Robert Thesiger’s career in recruitment and executive search spans over two decades, the majority of which were spent in CEO positions with leading firms throughout the UK and internationally. Having recently assumed the position of Non-Executive Director for Fraser Dove International, we talk with Robert about executive search; it’s future and his plans going forward.
“Like most people of my generation, I fell into recruitment in the early ’90s and worked my way up by working incredibly hard. I started out with a UK centric recruitment business which offered contingent recruitment services within financial services and Commerce and Industry”.
After 5 years, Robert assumed a Director level role with Morgan McKinley – a specialist recruitment consultancy focussed on accounting and finance. Within 3 years, Robert assumed the role of Chief Executive Officer. Over the next 10 years, Robert ran and successfully sold a Private equity-backed business and a public company accumulating c.£100m combined valuations. On exiting the public company and enjoying some time off, Robert founded his own consultancy The FISER Group encompassing the brands: BRUIN Financial, IBAM Consulting and LUDGATE Search.
6 years after launching The FISER Group, Robert successfully orchestrated a MBO leading to him exiting the business in early 2017. Robert then spent the next 18 months renovating an 18th-century French chateau and building a business in the Dordogne region of France. During this time Robert acted as an advisor to Joseph and Thomas on an unofficial basis before Joseph Brown and Thomas Dove approached Robert for the position of Non-Executive Director at Fraser Dove International in mid-2018.
“I would say my greatest achievement to date is that I am one of only a handful of people that have built, run and sold a private recruitment company, a public recruitment company and a private equity-backed recruitment company.”
What is Executive Search and what benefits does it bring?
“So let me begin with my definition of executive search. Also known as search and selection or headhunting, executive search is an exclusive partnership between consultant and client designed to unearth, qualify and deliver business-critical specialist, senior-level or executive hires quickly.
Executive search differs from contingent recruitment in many key areas, not least the relationship between executive search firm and client. In that sense, recruitment is more akin to a relationship whereas executive search is more like a partnership which stands the test of time.
Let me elaborate on this further. In a recruitment relationship, you can wake up one morning having made a mistake – and mishaps do happen – and your client says, “you messed up. We’re not going to use any more”. You see, there are thousands of recruiters vying for your client’s attention, and you’re in a contingency relationship; there is no wedded commitment.
In a marriage, because you have a deep-rooted retained partnership, you talk through the issues and resolve them accordingly. But also in a partnership, your understanding of each other is far greater, and therefore you can give each other exactly what you want.
What this means is that leading executive search firms take the time to discover exactly what the client wants in their next executive-level hire so they can qualify the candidates against these strict criteria. This includes personality profiling and extends to the organisation’s mission and values – to help ensure cultural fit – and how the client wishes their executive search partner to represent them in the market – known in the industry as ‘go to market messaging’.
With their specialist industry knowledge, the executive search firm can advise the client on market conditions and realign expectations where appropriate. The client partner listens. They work together to find the best talent irrespective of their job search activity.“
How important is having Non-Executive support for company development?
“Having worked with several Non-Execs, I would say the role is vital to any established company who wishes to grow and prosper. Startups with sound financial backing also benefit enormously.
A Non-Executive Director (NED) provides independent, third-party entrepreneurial guidance to a company. In a market as saturated as recruitment and executive search, it is essential you differentiate yourself from your competition in both your branding and service offering to clients.
But entrepreneurial guidance is just the start. Non-Executive Directors are also expected to advise on the company’s strategic aims and help ensure it meets it’s obligations to shareholders. To this end, NEDs keep their fingers on the pulse of performance management, ensuring the company is making good progress towards its agreed goals and objectives.
The key is finding the right Non-Executive Director for your business; someone who can act as a sounding board to the leadership team; an individual who will challenge them and ensure they perform due diligence; somebody who can bring, particularly to private companies like Fraser Dove International , a degree of corporate governance into how the business is operated”.
What influenced you to take up a Non-Executive Director role with Fraser Dove?
“Primarily because of the people. In an executive search business, if you don’t have the right people, you don’t have a business. Not only are your people your most important asset, but they are key to growth, whether in sales, account management, marketing or operations. In 5 years, Fraser Dove International has created a sound platform for expansion and, with the right people and investment, the opportunities for growth in the executive search life science space are endless.
Between Thomas Dove and Joseph Brown – Fraser Dove’s leadership team – the greatest asset they have, aside from their intricate knowledge of life science executive search of course – is that they compliment each other. They are very different personalities with contrasting skill sets, and for a co-leadership team, it is very important that you do compliment each other rather than being clones. And within Fraser Dove’s employees are some very eager and ambitious individuals who have the values of the business embedded in them and are keen to grow and succeed.
Then there is the opportunity in the marketplace. There does not appear to be an executive search firm or recruiter dominating the life science recruitment or executive search market. For this reason, I believe the life science industry offers a sound platform, so there is no reason why Fraser Dove International cannot expand and become the #1 player.”
What are you looking to achieve from your time working with the board?
“My primary objective at Fraser Dove International is to ensure that value is created and sustained for the shareholders and stakeholders within the business. To this end, I aim to provide guidance and expertise to the management team, ensuring that Fraser Dove International is making steady progress towards meeting its agreed goals and objectives”.
If you could give your peers one bit of advice, what would it be?
“Work harder than anybody else. It’s that simple. Recruitment isn’t rocket science. Nor is executive search. But a lot of people believe you can enter the industry and it all happens. The key is to specialise, choose a niche, become a key opinion leader in that space, expand your customer network to cover both candidates and clients and be cleverer than your competition.”
About Robert Thesiger
A graduate of Exeter University and Cranfield Business School, Robert and has been in the executive search industry for over 25 years. To date, he is one of only a handful of talented professionals who have managed and sold a Venture Capital backed business, a Plc and a Startup.
Robert joined the FDI Board in 2018 to lend his extensive knowledge and expertise to Thomas Dove and Joseph Brown. Robert brings expertise in establishing international operations as well as proven entrepreneurial experience through founding and scaling his own successful business.
For more industry insight tailored to senior managers and executives in the life science industry…
- Read A Passion for Procurement – Interview with Dean Bennett.
- Visit our life science job board to start your job search.
* Fraser Dove International is a specialist executive search firm operating exclusively in the Life Science industry. Passionate about people, we take pride in helping exceptional life science organisations source the talent they need to design, manufacture and distribute life-changing drugs, treatments and devices which transform and save patient lives.