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