Billy Stephenson, Founder and Managing Director of Stephenson Executive Search, goes under the spotlight!

Life Before SES:

Originally, I was a banker at a major Swiss bank, overseeing multi-asset investments for high-net-worth individuals and companies.

What was your reason and motivation to start an executive search firm?

I had a few reasons:

Firstly, I love challenges – whether climbing mountains, skiing across the Norwegian Hardangervidda or kayaking across the channel – and the idea of creating the most reputable search business was the ultimate!

Secondly, I recognised a unique opportunity to build a team of headhunters who not only identified with our values of integrity, trust, respect, passion, innovation and tenacity, but also boasted firsthand experience within the industries they would be recruiting for. I firmly believed that this approach would give us a deeper understanding of the specific needs and nuances of our clients, setting us apart from the competition.

Thirdly, someone tried to headhunt me, and I had a less-than-satisfactory experience. It became evident that the individual in question was primarily driven by the allure of a commission, rather than a genuine commitment to my best interests. This experience was one of the catalysts for a vision to establish a company that prioritised reputation and integrity over quick financial gains, placing the client’s well-being at the forefront of our mission.

Following the numerous awards SES has won over recent years, what do you feel makes you stand out in the market?

SES stands out in the market for three key reasons:

  1. Expertise Matters: Our consultants have hands-on experience and relevant qualifications in the sectors they serve. From finance to law, we bring real-world knowledge to the table.
  1. Reputation Over Profit: We prioritise being the most respected executive search firm, not just the most profitable. Our core values of integrity, first-class service, respect, passion, innovation, and tenacity drive our every decision.
  1. Diversity and Fairness: We’re passionate advocates for diversity, ensuring our candidate lists reflect the wealth of talent in each sector. As founding signatories of the Black Talent Charter, we’re dedicated to equal opportunities for all.

In a competitive market, SES stands as a beacon of expertise, integrity, and inclusivity.

Over the life of your career what has been the most rewarding?

The awards we have received over the years are lovely and we’re delighted to have received them, but the most rewarding part of my career has been my exceptional team. Clients and candidates consistently commend my colleagues for their outstanding service. I take immense pride in cultivating a team that prioritises reputation, trust, and a balanced blend of tradition and innovation, helping us get closer to our aim of being the best headhunters.

And what has been most challenging?

Starting the business was tough, but in the world of headhunting, it gets easier with experience. Challenges remain, but experience breeds confidence. I’m fortunate to have great mentors and an excellent Chairman to guide me.

As a business owner, how have you found the current market conditions and what challenges have you/do you see your company facing over the coming months?

COVID presented a huge challenge, but it pushed us to be more agile. Small businesses like ours can pivot swiftly.

Whilst challenges persist, we thrive on discovering new opportunities and niches. Stagnation isn’t our style. We really enjoy learning and adapting; it is how we stay ahead of the competition.

What interests do you have outside of business?

I love tennis although I am rubbish! I am keen to try out padel – people are raving about it.

If you could invite (any) 3 people to dinner, who would it be and why?

My brother, Freddy, Ranulph Fiennes and the third can be any friend who wants to listen to the other two!

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