We've had so much fun with our Big Interview series, we thought it was high time we did one of our own so you can get to know the Procurement Heads team a little bit better. Our very first internal Big Interview features founder and MD, Rupert Gaster.
“Changing the perception of traditional recruitment.”
Meet Rupert, our prestigious leader! After founding Procurement Heads in 2012, Rupert has been growing the team ever since. Specialising in recruiting senior Procurement professionals across London and the home counties, Rupert brings to the office a vast breadth of experience in recruitment, and paired with a unique sense of humour and a genuine passion for developing his ever growing team, he has created a wonderful place to work that pushes the boundaries of what you’d expect from a recruitment company, changing the perception of traditional recruitment.
Tell us about your professional journey leading up to this moment.
Having graduated from Bristol University and landed my first job in a Market Research company where I spent 2 happy years, I headed to London to find my fortune! Thankfully, Recruitment found me and I spent the next 14 years working for a FTSE 250 recruiter opening offices around the UK, leading large teams and heading up what was a very strong brand. I had a great time there and I learnt a lot, but I was always left with the sense of wanting to do things in a different way. I wanted a business that invested in relationships, putting them front and centre of everything, but also recruited in a more sophisticated way – a business that didn’t just transact with customers but built long term collaborative relationships with them. Lo and behold – Procurement Heads was born in 2012 and the rest, as they say, is history! Procurement Heads has a unique culture that is very different to the rest of the recruitment industry. We behave and operate almost like a head hunter or a search and selection consultancy, but within the middle management space. We’ve managed to bring lots of different people together under one roof who all share the same values, and I’m really proud of that.
What does an average working week in the life of Rupert look like?
Well, no two weeks are the same! I’m still very active in terms of my delivery and specialise in recruiting Senior Procurement Professionals across Hampshire and Dorset. I have 10-15 key customers and businesses that I continue to work with, and we’ve grown that successfully over the last 5 years. Beyond that, my role is very much to focus on the strategy of the business – our growth, internal recruitment and how we engage with our audience through our wonderful and market-leading Marketing team. I am involved in all aspects of the innovation that a small boutique business can deliver in the market place, whilst at the same time coaching a team as we grow our regional practices. I’m lucky that we have a highly experienced team and can learn a lot from them too.
Procurement Heads is almost 6 years old now, what has been your favourite memory during that time?
On a personal level, I love deal making. I think the satisfaction that you get from changing or helping someone’s career is huge. I’ve always loved that – it gives me a real buzz to help someone develop their career.
When we rebranded our website 12 months ago, I felt like we’d really learned our true identity. We had always known that we were different from other recruitment companies, but a good website can really differentiate you from the rest. That stands out as being one of my favourite moments.
There are a couple of other things, for example we’ve been shortlisted for Best Professional Services Agency at the Recruiter Awards in 2016 & 2018 which is a huge achievement for a boutique agency.
What inspires you as a leader?
Someone once said to me that authentic leaders are relentlessly interested in their people and will always put their needs ahead of their own. That’s a mantra that I’ve always tried to live by and when I’m coaching other people on their leadership journey, I always try and talk to them about putting the needs of others in front of their own. That selfless approach is almost at odds a little bit with recruitment, because it’s a sales driven profession that can create cut-throat individuals, but I’ve always tried to do my best by other people. Watching people develop their skills and realise their potential is hugely rewarding.
Could you describe your professional self in a couple of words?
Strategic. For me It’s important to bring a degree of intellect to the profession and to not simply transact with customers. I watched Kevin Green the CEO of REC speak earlier this year and he really impressed upon me the need to ‘talk the profession up’.
Straightforward. I work hard and if people around me work hard too, we’ll all be in a good place! I think I’m very good at understanding complexity and simplifying a message. Nothing in life is fundamentally that complicated. If it sounds overly complicated, then you’re not explaining it well enough. I simplify and demystify the complex.
What does success mean to you?
I think it’s all about recognition. Whether that’s personal or companywide – people need to recognise that we are experts in our field and we have become the recruiter of choice, the ‘go-to’ recruiter. I don’t want people to personally pat me on the back and tell me that I’ve done a good job, but I get huge satisfaction when people trust us enough to come back to us time and time again, investing in that career-long relationship.
How do you personally achieve work / life balance?
We set up Procurement Heads in many ways to regain that work life balance that you miss within a corporate recruitment agency. My son was 5 at the time, but I had never had breakfast with him in the week. I remember Procurement Heads day 1, being sat at the breakfast table and him saying to me, ‘Daddy, don’t you have to be at work?’ and it was a really liberating moment for me. I can work 10-12 hours a day, but that’s not confined to a set time frame or sat in an office being monitored in a certain way, and we try to operate the same flexibility across the team. I can be more involved in my family’s life now, as well a focusing on my needs as an individual and we encourage everyone in the team to do the same.
I’m also a very keen sportsmen, particularly cycling, and find that exercise always helps me deal with the stresses and strains of working life.
Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give to your younger self?
I like to live without regrets in my life. I don’t believe one should ever look back and say they should have done something differently. However, if I had my time again, I would work overseas. I think it’s a fantastic thing to do and I’ve always loved travel and that’s one thing I could have seen myself doing.
My advice to anybody else would be… Take the handbrake off, life is for living and enjoying. Grab every opportunity, say yes to everything to start with and see what happens! Being an expert in recruitment I see a lot of unfulfilled potential and dreams that haven’t been realised simply because people weren’t willing to take themselves out of their comfort zones.
Is there anything you’re really passionate about in the world of Procurement Heads?
I am passionate about the values that are core to our business. We have 5 values in total, but the two that mean the most to me are Rewarding Relationships and Acting with Integrity. I’ve been in recruitment for 20 years now, and I’ve always seen that sales and deals come first and integrity comes second and I just think it’s such a short term view. You have to do the right thing by everyone, all of the time. It’s so important to me that Procurement Heads operates in a way that people know they have been represented in the best way possible – not for us, but for them. I would always hope that people come away from an experience with Procurement Heads knowing that we’ve done our best to help or assist them, with their best interests at the heart of what we do.
What qualities do you value most in people?
Hard working, driven, energetic and resilient! It’s a very demanding job and you need to work hard, have drive and a good energy in order to be successful in it. Resilience is equally important because as a profession you’ll have highs and lows, and you must be pragmatic in your thinking and know that tomorrow is another day.
Best place you’ve ever visited?
What book are you currently reading?
The Chimp Paradox by Steve Peters – he used to be the team psychiatrist for GB cycling and is now the with Team Sky. I’m fascinated by how the mind operates!
If you could spend a day in someone else’s shoes, whose would they be?
I’m actually a secret design fan – I love interior design, particularly mid-century design! Someone I really admire is Kevin McCloud. He always reports on some of the most challenging situations in such a positive and edratide way, and I love people that when faced with a really difficult and challenging situation can be diplomatic and positive.
Do you have a signature drink?
Who or what always makes you laugh?
I like to think that every day should be full of laughter. I have a sign at home that says ‘live the life you love’ and I do believe that everything in life should be enhancing, interesting and fulfilling.
Takeaways. I love a take away, especially Indian!
Rupert’s favourite photos!