As we celebrate eight years since I founded Hyperion Executive Search, I wanted to share some thoughts and reflections, on what I’ve seen and learned (and continue to learn about) in that those eight years.
Much has changed, when we started, we still wore ties at Intersolar!!
1- People want jobs with purpose and impact
At every level of career, people are now increasingly confident to explore career options that align more with their passions and convictions. It had certainly started well before the pandemic. We’ve been approached for many years by candidates wanting to utilise their skills and experience in the fast-growing cleantech sector. Of course, you can earn very well in the sector, but most people are primarily drawn to the opportunity to have a positive impact on the world through their work and career. It’s what drives so many people, including myself and the people who join Hyperion. We’re very clear about our mission, our values, and the role we can play in the clean energy and mobility transitions. We’re fully aligned with our candidates in wanting to create careers of impact.
2- Culture is king
In a quote attributed to Peter Drucker, ‘Culture eats strategy for breakfast’. Over the last eight years I’ve worked with dozens of very successful cleantech start-ups and scale-ups, many who’ve gone on to big exits, many still scaling and receiving significant investment. It is the culture of these businesses that enables them to attract great talent, big investments, and success. Culture really is King is business, it’s the reason people join, and stay with a company. They align with and believe in the culture, and to use my favourite Jim Collins quote, ‘Great vision without great people is irrelevant’. Great culture= great employees= great success.
3- Many start-ups have no idea how to attract, attain and retain talent
I love entrepreneurs. I love being one, I love speaking to them, and I love interviewing them for my ‘Leaders in Cleantech’ podcast. But most of all I love helping them to achieve their goals and vision. The truth is, so many great founders suck at hiring. Mostly I would say due to lack of experience hiring, and/or having too many plates spinning at once in their day to day lives. Being an entrepreneur isn’t for the feint hearted. It’s tough, and there is so much you have to learn as you go. Oftentimes hiring gets pushed to the back of the priority queue when it should be at the front. And to be fair, for many founders and leadership teams it is. You don’t do your own accountancy, you don’t write your own legal contracts, you seek professional help when fundraising. When you have so many distractions and priorities, bring in experts to help, including hiring and culture building (but do your due diligence).
4- The future will not resemble the past when it comes to how and where we work
This is an area that truly fascinates me. I have worked in recruitment and executive search, across sectors, and across geographies, for well over twenty years. I’ve experienced recessions, hyper-growth markets, bubbles, and busts and all economic cycles. Many things repeat over time. But the current debate and changes around the very nature of work are unprecedented, and hard to navigate for companies of all shapes and sizes, but especially the large. The trends towards flexibility, employee empowerment, high-trust, home working all existed before the Pandemic, but COVID has put a rocket under it all, and no one really knows exactly where it is heading! The changes are a good thing. I love the opportunity it provides to create truly great companies, careers and lives. People are not machines, and we now realise that in the past, working environments have been more akin to an industrial process than an exchange that truly serves employer and employee alike, as workers and as humans. One thing is for sure, the genie isn’t going back into the bottle.
5- Modern leaders need to focus on empathy, flexibility, communication and agility
The new ways of working, and the importance of culture at work are creating huge challenges for leaders. Command and control is dead (even if some haven’t realised yet). Modern leaders need empathy, emotional intelligence, agility of thought and great communication skills, on top of the usual strategic, sales, financial, operational skills they could primarily rely on in the past. It comes back to being human, and vulnerable, and authentic. The ‘BOSS’ is dead, long live the Leader.
6- If you always do what you always did, you’ll always get what you always got!
Where do you start with this? Maybe Einstein, ‘The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.’ I think that has always been true, now more than ever for some of the reasons I’ve already mentioned. Businesses and leaders who rely on the ‘It’s the way we’ve always done it’ mindset should be in museums. It never ceases to amaze me how many people still operate this way, especially in the world of hiring and retaining talent. Companies have high rates of attrition, and the answer is to hire more people, or they can’t hire people, and they double-down on their long-standing hiring systems and processes. There is a war for talent, and the Status Quo is losing, badly.
7- A rising tide floats all boats
What I’ve truly loved about the last 8 years of Hyperion Executive Search is working with clients, leadership teams, and companies, of all sizes, that collaborate, share ideas, support one another, even when they are competitors in many ways. It’s the shared sense of mission and purpose. Ultimately, we’re all seeking the same goal, to fight catastrophic climate change. So many it’s not the most apt phrase, but there is a genuine camaraderie and belief that ‘the rising tide floats all boats’. If we help each other, we all do better, we all get closer to the goal.
8- It’s about the journey
Whether you are a founder, entrepreneur, employee, or freelancer. It’s about the journey. I’ve never understood the phrase ‘work/life balance’, I guess I’ve never been a binary person, and sadly we live in a very polarised world at present. You have one life, sometimes you are working, sometimes playing, sometimes with work colleagues, sometimes with friends and family. It’s life. And Life is about the journey. It is to be enjoyed, through good and bad, tough, and easy times. Align your work with your values, find a company whose values and culture align and support you. Find your tribe. Enjoy the journey. No one should dread going to work, or hate what they do for a large percentage of their lives. I appreciate many people have to, and that is tragic, but we should demand for ourselves, and for everyone, the right to meaningful, enjoyable work, and a life in harmony.
I’m excited about that the next few years will bring. At Hyperion Cleantech Group we have already launched our Fully Charged Recruitment business, to support clients and companies hiring roles under the Board, Executive and Leadership roles we hire at Hyperion Executive Search, and we have launched Hyperion Executive Search in the US. Rest assured there will be further exciting developments in the coming months.
Thank you to all of you who have played a part in our eight-year journey so far. You’ve made my journey a positive and exciting one. I hope, if we haven’t already, that we can have a positive impact on yours, as you launch or scale your own cleantech company or career.
The rising tide floats all boats.