An interview with Paul Rayner, CEO at Oakstone International
We sit down with Paul Rayner, CEO of Oakstone International. Oakstone is a dedicated technology-focused executive search provider, helping SaaS/Cloud, Technology Service, and FinTech providers expand globally.
How did you end up at Oakstone and what problem does Oakstone solve for its clients?
The problem that Oakstone solves for its clients is identifying, attracting and qualifying the critical talent our clients need for growth.
As the CEO, what are your main responsibilities at Oakstone?
As CEO, my primary responsibilities are the overall direction and forging the company’s culture, supporting all other team members, whether consultants, managers, marketing or finance teams. My role is to support them with their duties. Furthermore, I am responsible for being involved in business development, client liaison and people development.
To get a bit more technical, what are some of the acquisition channels that have worked well for Oakstone and why do you think that is?
Top sources that have helped Oakstone’s growth are our extended network built over the last 35 years, plus a variety of data collection websites such as LinkedIn and CrunchBase, but essentially our number one source of information is our interaction with our clients and candidates daily.
What role does your Sales team play when it comes to organising, operating and improving your marketing-sales funnel?
To improve our sales process and customer experience, we clearly define the recruitment process and how we can iron out the potential pitfalls and hurdles in any recruitment process. This includes clarity on the process, how many steps there are, what needs to be done for and with the client and the candidate throughout the entire recruitment process and how to simply manage that process smoothly. How many candidates should be in the frame for each role, what should comprise a decent job specification, who is involved in the recruitment process, in what order and how a decision is reached between the individuals who will make the ultimate decisions. If a process is clearly defined and well managed, then we can sell the process better and improve the customer experience.
At ColdFire, when we look at our clients' Marketing strategies, they vary greatly. Some have found a single, scalable client acquisition process while others thrive on a mix of top-of-funnel strategies. If you had to summarise the high-level LeadGenMarketing strategy of Oakstone, what would it be?
Regarding our client acquisition process, ours is varied. It ranges from simple word of mouth, where we have delivered a great recruitment process for somebody in the past, and they want us to do it again, either in their current company or in a new one they have moved to. The best strategy we have found for winning new business is to work with VC and PE firms, which we have had great success with in the past and have them recommend us to their portfolio companies. The alternative is the tried and tested, demonstrating our capabilities by working on complex roles, demonstrating how thoroughly we can do this and winning ongoing business, demonstrating our ability to fill challenging positions.
What is a Marketing technique that you've used at Oakstone or at previous companies which you believe is underutilized at most Sales teams - and why?
I don’t believe I have implemented any unique strategies overlooked by other CEOs. After 40 years in the recruitment business, I think very little new can be offered. The most effective way to win business is honesty, integrity and genuine delivery capabilities. Nothing is more effective than telling someone what you’re going to do when you’re going to do it and then delivering exactly what you have promised. It’s not unique, but it’s undoubtedly effective.
Marketing can happen using combined tools and methodologies. Which has worked better for Oakstone and why do you think that is?
We are delivering a truly effective service for a reasonable price. We have repeatedly demonstrated that we deliver against our client’s requirements quickly, efficiently, effectively and at a reasonable price so they can look back and think positively of Oakstone. Our track record demonstrates that the placements we make stay longer and are more successful than the firm’s average hires. Therefore, it shows the greatest return on investment compared to hires not using Oakstone.
Has your Sales team experimented with some kind of cold outbound strategy (like cold email)? If yes what was the general outcome and if no, why not?
Yes, we have experimented with outbound cold calling and email strategies, and the outcome has generally been poor. We would be happy to try this again, but only if we could do so without diluting our brand and with some level of guarantee it would be productive.