Interview with InterExec Founder, Mr. Kit Scott-Brown
Executives looking to progress their career face the problem that many of the best opportunities are not presented in plain sight. They are there – but reside in the unadvertised hidden market of executive vacancies. One company that specialises in connecting the right people with the right opportunities is InterExec. Here, founder Kit Scott-Brown explains how it works.
Thank you for honouring us with your time, Mr Scott-Brown! Let’s start at the very beginning. Did you always see yourself having a coaching career?
No, I never aspired to that and, indeed, InterExec is not in career coaching. I think of career coaching as providing theoretical advice, whereas InterExec provides exclusively practical assistance to our clients.
Some 45 years ago, you were on the hunt for a professional organisation that could undertake a job search for you, to enable you to focus on your work without distraction. What was the driving force that finally led you to establish InterExec that same year?
I started out as a chartered accountant, but then set up a secondary bank, all of which exclusively lent money on second mortgages. When, in the mid-70s, property prices collapsed, I entered into negotiations to sell the bank and realised that I would need to find a new role in life. I asked the advice of the Institute of Chartered Accountants, who recommended me to a leading career counsellor.
After five hours in a seminar, the MD of the career counsellor said to me, “Now that you know all about it, go out and do it, dear boy, and good luck to you.” I pointed out to the Institute that, being busy and having no market experience, I needed someone who would do it for me. They told me there was no such thing, so if I felt strongly I should set one up.
So I entered this market not because I knew all about it, but because I knew nothing about it and I could not recruit anyone who did. The history of InterExec has been a history of learning and gaining knowledge and experience over more than 45 years.
InterExec specialises in delivering unique, client-centred services to executives who are seeking within the £200k/$300k to £2m/$3m+ range. Why would you say this “hidden market”, in particular, inspires more interest?
It is called a hidden market because opportunities seldom appear in the public domain. In other words, they are rarely advertised, which gives the senior executive a particular problem in undertaking a search, particularly if they want to achieve the best results by having a broad perspective of the opportunities and reward levels that may be available.
For those who may not be familiar with the concept, what does the “unadvertised world” mean in the industry?
Employers seldom want the world to be aware of changes before they happen, particularly if the present incumbent is not aware. So they do not often advertise senior roles and, more often than not, they prefer a search consultant to identify a shortlist with their specialist expertise.
Each search consultant, unlike more junior recruiters, probably only secures about six assignments a year, so they are desperately keen to avoid anyone else encroaching on that opportunity before they earn their commission. For this reason, they are not about to advertise it. Hence, the “hidden market”.
Changing employers can be a delicate transition for executives to make. What do you do for clients in order to ensure that the process remains smooth?
That is not easy to answer without being boring, because we spend about 20 hours on each client’s affairs before we approach the market, and we may talk to over 100 relevant search consultants in the first two months thereafter, and support the client throughout.
However, ensuring it is smooth is all down to the first 20 hours of planning, to ensure that all possible troughs are envisaged and smoothed before exposing one’s reputation to the market, and ensuring confidentiality throughout.
InterExec remains the only organisation to have obtained the approval of the Department of Employment to comply with the Employment Agencies Act 1973. Could you elaborate on how this carries over into the work you do? What should clients know beforehand?
We do not get paid for finding or seeking to find clients jobs, since that is illegal in the UK. What we do is to ensure that our clients are known confidentially to the search consultants who have or are most likely to have relevant vacancies and that our clients are appropriately recommended.
Aside from bringing more structure to career portfolios, InterExec also places emphasis on encouraging an overall sense of internal balance and a higher quality of life. Can you give some examples of how this is done in practice? Do you go into specific areas of self-development, such as mindfulness?
We work closely with each individual, understanding their specific strengths and, of course, weaknesses. The planning process inevitably leads to a stronger sense of personal preparation for the search ahead.
Given that you work closely with over 15,000 contacts from all over the world, how much of your process have you altered to fit the changing landscape of a post-pandemic workforce?
When we started InterExec, we had to have offices all over the UK, because executives would not travel for interview, let alone work more than a few miles from home. That has melted over the years, so that, pre-pandemic, our clients were increasingly becoming international already, but there is no question that the process has been hastened over the last two years.
We have not had to change our processes to accommodate this, but have concentrated on strengthening our overseas contacts and out-of-hours communications staff.
Kit Scott-Brown, Kit originally trained as a Chartered Accountant but over 45 years ago he was hunting for a new challenge and discovered apart from recruiters with specific client mandates there was nowhere he could find to provide real support, planning and objective guidance on hunting for the ideal role. InterExec was born and since then has worked with several thousand Senior Executives in planning and presenting them to the confidential and often complex global market. The experience of Kits team and their worldwide network of over 15,000 Search Consultants has made them a unique organisation with an outstanding track record.