The reason for this article therefore is not one of self-promotion or vanity but, in Brownlow’s own words, “to provide motivation for others who want to give it a go”.
Huntswood – the early years
“Look after your customers, be good at what you do, and leave everybody else to be good at what you’re not.”
Huntswood began life as a recruitment company in 1996, founded by Brownlow and his then business partner Philip Eaton. The company specialised in particular niches – for example, it dominated the job market in management consulting recruitment – and within two years had surpassed the market’s established players.
From there, Huntswood has grown to become “one of the most respected companies in the industry” (The Sunday Times Best Companies Award 2016, Most Admired Thames Valley Business 2016, The Sunday Times Fast Track 100 2016) with profits of £50 million on a turnover of £300m and over 4,000 employees.
The Havisham Group
Having handed over the role of CEO in 2011 and taken more of a backseat, Brownlow began to suffer from self-doubt: “I wanted to prove Huntswood wasn’t a fluke … so I started a new business.” Hence, The Havisham Group was formed, an investment vehicle dealing in diverse global assets ranging from property building and renting, recruitment, pubs and restaurants and education technology to film-making, based in London, Reading, Shanghai, Sydney and Singapore.
“You’re only as good as the people around you.”
Brownlow’s way of building a business has been to promote the right talent at the right level, and to nurture and retain that talent within his family of companies. So, an employee who started off as a recruitment consultant in the late ‘90s was promoted to head of HR within 10 years, since that was the best fit for her skill set.
It is this meritocracy, this drive to encourage colleagues to fulfil their potential that marks Huntswood out as an employer of choice. As Brownlow notes: “Imagine a game of snakes and ladders … but without the snakes.”