OTB Founder & MD – Charmain Gyles-Ferguson

Name:

Charmain Gyles-Ferguson

Role:

Founder & MD 

Company:

Outside The Box Recruitment

Website:

otbrecruitment.com

Time with the company:

July 2016 – July 2021

 

What is your morning routine?

I use my morning routine to get myself started for the day – it’s an opportunity to exercise, get energized and organised. I’ve got a summer routine right now: I get up early around 6.30 and go for a power-walk for an hour and a half. If it’s raining or very cold I’ll stay indoors and I might do my hip-hop abs to get my heart-rate going or some variation of music and dancing; that’s my favourite! I also do virtual Pilates twice a week and on the odd occasion, I might go to our local park and hire a bike for an hour workout.

I always make a fresh hot lemon and ginger to start my day and I try to fast until 12 or 1 o’clock. If I’m in my organised state, I would have already made a list for the day’s tasks the night before.

How did you become involved with the industry?

I’ve been in recruitment for over 25 years specialising and focusing on luxury fashion/retail; prior to working in recruitment, I was a fashion area/manager, so I’ve acquired a very broad skillset. Knowing how to manage a ten million pound business, the operations, training and developing those store teams, liaising with buying & merchandising teams and finance for the P&L accounts, the legal aspects of HR and people management, knowing what makes a good commercial manager etc… this is what set me up for what I’m doing now. I can get into the real nuts and bolts of an interview with any candidate because I know the walk and I know what businesses are looking for.

When I moved into recruitment, I was trained to recruit with a 360-degree overview of fashion: from strategic board members, senior to junior roles, I had to learn what a design team, pattern cutters, sample machinists, head office roles, wholesale, store operations, all bring to the table. Now I know the recruitment processes involved in the industry I can apply my knowledge and skills to any category of recruitment. For example, knowing the management style of a particular luxury brand compared to a premium brand.

Why did you decide to start your own recruitment consultancy?

In 2016 I was head-hunted by a competitor. My natural instincts told me not to go to this brand, but I thought nothing ventured, nothing gained. In hindsight, I should have trusted my instincts. I found a business intrenched with KPI’s (must send out x amount of CV’s, make x amount of calls, interview x amount of candidates etc…) and not about the service they should be delivering to their clients and candidates. This went against the very ethos I believe in. So, I decided to take a leap of faith, leave, and go independent. I was going to bring my standards and service ethos to the creation of a new business. With the help of our digital director, 2 weeks later the website and business were launched, I was contacting my clients of old and the business evolved from there. Now we are going into our 6th year.

What is your main responsibility?

I have 360 responsibility for OTB, covering lots of different sectors. There’s operations… dealing with the budgets, the smooth running of the business, I have to make sure our CRM system is updated and running smoothly, so whenever I do a search I can find the ideal people.

Next up there’s marketing. I work with the digital director of Digital360, who have just re-branded our website. We’ll look at the information we put out on our website, LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook, as well as our advertising. All of this is valuable information for planning for the future. I’m always looking at innovative ways to develop the business, staying in touch with my contacts, and maintaining the long established relationships I have with our clients and candidates.

Moving forward, another focus of OTB is consulting with new and established businesses, where I can use my skills and industry knowledge. I have always wanted to be helpful and inspire new businesses to succeed. For example for one of our clients, MH Mena, we recruited their sales & design team, managed her digital presence, and currently advise and support the business. We are strategizing how we can elevate her business from a new entrant to the next big thing; now, through my contacts, she’s showing her collection at the Middle East Fashion Week and designing for an Ultra-High-Net-Worth client base.

What is your typical day like?

Throughout the day I’m always focusing on building and nurturing those relationships with all my clients and candidates. There are lots of meetings and calls and travels all over London. Recently in the space of a day, I had to meet a client for breakfast where I was taking recruitment briefs for their company. Then I met a candidate who I had just placed for a congratulatory lunch. Of course, because of Covid, I’ve been meeting candidates over Zoom, so it’s just wonderful to see them face-to-face and have the opportunity to solidify that relationship. Next, I paid a visit to Bond St, where a lot of my candidates work, to say hello and see how they’re getting on. All the while this is going on, I’m getting calls from clients and candidates, receiving feedback on interviews from both sides so we’re all on the same page. That’s when I rush back to my office to advertise the jobs I’ve just taken on. I’ll do a massive search on my database and reach out to candidates who might be interested in the job, and make a list of where I might headhunt from. Then I’ll advertise on LinkedIn, other job boards and our own website.

How are you adapting to the demands of Covid?

During Covid I was very fortunate to still have work coming through, but I had to organise my time, keep talking to amazing talented candidates and keep abreast of what’s going on in the industry. I never took my foot off the pedal. During lock-down the phone was ringing off the hook with candidates responding to the adverts and referrals from recommendations. I might be hearing from someone who has lost someone to Covid, they’ve been made redundant, they’ve only ever been with one company and need advice. I have to be patient, listen to everyone’s personal issues and sadness throughout Covid, I’ve got to be a good listener. It has been a challenge keeping myself and others positive and uplifted throughout this period.

Some brands were/are recruiting, and some are still going through redundancies. In the middle of all of this, I was still consulting where I could. Another difficulty is in every country there are different rules and regulations on international travel, work visas, and Brexit has become another obstacle in international recruitment. Not to mention Black Lives Matter pushing diversity to the fore internationally. There are eyes on the fashion industry like never before.

What’s the best part of your job?

The best part of my job is seeing that smile on somebody’s face when I say ‘you’ve got the job.’ The other thing I enjoy is when I’ve coached someone after an interview that might have gone poorly, but I’ve seen their potential, so when they finally get the job, I feel a sense of pride and joy that I’ve given back. I love seeing my interns evolve because of my training. I have been privileged to train 5 interns who have gone on to work for Hermès, Harrods, Gucci, the Shangri-La Hotel and Edmond de Rothschild. I love the fact I’ve taken students on from university and given them a taste and flavour of what recruitment could look like in the fashion industry.

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What’s the worst part of your job?

The worst part of my job is when I see someone with amazing talent not get the job and I have to manage that disappointment, or, when a client over promises the job expectation and when the candidate states they’re not happy.

What’s your most memorable work moment?

I have these professional proud ‘auntie’ moments where I’ve helped someone through their career and I am still in touch with them. There are candidates who I have known for fifteen years + and I’ve placed them 3/4 times. Now, they’re my clients! I attend their weddings and can say “shall we catch up over a glass of wine?” That’s when it goes from a professional relationship to a friendship.

What advice would you give to anyone interested in the same profession?

If you’re interested in getting into recruitment, remember it is a people business. You need to approach it with integrity. You are affecting peoples’ lives. People are going to be spending 8 hours a day somewhere, their professional happiness is in your hands! Recruiters can be totally target and results driven and forget it’s people we’re dealing with. So, if you love to support and engage with people it can be a rewarding career to be a part of.

How do you prepare for the next day? (What do you do to unwind in the evening?)

At the end of the day, I prepare my to do list for the next day, so when I come to my desk, I know what I’m doing. If I’ve had a crazy day, believe it or not, I like to play solitaire or sudoku on the computer. I just want brain fodder to unwind. Or I’ll meet up with my friends to shake a leg to some good music, eat good food and have some good belly-laughs!

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A few words about the article author

Dwayne Ferguson is the Digital Director at Outside The Box Recruitment. He is responsible for the website and all digital marketing campaigns.

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