Values-Driven Leadership: How to Grow a Search Firm to 7-Figures in One Year, With David Fleming, Ep #149

It always fascinates me to hear stories of recruitment business owners who succeed despite the most challenging circumstances. My special guest, David Fleming, shares an astounding story of both personal resilience and recruitment success. 

David is the Managing Partner of Acuity Partners, the search brand from Stanton House. David established the business this year and is already on track for a 7 figure Net Fee Income in their first full year. Acuity Partners delivers leadership searches for C-Suite and Director level mandates within technology-led businesses and investors. David has 25 years of experience in recruitment and has run multi-million-pound P&L managing teams of over 100 consultants.

In this episode, David shares how having a set of clear values embedded in each team member plays a vital role in their success. Also, you will hear David’s story of resilience and how it influenced the way he leads his team and how it moved him to prioritize taking care of their mental health.

Episode Outline and Highlights

  • [02:04] How David got started in recruitment.
  • [08:21] From 3 to 8 people in 8 months: FOUR key factors for rapid growth.
  • [17:23] The role of curiosity in delivering insight and market intelligence to customers.
  • [27:30] Can a young person without extensive commercial experience be successful in executive search?
  • [36:06] David talks about Acuity’s values and their impact on performance.
  • [42:22] One of David’s greatest achievements as a fee earner.
  • [47:06] Excellent customer experience: bringing value to your clients and helping people without expecting anything in return.
  • [54:27] Discussion on mental health in the recruitment industry. David shares his journey.
  • [1:00:03] Acuity’s “Empathy Series”.
  • [1:02:50] What is next for Acuity?

Four Key Factors for Rapid Growth

When David started Acuity Partners in February this year, their vision is crystal clear: To enable individuals and businesses to outperform by relentlessly connecting brilliant people. Starting with 3 staff, they now have 8 people in their team and are on track to reach 7 figures in net fee income. What is the secret sauce leading up to this success? He gave four factors:

  • Building a business out of a successful business. His 25 years of recruiting experience with two recruitment businesses enabled him to have a network and client base. As the executive search brand of Stanton House, they are able to build on the philosophies and values of their sister company.
  • Developing Expertise – they build deep and narrow expertise on the market they are supporting, which is the growth market.
  • Customer Experience – delivering excellent customer experience gives them referrals, picking up business by osmosis.
  • Unique Value Proposition – they focus on building a proposition tailored to their market.

Values that Influence Success

David also shared the values that drive their culture and underpin their search methodology. He revealed how their recruiters embody the values and how it motivates them to be curious and interested in their clients. Here is the outline of the values he shared:

  • Relentless – “Today’s customers expect a search firm to deliver a result… We are committed to doing what it takes to find the global skills for each role.”
  • Incisive – “I believe consultants must work hard enough to have an opinion, saying you are an expert in search is not enough anymore, you have to be able to challenge a customer on their thinking, and what can be achieved through the hire to add value and earn your fee.”
  • Humble – “Our business is very low ego. We have no hierarchy. We aim to adapt processes to our clients, especially when working with customers who are entering new markets where there is little precedence on roles to work from. Ideas that inform progress must come from everyone.”

Taking Care of Mental Health

David just had their second child when he started with Stanton House. After three months, their newborn son was diagnosed with a condition called Hydrocephalus (water on the brain). The baby required 25 different instances of emergency brain surgery, 6 of which were during David’s first year with Stanton House. David would frequently spend all night in the hospital and then make his way to the office in the morning and try and build a desk, something he hadn’t done for 10 years. 

This had a monumental impact on his mental health, self-confidence, and ability to bring his best self to work. Seeing his kid battle this over the last 11 years has impacted how David leads his team and how he looks after his own and his team’s mental health. The team at Stanton House created what they call the Empathy Series. It is a program that was launched in their wider business to support their people in understanding each other as they seek to appreciate the anxieties and challenges their people are dealing with.

Our Sponsors

This podcast is proudly sponsored by i-intro and Recruitment Entrepreneur.

i-intro® is an end-to-end retained recruitment platform. Their technology and methodology allow recruiters to differentiate themselves from the competition, win more retained business, bigger fees and increase their billings. Their software combined with world-class training enables you to transition from transactional, contingency recruiter to consultative, retained recruiter. Instead of being perceived as a “me too” vendor, you’ll be positioned as a “me only” solutions provider. Be sure to mention Mark Whitby or The Resilient Recruiter. Book your free, no-obligation consultation here: www.recruitmentcoach.com/retained

Recruitment Entrepreneur is the world’s leading Private Equity firm specializing in the international recruitment industry. If you’ve dreamed of starting, scaling and selling your recruitment business, this is your chance. James Caan and his team at Recruitment Entrepreneur are actively seeking ambitious recruiters who they can invest in. They provide everything you need to grow a successful recruitment business including: funding, financial expertise, coaching and mentoring, operational strategy, backoffice support, marketing and talent attraction solutions. Be sure to mention Mark Whitby or The Resilient Recruiter. Start a conversation here: https://www.recruitmentcoach.com/vc

David Fleming Bio and Contact Info 

David Fleming has been in recruitment for 25 years across two businesses. Badenoch & Clark and since then Stanton House. He started as a consultant placing interim finance professionals into Telecoms clients and quickly went on to lead and grow that team to become a leading performer in the company. Before taking on more teams and running the London business before taking on further regional responsibilities, he was promoted to Director at that time, helped by starting up the Transformation and Marketing practices (multi-million NFI P&Ls) for the company, and led teams of over 100 consultants. 

David left B+C shortly after the Adecoo acquisition and joined Nick and Neil at Stanton House.  His time at Stanton House has seen him grow and lead many parts of the business (A&F, Transformation, our business in London) before setting up Acuity Partners. 

He have always been motivated by building businesses and through speaking to and connecting with interesting people. Setting up the Acuity business allows David to combine working with some exceptional clients who are making a huge impact in the world.

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