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Go Train

A Kent-based company has seen its revenue treble since recruiting a Non-Executive Chairman (NEC) through Executives Online.  The company now has plans to treble its income again in the next three years.

James O’Brien, Managing Director of Executives Online, the leading interim management and executive recruitment company, caused a quandary when he was tasked with finding the NEC for Go Train.

The training company’s joint owner David Amos said: “James gave us a real dilemma by coming up with an astonishingly good list of people. We nearly fell off our chairs when we saw the level and calibre of candidates that had been put forward and wanted practically all of them.”

“I talk to him every week on the phone and get his opinion on any big decisions”

Julian Harley was selected from a shortlist of five, following careful consideration and assistance from O’Brien. Since his appointment in 2011 Harley, who has run businesses in the training and recruitment sector for more than 20 years, has helped Go Train by providing an independent sounding-board, commercial experience and strategic guidance, as its NEC. Go Train is now looking to increase both its training centres and revenue, with Harley remaining very much part of that plan.

Amos continued: “We planned to double revenue over a couple of years, but this has now trebled, largely down to Julian. He pushed us pretty hard to go networking and look at opportunities. He has signed up with us for another three years and we want to treble revenue again in that time. I genuinely don’t imagine this business without him.

“My partner Andy Kemp and I have never run a company this big before and we needed someone to warn us about what was coming around the corner.

“We were at that next stage where we needed someone to help structure our decision making.

Go Train offers training to unemployed people, including improving literacy, numeracy and employment skills. It has around 150 employees in 12 centres, including branches in Bromley, Canterbury, Crawley and Tunbridge Wells. Soon another two will be opening their doors in Basildon and Ashford.  Amos aims to have 20 offices around the south east over the next two years.

When David Amos and Andy Kemp approached Executives Online, James O’Brien worked with them to develop a detailed brief of their requirements, including profile, tasks, stakeholder accountabilities, company culture and boardroom dynamics, so that a good fit could be achieved.

“James was very clear on what he could do, and has proved it since. He meets all deadlines and always grasps what you say to him. Other headhunters don’t seem to get that,” said Amos.

Executives Online’s approach uses a personal, proficient service to deliver targeted and cost-effective recruitment. The process for identifying the right NEC at Executives Online includes a survey of the companies and environments in which candidates will have gained the most relevant experience. If appropriate these candidates are approached directly and asked whether they would be happy to join a new company.

In addition to its Global Talent Bank, a diverse and deep source of management and executive talent which houses more than 100,000 candidates’ records, Executives Online also advertises roles confidentially on a small number of tried and tested executive job boards and forums. All candidates are interviewed and assessed before a shortlist is created for the client.

James O’Brien said: “By taking on an NEC, SMEs are able to tap into talent that they wouldn’t be able to attain at an executive level.  As Julian has proved, commercial and strategic acumen, as well as entrepreneurial spirit, can have a major impact on company direction and results.”

David Amos commented: “Colleagues and customers were impressed when they heard that Julian had been appointed as he is very well known.  I think that we have been taken more seriously thanks to his involvement. When, like us, you’re dealing with government agencies, kudos is important. Corporate responsibility is high on the list to gain contracts and Julian has definitely helped us with that.”

Harley visits the company once a month to help focus on strategy but is always on hand to give advice.

“I talk to him every week on the phone and get his opinion on any big decisions,” said Amos. “It’s good to be able to always contact someone who has done it before – if there’s ever a disaster, after 10 minutes talking to him he is able to put it in perspective. It’s very hard to put a value on that.”

Amos said that in the past he has found it expensive to recruit, but Executives Online made the process “relatively risk-free” with three separate payments.

He said: “The first fee was to do the work, the second was on appointment and the third instalment was only to be paid if the candidate stayed more than three months, in order for us to spread the cost.

“People have asked us why we decided on appointing an NEC, as they see it as costing a lot of money for not a lot of hours – and it’s hard to qualify. SME owners don’t always understand that some things can’t be measured precisely, but the business is certainly in better shape now than if Andy and I had tried to go it alone.

“Executives Online’s service is not inexpensive but the ROI is exponential and we would highly recommend this approach to other SMEs.”