Entrepreneur and ex-founder of Phaidon, Adam Buck, recently announced that he had joined FinTech recruitment startup Storm2 as Chairman. Buck has been quiet since exiting as Chairman of Phaidon during its 2018 acquisition having founded the global recruitment firm in 2004. We sat down with him to discuss what he’s been up to in the 2 years he’s been away, and why he chose now to make a comeback.
What have you been doing since Phaidon went through acquisition?
It sounds a little bit Swiss Family Robinson, but I’ve been spending time with my family. In the early years of Phaidon I focused a lot of my time on ensuring its success, but as my four children started to grow I realised I was in danger of missing family moments and so I have fully embraced this opportunity. With recent events there has certainly been a little more home-schooling that I had planned, and I am pretty sure a new career as a teacher doesn’t beckon for me, but aside from that it’s been fun.
Outside of family time I have been looking at many and varied business ideas inside and outside of recruitment. I am wary of “Drinking the Kool-Aid” and believing that just because you are successful once before you can repeat that good fortune, especially in a new sector, but it has been enjoyable to explore and look at new business ideas. It took me years to understand but I now realise that as an entrepreneur the ‘fun’ for me isn’t mechanically logging quarterly numbers each successive year and managing the politics of a business, but in thinking through and advising on new ideas where a replicable, scalable business model has yet to be determined.
Why did you feel now was the right time to get back into the Recruitment industry?
In truth, despite all the terrible events COVID-19 has caused, I think it’s a fascinating time in recruitment and in fact in most business sectors. I was approached by a number of private equity firms and staffing companies to act as chairman, build groups, create funds etc and initially I had no interest as I felt I had enjoyed my time in recruitment and was content to walk away. With COVID-19 and all the disruption it entailed a lot of these parties started to reach out again asking for advice. One thing led to another and before I knew it, I was back! I have been truly amazed by the resilience of the staffing industry over the last year and the innovation that has been used to adapt. I actually feel we’re in a fairly good and very exciting place right now.
What made Storm2 such an attractive opportunity?
At Phaidon I used to talk about the “rocket ship”. As with most of my good ideas they were borrowed from others and this one was in fact from Sherly Sandberg, the COO of Facebook. She says that if you were offered a seat on a rocket ship you wouldn’t ask what seat, you just get on so there is no time for politics etc. That is what a good business should be. I have always believed recruitment is a momentum play with people being the main asset and unless you keep growing and creating opportunity, as Sthree and indeed Phaidon did, that you ended up slowing down and losing your best talent.
I found the opportunity at Storm2 intriguing as the business had ambitious growth plans which ticked the “rocket ship” box and this would, in turn, mean opportunities would be created for others. Outside of that James Brown, the founder, had a belief he could do it bigger, faster, and better than before and that was the same belief I left Sthree with. That, together with the interesting niche end markets he had focused the business towards, the quality and character of the management team he had assembled and the equity scheme he had designed to reward them, as well as the strong financial backing he had received from Puffin Point made the opportunity compelling.
How do you think Coronavirus will change the face of recruitment?
As with any financial downturn weaker businesses have been exposed where the right standards of delivery have not been maintained in the front office, and the correct control and procedures in the back office have not been adhered to. Of course, the downturn is different this time in so much as it is health-led which is incredibly sad, but because of that people are questioning whether business and indeed recruitment will be changed forever.
In my opinion it will create changes and some fundamental ones, but only accelerating changes that good staffing businesses have already been adapting to over recent years with the use of technology and flexible working. I think recruitment will always be led by people as it always has been, but there are certainly opportunities to create and scale faster and more adaptable businesses on the back of recent events.
What do you think is the biggest opportunity for the industry at the moment?
The obvious answer would be rec-tech, but there are a lot of people talking up the next big “thing” with a lot of money pushed into fund these businesses and I am not sure I am smart enough to work out who or which ones will win. There is certainly some amazing innovation and some really cool ideas being developed, but I actually think the opportunity still sits with a blend of people and technology over the next decade or so. I think it will be the business or businesses that truly understand this and use technology to enhance, not replace the human offering that good traditional recruitment has been built on.
What’s next for Storm2?
Taking over the world, one placement at a time… Jokes aside, Storm2 has very ambitious plans as I said before and that includes several new brands and global offices. At the end of the day, it will be a team effort and individually if everyone does their jobs the team will create something pretty amazing. It is all about creating opportunity for clients, candidates and in turn most importantly those who work within the business. Work with smart people, make some money and ultimately have some fun. Not sure what is faster than a rocketship, but think that…
Any advice for recruitment leaders in the current climate?
Use this opportunity to look within your business at the things you can, and should, be doing better and changing as a business. I was never interested with what was working within my business, but in what wasn’t working. That is far more valuable. Also use the current climate to reset your business and redefine what is now possible as the next few years offer some very exciting opportunities.
Launched in 2019, Storm2 are an award-winning global FinTech recruitment business backed by Puffin Point. Having already scaled to 50 people across London and Singapore, their ambitious plans for 2021 include the opening of offices in Europe and the USA, alongside further specialist brands in HealthTech and GreenTech. If you are interested in learning more about the company please visit their website.