Outside The Box Recruitment delivers a ‘perfect fit’ for Forever New

When Fay Wallis set off to attend a networking event for her career coaching business, little did she imagine the door it would open… for her husband

A chance conversation overheard; someone who knew someone, who just happened to have the perfect job opportunity on her books. That’s how it can work sometimes in the world of luxury and premium brand recruitment. 

Today, we’re talking with Ian Wallis, who, courtesy of that moment of networking magic, has recently taken up the role of International Business Development Director for premier Australian brand, Forever New, through Outside The Box Recruitment.  

Q: Ian, tell us first about your background and career experience

Over the years I’ve worked my way along most of the high street, with brands including Arcadia, Levi, Gap, Clarks, Oasis, Ann Summers and Knickerbox. For the last eight years I was with Phase Eight, who 3 years ago wereacquired by The Foschini Group (TFG). Their strategy involved acquisition of other brands, including Hobbs and Whistles, and furtherexpansion into global markets. My role within Phase Eight grew from traditional retail operations to international operations and then supported the portfolio developmentacross the group.

I left in September 2018 to consult – a lifestyle choice which enabled me to share the family responsibilities with my wife, whose business was taking off. In those first few months I worked with a venture capitalist on online business growth and an American beauty business looking to go global. I worked with Seasalt on their international expansion and with Ulster Stores on bringing new brands to their Jersey store.  

Q: How did you hear about the role at Forever New?

I was busy and in-demand and these were all interesting assignments, but I was soon finding the role of independent Consultant a little lonely. I missed the sense of belonging that you get from working within a big organisation. I’d begun thinking about some kind of part-time employment, but I wasn’t at the stage of actively looking. I wasn’t registered with agencies and you wouldn’t have found me on any job-seeker databases.

So, to that chance networking encounter between my wife and another woman, Janine, who had also recently left TFG and who happened to know Charmain. Janine and I were in contact  as a result of that conversation.  And when Charmain later talked with Janine about the position at Forever New, she kindly – and enthusiastically – put my name in the frame, and Charmain called me. 

Q: How did the recruitment process begin?

Following that initial contact from Charmain, I signed an NDA and she forwarded the job description. But when I read it, the role seemed less strategic than I’d hoped. The job description was for a role as Concession Relationship Manager. At Phase Eight I was part of the senior management team that handled three private equity sales and grew the business from 250 stores and concessions to 600, and from one country to 24. I was aftera much more substantial role in strategic development/operations. 

I told Charmain that I didn’t think this job was right for me.  But the call didn’t end there and we talked at length about my CV and work history. Charmain wanted a detailed understanding of what I was looking for, and what I had to offer.

She was brilliant, and suggested she speak with Dipendra Goenka, Forever New’s Founder/CEO on my behalf. She was confident he was seeking someone for a much meatier role than the one being described – and it turned out she was right.

Dipendra told Charmain that the impetus behind the hire was to find someone capable of opening doors across the UK and Europe. He knew that the right person would have an extensive ‘black book’ of contacts, plus the knowledge, experience and ability to create opportunities and follow them through.

Charmain also discussed my involvement with The Children’s Trust in Surrey and my intention to work a maximum of 3 or 4 days a week so that I could both fulfil my family commitments and support the charity where possible (that’s included completing the 2019 London Marathon on behalf of The Trust).She fed back to me that Dipendra would be supportive of these personal commitments.

With this very positive response to my initial concerns, I knew this could be the opportunity I was looking for.

Q: How did it go from there?

I had an interview call with Dipendra the following evening. We spoke for around 90 minutes in a very positive conversation. I got the strong impression that things would progress to the next stage.

I spoke to Charmain the next day. She already had feedback from the call with Dipendra. A couple of days later I spoke with the Talent Acquisition Manager. A more structured interview call, that too went well. Next came psychometric testing and an interview via WhatsApp video with the General Manager of HR. 

A few days later I was able to meet with Dipendra in London and the next day, I was offered the job. The whole process, end-to-end, took just two weeks. 

As a candidate, how do you feel you were dealt with?

I spoke frequently with Charmain during the process, and we also met face-to-face during that two-week period, so we built a great rapport. 

Charmain has been excellent, not only at matching the candidate to the role, but in understanding her client and their needs, and realising what wasn’t on the page when it came to the job description. She has also liaised and negotiated very effectively for us both. 

The process has been highly professional, and communication has been consistent and accurate. Charmain was on the phone and email, updating me with feedback at every point in the process. I always knew where I stood. 

Because Charmain is honest and open, she has built up a rapport with the personnel within Forever New. This meant she was able to help me make the most of each interviewopportunity. She coached me on what was likely to be important to each person, and highlighted things I might want to look out for. 

Her involvement hasn’t ended with my placement. Since I started work, Charmain has followed up, calling me to check how things are going and how I’m feeling. And she’s been able to reassure me that everyone at Forever New is just as happy with me as I am with my new role.

Q: What does your role involve?

It’s the perfect job for me on many levels and the Forever New product and proposition is great. When people see it, they love it. 

I’m responsible for expanding Forever New across Europe and my involvement is end-to-end. After initial meetings, I agree the best location I can within the department stores. I work closely with the department stores and our Legal team on the contract negotiations. With Commercial Finance we run the P&L’s to ensure the deal is profitable. From there I work with all the Forever New teams in Melbourne to ensure we deliver an amazing shopfit, that we are operationally ready, and that all the IT and integration is in place, as well as interviewing and selecting the team that will run each location. Once they are up-and-running it’s my responsibility to ensure they hit their targets, give the very best store experience and represent the brand fully.

Because of the relationships I’ve built up over the years, I’ve been able to hit the ground running and demonstrate value right from the start. I joined the company on 1stMarch 2019 and within the first couple of months I had a meeting with people I already knew within John Lewis, which has resulted in us going online with them from September. We’ve also secured Italy, Belgium, Ireland, Jersey and a number of independent department stores throughout the UK.

Q: And how is life with Forever New?

So far, it’s exceeded my expectations and I’m really enjoying the work. 

The job is great from a professional perspective, but it also works perfectly for me on a personal level. I work from home (unless I’m travelling) four days a week, giving me the flexibility I was seeking. With headquarters in Australia, my important calls generally take place first thing in the morning or later in the evening. That means I can accommodate family commitments alongside my working hours. 

From a work/life balance too, it couldn’t be better. And of course, I have achieved thatsense of belonging, being part of a great team with a unified focus and goals. 

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A few words about the article author

Dwayne Ferguson is Head of Digital at Outside The Box Recruitment.

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