Proco London recently moved to a brand new office in the heart of London, on Soho’s Carnaby Street.
With everyone excited and motivated following the opening of the new office, Stuart MacSween, Managing Partner of EMEA, sat down to discuss thoughts behind the move, the future of flexible working at Proco, and a few favourite bits about the new area.
Why did you decide to move on from your previous office space?
The UK arm of Proco has long been situated in two areas: The North Laine in Brighton, where the business was founded, and Farringdon, just on the outskirts of the City of London. London plays a central role to the success of our business. From here, we can connect our international team to our global network of European clients, and it’s only a short flight from Switzerland, Germany, Belgium, France and The Netherlands, where we invest a significant portion of our time.
As our business has evolved over time, the requirements of our office have too. We have very recently launched a new blueprint and direction for the business, which included moving to an employee equity model. To have an office that provided a fresh feel, in a vibrant area and with scope for growth, was central to the business’ long-term plans.
What has Proco’s approach to remote-working been and has it changed? What difference does being an executive search firm make to this approach?
It’s an interesting question, and I’m sure that leaders across the industry are still trying to figure out what the correct long-term model for their business should be.
At Proco we transitioned from a 5 day in-office model pre-pandemic to a 3 day in-office model post-lockdown. Adjustments have happened since we launched that model, however. Initially, we didn’t set the days we wanted the team to be in, and if I’m honest, we lost a degree of continuity and scope for in-person collaboration – something we hold in high regard. So, through speaking with the team we agreed on a model that allows teams to come together regularly, maintains our culture of collaboration and peer to peer guidance, but that also affords people the flexibility of being at home.
I’m not sure whether I can speak on behalf of the search industry, or indeed suggest that this model wouldn’t work for agencies, but from my experience of operating in both, I do have a view on this. For me it largely comes down to two factors, experience and support. Search firms will invariably hire teams with a higher experience level generated from their time in the industry, so while they undoubtedly still need in-person support from peers and the business, there is a lesser requirement for those teams to be in the office Monday to Friday.
Ultimately it comes down to the culture a business looks to set; for some, 5 days a week in the office will be the right model, for others it won’t. Finding the right balance comes from observing how your teams connect and listening to what they need in order to perform.
In the wake of COVID, many businesses are doing the opposite of what you’ve done, steering towards more remote work and less office presence. What made you decide to invest more time and resources into an office space?
In short, collaboration, culture and growth.
The new office has undoubtedly come at a greater cost to the business, but it was an easy choice to make when we considered the benefits to our colleagues.
The markets we support are fascinating and hugely technical, the expectations from our clients are that we should be deeply embedded within their industries and have an exact view on what is affecting them. To provide accurate support, we must work hard at increasing our knowledge base. We feel that is best achieved by collaborating with your peers. There is absolutely a place for remote working and video calls, but to really push performance to the levels our clients expect, the human component is irreplaceable.
We pride ourselves on having what we believe is a unique culture that exists right across the global business. It’s true to say that Brighton is our spiritual home, and that location continues to influence our culture today, irrespective of whether it’s New York, London, or Mexico City, for example. We’re an unfussy business that is laser-focused on performance and working as a team. Our success can be broadly determined by the calibre of information we are able to acquire from the market, so we continually dig for insights that help shape opinions and perspectives that might be useful to our network.
We knew all of this could be improved further if we created an environment that compelled our colleagues to do so. We believe we’ve achieved this.
What were your main considerations for people when choosing a new space?
As a leadership team we engaged with our colleagues and listened to what they felt would aid them in their roles, eventually settling on 4 critical criteria:
- It needed to feel like ‘home’ – we didn’t need formality, we needed something that our colleagues felt comfortable in, and an area that gave them options.
- We needed room to grow so it was important we could comfortably accommodate new hires without feeling like we were bursting at the seams.
- The office needed to have zones that enabled different types of collaboration – touch points that encourage diverse conversations and space to think.
- The location needed to have a buzz – sometimes this is hard to describe, but after an exhaustive search, we felt Soho best represented who we are. Ultimately, it’s a fun area to be.
Have you seen increased productivity/motivation within your team since the move?
It’s probably too early to determine whether productivity has gone up as a result of the office move, but we’ve certainly felt the extra bounce in the office and the energy levels have gone through the roof.
Is hybrid-working the new normal for Proco indefinitely? What about executive search as an industry?
For Proco, yes. Over an extended period, we have seen that it works well for our business, and we feel our colleagues value being trusted in this way.
For the industry? I couldn’t say. Every business needs to find their own direction and do what feels right for them… I imagine the number of firms reverting to traditional office-based policies will be limited, though.
What is your favourite feature of the new office?
Where to start…!? The kitchen with bi-fold doors onto a balcony, the roof terrace, the natural light… it’s hard to pick. The location, however, is really what adds something special. We overlook Carnaby Street and have a whole host of options for lunch and after work socials; it’s not bad for shopping either!
What’s your favourite local pub so far?
As it’s summer we’re hunting for pubs with outdoor space; The Shaston Arms and The White Horse have all featured over the last few weeks… we’ll have to review those choices come winter!
What are the future plans for the London office?
We’ve just enjoyed a well-earned celebration for a successful financial year, while the teams are now well underway with their market development plans for 2022/23. We’re also excited to be welcoming a consultant from our Singapore office who is transferring across, it would seem the lure of a roof terrace on Carnaby Street was just too hard to resist. Much to our delight!
What current opportunities are there within the team at Proco?
Well, we are always interested in connecting with established consultants across the market and exploring how their area of expertise may translate well within Proco. We know we operate within what could be considered a niche area of the industry, and that can often mean that experienced consultants – who specialise in different industry verticals – are unaware of the scale of opportunity there is within the commodity trading and global supply chain markets.
So, rather than specify the hires we’re looking to make over the course of this financial year, I’d rather focus on highlighting our platform to established consultants who are perhaps looking for a new challenge, whether that be from another search firm, or consultants who are looking to advance their careers outside of an agency environment.
Ultimately, we’re always open to having a chat.
What type of person would be successful in our office?
Beyond skill and experience, we’re obsessed with exploring people’s character. Teamwork is central to the success of our business; we love people who look out for each other and genuinely want to see their peers succeeding.
After which, understanding how intellectually curious someone is, and how they raise the bar in their current role, provides us a good indication of their suitability for the business.
Like the sound of working for Proco? We’re hiring! Head over to our careers page for more information: weareprocogroup.com/vacancy/