Together is definitely better - building an aspirational client portfolio

"Together is better" and this reminded me of our love for Simon Sinek at a time when we were debating the purpose of our business!

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These last two weeks have been fantastic, eye opening, refreshing, motivating and have justified a brave move we made a few years ago.

During the last fortnight, we have been travelling around the UK and Europe to meet a number of new and existing clients to review our on-going partnerships whilst starting others.

The common thread through all the meetings was that "Together is better" and this reminded me of our love for Simon Sinek at a time when we were debating the purpose of our business! One client loved the idea so much that they have the strapline embedded into their culture and everything they do! I would highly recommend that you read Simon's book if you haven't already. Anyway.........

Around 4 years ago we decided to make a brave change at Collingwood. Our business was booming but we recognised that our purpose was financially focused and, we were honest enough to admit that we were taking on assignments and clients that we weren't enjoying! Our projects were not in our area of expertise and our clients didn't really want to retain and invest in our executive search service but, because they couldn't find the key talent they needed through any other route, they felt forced to work with us! Not a great start to a relationship.

We sat down as a team and agreed that we only wanted to work with aspirational clients. After lots of debates, and by collaborating with an amazingly creative and thought provoking marketing agency, who had already found their clear purpose, we developed our "Guiding Principles". This set out what an aspirational client would look and feel like to work with. At the centre of it was a business that truly valued its employees and customers. It operated through a set of core values which included high ethics and integrity. It also included a considerable appetite to develop honest, innovative and creative collaborative partnerships, a long way from the transactional ones that you tend to find in recruitment. We had a huge appetite to work with clients that we would look forward to meeting and sharing good and difficult times with. Ones that wanted us as part of their team, to recruit outstanding talent that would align behaviourally to their engaging cultures that would also provide career paths that they sought.

At the time we didn't know if this was achievable but we had a clear purpose, a clear vision and now a clear understanding of an aspirational client.

The first 12 months were tough. Companies were knocking on our door all the time but we were brave enough to assess them, and when they didn't meet our guiding principles we turned them away. It sounds arrogant when I write this down but the fact is that if they were not right for us then Collingwood probably was not right for them either. Since then, new aspirational clients have been like a magnet and we feel very proud of our client portfolio now.

Our collaborative partnerships and open communications mean we respect one another, challenge each other and, as a result, achieve some amazing results together. We don't expect perfection all the time and work hard to improve one another. We have aligned objectives and work together to achieve them.

Not only has our brave move impacted our client portfolio but it has also ensured that we stayed true to what an aspirational employee also looks like. Right now we have an amazing team where we look out, support and care for one another. I feel very fortunate and grateful to be part of this team.

Looking back I forget the bumpy road that we've been on but together is definitely better!! Go on, give it a try.

About the author
Doug Mackay
5 min read

Having started his career in Executive Search in 1998, Doug set up Collingwood in 2005 alongside his wife, Claire Mackay.

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