1st Executive Blog

11 Mar Our Second 21st

I am sure we can all remember turning 21. Officially it was a coming-of-age and most of us would look forward to a life and career that promised much and in which it seemed we had all the time in the world to experience it.

1st Executive turns 21 today, March 10th 2021. So for Suzanne Whitmarsh and me it’s our second 21st. It would be remiss of us not to share some of the experience and learning that we have had as we have built and sustained a successful executive search, recruitment and advisory business, that has in turn sustained us and our family.

Suzanne started the business 21 years ago today unexpectedly. A trip to the corporate affairs office registered 1st Executive as a business name. Choosing “1st” over “first” was a masterstroke and still sees the business listed as the top entry on many directories.

We started working together in October 2003 and quickly established that it was more than possible to combine complementary business skills and a life partnership successfully. In addition, we learned from our clients that our real-life corporate experience of solving business problems, delivering results, finding, developing and keeping great people was a great competitive advantage in our industry.

We can both remember printing monthly invoices on letterhead, on the best quality paper stock that we could find. This little detail is a reminder of the need to deliver quality work, to always do what is best for our clients in all of our disciplines, and also for our candidates in executive search and in recruitment.


This philosophy has led 1st Executive down two complementary paths.

Path 1 - If we are committed to striving for excellence in the work we do with our clients then we need to engage with best of breed technology and to renew these platforms whenever they were significantly outperformed by others. The efficiencies delivered by our various platforms have allowed us to maintain the core disciplines of executive search through all of our selection work. It means that the selection process is the real focus and the real driver of value. Technology gives us the confidence that we will always find the right people. Through Mindshop, we also have one of the world's best leadership development "sandpits" where training, coaching, problem solving, best practice, accountability and our own learning are managed from for dozens of clients.

Path 2 - We realised that we could not do it on our own. Over the years we have had some fantastic staff and our personal values mean that we still consider almost all of them as friends. What is more, as these individuals outgrew our business’s needs, almost without exception they have all gone on to substantial success in their own careers and lives.

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We were also doing diversity almost before it became an imperative. Our workforce has been over 60% female, and by birth has seen Australia, New Zealand, UK, Sri Lanka, Brazil, India, Greece, Ireland, Pakistan, Zimbabwe, Malta, Colombia, Indonesia, Poland, Malaysia and the Netherlands represented. We do the same for our clients and it is based on true merit.

In addition, we understood that in executive search, recruitment and advisory, collaboration meant that we could share a small piece of a much, much bigger pie.

In the business advisory space we have been members of Mindshop from day one and we continue to learn from the services that they provide to us, and from other members, how we can make the lives of our clients more successful.

Our partnerships in recruitment and executive search came later but are no less valuable. As a consequence of our membership of NPAworldwide and being the Australian affiliate for the Spengler Fox network we have been able to deliver value to clients and opportunities to candidates in and from Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom, Spain, the USA, Japan, Germany, the Netherlands, and many more. We have real partners in every corner of the world.

1st Executive has explored the world in business advisory, executive search and recruitment and as a consequence of all that has gone before, we have come of age. We now look forward to a wider world of fulfilment and success with just a little less time to experience it.