In conjunction with our newest partner Gattaca coming on board, we caught up with Keith Lewis, COO for our Quick Fire 10 series about his background in recruitment, his funniest recruitment stories and how he sees the industry.
After climbing through the ranks from Senior Consultant Keith is a shining example of where Recruitment can take you.
I started in our engineering recruitment brand Matchtech on 26th July 1993 as a Senior Consultant in what is now the Infrastructure division. With the planned opening of the Channel Tunnel in 1994, I knew lorries would be coming from Europe with greater tonnage and I realised that there was a need for more bridge inspectors and designers to ensure that the bridges could handle the extra weight. I started a niche around the Bridges and Highways sector.
My career path led me to a focus on building up a sector and then creating a succession plan so that I could move on and grow another sector.
I became Managing Director of the Matchtech brand in July 2010 and from there was appointed to the board in 2012. My current position is COO, so I head up all the Operations side of the business. For us, that means managing all of our sales teams in Europe, the Middle East and Africa; so a large percentage of our staff falls under my remit.
Recruitment was “old school” when I started with Matchtech.
I had a phone, a box of cards and a very basic CRM. There were no mobile phones and no internet. So effectively it was all done over the phone, in meetings and by building relationships with people. We were always out and about in our Vauxhall Cavaliers driving to different clients!
The biggest investment decisions were about whether to buy a new fax machine. I joke about the fax machine but we were queuing at it to send CVs out to clients. Candidate attraction was all about word of mouth, networking and advertising in the local and national newspapers to build up a database.
We used to be the largest single site recruitment company in the UK. The acquisition of Networkers International in 2015 has been the catalyst for our international growth and opened up new markets and new geographies for us to accelerate our growth.
One thing that hasn’t changed is the family aspect of the business. Our Group name, Gattaca, is a direct reference to DNA and reflects the family-feel that we have within the business. We are a people business and our people are our strength.
I’m a bit of a technophobe and rely on our people in our Group Support teams to bring me “kicking and screaming” into the modern age of technology. I do embrace technology and have a reasonable understanding of it, but I do rely on having someone with more expertise bringing me up to date with it.
I’d say I stumbled into it. I did well at school and achieved 13 O-levels, but then fell at the A-Level education hurdle, as “other things got in the way”. I subsequently did not go to University as I had hoped and planned. I secured a position with British Steel, in a warehouse, loading lorries. I was very success and money driven and so I quickly realised that I wanted to do more.
I found an advert in the local paper from a recruitment company looking to attract skilled tradespeople to an open evening in order to build their candidate base. I blagged my way in and met one of the recruiters, telling him that I wanted to do what he did. He offered me an interview for a consultant role the next day and fortunately I was successful.
It was a happy coincidence that I fell into a job that I love, but my first few months were extremely challenging as I was initially trying to establish an architectural desk as a recession was kicking in.
Fortunately it didn’t put me off.
My passion for the business.
The fact that we are on a journey in order to achieve all of our goals as well as our vision, to be the number one specialist recruiter in all our markets, hugely motivates me.
I’m very family orientated as well, so success at work means that I can get away and spend time with my three daughters and three grandchildren; family holidays are a big thing for me (and hopefully for them too !)
A desire to succeed is vital. People who are happy to challenge and are forward thinking. The business is built on our people and most of our ideas come from them.
We look for people who are innovative and we aim to create an atmosphere where people can come up with ideas and be comfortable sharing them.
From a business perspective, sticking to a five year plan is very difficult. I would never have a plan longer than three years. We have our vision to be the leading specialist recruiter in all our markets and we will be using our strategy: Sharpen our Focus, Move up the Value Chain and Think Global to reach our goals.
On a personal level, I would love to be able to go to the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.
I went to a meeting in Houston with a big Petrochemical company. I introduced myself to the lady at reception and she said “Are you here for the presentation?” I was there to present to the client so I followed as she took me through to what I assumed was the office of the person I was meeting.
What I actually walked into was an auditorium with 150 people rather than a room with two people.
It was quite embarrassing.
Thanks to Keith Lewis from Gattaca. Their profile is currently live. Have a look at their many brands and see where you might fit into the future growth plans. For further leading industry content, click here.
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