Tim Skipper, Managing Director at Totum, has partnered with law firms at a strategic leadership level to place both individuals and teams, including CEOs, COOs, CFOs, across all management functions in the UK and internationally. He tells us about his career in recruitment, why he stills gets a buzz from a successful placement and how, secretly, he still harbours ambitions for a career as an international rock star!
Have you always worked in recruitment?
Mostly, but I actually started my career in marketing before I went to a retail recruitment firm looking for a marketing job and ended up working for them as a recruitment consultant. I then moved onto a specialist legal recruitment firm where I was given the opportunity to help them diversify out of lawyer recruitment and to start to grow the marketing division for them.
It was a great opportunity, and I learnt a lot about how to start and set up a business. I then moved on to set up my own company First Counsel, which is now known as Totum.
I have had three bosses in my career in recruitment and I learnt a huge amount from all of them. Three key points: never compromise on client (and candidate) service, strike the right balance between driving revenue and managing the cost base; and recruit great people and create an environment that will reward and retain them. I think we have done this pretty well at Totum.
What do you like about your role as both recruiter and owner of a business?
Even after 20 years, I still enjoy the people aspect of my job. I am very people focussed and enjoy working with both clients and candidates. My time at Totum has also provided other opportunities – whether this is being a judge for the Managing Partners Forum Awards , opening Law Rocks 10th Anniversary with my band ‘The Ruggs’, being invited to speak on conference panels, or recording our videos and podcasts with luminaries in the sector. Totum has also given us the opportunity to put something back into society – the most recent example being a tie up with our new educational opportunity charity partner, SEO-London.
It’s also important to mention the Totum Team. We have great people and I enjoy working with them all. They are all individuals but we share the same core set of values. We don’t have a KPI driven culture or ‘sales days’ so there is no internal competitiveness to stymie our collaborative approach.
Championing business services
You and Totum are real advocates for business services professionals, why is that?
A modern-day law firm is the sum of all its parts – it is not just about the lawyers. Successful firms need outstanding people in finance, HR, marketing, project management, IT, risk, knowledge, administration, etc. The firms that do exceptionally well know this and invest in these areas. Those that don’t are not maximising their opportunity to succeed.
Do you still get a buzz when you make a placement?
Most definitely. Quite often leaders of recruitment firms will do less recruiting as they manage the business. We all do both at Totum. Personally, I look to lead from the front and I still work with clients and candidates. I enjoy providing a first-class service to both and it is such a great feeling to have found someone the perfect candidate or role. In some instances, I have placed candidates four times throughout their career, so it is much more than a transactional relationship and in many instances my candidates become clients. There is real longevity in our relationships.
What advice would you give someone wanting to start their career in recruitment?
Pick the right company – one that values and develops its people. Once you have started, throw yourself into the sector in which you operate – go to events, ask lots of questions, become relevant in your market for both candidates and clients, work smartly and be very organised. Recognise what is needed to make a difference so that you can win exclusive work and build relationships with the best people.
Change in law
What will be the biggest changes you will see in business services over the coming years?
Lots of things: new entrants disrupting the status quo
, changes to how law firms charge for their work, expectations for legal providers to provide more for less, more law firms floating or getting private equity backing, competition from the Big 4 accountancy firms that will take away business from traditional law firms. These are pressures that will lead to a requirement for more sophisticated people to enforce and manage these changes.
Totum is well placed to help: we have a huge opportunity to really make a difference at the most pivotal time in the legal profession’s existence.
Tell us something people don’t know about you?
I have been playing in my band, The Ruggs, as the lead singer for over 20 years. We have played in some amazing venues including 100 Club, Bush Hall, Scala and the Half Moon in Putney, which is where U2 played their first ever gig (outside of Ireland). We used to advertise in Time Out
(before gigs were listed on the internet) and the Spice Girls’ gig at Earls Court in 1999 was listed directly below us! Obviously, we are not quite as famous… But we are looking forward to opening Law Rocks again this year.
Oh… and I am a massive Watford fan!
If you would like to find out more about Totum, or talk to Tim about recruiting senior leadership roles he can be contacted at Tim.Skipper@TotumPartners.com