Farewell from Don…

As some of you will know, after (almost) 30 years at BLT I’ve decided to step down from the management consultancy recruitment business here.

So if you’ll indulge me, a few memories from my time as a management consultancy recruiter.

I was lucky enough to get in at the start of the boom in consulting in the early 1980s. The Big Ten accountancy firms were establishing consultancy arms, and my first hire was for Touche Ross (now Deloitte). I was also fortunate to be in the right place at the right time for Mrs Thatcher’s drive to bring private sector skills into the UK public sector. Consultancy firms were setting up public sector divisions, and BLT seemed to be the only recruiter willing to tempt fast-track civil servants, health service professionals and local government officers into the sector. Our reputation in this field led to BLT becoming one of the first external recruiters for the likes of McKinsey  and PA Consulting.

As the 80s turned into the 90s information technology became the driving force, and firms started to recruit increasingly large numbers of younger, IT-savvy, new and recent computer science graduates. I have to say I was personally less interested in being involved in such hiring, preferring to focus on the growing numbers of MBAs who were looking to consultancy as an alternative to investment banking.  A mistake on my part. For every MBA we recruited into a strategy house, we could have recruited a hundred IT specialists into Andersen Consulting, ICL and their competitors.

The brief DotCom boom of the late 90s provided plenty of work, as firms fought fiercely to attract and retain anyone who could claim to know how to use the internet for business. Advertising agencies and technology companies spawned dotcom consultancies, McKinsey converted a floor in Jermyn Street into an incubator for web businesses, and what became Silicon Roundabout was established in old warehouses around Clerkenwell. But the sugar rush didn’t last, and many of the new small clients we’d picked up vanished when the good times ended. And they didn’t pay their recruitment fees…

I had an enforced break from recruiting between 2000 and 2002 due to a brush with leukaemia. When I returned to BLT, the consulting firms had established in-house recruitment teams or outsourced  recruitment to intermediaries, in order to avoid paying our outrageous fees. I saw our  business switch from the (by now) Big Four to small and mid-sized firms. The latter were now winning work that the large firms couldn’t be bothered to get out of bed for (sub-£million contracts), and needed recruitment help.

So it was business-as-usual throughout the first decade of the new Millenium, until the fall of Lehmans in autumn 2008 ushered in the Crash. Overnight, our order book dried up.

Thankfully, businesses soon realised that they still needed the services of management consultancies – to help them survive the next six months, rather than come up with a three year growth plan. The consultancies prospered and as they entered the second decade, the rise of all matters e-, cyber and digital helped propel the sector to new heights. And no doubt working out how blockchain will affect business will be the next earner. Which is where we are today. And where I bow out.

I’ll be leaving towards the end of September. However, I don’t believe in retirement. So I’ll be continuing my work with the consultancy sector, not as a recruiter but as an adviser to business schools, MBAs and others on careers in consultancy. And my BLT management consultancy recruitment colleagues will continue to provide  new and experienced consultants to strategy, management and in-house consultancies both in the UK and abroad.


Don Leslie

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