‘Talent solutions really is an exciting place to be right now’

24 Apr 2019

Adrian McGennis. Image: Sigmar

This week on Leaders’ Insights, Sigmar’s Adrian McGennis discusses building a brand overseas and why a ‘land and expand’ model isn’t always the best option.

Adrian McGennis is CEO and co-founder at Irish recruitment company Sigmar.

Prior to Sigmar, McGennis was managing director with Marlborough and he has been involved in two successful IPOs. He holds a degree in engineering from University College Dublin and has garnered several postgraduate management awards.

Founded in 2002, Sigmar has been named as a Best Managed Company by Deloitte for the past three years. Last August it opened a new European talent hub in Co Kerry as it announced plans to create 50 roles.

Describe your role and what you do.

As part of a team to grow a meaningful, profitable, worthy business and enjoy the experience – this involves developing people in a positive, learning, achieving culture. As well as building great relationships with clients and candidates, we are passionate about contributing to community.

How do you prioritise and organise your working life?

At all levels we have really great teams at Sigmar, so we get a strong buy-in to the company goals. This will be the basis of prioritisation. Maintaining the culture is the basis for values and growth, so spend a lot of time with colleagues and customers.

Thankfully, our partnership with Groupe Adéquat has been very positive and they are like-minded in values, so prioritisation and organisation haven’t changed much.

What are the biggest challenges facing your sector and how are you tackling them?

Having enjoyed 10 years of strong growth, the potential for economic uncertainty could present a challenge. We are talking with clients more and have the scale and agility to provide flexible solutions for them.

Thankfully, we have been innovative in using technology, but we need to be constantly aware of optimising our offering utilising better communication, AI, analytics etc.

What are the key sector opportunities youre capitalising on?

We are very positive on the sector, but the rate of change is increasing. We see, therefore, new opportunities in managed services, new sectors, onsite staffing, statement of work etc. Our new model based in Tralee, servicing the IT market in Germany, is working and scaling really well and forms the basis of expanding into new European and US markets.

Talent solutions really is an exciting place to be right now.

What set you on the road to where you are now?

When we completed our MBO in 2009, many of the team were involved. We had ambitions to develop a commercially strong business (which has been successful), but also to build a great Irish business which would be recognised internationally.

Innovations like the Talent Summit, Ireland Gateway to Europe and National Employment Week have helped position ourselves to achieve both these goals.

What was your biggest mistake and what did you learn from it?

We did underestimate the importance of brand when expanding overseas in 2005/2006. Some of our overseas operations did create impact, but with limited resources it was a challenge to develop deep routes through a ‘land and expand’ model. Now, we are successfully servicing clients and developing relationships in overseas locations before opening a significant office.

How do you get the best out of your team?

The quality and commitment of the team is high so, really, allow them to do their job! We encourage risk and learn from any failures. We do have strong respect and equally celebrate success. From day one we all agreed to our culture/values, so anyone joining Sigmar is clear on where we are going and, hopefully, how to get there.

STEM sectors receive a lot of criticism for a lack of diversity in terms of gender, ethnicity and other demographics. Have you noticed a diversity problem in your sector? What are your thoughts on this and whats needed to be more inclusive?

When I did engineering (a long time ago!), in a class of 250 there were maybe 10 girls, so we’ve improved a bit since then. I do think ongoing positive discussions have helped and will continue to redress the gender balance.

We have hosted a few events on diversity and specifically gender balance, and I believe an honest dialogue is required to actually make real change. I believe most people agree where we want to get to, but healthy, honest conversations and listening are required to get us there.

As it goes, the recruitment sector has been very inclusive and probably really embraces diversity better than most, maybe because it is a relatively new sector or it’s a meritocracy.

Who is your role model and why?

If I had to choose a role model right now, it would honestly be Joe Schmidt. I’ve heard a few current and ex-players speaking recently and they are 100pc clear on the objectives and plans. He also seems to instil authenticity, and even humility, into high performance.

The analytics, data recording/management, team building, results focus are all very impressive, but the simple imparting a message to ‘do your job’ really works and seemed to be enjoyed.

What books have you read that you would recommend?

I liked Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari. Didn’t necessarily agree with all his theories, but does make one think.

I was recommended Legacy by James Kerr, and I have to say it does simply articulate the collective belief in high standards exhibited by the All Blacks. I am now recommending it to some of our teams to read/review/implement.

What are the essential tools and resources that get you through the working week?

Phones, a computer and coffee are all good – oh, and a pint on Friday evening.

We do use various tools to gather regular data across the company which is important, but I feel equally important is to speak with people about what we need to do as a result of the data.

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