Reflections on 5 Years of JMA

Reflections on 5 Years of JMA

20 Dec 18 4mins Jon Midmer


As someone who likes to drive their business at 100 mph, believe me when I say it goes against the grain to pause and take stock. However, given that JMA is now five years old and the holiday period is approaching, I recognise the value in taking time to reflect and give thanks.

Those who have founded businesses will know the delicate balancing act between pleasing clients, hiring and retaining great people, establishing a strong culture… and, of course, turning a profit. Having recently read Shoe Dog, by Phil Knight, founder of Nike, I was heartened to learn that one of the most successful consumer businesses on the planet took a long while to take root in anything approaching its current form. It was also far from plain sailing.

Those who have been entrepreneurs in the purest sense of the word will know what it is like to sit at home, laptop fired up, coffee in hand, with your spouse at work and your children at school, working out where and how to begin. Luckily, I had plied my craft for well over a decade before I decided to go it alone. But running a business is very different from being a key player in one.

JMA took on its first client, a FTSE 50 business, almost too quickly, within a couple of weeks of set-up. While I’d had the foresight to take office space, unluckily the builders and painters were still in situ, and we did not yet have internet or phone lines. More to the point, ‘we’ meant ‘I’: there were not yet any other colleagues to support me…

That soon changed, and within a few months we were a handful of dreamers. When a Fortune 500 business asked us to work with them on a global business, things got serious. We’re still working with them today, and this relationship is the cornerstone on which JMA has been built. To everyone connected with that amazing business, past and present – you know who you are! – I would like to thank you from the bottom of my heart for your long-standing partnership, and for enabling us to become the business we are today.

Several office moves, multiple hires in three countries, many hundreds of thousands of airmiles and more than 100 placements in hospitality, leisure and retail businesses in 15 countries later, we are now at the foothills of the next stage: expansion and growth.

It’s a truism that business is all about people. You’d hope a headhunter would know this better than most! But you only really have your feet to the fire on this score when it’s you who’s in charge of establishing the mission and vision, and promoting the values and culture, ensuring they are lived and breathed every day. Hiring people with a shared outlook, and seeing them flourish and develop the culture in their own ways has, without a doubt, been the most rewarding aspect of leading JMA.

As I was a solo founder, none of this could have been achieved without significant support from others, particularly my family. In the early days, particularly, my wife, Asu, helped out not just in terms of providing advice and having her ear bent on many more occasions than it perhaps should have been, but in very real and practical ways. Not least, in terms of keeping things running like clockwork at home when I was on business travel. My parents, also, provided significant moral support. None of this would be possible without you, nor a fraction of it as meaningful. Thank you a thousand times over.

It was only when the business became busier than I ever imagined that I plucked up the courage to take on a Partner, then three non-executive advisors, all of whom are first class, generous to a fault and extremely forgiving of my shortcomings. With over a hundred years of experience between them, I know that JMA is in safe hands when it comes to building for the future. Making some big bets is a lot more fun (and a lot less scary) in the knowledge that I have people of your calibre and wisdom to turn to. Thank you all.

As business – indeed, life! – is about learning, I thought I’d take this opportunity to share three simple lessons I’ve learned along the way:

First, you’ll inevitably be fighting against mighty incumbents, so surround yourself with the best people you can lay your hands on, people who share the same values and aspirations as you, and who are excited about going on the same journey – it’s one of the most satisfying aspects of the whole thing.

Second, take advantage of the fact that the world of business is changing faster than ever before, and barriers to entry lower than ever. Over the past five years, I’ve been gratified to see not just how many successful new operators have sprung up in the sectors we serve, but also a good number of new and very credible boutique competitors in our own field. Good on you all!

Third, never be afraid to make the tough calls in the short term to grow in the long term. We have been presented with many opportunities to follow an easier path, but time and again we have collectively opted to follow our guiding lights of Quality, Trust and Care, in order to provide clients, candidates and colleagues with what I hope is an enjoyable and value-added experience.

I realise that none of this is new, or indeed ground-breaking. However, I hope that some of it resonates, whatever business you’re in. It only remains for me to thank all of our amazing colleagues and their families, and our clients, candidates and suppliers for being on the journey with us during the first five years of JMA. Here’s to the next five!

Wishing you a peaceful and relaxing holiday period, and a happy and prosperous new year.