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Founders Talk (3/3): NextWave in the Future

Posted 9 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.

Last of 3 part series, in this third interview they explore the NextWave vision, its X-factor for growth and the investment into employee development. 

What is the plan for NextWave in the next 10 years?

Adam: Our big plan is two-fold. We talk about being best in class, but what it actually means is to be covering every time zone: Europe, Americas, and APAC; both in Energy and Technology as well as running a Contract revenue line through every one of those hubs. We want to become a corporation rather than a simple headhunting firm. Ideally, we would target headcount of 60 or so people over the next 5 years.
Along the road, we also look to attract an investor to take us to the next level and continue growing. So in the midterm, we want to set up the business to be a really attractive investment for someone and continue building our global growth

Alex: We want to stay super focused; successfully operating in only the most attractive markets, by really owning and dominating those particular markets rather than diversifying too much. Beyond that, our priority is to enable and develop our current teams to expand and set up new offices, while hiring high potential individuals along the way to staff our different upcoming offices.

What avenues would you like the business to explore?

Adam: One avenue we found interesting is Psychometric testing (personality profiling used by companies to improve personal strengths insights). It could be a service offering that can tack on to the business and we are currently exploring it. Above and beyond recruitment, it is touching more on organisational psychology to offer our clients more than they might get elsewhere.

Alex: There’s an increasing number of recruitment businesses coming into the market and it’s important that we differentiate ourselves, providing services as more of a partnership rather than the typical transactional service. We want to further strengthen what we are already doing, capture more of the markets we are already covering and stay ahead in up and coming countries we are entering. Part of staying ahead of our competitors will be added services but part of this will also be putting boots on the ground and being closer to some of the markets in which we operate like Japan, Australia, and the UK.

We don’t want to be the biggest firm, we want to be the best, and maximising everyone’s intelligence throughout the room will be our most effective strategy. 

What do you think will drive the business’s success?

Adam: It will be a combination of an expanding culture, the right strategy, and the execution of both. We say the culture eats strategy for breakfast, so if we get that part right and execute it well, we will be set up. But it all comes down from the people within the business.

Alex: I think there are 5 key areas: People are the first one, with hiring potential but also investing in the employees who are already with us to multiply around them. Processes are the second; high quality is already something we seek but we also want to improve our standards year on year. Thirdly, the culture is one of the most important parts, as we start to grow globally, some challenges may come about but a strong sense of purpose will be able to glue everyone together. Execution and disciplined action will be the fourth. Finally, the fifth area will be performance, holding everyone accountable both in an upward and downward manner so we can all help pull together to achieve our goals.

What are your priorities regarding the NWP people’s growth?

Adam: Simply people realising their potential and us unlocking that from them. Our hiring strategy has always been around identifying high potentials and capabilities over experience. When we find those people with the right cultural fit, it’s important that we drag that potential out of them and help them realise it. You can gain experience but you can’t teach motivation, passion, and acumen. We flip the hiring funnel upside down in that regard, so the responsibility is on us to take hires through the development curve and they reach their potential.
We don’t want to be the biggest firm, we want to be the best, and maximising everyone’s intelligence throughout the room will be our most effective strategy. 

Alex: I think with the business growing fast, it’s easy to fall into the trap of focusing on the next thing for the business rather than taking a bigger picture of where our employees want to be in the next few years since they will be driving it. Sometimes, they can’t see the routes towards their goals and if we can help to fill in the blanks, coaching them along the way, we know we’re doing a good job. This will come through listening and continuously asking questions so we are on the same page with clear goals for the individual but also to lead the company accordingly.
We also place a high priority on leadership and empowering future leaders as we grow because they will be in charge of shaping the next wave of employees

What do you think will be the X-factor for NextWave to attract new talents and continue growing? 

Adam: It will be the story and the people who make NextWave, from the moment they join to where they are in their career now. It’s not a coincidence that the majority of our new joiners have seen their career accelerate quickly and are given more responsibility than they would get anywhere else regardless of age or years of experience. And those people act as a catalyst to attract new talents to work with them and be part of that story. We talk about “if you’re good enough, you’re old enough” so we would love to see some young directors head up our offices across the world, whereas in some other business they would have just been a cog in the wheel. 

What challenges can you foresee during the expansion of the business? 

Alex: Our main challenge will be replicating what we have here in our HQ away from the hub. It will come down to the hiring process and the development of our employees to multiply our culture across locations. And hopefully we will end up strengthening our presence rather than just a copy and paste what we have in Singapore. 

Adam: On my part, I see the back office to be a big foreseeable challenge for the business. We will need to have a strong streamlined back office to grow sustainably and support our consultants. And those bits are quite difficult at the moment but they are being addressed. 

We are all about getting behind people’s life plans, and I think that is the biggest investment that we can do to change the life of a NextWave employee. 

What are the things you would like to preserve as the company gets bigger?

Adam: At the risk of repeating myself, the culture and the ability to attract big players would be the highest priority. But we also want to preserve our reputation. You hear many horror stories of recruitment agencies growing so big that they stop caring about the service they provide at all levels to their clients or they stop servicing in a tailored way. Right now our reputation is positive, I’d certainly want to preserve our perception on the market as an elite, quality agency. 

Alex: On my end, I’d really like to preserve our attrition rate, which has always been very low. This has been a huge differentiator and will continue to be for the business. We have been able to retain staff and knowledge, building off the back of their learning curve. If we can keep it that way, it will be a significant enabler for our growth.
Regarding our values, building on our collaborative culture, preserving the constant flow of discussion and the exchanges happening between the consultants - no matter their specialisation - will be key to our success across all geographies as we grow bigger.

What are the improvements you would like to make to the company’s culture and its growth? 

Alex: I think that has always been an organic piece driven by the desires and ambitions of the people in the room. In terms of the culture, I’d say raising the external visibility of it in markets we have spent less time in is something we are working on - internally the culture is incredibly strong, but it isn’t as visible at the moment to our new customers and potential new talents. A big part of that will go through our online presence and our actions on the market speaking to clients and candidates. 

Adam: On my end, I see some improvements on the part of accountability. Particularly as we continue our growth trajectory, it’s important that one and each consultant take things into their own hands and drive accountability through their teams. 
Let’s grow a real high-functioning business where people step outside their comfort zone rather than a plain recruitment consultancy.

What investments do you think will make a difference in the life of a NextWave employee?

Adam: Training is the obvious one and will continue to make a big difference. The other one is continuing to invest in our nimble abilities carving out career paths around our people. We have people with us who have ambitions outside of recruitment and as we see them as high potential we’d like to retain. So we still want to invest in their career paths. The investment is not always money per say, but trust and support before everything. Outside of all the tools we provide to our consultants, the holidays and all the other soft pieces, we are all about getting behind people’s life plans. And I think that is the biggest investment that we can do to change the life of a NextWave employee. 

Alex: For us, it’s also important to involve our people in our growth story and share the benefits together. We’ve put in place a long term incentive plan, to reward the employees who help grow the business with a part in our equity scheme, giving the high-performers a real sense of buy-in to build our future. 

What are you personally looking forward to here at NWP?

Adam: I will get a lot of fulfillment out of seeing people realising their potential. Sometimes it’s a difficult position to be in, trying to push and extract as much as possible from our consultants - but I personally find it the most rewarding benefit of being a leader. 

Alex: ​We are still a relatively young company and some people we have in the room today will be the company’s leaders of tomorrow. I’m excited to see them step up as managers and nurture the teams that they have built, seeing their team members step up the ladder in turn. Witnessing someone excel that has been trained by someone else within the business and for them to experience high trajectory growth is one of the things I look forward to seeing the most as we scale up.