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Maeve Monaghan
The NOW Group

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Ben Stocks
Leckey Designs

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4c Executive Search… A Focused Approach

Published on: 12 December 2015

Gary Irvine might have been one of the key players in the Northern Ireland recruitment industry for quite a few years but he clearly hasn’t lost his enthusiasm for the business…despite having just sold his £40 million turnover business to a Plc. How many local business leaders would like to be able to say that?

In fact, Irvine is relishing the opportunity to focus his attention exclusively on 4c Executive Search, the specialist executive search consultancy he set up in 2013 to run autonomously serving the senior requirements of the N.I blue-chip client base, whilst still owning his long established Diamond Recruitment Group.

In a strategically planned move, he’s now going to be focusing on the fast-growing 4c business…having sold off Diamond Recruitment after 26 years successful trading to one of the giants of the Recruitment Industry, namely the Staffline Group Plc.

“The whole process of the disposal of Diamond was very painless and Staffline very much delivered on everything they said they would. I wish them well with the business in the future, and I know that Diamond Recuitment Group and it’s people will be in safe hands.

Having been running Diamond for more than 20 years I was keen to pursue new challenges and opportunities. So I started to move in a new direction a few years ago, bringing Rick Butterworth in as MD while I took on more of a strategic role in the business, which afforded me the time and energy required to establish 4c Executive Search. The Executive search arena is a prestigious sector that I’d always wanted to get involved in,” says Irvine.

“I look upon this as an exciting new chapter in my career. When I spoke to business clients here in Northern Ireland about executive search, the majority of them told me that they turned to specialists in Dublin and London. Here, they felt that executive search was more about the old school tie networks and the contents of their little black books…

So my aim and our aim right from the start when we launched in October 2013 was to offer a truly professional executive search service which does exactly what it is supposed to do…research and find the right person for business-critical roles at a high level within an organisation, using a very sophisticated and defined process methodology.

Executive search, of course, is better known by most as head hunting. And to do it discreetly and correctly the process needs to be clearly defined and exacting in it’s standards. The team at 4c in Belfast works with the client to prepare a highly detailed document – the Assignment Brief – defining the position and the candidate being sought. They do the initial research into possible candidates, producing a target list of companies and candidates which is then refined further, after client collaboration, before it serves as the final research list that is used as our first point of call.

Then the focus switches. The listed candidates are then contacted by one of a team of our professional researchers based in London with the simple aim of ascertaining whether or not they are interested in finding out more about the role in question. The “head hunting approaches” have now started in earnest.

The role of these professionals is to try to get the candidate from apathetic to interested. It is all done very professionally and very confidentially. The candidate only finds out who their potential employer is at the later stages of the process,” explains Gary Irvine.

“Once a list of emerging interested parties is identified, then we’ll engage personally with every one of them to take the process forward. We have to take a lot of factors into consideration. A candidate, for instance, has to be the right cultural fit for an organisation… otherwise it won’t work out well. It’s not just about ticking the right experience and expertise boxes.

And it’s not a quick fix. We make no promises that we’ll have a candidate for a job within a couple of weeks. In fact, it can be a 12-week process or thereabouts… from preparing the brief through to making an appointment.

4c Executive Search, says Gary Irvine, is the only executive search firm of its kind serving the Northern Ireland marketplace. “There are others, but they do it very differently to how we do it,” he adds. “We’ve built the 4c business up steadily over the past couple of years, breaking even in the first year, then making a modest profit and now we’re heading for a decent profit. We don’t do this for fun, after all……business is about making money.”

On the recruitment front, 4c has successfully filled some 60 senior appointments over the
past two years, with the largest majority falling within the £50K – £180K range.

“A point also worth noting”, states Irvine “is that 4c never searches into client organisations, something that is essential if we are to retain their trust and custom into the future”. I’ve been amazed by how much business there is out there,” he says. “It might be considered a niche market, but there is clearly a growing demand for assistance when it comes to filling senior business critical roles.”

Irvine reckons that executive search is by far the best way to find the right people for senior roles. “If you simply advertise on the job boards or go through a recruitment agency, you’ll end up with two different types of candidate…..active job seekers who are desperate to move on and passive job seekers who are browsing the marketplace on an ad-hoc basis.

Executive search targets individuals who are neither active or passive job seekers. In fact, the odds are that they will be happy in their roles elsewhere and, until they hear from us, hadn’t been considering a move.

At the end of the day, it’s a case of searching for the right person and finding the right person. It’s really not any more magical than that.- we just make it look that way…..” he jokes!

And Gary Irvine is clearly enjoying it.

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