Vern Davis: "She’s really taken on the challenge, and eaten up everything we’ve given her."

December 12th, 2016
“She’s really taken on the challenge, and eaten up everything we’ve given her.”
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We’re in The Painted Hall in London. An old naval college with a ceiling that’s trying to rival Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel. And doing a good job of it too. I’ve been waiting to talk to Vern all week. We’ve spent the last six days laughing and joking with each other, so it’s great to have the chance to finally get under his skin and find out what really makes him tick.

How are you finding your first Top Recruiter?

I didn’t have any expectations, which is good. I just wanted to get here, absorb it, participate in it, and really see if there was something we could do to help the industry do some really positive things. And obviously, I wanted to help brand my own company too. I’ve met some very interesting people. People always make the experience worth it.

Who’s stood out for you?

Gavin Speirs.

How come?

He’s so unassuming, so open. He’s a positive influence, and he’s always thinking. He’s doing some cutting edge things and he’s figured some things out.

I like that you’ve gotten on best with a European.

Yeah because normally we have a lot of competition.

How are you finding mixing with the Europeans?

The humor is different obviously. What’s been very interesting is that it doesn’t feel as competitive as I thought it would be. I thought there would be some nastiness, but we’ve been really nice to each other. Don’t you agree?

But everyone is just so nice so it’s really hard to have any kind of nastiness.

I know, that’s the thing.

How have you found the American candidate?

What a girl! She’s really taken on the challenge, and eaten up everything we’ve given her.

How about the European candidate?

Well I spent some time with her today, and the thing that’s dangerous about her is that she knows what she’s good at, and what she isn’t. Folk that know that can really win.

How many years have you been in recruitment?

Sixteen years.

What’s our biggest problem right now?

We have a lingering perception issue. But I think we have this huge opportunity to deliver services. here’s the big issue, our clients, through social media, and LinkedIn, believe that they can be as connected as we are, so that naturally moves us down the decision chain. You start to learn things about the opportunity later and because of this perception, your value has been diminished. There’s a huge opportunity for us to take all the connectivity we have and leverage that on client relationships. And get paid for it. We give way too many things away.

Like what?

Like, I am so deep into my space that I know when a company wants to sell, and where the buyers are. And there’s so many introductions to be made, which is what businesses want. There’s so much value there already. I’m not the guy they call when they want somebody, I’m the guy they all when they have a business opportunity. But we need to get back to the top of that decision line. That’s a huge issue.

So we change that perception by putting the business first?

Oh absolutely!

How do you think Top Recruiter helps do that?

I think there’s some really good stuff here. It helps us with our business persona of professionalism.

What will you take away from this experience?

That I need, and we need, to do this more often. To get like-minded professionals from around the globe together. We need an annual thing that brings us together.

What’s been your favorite moment so far?

When Rim got emotional about us helping her and focusing on her, and she showed that appreciation through her emotion, that was great to see. To see someone so open. That was a big moment for me.

What’s the vision for your business Protis?

Well what we’ve done, is separate all the walls. We’ve broken them down from business acquisition to placement. We’ve created functions, or centers of excellence if you will. There’s a center of excellence around research. Around business development. Around recruitment. Around client management. Around branding. Our teams are comprised of those functions. The next step is to take that and put those centers of excellence out as separate brands.

Is there anything you’ll take back to Protis with you?

Yeah actually there is. The realization that we need to brand ourselves the way we see ourselves, which is something we don’t do now.

As usual, Vern and I quickly fall into joking and teasing, as if we’ve known each other all our lives. That’s one of the strangely beautiful things about this show. We may have all met a week ago, but we’re all kindred spirits that have known each other a long time. Vern is currently trying to get me to marry his son so that we can become actual family, and that right there is testament to the relationships we’ve all built over the last week.