My Reflections - 2019

Posted on 30th December 2019 | Thought Leadership

The closing of another year inevitably invokes feelings of reflection for most business owners. In executive search, it’s a time for appreciating good fortune and taking pride in good work delivered through the year (usually successful placements and well-managed search assignments), however it’s also a good time to take a moment to reflect on lessons learned. So in my 2019 write-up, I’ll walk you through some of our proudest moments this year, then share with you some of the lessons we’ve learned along the way….


  • The year began with the conclusion of the recruitment of a new Managing Director for Chester telecoms business Vivio. This was a crucial appointment for the owner who sought to create a robust succession plan for his £15m technology business. One year on and Stuart Evans (former Group Finance Director at Wheatsheaf Group) has settled into role, making improvements in financial and operational efficiency. You can read more about the search here.
  • In January we also concluded the recruitment of new Regional Operations Director for leading industrial engineering and automation business Bilfinger UK. This was to be the first of several key appointments delivered for Bilfinger through 2019, a client jointly supported by myself and Ian. Ian’s industrial engineering background coupled with my search expertise have proved to be the perfect formula to grow the partnership.


  • Having been a member of the Institute of Directors for many years, I was proud to be appointed as the new Chair Elect for the Cheshire Branch of the IoD in February of this year. The role would be ratified in April, but I began the task of recruiting the new committee immediately. I knew early on that being able to recruit the best possible volunteer directors to represent the issues that matter most to members was the most fundamental ingredient to achieving our goals for the committee in Cheshire. You can read the press release here.
  • February also saw the instruction of our second retained search assignment for Chester IT managed services and telephony business ITS Technology Group. Having previously recruited a Group Financial Controller in 2018, it was evidence of a successful partnership that it returned to use Sherrington once again in February this time to recruit a key member of its channel sales team.


  • March saw the continuation of a decade-long relationship with leading office equipment manufacturer Bisley. Having recruited key personnel for Bisley for ten years, in March 2019 Bisley retained Sherrington to recruit three key roles, including a Director of International Sales. These would be completed through the coming weeks culminating in a very happy client who we continue to work with.
  • We also supported long-term client Chester Zoo with another managerial appointment for the ‘mission delivery’ side of the business in March.


  • Having previously recruited senior management roles for the business, we were pleased to recruit a new Non-Executive and business advisor for legal services provider Practical Vision Group in April. 
  • April also saw the start of a six-month executive coaching programme for a new client, the CEO of a North West public-sector organisation who I thoroughly enjoyed working with this year. The coaching goal was to help define a clearer leadership identity, along with short-term objective-setting and building clarity on future direction all of which we achieved. A big congratulations to my client, you know who you are! 


  • In May the team began a piece of advisory work for a North West based technology client, ahead of a confidential ‘talent planning’ project in which we supported it to determine its own recruitment benchmarks ahead of a mapping exercise to uncover hidden talent in its sector. You can read more about our Talent Planning services here.


  • In June we continued the expansion of our executive coaching offering with the appointment of two new associate coaches who we continue to work with. Their coaching credentials have been a great fit for our clients through 2019.
  • June also saw the recruitment of a new Chief Financial Officer for entrepreneurial financial services and insurance business Bikmo. This was a major appointment for Bikmo, enabling it to implement robust financial structures and position itself for funding ahead of future growth. You can read more about this placement here.


  • Summer is meant to be a quiet time in recruitment, but 2019 was the opposite for the Sherrington team! Following an extensive search that began earlier in the year, we were thrilled to conclude the recruitment of a Head of Sales Operations for omni-channel marketing business Textlocal.
  • We also began research on a project to recruit a new sales team for long-term client Brown & Newirth. The 50 year-old manufacturer of luxury jewellery retained Sherrington to recruit four new Business Development Managers following a restructure. Our client was delighted with the results of the project which was successfully completed on time. You can read more about the project here.
  • Finally, we also signed off on an offer for a new Managing Director with a leading engineering client in the energy sector, a search which took several months to conclude due to some rather unique contractual challenges to overcome at the resignation stage! Thankfully good diplomacy and patience from all involved meant a successful appointment in the end.


  • On the back of two successful Director-level search assignments earlier in the year, in August Bilfinger UK commissioned Sherrington to recruit four more key appointments on the automation side of the business. These were exacting briefs requiring a highly targeted search approach.
  • The family also managed to take a week away to Portugal, which was only possible by the incredible support we continue to receive from our outsourced research partners – you know who you are, big thanks!
  • On a personal level, after many late night training sessions and broken bones (including nose and finger) I was particularly chuffed to be awarded my black belt in Shotokan karate after a failed attempt earlier in the year! If at first you don’t succeed… etc etc.


  • Without question the biggest news of 2019 was the appointment of Laura McKay to the business in September! Laura (my sister) had previously worked in corporate travel and with ambitions to grow the family business joined Sherrington as Executive Search Consultant in September. Laura has made an immediate impact in the business concluding her first placement in December and playing a vital role in the delivery of several senior-level search assignments.  
  • September also saw the launch of ‘Race for the Rainforest’ – a project between Sherrington and Chester Zoo to support the zoo’s conservation work in Borneo by racing a group of business leaders through the Borneo jungles in an ultra-marathon in March 2021. I hosted a launch event at the zoo along with CEO of Chester Zoo Mark Pilgrim and the winner of this year’s 100k race Major Lucy Scott and key sponsors Chester Race-Course and travel partner Elegant Resorts. A group of nearly 50 runners attended and will be training together throughout 2020 ahead of the race the following year!
  • Finally, September saw the first meeting of the newly formed advisory board of the University of Chester’s Business Research Institute. I was asked to join earlier this year and look forward to working with the team on key issues surrounding entrepreneurship and family business. 


  • More placements this month, but October’s big news was the success of our third annual Autumn Reception at the Abode Hotel. On Thursday 10th Oct we hosted approximately 100 senior directors for a celebration of five years in business. Life & Death Leadership was the theme and we were privileged to listen to a talk by Paul Rowlands who was rescued by his 13-year-old son after a kayaking accident off the coast of Anglesey in 2018. You can read more about the event here.
  • Having judged the entrants earlier this summer, I was also delighted to present an award to the winner of the ‘Best Experience’ category in the annual Marketing Cheshire Awards at The Mere Resort in October.
  • Finally I attended a short CPD course led by the IoD on 'The role of the Non-Executive Director' and 'Boardroom Dynamics', both of which held real value in shaping my plans to grow Sherrington. You can read my write-up of the course here.


  • In November we were commissioned by a new client to deliver a highly confidential search for both a new Chief Financial Officer and an Operations Director. The searches are still underway so I can’t disclose the details but all will be revealed in time!
  • November also saw the last of four incredible member events organised by the newly formed IoD Cheshire Committee. Over 70 directors enjoyed talks by me and the committee at Nunsmere Hall, a great way to bring an incredible year for the IoD to an end. 


  • The year culminated in a flurry of offers in the three weeks of December. We also managed to fit in a group coaching day at Chester Race-Course facilitated by the amazing Hazel Bainbridge who helped us reassess our organisational values – something that will form the bedrock for the next chapter of Sherrington’s evolution.
  • I also spent several days in December judging entrants for the ‘Family Business’ and ‘Innovation’ categories for the High Sherriff’s Awards for Enterprise, something I’ve enjoyed for two years now. Despite recruiting for clients across the region for nearly twenty years now, it never ceases to amaze me how many hidden gems we have tucked away in our incredible county!

So, another great year for the business. There were of course many other placements and successes, too many to mention in a short blog piece, but suffice to say an incredible year all around. But what have we learned along the way?

  1. The value of intuition – over many years in recruitment, it’s proven time and time again that the most successful placements are with candidates you trust. If the trust isn’t there, then no matter how impressive the CV, the appointment will be far more risky. This isn’t really a new one on me, but it’s been reaffirmed this year. 
  2. Take regular breaks and take time to celebrate successes – being honest with myself, I failed at this in 2019. Despite having seen so many others make exactly the same mistake over the years, in 2019 I didn’t take enough rest and it caught up with me at times. It’s a hard lesson when you’re busy, but ignore it at your peril (2020 holidays booked already!).
  3. Patience pays – few things happen quickly in executive search, it’s just the nature of recruiting key senior positions. Long lead times and long notice periods but on the plus side, it’s also about long term relationships. Some of our most notable work has been the result of building trust with clients over many years and we’re extremely grateful for the clients who’ve stayed with us and allowed us to support their growth.

A huge thank you to all who’ve played a part this year. Looking forward to even bigger things in 2020….