Growth and development is part of SThree’s DNA and the new Head of the organisation’s UK and Ireland Operations, Mike Walker, believes the region is perfectly placed to take advantage of both. To date, the UK has been the largest contributor to SThree’s revenue and is a key part of the company’s future.
“We have spent a lot of time talking about our growth internationally in places like Germany and America, but we've never lost focus on our UK offering and we're well placed to build on our strong presence here.”
Career progression at SThree
Mike joined SThree Specialist Brand Huxley as a trainee in 1997 after a stint working in sales. He moved quickly through the ranks and started his first regional office in Birmingham in September 2001 - rapid career progression that he puts down to being surrounded by an inspirational leadership team including SThree CEO Gary Elden, who was then Managing Director of Huxley.
“I had a lot of time with Gary who is a motivational guy, so I think I was schooled well.
“From day one we had a really strong client and candidate strategy. We looked after both and in doing so we built a strong brand reputation in the marketplace. Huxley was in a good growth stage so when the opportunity arose to set up a regional office, I grabbed it and based on these important principles I was confident I could apply them to the role and build a successful business.”
Growth despite the dot.com bubble
The timing of the Birmingham move proved a major challenge - the IT market was still reeling after the collapse of the dot.com bubble and the world was in shock over 9/11. But Mike spotted an opportunity in a different sector in the Midlands.
“I’d noticed we were going to a lot of engineering and manufacturing companies around the Midlands and that we were picking up [IT recruitment] work. There was clearly a lot of engineering work as well.”
He put a plan together and convinced the company’s senior executives to back the idea to start up an engineering division.
“It was a very hard first year, trying to keep IT going and building up engineering but it took off because we had very strong clients and candidates. This took the office to another level and boosted staff confidence while creating a strong blueprint for the rest of the business. Engineering was spun out across SThree and provided a platform for other sectors.”
Further growth on the horizon
Mike built on his success with engineering and helped the company diversify into new areas including oil and gas, power renewables and sales, and was made Director in 2005 followed by Managing Director in 2012.
In his role as Managing Partner of SThree’s UK and Ireland operation, Mike is in charge of core sectors including ICT, pharma, engineering, energy and banking, with 550 sales staff.
Mike is keen to take the UK back to its pre-recession heights: “The UK, certainly up until 2008, was a massive contributor, and we are probably about 60% back to where we were before the downturn. I want to get us back to those levels, and I think we can do that in 3 to 4 years,” he says.
“We work in some progressive and exciting sectors now and most importantly have a very strong management infrastructure which means we can grow.”
A focus on our people
Mike believes that having the right strategies in place is very important. However, having the right people progress through the ranks truly determines the success of a business.
“As a company we are very open to learning and improving because, to us, the most important part of our business is our people. It is so important that we develop very strong [employees] so we can continue to build the business but also build a strong platform and ensure people have exciting careers.
“It’s not just about your revenue. When we bring people through we make sure they have the right competencies to become good leaders. Training is obviously very important. I still receive training myself.”
What would he say to a young person beginning their career at SThree? “Work hard. I don’t think there’s any substitute for that. Work hard, work smart, and learn from others because you’re in a workplace surrounded by talented people.”
He adds: “There’s also something that you should have as an abiding principle for clients and candidates: you are only as good as the service you give them. If you always work hard and think like that, you’ll have a very rewarding career.”
To gain more insight into the career opportunities we offer in the UK and Ireland, browse our dedicated Country Page.