10 Minutes with Alex Paterson
Each month we like to find a leading figure in tech, employment or business and find out what drives them and hopefully get some insight into the secret of their success. This week we are speaking to the man whose sun never sets.
Name: Alex Paterson
Birthplace: Scotland, United Kingdom
Company: What Digital (UK) Ltd
Alex, as you sit in your small but elegant office in Bracknell, a leafy suburb of London, you seem pretty relaxed for a man that has 4 time zone clocks on the wall. What is your morning routine and why do you need those clocks?
I have 4 children, a dog and a wife who starts running on a super squeaky running machine at 0600 everyday, so my morning routine is simple, I stick my head under a pillow and wish for just 30 more minutes. Unfortunately, that never happens so I bounce out of bed, take breakfast with the family and prepare for my journey to the office. Preparation in the UK is always decided by weather (rain or not) so it is usually 50/50 on walk or drive. Saying that, I bought an e-scooter recently and tend to take that most days now, even in the rain. I like to get to my desk by 0900 which may sound late, but I know I won’t leave again until 2100.
What do you do exactly?
WhatJobs is a career search engine listing around 20 million current vacancies across the globe. Right now I am 100% focused on strategy. We have grown from being a UK business only to trading in 40 countries since March 2020, all the while battling Corona related issues, Brexit, and countless other challenges you expect with having such a huge spurt of growth in such a short time.
What is your background?
I was a self proclaimed SalesTec, a person who built something technical who had to end up selling it myself. If I were pushed I would say my background was sales as I quickly hired engineers to keep building whilst I put myself about to find new clients for my software. I was born just outside Glasgow in Scotland and went on to read History at Stirling University. After full time education I decided I liked Julius Caesar's approach and decided to move away from my hometown to conquer new lands. I ended up in London selling pet food whilst living in a hostel. Still, it had a pool table. It was in this job that I thought ‘ I must be half clever’ as I was promoted twice in 6 months, so i started to think about earning more money. With this in mind I successfully applied to become a Trainee Recruitment Consultant where I was promised riches beyond my wildest dreams.
What happened next?
After being used to earning minimum wage and then being told how commission worked I set about hammering the phones for Prime Time Recruitment. Some of the readers in the UK may know Bill Boorman. Bill was a sales trainer then and even though he thought I was the worst person in the class (he sent a report to my manager saying I won't cut it) I went onto become the youngest ever Branch Manager of Prime Time at the ripe old age of 22. That might not sound much but I was running 150 temps a day, 7 days a week. As the new generation of management Prime Time spoiled me and armed me with a Nokia 3310 and a flashy black Golf, the world was my oyster.
How long did you stay in that role?
I hung around Prime Time for 2 years and moved over to Coyles Plc as a senior manager and repeated the success of Prime Time. I noticed fairly quickly that Coyles were located in a large office and not on the high street yet they were turning over 100 million a year. That impressed me, so I set about learning everything I could about how the founder did this and started to read about economics, finance and strategy. I was always a half decent self taught coder and during my time at Coyles I started writing my own online recruitment agency website and from this spawned adview.co.uk.
What is Adview.co.uk?
Adview was originally designed to show recruitment agencies job ads (AD & View) to help recruitment consultants source candidates for their jobs. Unfortunately, I had the right idea but no clue about marketing and it took me 8 years to get it off the ground. In 2016 I met Shane McGourty who was a sales rep for Monster. At first he used to drive me mad by ringing me every day looking for new deals, then the penny dropped. I offered Shane a partnership and we set about building WhatJobs.com.
What would your Plan B have been if you had failed?
I was born in a town called Newmains, Scotland. Plan A was to become a criminal, Plan B a drunk. So since you are asking about Plan B, I guess I would have become drunk!
Surely it wasn't that bad?
Newmains was a mining village with no mine. Google it is all I am saying on that. I may be Scottish born but the country did nothing for me so I happily class myself as British out of respect to England which in truth made me the person I am today.
Fair enough. What advice would you give to new start-ups?
If someone is stupid enough to take my advice, then they are too stupid for me to give it.
Erm, ok. Where do you see the business being in 5 years?
What Digital has a live country target of 110 locations by the end of 2022. Beyond that I want the brand WHATJOBS? to be known globally and to achieve my dreams of creating the world's only Hybrid job marketplace. I want to be able to work with everyone, even those that think they are my competitors. Why create enemies when you can be friends?
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