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CEO Spotlight: 30 things we’ve learned in 30 years of business

Back in 1986, while working for the same niche recruitment firm, The Focus Group, Dominic Wade and Philip Macdonald met for the first time. The pair gelled immediately, both sharing the same business values and both with the dream to set up a unique and innovative recruitment business.  Together, they saw a gap in the market for a recruitment firm that challenged the stereotypes. They wanted to create a firm that was ethical, customer-centric and transparent, and they were ready to make that dream a reality.

On this day (25th February) 30 years ago, Wade Macdonald was born and the first day of work commenced in a tiny office in the Thames Valley. Neither of them have looked back since.

The company has gone from strength to strength over the past three decades. Having weathered four recessions and currently navigating the pandemic. In addition to rising to become the largest independent recruitment business in the Thames Valley region, Wade Macdonald currently ranks in the top 10 per cent of the top independent recruiters across the whole of the UK.

But this sort of success doesn’t come without hard work, continuous learning and incredible grit. So, what are Dominic and Philip’s 30 top learnings from their past 30 years as founders of Wade Macdonald?

  1. Making money for yourself is more fun than making money for other people.
  2. The small wins are what stick with you forever, like signing your first cheque.
  3. Having a business partner is like being in a marriage, be prepared for some disagreements!

Philip: “It’s been an amazing 30 years, but none of it would have been possible if I didn’t have a business partner by my side who complemented my every move and vice versa.”

  1. You don’t get anywhere in business without hard work.
  2. CEOs need to do the ‘dirty’ jobs as much as the juniors do.
  3. Stand by your values, even when the going gets tough.
  4. Build a reputation that you’re proud of. 

Dominic: “We have built a strong reputation which has created long-lasting working relationships, friendships and created a fantastically strong team of specialists who also strive to fulfil the same values.”

  1. Nothing will ever be as powerful and meaningful as a phone call.
  2. Be adaptable and flexible in order to move with the times and stay competitive.
  3. Don’t be afraid to make difficult decisions as a business leader – it’s your job.
  4. The business environment will change rapidly, you’ll only succeed if you’re three steps ahead of everyone else.
  5. Your clients need to be your friends, the relationships you build must be on mutual respect.

Philip: “So many recruiters were, and still are, numbers focused. While, yes, we need to have a good grip on the bottom line, this isn’t what recruitment is about. Recruitment is about people.”

  1. Don’t be afraid to tell your business partner exactly how you’re feeling – the minute you start lying to each other is the end of a harmonious business.
  2. Knowledge is king.
  3. Rock star clients are dangerous. Protect your brand first, put money second.
  4. Take every opportunity to better yourself.
  5. Be curious.
  6. Soft skills are just as, if not more, important as hard skills.

Dominic: “We wanted to be different and so, we worked hard to build a successful business on the foundations of open communication, friendliness and solid working relationships.”

  1. Maintain a sense of humour throughout your business journey.
  2. If you have an idea, go for it! There’s nothing worse than a wasted opportunity.
  3. Hiring your first employee will be the biggest achievement of your career.
  4. Keep up with industry changes or be prepared to fail.
  5. Don’t rely on technology, work in tandem with it.
  6. Invest in your team’s knowledge and upskill them.
  7. Follow your gut instinct, always.

Philip: “No one knows your business better than you do. If something doesn’t feel right – listen to that instinct.”

  1. “Tell me about yourself” is the first question you should ask a client.
  2. Cut out bad habits, like smoking.
  3. There’ll be bad days, weeks and maybe months – take them in your stride.
  4. Patience is one of the key traits to running a 30-year-old successful business.
  5. Keeping people motivated will be the hardest challenge, but the most rewarding.

Very wise words, and something we hope the future generation of CEOs, recruitment or otherwise, will be able to take with them onto their business journey.


- Happy Birthday Wade Macdonald -
And congratulations to our wonderful founders, Dominic and Philip! Here’s to another three decades of success.