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Founders Talk (2/3): NextWave Today

Posted 10 months ago by Louison Cassarino

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Four years after the start of NextWave Partners, the Founders - Alex Bacciarelli and Adam Wade, take stock and discuss the past, present, and future of the company.
Second of a 3 part series, in this second interview they address the current state of NextWave, its culture and the challenges they are tackling at the moment. 

How is NextWave doing now as a business and a brand?

Adam: Not the most objective feedback as the company is our baby, but I think we’re doing great. Internally, the brand is quite strong. Everyone is on the same boat and they know what we are about. In terms of outside feedback, I know that our competitors tend to see us as young and hungry with a nimble approach to typical recruitment strategies

Alex: With the business being over 23 people now, with a focus on Energy and Technology, we’re aiming at being the leading specialist and most competitive recruitment company in the region. We are definitely on the right track in that sense. We are increasingly recognised as a brand, getting regularly referred and contacted by actors in the market, this is hugely rewarding. We tend to get a lot of repeat business, so we must be doing something right for them.

What excites you about the business right now?

Adam: For me, it’s definitely the emerging leaders in the business and seeing them step up on the trajectory from consultants to team leaders. On top of that, the contract recruitment business unit is something I look forward to developing. As a traditional perm business, rolling contract services to new and existing clients will be a game-changer.

Alex: On my end, it’s the creation of a truly international footprint and putting people on the ground in the regions that we cover. It’s really exciting to see how we can establish our brand sustainably overseas with the US office recently opened to really capture the market there. Ultimately, it’s exciting to see what others within the team are doing with the business to grow it. There are a number of individuals making waves in the market by taking on larger projects, providing innovative solutions and growing hiring into their own teams. They are really leading the way and it’s especially interesting to witness that.

What are your priorities for NextWave in the short-term?

Adam: The big one would be Finance and Operations. We’re at a size now that we have to run a slick back-office. One of the number one priorities for our growth is to refine and improve that part.

Alex: We really want to enable the consultants to focus on their strengths through generating revenues and creating sustainable desks without having to manage the back-office pieces.
Growing the contract service line is a key priority too. We have a dedicated team focused on this area who have extensive knowledge to provide this service to our clients as well as upskilling the rest of our organisation to develop and pitch these solutions.

Biggest doesn’t necessarily mean best. Growing a recruitment business successfully needs to be done in a sustainable manner, enabling others to eventually grow it with us.

How would you describe a NextWaver and the culture in the room?

Adam: Everyone here is all within the same tree trunk. There might be different branches but if we look at the culture everyone is quite motivated and hold each other accountable to high-performance standards. We like to have fun and strike the “work hard, play hard” balance as it’s quite a young culture with a fair bit of energy and excitement. However, there’s also a mature element with everyone taking recruitment and progressing their career seriously.

Alex: We like to have a laugh from time to time but not at the expense of achieving our goals. That’s one of the things that makes it a special place to work. We are like a family, enjoying time with each other outside of work and there is a real camaraderie with a sense of belonging. We want to provide a good service to our clients because we know our colleagues might be working with them too, and it’s all about creating a brand together. 
From a cultural standpoint, although we started with two people - clear values were hugely important. With the increase in the size of company and new joiners we are looking to strengthen our culture not just maintain it. Everyone brings different elements, but as a whole these different dynamics make us a lot stronger.

What lesson have you learned in the past year being part of NextWave?

Adam: Mainly that you don’t have to pick up shiny objects; meaning you don’t have to hire everyone. Just because you know that a candidate could generate revenue and tack on to the business isn’t enough. A new hire needs to be an investment aligned with our values and be strategic rather than prompted by the fear of missing out. I learned that I will meet consultants along the way, with a high potential to do a great job somewhere else but I can confidently walk out with the certainty that it wouldn’t work out for us, because the investment isn’t in line with our vision.
Other than that, I learned that we needed to stop and take stock along the way. In the early days, we were always on to the next thing when we could have taken the time to celebrate the small wins. It’s been a great journey so far but even more so today it’s important to celebrate things as and when they come.

Alex: For me, it’s biggest doesn’t necessarily mean best. Growing a recruitment business successfully needs to be done in a sustainable manner, enabling others to eventually grow it with us, together. The cultural aspect is especially important in that sense because we need people to have the right attitude and personality to drive the business forward. I think we have been lucky to attract consultants who have turned into trusted friends today, I also know that it wasn’t all about luck but down to a clear vision of where we are going and what we want to achieve. 
I’ve also learned to be patient and to give other people the room to shine. As an entrepreneur, you can’t help but want to get involved and help all the time. However, we wanted to create a space to enable consultants to try things, sometimes fail but ultimately cultivate a growth mindset as a result of that. 

What do you think NextWave could do better at? What are you doing to bridge that gap?

Adam: I think we could do better at making strategic and well thought-out decisions in general and maybe not be in such a rush, whether that is a hire or opening new offices. Thankfully Alex is very good at this but that is something we need to improve as we move forward.

Alex: I think what we can do better at building a stronger online brand and putting out more content to reach and grow our network, passing some gems back along the way, whether that is information about the industry or about recruitment in general. We are taking positive steps in that direction with more visibility online and that’s something I am personally looking forward to.

What challenges are you tackling at the moment?

Adam: At the moment, the financial management and operational aspects of the business are keeping Alex and I up at night. We know how to build a recruitment business attractive to clients and candidates but we are not accountants. We are currently addressing it through recently hiring in a specialist finance manager and by working with an advisor who is fantastic, but that side has been a real headache for us.

Alex: We are moving from being a smaller business where we have been heavily involved in all parts to a mid-sized organisation where we are able to bring on talents to take challenging areas into their own hands which allows us to focus on our own strengths and growing the business in other ways.

The speed of making decisions and executing them, that would be our key differentiator. If we see an opportunity, we move very quickly to capitalise and capture the value we have identified, whether creating a business unit or going on business trips .

What are you particularly proud of, as a NextWave founder?

Alex: The first thing I was particularly proud of was winning our first retained assignment, which came into the business at the end of our very first year of operation. It was a huge moment for the business and the fact they trusted us enough and above our competitors showed that our service offering was top notch and that we were making a dent in the energy recruitment landscape.
This year, I was particularly proud of the collective step-up in all of our different teams, with leaders focusing on actioning development by putting in the time to upskill others around them and creating a culture that is stronger than it has ever been before. Seeing a consultant on a call collaborating with a colleague or providing valued insights during training, living and breathing our values and knowing that it came about organically, is a proud moment for me.

Adam: I’m personally proud of the talent attraction our team leaders are able to achieve, allowing quality hires to come into the business, and leading our growth.
Without having Alex or me involved, we have been able to attract high potential individuals with our brand and the aura of our current consultants. The structure in place is now enabling the business to grow without us having to lift a finger in that regard.

What do you think sets NextWave apart on the recruitment market today?

Adam: Speed. The speed of making decisions and executing them, that would be our key differentiator. If we see an opportunity, we move very quickly to capitalise and capture the value we have identified, whether creating a business unit or going on business trips and meetings.

Alex: Being viewed as a partner rather than a transactional recruiter. Our consultants are able to hold high level strategic conversations with clients, about entering new markets or giving them more visibility for decision making in general. That is something that a lot of our clients tend to value and we enjoy talking about because we care about the helping the industries we serve progress beyond placing candidates into jobs alone.
Our consultants are active contributers to their markets, making impacts through working with NGOs and connecting players for the greater good above and beyond recruitment norms.

What are your sources of inspiration to continue fueling the growth of the business?

Adam: What fuels me to keep growing as a business is my competitive drive - I do not want to be beaten to the punch. That fuels the service delivered to our clients, our candidates and wanting to be best in class. As long as we continuously stay involved and immersed in our sphere of influence, we are becoming the go-to partner when it comes to market knowledge as well as recruitment services.  

Alex: ​From my point of view, NextWave is all about working within industries that are ahead of the curve and a big part of that is getting into those markets early to capture them on the up. We are starting to be identified as that type of agency in Asia but it's important that we maintain the momentum to capture the same markets in other parts of the world as well as new markets. I am fuelled by creating a maximal impact and planting our flag in the ground as a market leader.