From professional sport to premium recruitment

An interview with the Founding Director of Williams Munroe, Phil Evans on why he moved careers and his motivation to set up his own recruitment consultancy.

What were you doing before you set up Williams Munroe?

Before I got into recruitment, I spent eight years working in the world of professional sport, first as a rugby coach and then later in performance consultancy. I was fortunate enough to learn from some world class athletes and world cup winning coaches from different teams and sports all over the world. I guess that's where my philosophy on business came from - ultimately, it's looking at how to make people and processes better, as well as being clear from the start about what success looks like and how to sustain it long-term. 

As I progressed within the industry, I started working more with elite athletes and sporting bodies, managing talent and developing those with potential into international level competitors. The lessons and models we used to achieve that piqued the interest of a few companies, and I began to work with them to enhance their culture and structure and helping them examine how they could get the best out of their own teams. 

AS my wife puts it, it was time for me to 'grew-up and get a proper job' so I made the move full time into the corporate world, helping businesses who wanted to do better. This focused primarily on people solutions - how to find the best people, bring them into a business, and then bring out the best in them. For me, that's what recruitment consultancy should be about.

Why did you choose to go it alone? 

I had worked with recruitment businesses previously before moving full time into a London consultancy. They were great, yet it quickly became apparent to me that the sector was quite stale and rigid in its approach, and more outdated to what I was expecting. To me, it seemed the structure was based on what success looked like ten years ago, instead of reflecting how people want to work now. Many of the larger companies don't appear to have adapted to changing preferences, or implemented modern coaching techniques with their own employees.

Also, many opportunities within businesses were were being missed as a lot of people weren't achieving their full potential. That didn't marry up to my philosophy of how things should be done, so it was a no-brainer to set up on my own. 

The deciding factor

I was having a coffee with a CFO I was looking to place. She told me that my approach was unique an unlike others she'd come across before. She challenged me as to why I was working for someone else and not doing it on my own.
That's when I started thinking seriously about starting Williams Munroe. 

I've learnt so many lessons about being an entrepreneur, in a relatively short amount of time. Having support and investment from Recruitment Entrepreneur has rapidly enhanced the learning curve.

When you work for yourself you need to regularly take a step back and reflect on your performance and your own strengths and development areas, as you would an employee. Even if I could go back to a couple of weeks ago, there would be things I'd do differently.
You can't do everything; you need to surround yourself with people who have different strengths, who challenge you on a daily basis, and who inspire you to do better.   

What sets Williams Munroe apart from its competitors?

I didn't do a huge amount of competitor analysis because I wanted to start something that was aligned purely with my vision of what success looks like in this industry and sector. If you make the decision of trying to do something differently, you need to start with a blank page. Otherwise you are inevitably moving in the shadow of someone else's approach. 

The most common feedback we get from candidates and clients is the level of detail we put in. I would hazard a guess that we say "No" more than any other business in our sector; if we don't think we can add value, we won't work with them. 

Lots of companies sell themselves on their 'speed'. While fast turnaround is an important part of quality, it doesn't necessarily equal quality. Our model of success is aimed at doing repeat business with companies and knowing people inside out. We go much deeper in post-placement support than anyone else I know. The word consultative is banded around a lot but we really do take the time to understand what our clients need and why they need it; we're not afraid to challenge them. We have the same approach with our candidates. We challenge them on what they are looking for and help them map the market and make informed decisions about their career. 

What is the biggest challenge of sourcing talent in accountancy?

It's a challenging sector because it's highly skilled due to economic trends and circumstances. Over the last ten years, there's a real gap in the number of people who can fill what clients need. Typically, our candidates will be sought after by five or six companies at one time. The difficulty therefore is really engaging with the candidate and representing our client to the best of our ability, which requires real consultancy. We offer a non-varying customer service experience , which means a graduate looking for their first training contract will receive the same level of service as a partner looking to move - it's all about the person first and foremost.  

Creating a company culture

I want to build an environment that attracts the very best. I want to work with people who crave the freedom to express their own vision, that want to innovate and share new ideas and approaches. I love looking at the models of successful 'disruptive' companies and their approach to talent management.
There is an opportunity here to be part of something special and to challenge the more traditional names in the sector. I know that clients are crying out for something new. It's easy to throw out trigger words but at the core of it, I want a culture that's constantly changing and reflects the people who work here.
I anticipate what that will look like is a business that offers real integrity and intellect to our clients and candidates.   

What Williams Munro offers consultants

We understand what drives everyone is different. My initial observations of recruitment as a sector to work in is similar to my thoughts of its wider failings, in that it is often an incredibly rigid framework. 'One size fits all' rarely works well. Whilst some people might do well in that environment, I think a lot of potential and motivation is lost. We're incredibly flexible and bespoke, whether that be flexible working hours or or people taking ownership over building up a sector within the business. 

We are entrepreneurial, innovative and technology driven. What works for one of our consultants might not work for another. We will tailor any role to bring out the best of the individual so that everyone wins. 

Coming from a sports coaching background, I want to understand what someone's good at and help make them exceptional at it. Constantly monitoring KPI's doesn't interest me at all - what I'm interested in is; partnership, sharing responsibility and accountability and then sharing the rewards that success brings.