Deborah Gray, one of Totum’s founding Directors, was recently delighted to be interviewed for ‘The Business of Being Brilliant’, a podcast hosted by organisational expert, speaker and author Helen Beedham. The conversation covers a wide variety of topics including Deborah’s career in recruitment, the changing landscape in the professional services sector, and the things that make people feel valued at work.

Listen to the full podcast and/or read an extract of the full interview, taken from Helen and Deborah’s conversation.


Helen Beedham (HB): In this podcast, we talk about creating work cultures where everyone can flourish. With all your expertise in executive recruitment, I’m interested in focusing on that front end – where someone decides, yes, that sounds like a great company to work for, and lands a role successfully. I’m looking forward to chatting to you about Totum, your career in recruitment and how you see the relationship between employer and employee evolving.

HB: Did you always want to work in recruitment, or did you fall into it?

Deborah Gray (DB): Yes, I fell into it. I know a lot of people in my industry who fell into recruitment. I love working with people. I love building relationships with people. So that’s always been the core of my career. I mean, I did a biology degree, which has got nothing to do with my career at all. But I started doing recruitment and HR in house and then I met Tim and Gary, and it all went from there.

HB: What led you to set up your own firm?

DG: I was actually a client of Tim and Gary, and I loved them as people – their ethos and morals were very similar to mine. When this opportunity arose to set up in business together, it felt right. My father always talked about a gut feeling and that’s what it was.

And so we thought we’d give it a go and we’ve had such an exciting journey. We’re 20 years old this year, which we can’t believe, but it’s been a really fantastic journey, one in which we’ve grown from a tiny business of four of us to one where we’re now over 30 people. And our position in the sector is one that we always hoped and dreamed we would have.

HB: How have you noticed industry change over 20 years in business with Totum and how do you respond to it?

DG: We were always of the belief that we wanted to focus on business services roles [across functions such as marketing and BD, finance, HR and technology], so we never strayed into recruiting fee-earning roles, lawyers or accountants. And this is a world that we have seen absolutely transform over the past 20 years, from one that was quite back office to one where business services professionals are absolutely at the top table now, helping devise strategies for their firms going forwards.

This landscape was definitely changing before the pandemic, but Covid expediated the transformation. I think that’s because firms realised how important business services professionals are to the running of their businesses. So that’s been brilliant to see.

In terms of the challenges that firms face, there’s so much to consider now from hybrid working to wellbeing to artificial intelligence (AI). With so many topics to consider, we’ve been running these amazing network groups for several years now – across HR, marketing and COO roles. People want to share their thoughts, ideas and concerns because everybody’s facing the same challenges, and nothing is set in stone post-pandemic.

HB: What do you think makes people stay in an organisation, longer term?

DG: It is the opportunity to see their careers develop within an organisation that is aligned with their values. But it’s also having a voice and being heard. People just want to feel valued.

If people are treated well and fairly, and they see their career develop and, frankly, enjoy the work, then they tend to stay.

To listen to the full podcast, click here.

With thanks to Helen Beedham for giving us the opportunity to speak on ‘The Business of Being Brilliant’, a podcast focused on the human side of organisations, examining how individuals excel in performance and how to create organisations where everyone can flourish. Find out more and tune in for more episodes.

If you have any thoughts on what was discussed please get in touch with [email protected]

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