The global pandemic continues to ask tough questions of every person and organisation on the planet. One such questions is ‘why are we all doing what we do?’ And in an organisational context, another is ‘why should anyone else care?’

In an earlier post I addressed this question from a Livingston James Group perspective by talking about our purpose: We are here to advise and support people and organisations to realise their potential, so that together we can impact lives and communities for the better.

Another important question that flows from this is: ‘do our behaviours best allow us to serve our purpose?’

Over ten years ago, when planning how best to create competitive advantage and point of difference in the Executive Search market place, a lot of our early conversations involved market positioning, rigour of process, and quality of service. Clearly these things were and remain absolutely critical in building a great business.

The thing is, they were simply not particularly unique. Sure we could point to the difference between our Executive Search business, Livingston James, and the many mid-market or volume brands out there, but when we were pitching against our direct competition: Odgers, FWB Park Brown, Carlyle Associates, Aspen et al, whilst we might argue aspects of the detail, the reality was that before working with us, our positioning, process and quality of service looked broadly the same. That was the case then with one business and set of competitors and it remains the case now for each of our four specialist boutique brands.

So how would we create genuine point of difference?

We recognised that, assuming exceptional delivery will be the norm for competitors who survive – never more the case than in the midst of a crisis, it would be client and candidate experience that would make the big difference in the long term. Whilst technology would also have its part to play, this experience would be largely driven by the behaviours and attitude of our people.

We hedged that the best way to influence this was to decide what we wanted our culture to be and then to set about making this a reality. We began by defining our internal values to help guide and inform the behaviours we expected of ourselves and our people. These are:

·      Together we achieve more

·      Make a difference

·      Always do the right thing

·      Be passionate and determined

·      Be famous for excellence

Over ten years later, in the teeth of a global pandemic, our values continue to provide the foundations of how we run our business. Along with our purpose, they remain completely unchanged by the ebb and flow of market conditions; as extreme or otherwise as they may be.

From team away days looking at specific values and how we can live them out, through monthly internal newsletters highlighting our ‘values in action’ and more recently, virtual internal focus groups looking at how we can extend each value to everyone we interact with, we have worked hard on the internal aspect of bringing our values to life.

We hope existing clients, candidates, colleagues and community partners will recognise experiences of working with us defined by our values (and I would ask that you contact me personally if you do or have not).  This said, we have rarely talked explicitly about them ‘outside’ the organisation. Given that they are such a foundational part of who we are we will be sharing our aspirations and experience of how these internal values have and continue to shape our external service. As such, over the coming weeks we shall be posting a series of articles outlining what each value means, examples of each in action, and a guide as to what to expect if you partner with us.

First up, next week, will be Together we achieve more. I hope you find time to read it once published and would love to hear your thoughts and feedback.

If working with a purpose and values-led search provider is of interest to you please get in touch and we will connect you to the right colleague. Our shared purpose and values provide consistency of approach across our group, our bespoke brands and business models ensure that solutions are tailored to your specific needs.

Livingston James Group is a portfolio of specialist executive search and talent advisory businesses comprising: Livingston James , Rutherford Cross, Drummond Bridge ,and Hamilton Forth.

Jamie Livingston is Group Chairman and CEO.