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    The 9 World Class Recruitment Secrets Behind Ending 30 Years of Hurt for Liverpool FC

    Most who know me will tell you that two of my big obsessions in life are recruitment and Liverpool Football Club. This week, both have been thrown together as I reflect on 30 years of near misses and memories of glory days. Thursday was a special night, celebrating with my 13 year old son who, like me, is a devoted red. I was exactly his age the last time Liverpool won the league. To share this moment with him was something I will never forget. For 30 years though, the club has walked through the storm. Previous owners had pushed the business to the edge. The invincibility and rich history had been eroded. Arch-rivals had caught up and, apart from in Europe, overtaken us. Decades of near misses and maybe next year. We had become a joke. Enter FSG in October 2010 just months after we had launched Harrington Starr. More American owners. Suspicions were high of John W. Henry, Tom Werner and the Fenway Sports Group as they made early promises taking over a near broken club for £300m with heavy losses to write off.  They made 4 key promises: they would attract the best players, turn losses into wins, compete for trophies and create a culture of winning. They had proven this with their ownership of the Boston Red Sox where incredible leadership had restored that team to former glories. Few though in 2010 that this could possibly happen at Liverpool. To cut a long story short, this week Liverpool stand as the European, World, Super Cup and Premier League Champions. It is truly extraordinary story that involves an exceptional team, bought together with a budget well below their peers, one of the lowest net transfer spends in the last 5 years (including no signings last year) and against far wealthier competitors. Revenue burst through the £500m mark and every area of the club is thriving. Whilst not David and Goliath levels, this is definitely a story of competing with a hand tied behind your back. The players are incredible but, to me, it is the work behind the scenes and a decade of incredible recruitment decisions, improved over time and never 100% perfect, that have transformed my beloved club from also rans into the best in the World. Here are the nine world class recruitment secrets behind this extraordinary story: Get the right man for the top job FSG Chief Mike Gordon’s master stroke was the decision in October 2015 to hire Jurgen Norbert Klopp as the Manager. Gordon was quoted as saying “He’s a polymathematical guy. I spent the first 30 years as an investor speaking to some of the best CEOs in the world and Jurgen is right up there with them. If he wasn’t managing a football club, he could be managing a Fortune 500 company.”  Klopp is an exceptional leader. The best man manager in the world, someone capable of getting more out of people and inspiring those around him. There is a whole book to write on this. The data analysis of his performance above expectation at Dortmund, his previous club, and an interview with Gordon in New York made him clearly the perfect fit. His magnetic, inspirational leadership meant the best talent has lined up to follow him. This has realised the first of the 4 point promise from FSG: attract the best players. As any good investor or VC will tell you, the right management is key to a successful investment. Get the decisions right at the top of the organisation and success follows. Wait for the right people Liverpool’s recruitment has been characterised by patience and getting the right people in the right positions. Targets have been drawn up and the right people hired. When the club identified Virgil Van Dijk as the right centre back, there was tremendous pressure to sign an alternative such as Jonny Evans when negotiations initially went South. They waited and got their man a window later. The rest is history. With question marks around the goalkeepers in Loris Karius and Simon Mingolet, again the club waited until they could get the best in the world rather than Jordan Pickford as people again clamoured for. They waited a year for Naby Keita and every recruitment decision has been carefully planned and executed by the brilliant Sporting Director Michael Edwards. Gone are the panic buys the club have learned from (see Mario Balotelli) and in have come carefully selected prime targets. This has been a journey of patience and lessons learned. Off the pitch, the club waited for 2 years to find the perfect sports psychologist when they appointed Lee Richardson. Klopp didn’t want any person in that role, he wanted the perfect person. How many times have you rushed a process to get a bum on a seat? Liverpool have spent time identifying and then ensuring they do all they can to secure the best players and staff. Part one of the FSG master plan in 2010. Hire on Character When the majority of the players at Liverpool were signed, they were not immediately heralded as natural superstars. Good players certainly, but none were the Galacticos that many were clamouring for. Liverpool have been careful to hire on character. Good, hard working players with the personality, work rate and professionalism needed to thrive. This is nowhere better exemplified than in their Captain and Vice Captain, Jordan Henderson and James Milner. Two of the best professionals in the Premier League. This season, Henderson looks set to become the player of the year and yet, signed nine years ago, he was mocked and unfancied. In 2012 he was nearly sold to Fulham but he got his head down and refused to give up. Fast forward to today, he has captained his country, and captained Liverpool to the Champions League, Premier League, Super Cup and Club World Cup. A fierce, never say die attitude that has spread throughout the team. The perfect manifestation on the pitch of the Klopp philosophy.  The team are committed, hugely likeable, drive high standards from each other and look like they have a great time doing it, seen clearly in their celebrations. They work hard for each other, have no “social loafing” and care deeply. Good people bought together with careful hiring, and brilliant scouting led by Dave Fallows, the Head of Recruitment, and Chief Scout Barry Hunter. Data Driven Decisions​Behind the incredible recruitment is a data machine that is the envy of the football world. Collected from around the globe and educated from Harvard to Cambridge, sits a data team that have been central to this movement. In Ian Graham, Tim Waskett, Will Spearman and Dafydd Steele Liverpool are gaining a “moneyball” style advantage over the competition. On the pitch, data is a central element to the playing style and has certainly contributed to the marked improvement of nearly every player in the squad. Off the pitch, it has been revolutionary in identifying talent. I’ve long been fascinated by this since first meeting Rasmus Ankersen and Blake Wooster, now founders of the brilliant 21st Club. The science of hiring is another huge subject and Liverpool are on a journey to master it, asking the important questions that have, almost exclusively in recent years, unearthed gems like Andy Robertson. It has also allowed the team to finance hires by developing young talent and selling high affording them increased transfer budgets. This data driven recruitment model has been the fulcrum of the recovery. Build the spine Most great football teams are built on a great spine. Goalkeeper, Centre Back, Midfielder and Striker. Liverpool’s recruitment journey has been hugely successful on doing this on the pitch with strength running throughout the squad. This spine, however, runs far deeper. The last decade has seen Liverpool recruit a core that runs throughout the club. Andreas Kornmayer as Head of Fitness and Conditioning was bought in and defied expectations by keeping so many players available for long periods despite the strain of the pressing game. Peter Krawietz and Pepijn Lijinders are the brilliant assistant managers who help bring the vision to life. Victor Matos, bought in from Porto, is seen as the ideal man for the key role of Elite Development Coach, bringing through the hugely talented crop of next gen players. There is the thrown in coach Thomas Gronnemark, the aforementioned data team, the brilliant goal keeping coach John Achterberg, quality runs throughout the “off field” squad. A huge hire to the spine was Peter Moore, the CEO, Head Hunted from the US where he had enjoyed a stellar career having left the City of Liverpool many years prior finishing after a hugely successful spell at EA. He and the quite extraordinary Michael Edwards have revolutionised Liverpool into having the best spine off the pitch in World football. A master stroke from FSG and Mike Gordon. Right People, right job On the pitch the right players are doing the right job, playing in positions that bring out the very best in them. Roberto Firmino has been heralded as one of the very best, playing in a role as if he were born to play. Previous managers had struggled to position him toying with numerous positions across midfield and attack. The number 9 shirt didn’t seem an ideal fit for someone who didn’t score heavily. Klopp found his niche and put the right person in the right job to help both him and the team.  The two best full backs in the world were given license to play their natural game, generating incredible statistics in their assists and influence. Others have played utility roles, maximising their contribution to the squad.  Added to that, we see the right people off the pitch. Smirks from opposition fans were raised when Liverpool employed Thomas Gronnemark as a throw in coach. His statistics and the contribution they have bought have been emphatic. The hiring of Lee Richardson has had a huge impact on the mastery culture the squad have embraced. A German big wave surfer, Sebastian Steudtner, was bought into the camp to help the team visualise that everything is possible and thinking about the next challenge straight after conquering the last.  The right people are in the right jobs, a central theme of Jim Collin’s excellent book Good to Great. Star Team The concept of a star team rather than a team of stars was first illustrated to me many years ago when talking about mavericks. This Liverpool team is not the superstar collection of household stars of the Real Madrid era. This is not the spice boys, spending as much time in Loaded and FHM as they did on the back pages. This is a team of grafters, professionals and standard bearers, diverse in the background, united by their mission. There is no room for mavericks, as illustrated by the exit of Mamadou Sakho, and this has led to a wonderful professionalism personified by famous Ribena drinker James Milner. This again, points to careful recruitment. No-one bigger than the club and a culture of mastery and excellence has followed, allowing standards to be driven manically. Develop Youth The recruitment policy has not focussed on big ticket signings alone. Despite breaking transfer records for defenders and goalkeepers, the FSG plan has been to buy young, developing talent and set the structure to support their growth. They have invested in the future. Trent Alexander-Arnold has been the poster boy for academy success, but alongside that, Neco Williams, Harvey Elliott and Curtis Jones among others are pushing through. The club have invested heavily in youth and are starting to yield the fruits of the work put in by Alex Inglethorpe the Academy Director and Victor Matos, the aforementioned Elite Development Coach. The entire set up is designed to identify, develop and retain young talent. There is a clear pathway for progression that gives hope for more young talent to trust the club to guide their career. This makes signing for the club over competitors hugely attractive.  There are also numerous examples of young players who have been bought cheap, developed and sold high. Dominic Solanke, Danny Ings, Jordan Ibe and Raheem Stirling all represent talent that has been developed and sold at profit leading to smart re-investment.  Liverpool have built a reputation as a talent incubator and this has reaped huge rewards. Employer Brand Only a couple of years ago, Liverpool, despite being a historically big club, had become a selling club. The best in the world would not have chosen it as a preferred destination. The focus was on a second tier of talent and a sea of stars such as Torres, Suarez, Coutinho, and Sterling went on to “better things” with their ambition seemingly not able to be matched by the club. Fast forward to today and it seems that Liverpool have the best in the world clamouring to play for them. The magnetic personality of Klopp is clearly the big draw but there is so much more behind it. Tim Grover, trainer to Michael Jordan and Kobe, said recently if you want to build your brand and get noticed “start by actually accomplishing something, and your brand will build itself.” There is no question that the success in the Champions League and Premier League has been a draw but again there is more. Liverpool boast a world leading press team. Their Head of Social, Adam Hulme, has been revolutionary. The branding, story and strong adoption of the legacy the club has been exceptional winning fans all over the world and increasing the turnover of the business astronomically.  In Jurgen Klopp’s first press conference he spoke of turning doubters to believers. On December 13th 2015, Liverpool drew 2-2 with West Brom at Anfield coming back late to equalise. He led the players to the Kop and took a bow as if they had qualified for a cup final. People laughed but it has symbolised the first signs of doubters becoming believers. The fans were recruited into this employer brand and have been instrumental in success. They have used the press incredibly well. In the commercial world, the role of employer brand in recruitment has become essential. Liverpool have tapped into this and created a club that the best in the world want to work for. Success has led to this but so has the messaging, the story, the leadership team, the care and compassion shown. It has been an extraordinary revolution to witness. So there we have it. Recruitment and Liverpool colliding in glorious harmony. This has been a journey from John W. Henry and Tom Werner that has taken 10 years to create. Their four point plan centred around attracting the best players. This didn’t happen in the same way that Chelsea and Man City had done before with extravagant spending. It is a recruitment masterclass and one we can all learn from. It’s a simple formula: Get recruitment right and you can attract the best players. Attract the best players and you can turn losses into wins. Turn losses into wins and you can compete for trophies. Compete for trophies and you create a culture of winning. Create a culture of winning and you can keep recruiting the best players. Great recruitment has transformed the valuation of a business from £300m to over £2bn. It has taken revenues well over £500m from near disaster ten years ago. Great recruitment has had a transformational impact on the club's business interests as it can do for your business too. Great recruitment is the vital ingredient in the success of any business. FSG have proven it’s a science and you can too. 

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    The Harrington Starr Award train moves on

    Following a successful trip to the Recruiter Awards last month in which Harrington Starr CEO, Toby Babb, took home the coveted Recruitment Entrepreneur of the Year Award at the Grosvenor Hotel, the company is once again in the limelight later this June when they revisit Café de Paris for the Global Recruiter Awards. This is the site of the company’s record haul of four gongs in 2018, and they are back in with a huge shot of taking home some silverware this year with seven nominations, more than double that of any other company involved.  These include: Best Specialist Recruitment Business Best Permanent Consultant (Lee Harding) Best UK Overseas Operation (Harrington Starr Inc) Best Employer Brand Best Use of Social Media for Candidate Attraction Best In-House Training Best Innovation  This is great recognition for what has been another stellar year in the company’s development and growth, seeing the largest headcount, record billings, and most innovative marketing campaigns since inception.  We, of course, wish everyone nominated the best of luck and can’t wait to celebrate with everyone at what is a great occasion for the industry and look forward to reporting back with good news on the 21stJune!

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    Harrington Starr CEO and Founder named as the Most Influential CEO of the year in CV Magazine.

    Back in February this year, Toby Babb was named as the Most Influential CEO in CV Magazine. This particular award helps to identify and recognise professionals who have gone above and beyond to be a leader within their industry and inspire those around them. With almost 19 years working in the Recruitment Industry, it’s no surprise that Toby has picked up this prestigious award. As the CEO and Founder of the Harrington Starr Group, Toby has grown the company to four brands, over three offices, in London, New York and San Francisco. This recognition is testament to Toby’s passion, drive and commitment when it comes to building Global businesses within the Financial Technology sector. Toby has been a regular speaker at numerous industry events over the years and this year will prove no different. Not only this but Toby is an editor of the Financial Technologist and Starr Tech Enterprise Magazines, Chairman of the FinTech Influencers Community Network, host of The FS Technology Breakfast and FinTech Focus TV. To find out more about Toby’s work or how you can get involved in the business, drop us a message or give us a call.

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    Harrington Starr win a record four gongs at the Global Recruiter Awards

    The Global Recruiter Awards recently took place at Café de Paris with Harrington Starr scooping a record four gongs and another highly commended recognition. Nominated for seven awards, the evening saw the Fintech Recruitment specialists dominate the stage, with no company in the ten-year history of the event having ever won more awards in one night. Winning Best Candidate Attraction through Social Media; Best Client Service; Best Small Recruitment Business; and Best Specialist Recruitment Business; the company were absolutely delighted. Group CEO, Toby Babb, said “we were thrilled to win and to pick up four awards was beyond all of our expectations on the evening. We have spoken, for a few years now, about wanting to enter awards and to be recognised by the industry at such a prestigious event like this is a huge honour. There are over 35,000 recruitment companies and to be recognised at this level is testament to the hard work and dedication shown by all of our amazing team.” The categories won were also of significance to Babb, who continued, “we have worked tirelessly to provide an outstanding service for our customers, to be seen as a stand out employer brand, to show real innovation in candidate attraction and to truly specialise in a niche. To stand out in all of these areas is extremely exciting. The team has worked incessantly to create a special business and it was an emotional night to be on stage so often to be recognised in all of these areas.” As the team celebrated long into the night, the next stages of growth were already in action. Managing Director Nadia Edwards-Dashti said “to win was hugely inspirational for all of us but we feel there is so much more to do. We are already thinking about how we can improve and do even better next year. This recognition is awesome, and we are tremendously proud, but the real work is still to be done. We can’t wait to be back to see if we can go one step further.” James Hounslow, another co-founder and MD, added “to be recognised at events like these is a huge plus. We are an ambitious business, committed to trying to become the best in the World at what we do. We have huge growth plans on a global scale and to be able to verify what we are achieving with awards like these help us attract and engage the best recruiters in the industry. It’s been a brilliant night.” Here is what the judges had to say: Judges’ comments - Winner of Best Candidate Attraction through Social Media: “This company delivered a well-researched online initiative, specifically targeted for the talent they needed and using a wide variety of media to do so. Having delivered clear and valuable results.” Best Client Service: “The Winner impressed the judges with an unparalleled service offering for customers. One of the judges noted the company had a clear commitment to maintaining an embedded presence within the sector they serve which ensured they can attract the best quality candidates in the market, and in turn deliver an exceptional level of client service.” Best Small Recruitment Business: “The Winner delivered what one judge called an ‘exceptional’ entry. This company has taken a fresh new approach to the business of recruitment, but combined that with some clear investment in its people. The result is a business that is set for more great things in the future.” Best Specialist Recruitment Business: “Despite the high number of entries in this category, this company stood out from the rest as a business dedicated to providing outstanding customer service, with a specific project team focused on every aspect of customer interaction. Great networking skills and excellent marketing has secured impressive financial growth and recognition from leading companies in the tech space.“ Highly Commended in Best Employer Brand: “First highly commended, this entry caused one judge to comment: “This isn’t a recruitment company with a strong brand, but more a very strong brand that happens to be excellent at recruitment.”   Additionally, Harrington Starr have now picked up awards at the Recruiter Awards, LinkedIn’s most socially engaged staffing companies and CIO Bulletin magazine. With an increasingly successful profile, the company has swelled headcount with 22 hires in recent months. Over 20 open positions exist in Harrington Starr, North Starr (their sister company) and in the New York and San Francisco offices. If you are looking to join a multi-award-winning business that can help fast track your career, please get in touch.  

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    Harrington Starr Shortlisted for 7 Awards at the Global Recruiter Awards

    Harrington Starr will be at Café de Paris on June 21st where we have been shortlisted for a Magnificent Seven Awards at the prestigious Global Recruiter Awards. The team has been shortlisted for Best Candidate Attraction Through Social Media, Best In House Training, Best Specialist Recruitment Business, Best Client Service, Best Small Recruitment Business, Best Employer Brand and Best Temporary Consultant. Harrington Starr CEO Toby Babb commented “following on from our success at the Recruiter Awards, this is another extremely exciting achievement for the group. These awards have long been on our radar and to have made the shortlist on so many categories is a huge sign that we continue to move in the right direction. We are highly ambitious and are pushing to be at the very top percentile of the industry. To have been recognised by such a prestigious panel is something we are hugely proud of and we look forward to the night to see how we get on.” These thoughts were echoed by North Starr MD Nadia Edwards-Dashti. “We are all immensely proud of what we have achieved so far in eight years and even more excited about the future. To have people from outside the business recognising the hard work that has been put in is hugely gratifying. I can’t wait for the night itself to see how we get on.” James Hounslow, MD of Harrington Starr, commented that “each of the awards represent areas of the business that strategically we have put enormous effort into. We try to be innovative in our candidate attraction, to differentiate with our brand, to truly act as specialists in our market place, add real value in our client service and train our staff to be the very best that they can be. To see Hari Sopal shortlisted as Temp Consultant is especially pleasing. Hari took the initiative to launch our contract business in 2013 and the work he has put in has been exceptional. This recognition for him is truly deserved.” Harrington Starr is a multi-award winning recruitment business with offices in London, New York and San Francisco. The group has four main brands, Harrington Starr covering the FinTech space, North Starr covering Data, Cyber, Sales and Software space, Harrington Starr Executive Search and Harrington Starr Technology Consulting which looks at Agile Transformation and Project Delivery. With more brands set to launch in the next 12 months, we are constantly looking to grow and speak to the best in the space. If you are looking to work for a business recognised for its innovative approach across the industry, get in touch today.  

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    Harrington Starr Winners at the Prestigious Recruiter Awards

    One of the blue ribbon gala events of the recruitment industry calendar took place recently with Harrington Starr shortlisted for three gongs at the Grosvenor House Hotel. With over 32,000 recruitment companies in the UK to have been shortlisted in three categories was a major achievement. We were hugely proud to have made the list for Recruitment Agency of the Year, Best Banking & Finance Agency and Recruitment Agency Leader of the Year. Whilst narrowly pipped to the post in two, we were delighted to see Harrington Starr CEO, Toby Babb, announced as the Recruitment Agency Leader of the Year. In summing up, the judges commented: “What impressed us most were his engaging communication style, his passionate commitment to raising standards in recruitment, his personal commitment to advancing the skills of his team of recruiters, and his compelling vision not just for his business but for his clients and candidates, too” Toby has been campaigning for many years to improve the standards and reputation of the recruitment sector and was thrilled to be announced as the winner. He commented “this has been a huge surprise and a massive honour. The quality and achievements of the others who were shortlisted is incredible and to be recognised alongside these peers is something that I am incredibly proud of.” Babb continued “it is especially pleasing to see that the judges recognised the commitment to raising standards in the industry. I am hugely passionate about the value that the sector brings and the quality and professionalism that we should be known for. Recruiter 360 TV has been developed to help increase the standards and awareness of the recruitment industry and I love seeing the old reputation slowly change.” “I would also like to say that this award is only possible because of the incredible support of the Harrington Starr team. From our exceptional leadership group, to the passionate, dedicated and enthusiastic sales team and our incredible back office unit. It is an absolute pleasure to work with all of them and this award is testament to their outstanding work.” Harrington Starr has also been shortlisted for seven awards at the Global Recruiter Awards on June 21st, ranked 12thof 60,000 plus companies on LinkedIn’s most socially engaged agencies, and was named one of the 30 Most Innovative Companies of 2017 by CIO Bulletin Magazine. Watch this space for more announcements soon. The company is growing quickly. With offices in London, New York and San Francisco we have opportunities all over the World. If you want to join a multi-award winning business and learn with some of the best in the sector, get in touch today.