Simon Drake joined Recruitment Entrepreneur in late 2019 as Director of Investments and JV Acquisitions. Following a long and successful career in recruitment, this role marks a new chapter for him, whereby his focus is on sourcing RE’s next range of investments, both for start-ups and helping to scale existing recruitment businesses. We chat to him about what it takes to be successful in recruitment, working within the portfolio, and his plans for 2020.
What was your career prior to joining RE?
I started out in recruitment in 1994 and I quickly found that I was drawn to management and leadership responsibilities within the various businesses I worked for, becoming Divisional Managing Director running six companies within six years. Following that, I spent five years working as an independent consultant providing business strategy, turnaround, management consulting and various recruitment projects, before working on the leadership team for two highly successful AIM-listed recruitment groups.
What was your very first job?
I worked at a fruit and veg stall when I was around 14 before becoming an apprentice engineer.
What does your role at RE involve?
My job is really to find those people who have that ability to be a successful entrepreneur in the world of recruitment. What it comes down to is recognising and attracting really good talent and rising stars for the future with leadership talent for successfully creating and building recruitment businesses.
What do you think RE’s greatest strength is?
Its ability to help people be highly successful. That ability to recognise capability and talent but more so the ability to leverage entrepreneurs’ capabilities in working with us to get the best from them. It’s a true partnership of success.
What would your superpower be?
To take away people’s inhibitions and grow their self-belief and confidence more quickly.
What is the typical process that applicants go through to become a portfolio partner?
It’s quite simple – entrepreneurs contact us with an initial idea of their business and plans. We’re looking for certain key things at that stage and from that point we guide them through the process of producing an investible business plan where it’s a combined approach with the founder/owner and RE to create a highly successful business together.
If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be?
Be honest with yourself and always believe in yourself and stand by your convictions.
How did you come to join RE?
If you were stranded on a desert island, what one thing would you bring with you?
What’s the biggest milestone in your career so far?
I’ve been fortunate enough to have many highlights in my 26-year long career in recruitment. This role at RE is really exciting as it’s the opportunity to use that experience in a different way, helping people become entrepreneurs and helping entrepreneurs be successful.
What’s your ultimate dream job?
A cycling tour guide in the Alps.
What’s been a highlight of your time at RE so far?
Within three weeks of starting I had the pleasure of sitting on the panel at the Business Show Investment Den, hearing some wonderful pitches from existing and prospective entrepreneurs on their business ideas, concepts and ambitions. From that, we found one lead who might partner with one of our existing portfolio partners, and two who are currently in the process of getting investment from us. It was a really successful day, largely down to everyone who came and pitched.
In general, I thoroughly enjoy speaking to the hundreds of people who apply to us every month – sometimes with a business plan, sometimes just with a concept – and everything in between. It’s great to be part of that journey, giving them advice and helping them get to where they want to be in the long term.
What is the main thing you hope to achieve in life?
It’s always been the same – to create success and happiness. It comes in all shapes and sizes but that’s what it’s about, nothing else. Not just for me, but for others I work with, help and support.
What has surprised you most about the RE portfolio?
How eclectic it is. Within the founders and businesses which have come together under the RE brand there’s huge variety in terms of sector, approach, personalities and so on. The common thread is highly successful people.
What gets you out of bed in the morning?
A real passion for what I do; I’ve always loved my work and think recruitment is an amazing industry. It’s that drive to make a difference every day.
In your opinion, what makes a successful entrepreneur?
Somebody that has drive and ambition but balanced with the ability to build a team, listen and learn from themselves and others.
What’s your idea of a perfect holiday?
A skiing holiday with family and friends.
What’s your key piece of advice to those early in their recruitment career?
Be successful for yourself. Find ‘your way’ of being highly successful, be true to that and always win the relationship, not the job.
What tool, object or ritual could you not live without in your workday?
Coffee and my to-do list.
What do you always look for in someone applying for investment?
There’s a whole range of things but my hygiene factors are ambition, drive and the ability to push through barriers and objections and somebody who has that ability to learn and develop as an individual and leader – there are so many pitfalls and issues along the way that you have to overcome, so you have to be resilient and be willing to challenge yourself as well as others to be successful.
What’s your goal for 2020?
I have ambitions around really growing the portfolio and creating the next phase of really exciting entrepreneurs to join the portfolio and continue the success of the business.
What mantra do you try to live by?
Treat others as you would want to be treated yourself. Also, that leadership is about finding a way to help others to be the best version of themselves.
What advice would you give to someone applying for investment?
Be ambitious but honest; be considered and robust; keep your promises; evidence your capabilities. Most of all, capture your purpose and vision and create a chemistry.