Louise Gapp is Head of Procurement Practice at Cedar Recruitment. Louise has over 12 years experience in the procurement and supply chain industry. She is a well-known and sought after expert in her field of senior level procurement recruitment.
Did you ever sit down and plan your career?
I certainly did not set out with a definite plan in mind but I have wholeheartedly grasped the opportunities that have come my way over the years. Throughout life, you meet new people and so your networks evolve over time, which inevitably leads to new and exciting opportunities.
The important thing is to recognise these when they present themselves. In my role, I often speak to young people who have mapped out their whole lives, but I always encourage them not to overlook amazing potential connections just because they were not part of their initial thinking.
Have you faced any challenges along the way and if so, how did you deal with them?
Setbacks in this industry are often outside of my control, especially in regards to macro circumstances like recessions, government edicts and tax changes. Although I personally try not to worry about things I cannot affect, these factors can affect the job market and client confidence and so has a knock-on effect to what I do on a daily basis. In uncertain times it is vital to forge close relationships with your clients and to be “in it together”.
I’ve discovered over the last decade that people tend to pull together in adversity, as long as they trust you and your motives. Most people in job-seeking roles can spot those with selfish motivations, who are prepared to cut corners in the interest of a quick fix. I remember my own vulnerable times and make it my business to protect my candidates and steer their careers as if they were my own. I also invest a lot of time and energy building strong relationships with my clients, which pays off, as clients trust me to fundamentally understand them and offer them effective solutions. It’s like constructing a building on solid foundations; spend time building strong relationships and you will be able to ride out the tricky times.
What advice would you give someone who wishes to move into a leadership position for the first time?
If you are new to leadership, then make sure you have a great peer group surrounding you, as you need people who will support you in your new role. It helps if the environment in which you work is a nurturing and collaborative one. Here at Cedar, as part of a small but close-knit team I feel like my views are valued and I am encouraged – even requested – to come up with new ideas and be innovative, which is not always possible in every organisation.
If you work for a larger company you may have to take ownership of your own particular area and work independently from the rest of the organisation; in this situation having a small group of peers that can counsel you becomes even more vital.
When faced with two equally-qualified candidates, how would you decide who should have the role?
When I’m recruiting for my own team, personalities take on great significance to me. If two candidates have the same qualifications, then personality, team fit and complementing the culture of the organisation become even more important. For many companies, the mindset of the applicant is becoming more important than the skillset they have. You need to ask yourself: ‘Can I imagine this person in the role? Are they hungry for the job and do they have the right attitude?’ There will almost always be one candidate that stands out if you look beyond qualifications and think about the cultural fit. Personally, I need to be surrounded with like-minded people who are prepared to contribute huge energy, deal with situations with humour and positive spirit.
How do you manage your own boss?
I am really fortunate to have a good relationship with my boss, Howard Bentwood. We spend a lot of time together in person and I feel this really helps establish a good working relationship. You do need time to get to know each other and being truthful and honest at all times is vital. You must be able to have a frank discussion and be realistic about what you can achieve in order to manage expectations successfully; don’t overpromise or everyone ends up disappointed! Mutual trust takes time to develop, but we’ve become a strong partnership now.
On a typical workday, how do you start your day and how does it end?
I leave the house at 7am and return at around 7pm so it’s a fairly long day. I always like to have a plan for each day, but it’s an agile plan. The very nature of managing people inevitably means things happen and issues come up which weren’t planned. Having the ability to be flexible and think on my feet is a great asset in my career; I don’t think I’ve ever had a day in business where I can look back and say “well that went 100% to plan”.
What advice can you give to our members about raising their profiles within their own organisations? How have you benefited from coaching or mentoring?
I consider myself very lucky that Cedar provide us with a business mentor who we visit off site. I find it really useful and we talk about all sorts of things that you would not initially think would be related to business but do affect it, such as the psychology of win-win transactions and learning how to deal with different personalities. We’ve discussed how best to deal with different characters and how my personality affects the way I deal with issues at work. I find being away from the office is helpful as it enables me to feel comfortable talking openly.
As well as having a formal coach, I also have access to Howard’s mentor Laurence Rosen. He is inspirational and has a wealth of knowledge on the recruitment sector. I always leave with a new idea to implement within my team. I really feel very lucky to have as much support as I do; this ongoing vocational education is exceptional in our industry.
Do you think networking is important and if so, what three tips would you give to a newbie networker?
Networking is the very core of our industry. The old adage of ‘it’s who you know, not what you know’ is true when you want to succeed in recruitment. I advise people new to networking to make sure they always take one thing away with them that they can act on. Network with a plan! Meet as many people as possible and build up your profile within your industry. Use social media to back up your networking, post regularly and create relationships with your peers.
It’s crucial to attend business events in person and also look at how you might be able to host an event or contribute to an upcoming one, for example by sponsoring a particular aspect. This is a great way for you to play a leading role in exciting topical discussions and contribute to the advancement of the industry.
What does the future hold for you?
I have now been at Cedar for just over a year and am very happy building a thriving Procurement division. I’d like to continue to contribute to the wider business strategy and have a say in the direction the business is taking, I have already earned equity in the company and my five year goal is to to pay off my mortgage!