National Business Awards Entrepreneur finalist focus: David Spencer Percival, CEO, Spencer Ogden

In our focus on National Business Awards 2013 Smith & Williamson’s Entrepreneur of the Year finalists. Here David Spencer Percival, CEO, Spencer Ogden tells us about his entrepreneurial spirit.

I was a relative latecomer to the business world; it wasn’t until my late twenties that I decided to leave my then job in fashion to pursue recruitment. Once I’d made the move everything clicked into place, and I soon found myself teaming up with some other ambitious recruiters to establish Huntress Group – a recruitment firm which has become one of Europe’s leading recruitment consultancies.

Once I sold my share in 2007 I took a step back to consider my next move. That turned out to be Spencer Ogden, which I launched with my business partner Sir Peter Ogden in 2010.

How did you fund your business?

I felt so confident in the validity of the Spencer Ogden business plan that I sold my assets and invested my life savings into the company. In addition I approached Sir Peter, who was similarly enthused and who invested 50 per cent of the start-up fund.

To reduce the general risk that comes with the launch of a new business, and to help us focus our efforts on reaching specific milestones, we staggered the initial phase of investment.

How are you managing the challenges associated with starting up your own business?

There are challenges to be found in every area of business. Because we operate internationally we have had to pay particular attention to the difficulties associated with exposure to fluctuations in foreign currency. In order to mitigate this we invoice discount as well as currency hedge, all from a centralised invoicing centre. We have found this key for managing the financial system as it has grown.

Right now we are in the transition between a small start-up and a medium-sized firm. This has come with its own unique set of challenges – managing international HR, growing our client base and expanding our marketing remit to include new territories, to name a few. Managing this has required processes to be centralised and consistent. Our business strategy is clearly communicated throughout the organisation, and this ensures that everyone works towards the same goals.

Can you give any advice to others starting up businesses?

Having confidence in your business plan and the determination to see your plans through are key. You need to target a strong market and have the financial backing to bring your plans into focus. If you approach your business with resolve and make the decision never to give in – even when inevitable mistakes are made – you will have everything you need to succeed.

How do you foster innovation throughout your business?

Spencer Ogden values innovation both in its approach to client work and in the maintenance of internal culture. In order to deliver an innovative recruitment service, we ensure our consultants all have a deep knowledge of the client’s needs and understand their market fully. For the same reason, many of our consultants have previous careers or experience in energy – this is something we look for in the hiring process.

Our office culture has been crafted to prize innovation. We aim to provide all of our staff with an engaging, stimulating environment. Consultants are free to roam on their hands-free telephones and release their energy on office punch bags/exercise bikes/basketball hoops (each office offers something different).

They are further incentivised by our rewards system, which includes work placements in our Ibiza office as well as the chance to win a number on our roulette wheel. If the roulette ball lands on their number, they win a prize. It’s this culture that I believe instils a sense of creativity and a hard work ethic in Spencer Ogden’s staff.