In August 2018 David, Ross and myself walked out of a very stylish notary`s office just off Marienplatz in the center of Munich. A few minutes before, we had signed the documents for the incorporation of the German GmbH.
A lot has happened since that day and when I realised a few days ago that it was our second anniversary, it seemed just logic to reflect on what has been a great journey so far ( or as avid skiers would call it “ A hell of a ride” after the world`s most famous downhill race in Kitzbühl, Austria).
Of course, we all had done a lot of planning, both on a personal, professional and company level; we also had our expectations and hopes as a founding team on how we would like the business to develop and grow. But at the end of the day, we didn`t really know how it would all work out.
So, what did we learn along the way? And did it all pan out the way we had expected? Here are some reflections that might be interesting for other founders as well as candidates who are thinking about joining a start-up.
1. Stay firm on your strategy
Whilst it is tempting to compromise your company`s positioning for a quick win, especially in the early days when the first signed contract seems as far away as the moon, it will pay off to “stick to your knitting” and find the clients in your chosen sector who value your service offering and are willing to work with you on based on a true partnership. In our case, we are an executive search firm that works with game-changing companies in the cleantech space, but we are not a middle of the road recruitment agency that wants to be everything to everybody.
2. Compete on quality, not price (but be creative!)
Competing on price is a slippery slope in any industry – and that holds true for the executive search space as well. Clients will see the value of your service and how it differs from other offers and will therefore be willing to pay a reasonable price. As Hyperion Executive Search, we provide a much more meaningful and valuable service than “just sending CVs” – we are at our clients` side all the way from the first rough idea of “we need a new CxO” or “we want to build a new country organisation” to the onboarding phase of new employees. Having said that, it does pay off to be creative and accommodate clients` request when possible (e.g. through a different payment structure or timing of progress payments).
3. It`s about your clients´success, not your own
Any business is only as good as its clients. Successful companies don`t talk too much about themselves – instead, they talk about the value they add and the problems they solve for their clients. Contributing to the success of our customers is what motivates us every day – whether it`s finding a Global Head of Sales for ElectriceFeel (which freed up Moritz Meenen, the founder, to focus on the long term strategy for the business), adding the critical roles of Director of Operations and Director of R&D to the management team at JenaBatteries (which enabled the firm to move from the Prototype – Phase into the serial production) or working with the CEO & CTO at Electrochaea to find their COO (which is a critical appointment on the way to their first commercial project).
4. Trust your gut feeling
Having been in executive search for more than 15 years across different continents and industries, I have worked with a lot of very smart people (in fact much smarter than me!). Whilst the level of planning and scientific detail with which people approached their business (and personal life) varied substantially (I do hold a German and Australian passport – do I need to say more in terms of approach to life😊), in my opinion, there is always that one litmus test that rarely fails you – and that is your gut feeling! If something doesn`t feel right, the chances are it isn`t right, no matter how much your head says yes! I know this sounds like a boring platitude your parents tell you, but it`s true in all aspects of life.
5. Passion & People – the most critical aspects!
We all need to pay bills and we all would like to have a good life – but if the only motivation is the paycheque, it is hard to be successful and happy in the long run. Passion for what we do creates authenticity and motivates us even on days when the going gets tough. Whilst I am a passionate cyclist and outdoor person, the passion of working towards a cleaner and better future for all of us with the Hyperion team is what gives “work” an unlimited positive connotation!
The second “P” for people, however, is THE success factor in any business. Finding the right people for your business is our passion and purpose. Of course, it was – and also still is – the most important part of our story. We were lucky enough to have a team of smart, courageous colleagues who are passionate about our clean, green future and believe in our common values.
6. Plan/review your plans and make new ones – but be prepared for the unexpected!
I guess a retrospective during Corona times would be incomplete without reflecting on the impact it has had on us. When we started Hyperion GmbH, the economies around the globe were all steaming ahead nicely, the stock markets were approaching all-time highs and we felt that societies understood the importance of climate change (well, in most parts at least..) and thus why our value proposition works.
And then Corona hit all of us more or less overnight. We were a bit anxious about how our clients would react – would they stop recruiting altogether? Or put projects on hold? Or even worse, run out of money within weeks (given a lot of them are start-ups)?
Well, none of the above happened! Yes, some projects got delayed but by and large, we were able to adapt our approach to the new normal of the Post-COVID era and have had some of our best results during the lockdowns.
But it doesn`t matter whether uncertainty is caused by a pandemic or just “normal” changes in your (business) life, it helps to see the positive and regard threats as an opportunity.
Summarizing all of that, I had to think of some of my old clients who were top tier strategy consulting firms. They always referred to the “ability to handle ambiguity” as a key skill for strategy consultants.
Well, having started a business myself, I finally understood what it means (at least to me): You never know what is around the corner, so stay positive and believe in yourself and your team!
Looking out to the next 2 years, I wanted to thank my colleagues at Hyperion for their incredible dedication and passion! And our clients for the support and trust in us. Speaking of which, here is a snapshot of some of our amazing clients:
I guess there is only one way of concluding this piece. The first two years of Hyperion Executive Search GmbH were a hell of a ride – and I´m looking forward to the next leg of the ride!
To discover more about Hyperion Germany visit: https://hyperionsearch.co.uk/?lang=de
Or contact Wolfgang Kick here!