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BWD From Start to Future

An Interview with James Walker, Founder & MD

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BWD From Start to Future

17 Oct 08:00 by Maddy Goddard

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How did the formation of BWD come about?

Our humble beginnings is probably a story which has been told countless times in recruitment. A story of disillusionment towards the companies we had worked for, a desire to take control of our future and the need to work in the ‘right’ way.      

To be honest we didn’t have business plan, nor did we seek to be the world’s next best thing. Our philosophy was simple, if we treat people better than we’ve been treated, then we should be ok. Looking back now, I know that is somewhat romantic, but we still see people being treated as a commodity. Whilst ourselves and the business have matured, that belief in treating people well is still very much at the heart of the business.     

The name BWD, as everyone knows, is after our surnames, but there’s a little-known fact that BWD was also a famous Leeds based stockbroking firm, which had just been acquired and was going to lose its name. How clever we were. What we didn’t expect were calls coming through asking for investment portfolio reviews and disinvestments!

We had a tough start, but I will save the sob story montage for my memoirs or until I appear on the X-Factor.

Would I change anything looking back? Nope. It was one huge learning curve that we needed to go through.

 

What would you say is the highlight of the 13 years so far?

I don’t really have a highlight. Work is a continuation and we learn every day. There are lots of positives and successes I can think of, lots of funny memories and good times, but no highlight as we are not finished.

One day I might be able to look back and reminisce in my armchair, but not today.

 

Despite political & economic uncertainty, how has 2019 been so far?

2019 has been a very good year for us. We’ve achieved growth in terms of revenue, headcount and profitability. It’s comforting to know that nearly 80% of our clients have been partnering with BWD for over 10 years.  

We have integrated a new CRM system and improved on a huge amount of technology and infrastructure.

We also opened our London office this year, which has been a big step up for us and clearly demonstrating our national growth.

This year has been a year of fundamental change in the business, but a highly positive one and we are ready for 2020. Bring it on.

 

What are the plans for BWD in 2020?

We will continue to improve the service we offer, continue to improve how we attract clients and candidates, and continue growth of market share.

We want to improve our presence in London, continue the growth of each division and start to plan for our office relocation in Leeds, for our new HQ.

 

What one memorable moment will stay with you?

One memory that I will never forget, is the company’s 10-year anniversary trip to Barcelona.

We took the whole company for a hugely enjoyable celebration holiday and we had some good laughs. It was a perfect weekend.

 

If you could change something within the recruitment market, what would it be?

I would change the reputation of recruitment. However, it does make BWD shine even brighter, so I quite like that its reputation can make us stand out, but the industry has always been tarnished with a poor perception.

 

Now you are MD, what, if anything, do you miss about recruiting?

I miss the thrill of the chase. I miss helping clients and candidates. Every recruiter loves to hear the words, ‘I would like to make this candidate an offer’.

Now I talk in acronyms; Ebitda, P&L, H1F…

 

Have you had to make any plans for Brexit?

No. We are mainly UK based, so we have made no immediate plans. We are in regular communication with our clients to ensure we can adapt to their plans and requirements.

We have recruited during the financial crash of 2007 and seen numerous regulatory changes that altered the landscape we recruit in. As recruiters, you’ve got to acclimatise and look for opportunities. We’ve just got to keep positive and keep providing our service. Keep calm and carry on.

 

Outside of work, what do you like to do?

I like to go to the gym, keep fit, do competitive sports and play football. Sporty activities help me unwind, so I do a lot of these in my spare time. I like spending time with my family, however I’m not sure how they feel about it because I’ve never asked them.  

 

Who is your idol?

I don’t have one. I respect several people, but I do not idolise anyone.

 

What makes BWD somewhere people want to come and work for?

People like feeling as if they belong somewhere, they like to be valued, to have a voice and to progress. Too many companies use fads to entice employees, like football tables and sleep pods, but people want to feel like they are part of a growing business and have their career ambitions achieved.

And we pay people well too!

 

What would you change if you could change anything about BWD?

Over the last two years we have fundamentally changed the business and it’s almost unrecognizable in many ways. It’s important to make sure that we stay true to our identity, keep grounded and avoid corporate arrogance.