Eton Bridge Partners were delighted when our partners Ben Cowan, Ross Dawson and Alison Rotundo were named runners up in the Institute of Interim Management’s Consultant of the Year rankings in association with The IIM Interim Management Survey report.
In this series, we spoke with each of them to find out what drives them, how they work, and what makes them different.
In a year that has been particularly difficult for Interim Managers, we speak to Ben Cowan about his career working in interim consultancy, and how he has maintained exceptional standards as an interim consultant during the pandemic in addition to other changes the sector has experienced in the last 18 months.
Ben has been working in the interim market for 19 years, and has been with Eton Bridge for the last 5 years where he specialises in senior interim transformation assignments.
Starting out in pan-European SAP, Ben began supporting financial services clients in the projects space, working his way up through the management ranks. Joining Eton Bridge has given him the opportunity to focus on the parts of the work that he loves the most, namely developing business, building relationships, and connecting clients and candidates together. “I’ve never lost the buzz of making a placement”, he says.
The impact of the pandemic
Ben said that between the pandemic, Brexit and IR35, we have endured the perfect storm.
Working remotely has been particularly challenging during such a complex time. Missing out on in-person conversations can make building meaningful relationships hard, and while Teams provides the facility to carry out meetings, it’s not quite the same as face-to-face working. As a result, Ben believes that there has been a big impact on collaboration and information sharing.
Ben recruits senior interims, typically with daily rates north of £800 per day, and has noticed that there has been fewer large scale transformation programmes and a slower senior interim market since the pandemic, leading to less demand for experts in the network.
The pandemic, remote working and additional strains due to Brexit and IR35 have all made for slower client decision making, as well as greater client scrutiny on hiring decisions. This has meant the interim consultants have had to work harder to cover more ground to secure the same number of placements to meet their targets.
“I want to achieve my potential”
We asked Ben what motivates him, and he said that aside from the standard answers of financial security and providing his children with the best start in life, his main motivator is in achieving his potential. But there can be dangers in striving for constant improvement, doing more or doing better, Ben says, “The trouble is, I never know when to stop!”
“I’d recommend Ben without hesitation. I’ve worked with him as both client and an associate for years now, and he consistently delivers excellent service on both fronts. What sets him apart from the others is the time and effort he invests to build both relationships.
As both a client and candidate, I love the confidence that Ben provides, and I know that the hiring process with him will be targeted, timely and assured.”
Steve Prior, Head of PMO
Going the extra mile
A common complaint from candidates is that they don’t hear back from recruitment consultants. This can make it even harder to hold on to candidates throughout a lengthy recruitment process, especially in a candidate’s market. Ben makes sure that his candidates do hear from him; “Calling a candidate to let them know that there is no update yet is welcome news to an interim waiting to hear feedback,” said Ben. “Telling them that there isn’t an update, is an update in itself.”
“Ben really takes the time to really understand the relative strengths of all candidates, but unlike the vast majority, he keeps in touch both during all assignments and between assignments in a genuine attempt to have a meaningful ongoing relationship. This means that at any point, once he becomes aware of a client’s requirements, he can quickly translate this into a relevant shortlist for that client. From a candidate perspective, when he contacts me, I know it will be about a role that is suitable for the skill set I have.”
Jon Tobbell, Interim Sales Transformation Director
Being organised, efficient and reliable gives Ben more space to be productive and go the extra mile in looking after clients and candidates. This helps him to stand out and be memorable, with clients pointing out that he takes the time to listen carefully to their needs and build a relationship with both candidate and client.
But ultimately what drives Ben is his strong work ethic, based on hard work and dedication. “In short, work hard, do what you say you will, when you say you will do it, and go the extra mile,” he says.
In 20 years of experience in recruitment, Ben has also become an excellent judge of character, which really helps him make the right connections.
This emphasis on the human element of his role is arguably what won Ben his nomination. “There’s job specs and CVs, and people and roles, and I try to match the latter – it’s all about people.”
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