How often do you stop and reflect on the most important things you’ve learnt in your career?
I recently celebrated 12 years working for Arrows Group Global. When I joined the company in 2004, I was its first employee, working out of a small office in Clapham Common along with the two founders. Today, the company generates revenues of £100m+, has offices in London, Amsterdam and India and is in the top 20 in the Sunday Times Best Small Companies to Work For.
I have, unsurprisingly, seen a lot of changes, growth, successes and the odd miserable failure in that time. Here are my top six most valuable lessons I have learnt along the way.
1. Learn to embrace change
Change is one of life’s few certainties. Arrows Group has been through transformational change in the time I’ve worked there, evolving from a traditional recruitment business to a true consultancy.
My advice is to never see change as a roadblock and instead, try to act as a leader of change. Not every new idea has worked out. But, by approaching change with the right positive mindset, it has been easier to persuade others to follow and – when it has gone well – enjoy the results.
2. Celebrate your successes
A series of little (and big) victories have shaped and defined my career. I still remember the very first person I placed in detail. It was 50% skill and 50% luck and involved hours and hours of telephone calls (this was, after all, pre LinkedIn). It was a big moment for the business – the first deal by someone other than the two owners. I celebrated then, and I make sure I celebrate my teams’ successes now.
3. Nothing is more important than your people
One of the things I am most passionate about is helping people reach their potential. I am a huge believer in giving people the room and autonomy to be fulfilled – even if that means giving them some of the responsibilities I really enjoy myself. As a result, I have almost never had a superstar leave.
I have occasionally lost really good people because they needed something different at the time in their life. It is hard when great people go, but sometimes it is in their best interests. Then, the right thing to do is to support them on their way.
4. Joining a start-up is a recommended risk
Joining a new company, instead of a well-established business, is a gamble. I joined Arrows because I believed in the owners and their vision and I saw the growth opportunities. I can honestly say it is the best gamble I’ve ever taken.
If you want to be part of a business long-term, I would recommend joining a small growing company you can be an influencer in. There are of course flip sides – you meet more people in your industry in a big company and will probably have more structured training opportunities – but nothing takes away from pioneering something yourself.
5. Positivity and persistence are two of the most valuable personality traits
This is hardly new news, but positivity and persistence are really essential for success. Without a positive outlook, internally and externally, people won’t follow you. And persistence gets you through any setback. During the early stages of company growth, we all had to be persistent about getting out there and winning business. You can’t fall apart because of one bad month – you pick yourself up and get on with the next one.
6. What satisfies you in work evolves over time
When I first joined Arrows, I didn’t know what my career would be. I was attracted by sales and the opportunity to earn good money quickly. Today, my satisfaction comes from growing and developing business, instead of from short-term wins. I like to look year-by-year, not month-by-month.
I believe mindset and motivations change too. When I started, I worked 12-hour days or more every day. The camaraderie and energy made it worth every minute. The number of hours I work is no longer a big focus, though I still tend to do long days. I believe when people are busy counting hours, they’re missing the point of why they’re working. For me it’s about the things I want to achieve. It’s a true cliché to say you get out of work as much as you put in.
One thing that doesn’t change though: recognition. From a graduate to a director – it’s always appreciated when someone says well done. And it’s great to pass that on.
Charlie Sell is Global Director – Sales & Operations at Arrows Group International.
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