Oscar Wilde once said; “With age comes wisdom, but sometimes age comes alone.” And how relevant this is, so many years on…
It doesn’t seem such a surprise now that younger people are advancing in their careers so quickly. Yet the barrier of which can, arguably, be ‘lack of experience.’ This is something quite consistently faced within the automotive industry. But what if someone lacking experience obtains many of the skills needed for the task at hand?
When fresh-faced seventeen-year-old Freddie Keyworth was busy serving tables at Chewton Glen Country House Hotel; little did he know his natural charisma and people skills would kick-start his future career… resulting in him becoming one of the youngest client relationship managers within the executive search industry. Four years on, we’ve caught up with Freddie to gain an insight into how he tackles talent spotting from a head-hunter’s perspective and how he’s homed in on skills for the future.
How did you get into executive search?
It’s now a bit of a funny story how Ennis & Co’s founder, Lynda Ennis, took a chance and offered me the opportunity to join her company after I’d waited on her table while she celebrated her birthday. That night, I found her party of friends and family charming and such a great laugh (one of those tables you’re happy to go the extra mile for). I think with some people, there is just an instant connection and they collared me after the meal, encouraged me to send them my CV… which I did (at around 3am, after a closing shift, as you do) and the rest, as they say, is history. I have now been with Ennis & Co for almost half of the time they have been operating; which makes me feel like part of the furniture. Over the years, I have been involved in the successful placement of a range of senior roles, delivered talks to hundreds of CEOs and HR Directors within the automotive industry and met clients and secured new relationships from across the globe.
How do you view the industry now?
I don’t want to harp on about my age, but it has been a definite learning curve being a ‘young buck’ in the industry, having started out aged seventeen. Most senior roles within the industry are filled by people that have been working in the automotive sector for years, so I’ll constantly be meeting older clients and candidates. What usually strikes me is that I’ll be wondering whether they are weighing up my expertise in the field judging by my age – but more often than not, they just want to assess what you know , and not the year you were born, or if you remember what the number one single at the end of 1985 was. If they can see that you are knowledgeable and confident in the area you specialise in… the concept of age seems to melt away. I do think the industry has shifted in a sense that we’re now heading towards a great deal more roles involving more technological knowledge – which usually brings with it a lot of apprentices or university graduates specialising in this field. Often, they would have completed their further education straight from school… so they’re usually entering the industry at a young age, too.
What challenges do you face with executive search?
Passive candidate search is always a rollercoaster. Over the years I have encountered so many kinds of candidates and I think the most important aspects of the approach are clarity, building a great rapport and making sure the research is completed with as much detail as possible. I mean clarity in the sense that the candidate knows as much as possible about the role in question. I try and make sure I’m armed with all the possible responses or questions I could receive from the potential candidate so it’s as clear as can be. I try and schedule my calls with extra time so I can go over any further details; as some candidates will have an extensive list! Building rapport comes quite easily to me (blowing my own trumpet here), yet it can be difficult when candidates give very little away. I’ve spoken to enough people to understand the initial reluctance at times but trying to ascertain a common ground and proving I’ve tried to understand what drives and motivates them is a start.
What is your greatest strength?
I think with this kind of role; resilience is so important. There will be knock-backs and curve balls thrown left right and centre, and, for me, it’s having learned to deal with them and move on that has made me the way I am today. So, I’d say resilience and also, thinking on my feet!
What advice would you give those wanting to become a client relationship manager?
My role is a bit of a ‘hybrid’ as I manage accounts, but also work on business development. The account management side is all about the relationship management, being organised in terms of catch up meetings and reviews and being at the ‘forefront’ of the client’s mind. The BD side is, again, centred around being organised. It’s also about keeping up with the trends within the sector, who the movers and shakers of the industry are… and always seeking new opportunities. You always have to pick up the phone – emails are often too slow in this line of work! So, my advice would be to focus on your customer service and communication skills, be as organised as you possibly can and be tenacious – because not everyone will pick up the phone on the first ring.
I’m still on such a ‘developmental’ journey with my role and what this has brought with it is the strengthening of my aspirations. Having started out after school and college with very little clue what I wanted to do, I feel like I’ve finally found my calling and have a great deal more to give with Ennis & Co. I’m excited to see what the future unfolds here, in so many different ways. All I can give away right now is that the dream has no limits… so watch this space.