My career. Multiple screw-ups, and ONE thing I got right.

I have had some major highs in a career that is now deep into its 4th decade. Lots of hard work, lots of luck, and plenty of great people, have helped me to some success, which has been fun and lucrative. And I am proud of many milestones along the way, possibly capped by the IPO of Recruitment Solutions, a company I founded with two others.

I have also stumbled many times. Offices that have failed, business ventures that have floundered, poor decisions, a quick temper, bad hires, and a wide range of cataclysmic cock-ups, all of my own making.

But at least I have been smart enough to learn a few things along the way.

One in particular.

It’s a cliché, but clichés become clichés because they are true, and I say it with conviction, because in my case it’s based on hard-earned experience.

It’s all about the people you bring with you on the journey.

Any success I have had was anchored on two related themes. A healthy ego, which is big enough to mean failure is not an option, but not so big that I was scared to hire great people. Indeed, the secret I learned along the way, which I share with you now, is to hire people who are better than you at the jobs that you want them to do.

That is easier to say than to do, and everyday I see managers stunting their own careers by hiring people they feel they can ‘control’, people they keep fettered, sometimes even undermining them, because they feel threatened if someone shines too bright. That is a big mistake.

As a junior manager I thrived because I hired better consultants then me, and I rejoiced in their billings over-taking mine. I hired better managers than me (in potential at least), taught them everything I knew, and I learned, over time (because it took years to learn this), to let them have the room to do what they could do better than I could.

If you want to build anything of substance, it’s all about leverage. Leveraging the talent of others I mean. And that might sound like exploitation, but it most certainly is not. Not if you create careers and opportunities and development for the people you bring with you. If you create a great business and do that on the back of helping your people be the very best they can be, who loses?

As David Ogilvy the great advertising man said all those years ago;

“If each of us hires people who are smaller than we are, we shall become a company of dwarfs. But if each of us hires people who are bigger than we are, we shall become a company of giants.”

Who do you hire? Dwarfs or giants?

Please leave me a comment below with your opinion or idea.


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About Greg Savage

Over a career spanning thirty years, Greg Savage has established himself as a global recruitment leader. Greg is a regular keynote speaker at staffing and recruitment conferences around the world.

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11 Responses to My career. Multiple screw-ups, and ONE thing I got right.

  1. Ivan October 7, 2014 at 11:17 am #

    Unfortunately I have been suffering from Dwarf syndrome over recent months.
    In fact I’m shocked at the thinking in the industry here in Perth.
    One company in particular, when being interviewed the interviewer actually stated ” you have more experience than me, I wouldn’t know how to manage you and you could probably do a better job than me, so I don’t see it working out.”
    Another told me straight to my face that they had changed their minds about hiring a senior and they were going to run with 10 graduates, as they knew they would get a 1 in 5 success rate and it wouldn’t cost them too much. ( other than reputation, clients and market share, in my opinion )

    • KAT February 7, 2016 at 12:18 pm #

      that is age discrimination !
      What happens when at the interview you can read the Interviewer’s mind and ran for dear life ???

  2. Walter Hawtin October 7, 2014 at 12:41 pm #

    Great insights Greg, thanks.

    The one area, in my third decade, where I have failed is people.

    I am guilty of bad decisions, impatience, missing opportunities because of pride. My failure with people is that, while they like working for me, I’ve not been able to imbue them with a passion for what we do. I hired employees, not partners. I am not a people leader – I have a strong consulting mindset which makes me an excellent senior search partner, but not the leadership characteristics to inspire, especially the selflessness.

    That recognition a short time ago has saved me, and allowed me to structure my business and to work to my strengths.

  3. Alan Allebone October 7, 2014 at 1:40 pm #

    No truer words spoken!

    But I am a great believer in loyalty to their employer. People who will journey with you through thick and thin, rain or shine and NOT leave you because it is tough at the time.

    It has to be a relationship built on loyalty and trust.

    Give your staff the support they need and they will also improve to become better and more successful at their jobs.

    We are very fortunate here as we have staff who have been here 17, 20 and 25 years!

    Good one Greg!


    The golden oldie who has just celebrated his 70th birthday and nearly 40 years in recruitment!

  4. Teri Moxham October 7, 2014 at 1:44 pm #

    I learnt early in my career that smart Managers do not expect to “know everything” but to employ experts who DO know everything and then to manage them appropriately with respect and appreciation. This frees up the Manager and enhances the growth of the business and the team.

  5. Alex Babic October 7, 2014 at 3:46 pm #

    Fantastic blog.

  6. Alan Allebone October 7, 2014 at 4:08 pm #

    Excellent comments! You have it the nail on the head.

  7. Terry October 7, 2014 at 7:22 pm #

    Greg, that is an excellent blog and great reminder for all of us. I have just interviewed one of your great hires from many years ago, Ross Clennett who is certainly a giant of the industry. Thanks

    • Greg Savage October 7, 2014 at 8:52 pm #

      Yes Terry, Ross is exactly the sort of person i am talking about. Hired him as a pretty green recruiter and he worked with me for a decade, running a huge business for us at one point. Still a good friend of mine today, Greg

  8. Nick Thant October 8, 2014 at 3:19 am #

    Hi Greg,

    Followed you ever since that article you wrote about “People leave Leaders, not companies”. Your insight and aspects guide me along in my decisions. This one once again hit the nail on the right spot!

    I do not personally hire, but I train and coach potential leaders in my organization. So in order to let them perform, it’s important to give people the tools to who need them, ideas and etc, and let them do their job better. We cannot do their job, but by giving them the tools and methods so that they grow to like their jobs and your management of themselves get easier.

    We cannot be hiring only giants, but Would be Giants too. As sometimes minnows can grow up by leaps and bounds. So picking up a good pup of a person is just as important. There would not be any fixed rules for hiring, however we should at least build some ground rules on Attitude and Integrity. Else we could be farming Wolf in a Oxen farm. It’s not about Ego, but Personal Values and Beliefs. Managers has to discuss this with the applicant and continue shaping through the training period. Or else, we probably have to let go. Would you agree?

  9. Terence Verma November 3, 2014 at 9:46 pm #

    There can be just one Decision taker…the rest can be situational leaders, i.e those who have the answers to part of a larger task. They shall then mature into capable decision takers.

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