As part of my selection for #LinkedInTopVoices 2018, I was asked to write something about me that isn’t on my LinkedIn profile. This came to mind.

At the end of 2007, after 17 years in executive search, I co-founded, along with Mike Clarke, a renewable energy installation company. In May of 2008 we passed our MCS accreditation to install Solar PV and Small Wind (we later added heat pumps and solar thermal). Things were slow, pre Feed in Tariffs, but we worked for some committed small businesses and home-owners. One day in the office I received a call from someone saying he was representing Bear Grylls and had a site they wanted to power through renewables. Now, I don’t watch much TV, so I wrote on my pad ‘Bear Grills restaurant’ and took some notes.

Long and short, it wasn’t a restaurant, but survival TV specialist, ex SAS and Ultra Boy Scout Bear Grylls, who has a small island, just off of the North Wales coast. He was conjoining the light house keepers cottage with an outbuilding, and wanted to have some power beyond the Genset on site. We designed a system incorporating a 3kw wind turbine from Proven Energy, as they were, and a 2 kWp PV array, Sanyo/Panasonic panels, and an SMA inverter, complete with heat/power dumps (batteries weren’t really a thing at the time), and back-up provided with the Genset on site.

The first trip to site was via a very slow boat, tools and all, from a local harbour. Now, I can just about wire a plug, and I’ve never been one for hard physical work, but I took the opportunity to tag along as a labourer (we ended up with 50 staff, but had about 4 at the time).

The next trip we were collected by Bear himself, in a super fast Rib. I arrived at the island on that occasion very wet and sea-sick. Never before or since have I had such a firm handshake from a man introducing himself “Hi, I’m Bear”.

It’s fair to say it wasn’t just power that was being improved on site, though I’m not sure how much use the toilet in the picture got use before the renovations. Great view though, and fresh smelling!

I learned a few things from this project. Many actually. Firstly, tradespeople deserve huge respect for the hard work they do, sometimes in unforgiving weather or circumstances. On this occasion the weather was scorching blue skies with very little shelter. The two litres of water I’d brought didn’t last long, and I suffered terribly with dehydration. The next day felt like the biggest hang-over ever, despite not a drop of alcohol being drunk. Lesson two, drink lots of water.

The two biggest lessons though were to see in action just how renewable technologies can bring power to remote, off-grid places, and that that could be, and is extended to homes, factories and buildings, as we later did as a company. I saw decentralised energy in action for the first time. And loved it. It was inspiring.

The biggest lesson of all though was that I could dedicate my career to clean energy and clean technology, building companies, as I did then, and as I am doing now, both directly and vicariously with Hyperion Executive Search. Making a good living, and making a difference to the world in which we all live.

We all know the climate and pollution challenges we face in the world today. We all know at times the odds seem insurmountable, but I know I can look my children in the eyes and tell them I did what I could. I’ve installed many MW’s of renewables, and am now supporting some of the best cleantech businesses on the planet to grow and succeed. Best of all we’ve created a brilliant team of like minded individuals at Hyperion, and on a daily basis we meet, speak to and support others who share our beliefs, passions and hope for a better, cleaner future. All thanks, in some part, to Bear Grylls.

It’s an unavoidable fact that when you want to scale your business, you need to recruit your team, and you want to recruit the best you can afford. At least I hope you do, otherwise I’d question your recruitment strategy. But what about when the market is ‘hot’ and the best you can afford doesn’t appear to be that good!

It’s a situation I’ve lived through a number of times, both as a recruiter, and a business owner. I’ve worked through Telecom’s and Software bubbles in the 90’s, and more recently the solar, energy storage and now the eMobility bubble. The cause is simple supply and demand. You want experience, there isn’t much of it about, you end up in a bidding war for candidates, if you’re not careful.

What can you do? I’ll share some suggestions below.

I was prompted to write this piece after a plea for advice came in this morning from a good industry contact, who will remain nameless, but the last sentence of his e-mail said…
“For these mid-career roles I am seeing salary levels of 75-90K sterling, some even higher. Could you confirm if this is sort of benchmark in e-mobility in UK?”

Firstly I would say, for absolute Key roles, leadership roles, and for genuine A* talent, you should be prepared to blow your budget. These people are few and far between. But for your A’s and B+ candidates (I don’t know much about lesser talents!) then yes, pay what you can afford, but take a look at the value they bring, and what alternatives you might have…..
My first (but not only) suggestion would be to use a professional filter, such as my company Hyperion Executive Search. You don’t do your own legal work, or accountancy, you use a professional to solve your problems!

One thing we do, and you could too, if you have the time, is to always be looking to engage with and network with the best talent in your field. The best talent is very rarely in a situation where they are looking for a job, applying to jobs, sending CVs to recruiters. They don’t need to, they are doing a great job, with motivation, and no doubt being looked after where they are. Job boards tend to be awash with the unmotivated, unwanted and incapable. Why do we do this? When candidates aren’t looking for a job they are more likely to be open about their experience, their salary, and what would motivate them to move (It’s VERY rarely money by the way). I’m happy to talk to you about what does motivate top talent to move. So build a network, benchmark people you see, do something for them (we help top candidates in many ways, sometimes they just want to know their market worth, or to hear of awesome opportunities, or market insights). You now have a warm pool of talent, that won’t be motivated purely by salary, and will be open to your approach, when the time is right.

Look outside of your niche. There is an argument that top talent, is top talent (that makes far more sense than Brexit is Brexit I assure you!). If someone has all the usual superstar attributes they won’t lose them if they move to another industry is what I mean. Think about it, would you rather pay, say £70,000 fixed salary for a B candidate in your sector, or the same or less for a superstar from another? Of course it depends on the nature of the role, and how quickly they can learn. At Hyperion we specialise in finding top talent in our client’s niche, so why would I suggest looking outside of your sector? Because what matters most is what is best for our clients, and what’s best for the cleantech industry, and over-inflated markets aren’t good for either. You end up with candidate merry-go-rounds and average people earning superstar pay, until they get found out and can’t deliver what is needed to pay the salary they have. There are many superstars outside of your niche looking for, or open to, opportunities in our wonderful cleantech world.

Don’t just pay over the odds, have a long term strategy, always be open to talent, pay more when it’s justified, but be creative when it’s not. Work with a partner to do all this for you, so you can focus on scaling your business. That’s my recommendation anyway! But even if you go it alone, don’t be burned by a hot market, make yourself an attractive employer, recruit for your purpose, not an over-priced off the shelf, average employee.