Latest Blogs

Artificial Intelligence at Wimbledon ………What Makes a Champion? by Catriona Cookson

I wrote earlier this week about the technological innovations at Wimbledon this year including the Ask Fred mobile app to the automated two minute highlights packages. And now IBM’s Watson Platform  has analysed over 53 million tennis data data points collated since 1990 including newspaper articles, interview details and social media commentary, to identify what makes a great champion. Frankly, the super computer of Artificial Intelligence hasn’t come up with anything we didn’t know already – the key attributes being passion, performance under pressure, fast and accurate serves, stamina, adaptability, and the quality of the return.

If you know me at all, you’ll know I like my ‘sporting v business’ comparisons. Once again we have all the characteristics in sport which make for success in a management consultancy environment. Passion, performance under pressure, stamina, blah blah, blah , heard it all before I hear you say. A couple of the others are more interesting – a fast and accurate serve – a quick response to a client problem is all very well, but getting the absolutely right answer quickly is the true differentiator. And what about the “quality of the return”  – how you respond to problems is an interesting one – Can you deliver uncomfortable truths? Is the client always right? Is it a good idea to stand your ground or is conciliation better? Sometimes as in tennis, so in management consultancy, different tactics for different opponents is the best strategy in the pursuit of that winning Game, Set and Match. Happy Wimbledon everybody!


Cat's Blog

30 years of BLT – some more memories

Many of you will have seen that it’s BLT’s 30 year anniversary this year, so here’s Chapter 2 in the instalments of reminiscing! (For chapter 1, click here)

This time we thought it good to look back on some of the more memorable recruitment scenarios we’ve encountered over the last three decades – the printable ones at least….

Reasons given by clients for rejecting a candidate:

  • Brought ‘My Little Pony’ lunchbox to interview
  • Someone told me that they fiddled their expenses in their last job
  • Turned up drunk
  • Body odour
  • Mickey Mouse tie
  • Stormed out of interview after 15 minutes, so no, we won’t be progressing
  • Will need to chop off pony tail to work here (to a male candidate)
  • Candidate ate one of the toffees available in reception whilst waiting for the interview – couldn’t speak when it came to introducing themselves to the interviewer
  • Gold teeth
  • Didn’t take off duffel coat throughout interview, despite very hot weather
  • The person had a thing with one our colleagues, and they’ve told us they would leave if we appointed them.

Reasons given by candidates for turning down an offer

  • Dog in office. I hate dogs.
  • Can’t work there as the interviewer wore too much perfume and I’m allergic
  • Contract was addressed to the wrong person – if the company can’t even get that right, don’t want to work there.
  • They’ve offered me 50% less than what I’m earning currently
  • Need to be at home for three hours during the working day to exercise my animals
  • Despite what I told you before, I was only looking at the market to see if I can get a better deal where I am.
  • I’m going to jail.
  • I know I said I would relocate, but I didn’t tell my other half until last night that I was leaving them, and we’ve agreed to give it another go.
  • Interviewer wouldn’t shake my hand because I was a woman
  • Offer is dependent on psychometric tests, and I don’t believe in them
  • I had an affair with the interviewer 20 years ago – was an awkward meeting.

Other recruitment incidents

  • BLT recruiter interviewing a candidate one evening – offices were locked up at close of play and the two were stuck there for together for hours. With no access to toilet….
  • One former BLT Director who shall remain nameless falling asleep in an interview and pretending they’d fainted.
  • Client interviewing candidates for a big commercial role at our offices – bottom of jug broke when pouring out water. Drenched client and candidate.
  • One current BLT Director heading to a conference, looking at map to find venue in pouring rain. Taxi drove by resulting in being splashed with mud from head to toe. Attendance at conference not feasible.
  • Post one memorable BLT client party, a client was locked in the bathroom for hours – unsuccessful attempts made to escape through tiny window.
  • Seminar for HMRC candidates arranged, attracting a diverse pool of talent for potential private sector roles. BLT omitted to provide any non-alcoholic drinks/vegetarian options….last minute dash out to source such half way through seminar. Still makes us cringe this one two decades later….
  • Overseas client turned up en masse at BLT offices in London for a full day of interviews. We had told all the candidates to go to the company’s UK Head Office in the Thames Valley.
  • One current BLT Director collected a candidate from reception to interview and was chatting away quite happily for 20 minutes, before finally realising that they were interviewing the wrong candidate.

There are plenty more that aren’t appropriate to share publicly. Maybe when we get to celebrating 100 years, we’ll write a book…..


30th Anniversary

Building a brand – the Wimbledon way…by Catriona Cookson

As Wimbledon starts again this week, an interesting article on the BBC news website ( explores how Wimbledon is building its brand and expanding its reach into new markets and geographies. Targeting a younger audience and extending its coverage to new geographies – and lucrative new broadcast revenues – is a key commercial aim.

Whether you’re a newly established online brand or an older, traditional event such as Wimbledon Tennis , the challenges of increasing market share, engaging with your customer, and delivering what people want to buy are different yet remarkably similar too. Plenty to keep the brand strategy, and growth and innovation consultancies busy!

This year marks a new range of digital services on offer at Wimbledon from real time scores and stats, new apps and new content on Wimbledon’s digital platforms including Facebook pages for fans in Korea, Japan and India.

Progress and innovation is fabulous to see, however in amongst all this disruptive technology and omni channel activity, I hope that the application process for tickets remains the same as it is now. It’s all too easy to apply online now for a whole range of cultural and sporting events – to apply for Wimbledon tickets takes a bit of effort – can you think of another occasion where you send off a SAE and apply for tickets randomly for any day over a two week period? No, nor can I – and let’s hope it continues that way for years to come!


Cat's Blog

More regulation for cross-sector business?…or should we just shout louder? by Tariq Siraj

As the co-Founder of LinkedIn and Greylock Partners VC, Reid Hoffman has about as valid a platform as anyone to comment on the recent sexual harassment allegations within the Silicon Valley and wider venture capitalist markets. His article raises a lot of talking points:

If you’ve missed some of those headlines, here is a quick overview; first, a female engineer at Uber publicly opened up about her numerous reports of sexual harassment going ignored by the firm. More recently, three female entrepreneurs came forward about their experiences of sexual harassment and unwanted advances with Justin Caldbeck, co-founder of Binary Capital. In the wake of that, the New York Times published allegations that ‘500 Startups’ founder Dave McClure and VC Chris Sacca had also engaged in some sexual misconduct.

Caldbeck immediately apologised and announced an indefinite leave of absence, but one of the three women involved responded; “While we’re happy that he apologized…our strong preference would have been to not be in this position to begin with” – and that is the big point here and the focus of much of Hoffman’s article. How do we correct this? How do we stop it from becoming an unwanted part of the industry culture?

Interestingly, Hoffman first suggests an industry-wide HR function to govern this behaviour.

VCs preying on entrepreneurs – or vice versa – can slip under the radar as neither side operates under the same roof. Most companies in Silicon Valley are populated by forward thinking (and often young) people who build cultures of dignity and collaboration in gender – but they also have competent HR functions to ensure respectful behaviour within their organisations.

Of course industry regulators exist as the norm already, designed exactly for problems such as this – but a cross-sector authority created specifically to oversee engagements between different industries or sub-sets of industries is an interesting notion. It’s an idea that could very obviously be transplanted onto the insurance, trading, consulting or recruitment sectors – but of course the nature of global trade and commerce means it has relevance with every part of the economy.

Beyond a regulatory body, Hoffman also places emphasis on the individuals involved. He puts forward the idea that you should forfeit any notion of a romantic or sexual relationship if you are pursuing a business one – and vice versa. The two do not and should not mix.

He also simply proposes that those in power stop working with and investing in VCs displaying that type of behaviour.

Most importantly, however, he promotes the idea of speaking up.

Zero tolerance on this issue will only come about if everyone buys-in to that idea. As he says, staying silent and not acting just allows the problem to perpetuate and sends the public signal, “we don’t care”.

The hope is that those who were brave enough to come forward and very publicly put their names and stories on full view will open some doors for others. The three women involved in the allegations against Caldbeck have, between them, co-created Google Desktop and founded Journy – the successful transport app. It should at least give this much needed conversation some momentum.

Tariq Blog


Random Acts of Kindness – by Liz Watt

When the world around us frankly seems to be a scary and challenging place, as it does right now, it strikes me that it is even more important to value and appreciate the people around us, the happy day to day events and random acts of kindness.

I was reminded of this today, when I received a lovely and completely unexpected gift from a long standing contact of mine. What’s noteworthy about this I hear you ask?

BLT celebrates its 30th birthday this year I celebrate 29 years with the business. Back then, I was desperate to make my first placement and it duly happened in month 2. The person I placed was leaving Customs & Excise (as it was then) and I placed him into his first private sector role in one of the Big 10 accountancy firms. Fast forward 29 years, and that candidate is now a client, and one of my colleagues has just placed the newest member of his team with him.  He dropped in to our offices today with a bottle of champagne, to thank me for getting him started on his successful career. Of course, he has done all the hard work subsequently himself, not me – I just facilitated the starting point. But I was incredibly touched by this totally unexpected gesture.

And it made me reflect on the last 29 years and the values that are important to me and to the business. Treating people well, being professional and honest, creating and maintaining networks –I’m sure  these all have a part to play in the timeline that has seen my path crossing again with that of my erstwhile  placement.  We’ve obviously both moved on – we’re older for a start! He is now very senior in a major global organisation. And me? I’ve progressed from that rookie recruiter to be the MD of BLT and I now run a Coaching division for the company. But the values remain the same.

And our  clients’ lovely act of kindness restores my faith in the intrinsic decency of most people. You know who you are – thank you!


Liz Blog

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