George and the TV Dragon

A former student who juggled his schoolwork with evening and weekend jobs has launched an ambitious new business, with the backing of TV Dragon James Caan

GEORGE Dobbins is no stranger to hard work, having juggled jobs in restaurants and pubs, as well as working in a gym and as a lifeguard, with his schoolwork while he was at Ripon Grammar School.

Today, from his impressive office based in the historic nucleus and modern financial centre of the City of London, in a refurbished building with a bar and roof terrace on the top floor, he looks like a man for whom hard work has very much paid off.

The 27-year-old, who left Ripon Grammar School in 2010, has launched an ambitious and dynamic new executive recruitment firm, backed by former Dragons’ Den star James Caan.

Along with co-founder James Pope, he heads up the team at Beaumont Bailey Executive Search, which has a turnover of £1.2m and aims to expand its workforce to 35 in the next five years.

Caan himself talent-spotted Dobbins and Pope, who had an impressive track record working in recruitment, describing them as ‘a pair of bright entrepreneurs with the personal touch’.

Their company, also backed by Mayfair-based entrepreneur and investor Faisal Butt, uses big data to analyse talent development within companies and boost diversity at the top end of the property sector.

George explains that, aside from executive search, Beaumont Bailey’s talent development and workforce analytic service aims to tackle challenges such as diversity, flight risks and turnover flashpoints.

He has a clear vision for the future: ““I genuinely believe there is an opportunity to improve the existing executive search model. Personal relationships will always play a crucial part of the industry and we want to embrace that by supporting organisations to retain, train and develop their future leaders. But we also can see the opportunity to introduce technology that can use predictive analytics to better understand workforce performance and therefore the needs from a talent perspective.

“We won’t improve the productivity or diversity of key industries simply by moving talent around. We need to be able to objectively and accurately identify the best leadership, for now and for the future, whatever they are currently doing and wherever they are doing it.”

George, who describes business and people as his two biggest interests and regularly chairs discussions on leadership at major industry conferences, looks back on his time at RGS, where he studied business, psychology and history at A-level and enjoyed sports, with fondness.

“There are a few teachers I really value. Dr Grime was always hard on me, but that was most likely deserved. Mr Garvey and Mr Miller were legends, they both had a great sense of humour and a keen interest in sport, which appealed to me as a rugby player and sport enthusiast. Finally, Mrs Fell was brilliant for the one year she taught us history in A-level.”

Originally from Lancashire, he moved to Ripon when he was ten years old and was particularly inspired by his mother, Carole Hilton-Stone: “She set up a fashion boutique when we moved to Ripon and raised me and my sister all at the same time singlehandedly. Knowing the hours we’re putting in with the new business, I’m not sure how she managed to balance everything.”

His sister Rebecca, three years above him at RGS, qualified as a barrister and went on to work for the law firm Clifford Chance in Amsterdam, before switching to work as a government civil servant.

George went on to study business at the University of Leicester: “I had no idea what I wanted to do, other than that I wanted to work in the business world and potentially run my own business at some point,” he explains.

After leaving university, originally attracted by the money and meritocratic environment of recruitment, George joined a Leeds-based business where the job involved long hours and hard sales. He soon moved on to join the UK’s largest executive search firm, Odgers Berndtson.

He was soon promoted to consultant, the youngest in the business: “It was a great environment to learn from experienced individuals and make amazing contacts.”

After four years he was approached by Spire Ventures, a venture capital firm run by Caan and Butt, to set up an executive search firm with them. “My partner James and I had already discussed the idea over a beer in the pub,” said George, who launched Beaumont Bailey in April last year.

“It was an amazing opportunity to build something you really believe in. At this time in my life, there’s relatively little risk and a lot of upside, so it felt like a no-brainer,” he says.

The main challenge, he says, is finding time for everything: “There literally are not enough hours in the day for the unlimited workload. Getting the balance right between work and life is key. I also work away three to four nights a week, which is sometimes a bit tedious, especially when the trains are cancelled.”

While the worst part of the job, he explains, is when a candidate rejects an offer at the last minute - “After a three to five-month process, to be back at square one can be quite heart breaking at times.” - that’s more than made up for by everyday successes.

“It’s very rewarding to have potential employees buy into the Beaumont Bailey vision, something which my James and I created together. It’s quite a personal feeling of pride when someone believes in our values.”

And he continues to work hard to fulfil his dream: “We want to build Beaumont Bailey to a good critical mass of people with offices in the UK, Europe and potentially the US, with a reputation for outstanding quality.”

Caan, who started out in recruitment himself, has every confidence: “Recruitment is all about personal relationships. I’m backing a pair of bright entrepreneurs with the personal touch, both professionals who have the intuition to interpret a situation and the experience to make the most of it.”

Tell us an interesting fact about yourself

I’m one-eighth Jamaican. My great-grandfather came over from Jamaica and landed on the shores of Scotland. He was a street singer for a period before he met my great-grandmother.

What is the achievement you are most proud of?

There was cool moment when the human resources director of a FTSE-listed housebuilder called me up to say they needed a new senior leadership role to counteract some bad PR. To be the first person they thought of when they were in need was a great feeling.

What would be the one piece of advice you would give to current RGS students who might be considering a career in the same field?

Don’t be put off by the first company you talk to. Join a well-established business in the sector to learn your trade and understand how the market works. It is an industry where the work that goes on is often not particularly well-publicised or well-known unless you work within it. For example, the future Governor of the Bank of England, Andrew Bailey, was appointed by an executive search firm.

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Top: George, far right, with (l-r) Faisal Butt, James Pope and James Caan

George pictured at his graduation

George's plush new London offices in the City

Above, the Fab Four of Beaumont Bailey