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Case Study: Keltie Interview – CEO Placement

Case Study: Keltie Interview – CEO Placement

We’re joined by Keltie’s very first CEO, Alan McFarlane, to discuss his experience with Morgan Philips Executive Search and Managing Director, Dan Benson.

Keltie LLP is an intellectual property law specialist with offices across the UK and Ireland. Keltie acts globally in all fields of commerce and technology, across the full range of intellectual property law. Much more than just a filing agency, they also offer consultancy services to IP owners and managers.

How did you first hear about Morgan Philips Executive Search (MPES) and/or Dan Benson?


I was initially approached directly by Dan in regards to this specific position. This was my first encounter with Morgan Philips Executive Search and Dan. 


Were you actively on the job market?


No, I was not on the market. Dan had approached me because he was recommended me by one of his network and thought my skills and experience aligned well with the potential Keltie CEO role. I was happy where I was, but I was open to the idea of taking the next step in my career, whatever that might have been. Dan’s approach intrigued me, was timely in a sense, and, after I’d spoken with Dan, the role appealed to me. 


What sort of expectations did you have of working with an Executive Search firm?


I would say relatively low. In my experience candidate care is not a high priority with the search firms I have encountered. There often tends to be a lack of information surrounding the company and role too. Needless to say, Dan exceeded my expectations from the get go; he was able to answer all my questions in detail and explain all the information involving the decision makers and the planned interview process. I felt very cared for and informed throughout this process.


What challenges have you faced when working with Executive Search firms?


My experience with search firms in the past - both as a candidate and as a client - has been relatively patchy. I think some consultants can be quite keen to get you on their books and then nothing happens past that point or, where there are relevant positions, you can sometimes be thrown in at the deep end with very little knowledge about the role or who you're going to see (company/people) or the interview/selection process.


Dan was much more informative in terms of helping me to understand the context, the personalities in the Partnership and how the company worked. He also had built a very clear and detailed briefing document to go with his knowledge. So it was very clear that he was deeply engaged with Keltie and that they had a real relationship. The way the process is handled makes a big difference and my experience with Dan felt personal, collaborative and warm.


What made Dan stand out? 


His attitude and approach. Specifically, the way he talked everything through with me. It was a very “real” conversation. It was very investigative and he was very interested in where I was and my ambitions so I felt like he knew me well and he wasn't throwing me into something that he didn't think I would be a good fit for or would enjoy. It felt like a very professional process with a clear focus on understanding and optimizing my position.


What is the best advice Dan has given you? 


To be myself, because that's what people wanted. There was one point after my second interview when I questioned one of my responses.  I spoke to Dan about it and his advice was to stick to being me, because that is who they like and not to get worried or sidelined by what I thought they might want me to be. He coached me that it’s important to be yourself and get your personality across, because it’s hugely important in this sort of leadership role (CEO).


How did you prepare during the recruitment process? 


I broke it into two parts. The first part was based around who I am, what could I bring to the role and how can I demonstrate my character alongside the competencies Keltie were looking for. The Second was to think about and understand who they are as a business.


Dan gave me lots of context on why Keltie were looking to hire and encouraged me to ask myself “if I was a partner at Keltie, recruiting my first CEO, what would I be looking for from an individual?”


I also made sure I knew about the organization. I learned as much as I could from the internet. I looked into the partners extensively so I knew who I was meeting and speaking to. I also asked Dan about them and the company, to get a better overall feel. Dan ensured I understood the different personalities and made sure I knew what the arrangements were for the interviews. He had also prompted me to look through the interview stages in advance so I was as prepared and forward planned as possible.


Do you feel like you were prepared when you started Keltie? 


Yes, as much as you can be!  I think I knew as much as an outsider coming in could. I felt good starting, one of the things that it's worth saying is that Dan kept the process moving at all times. He was very aware that this would be a very slow decision-making process and he was very transparent about that. So he arranged a couple of team calls, one with an outside consultant who was helping Keltie in the decision-making process, another with a couple of the Partners, and essentially these calls were just to allow the relationship to keep being built and for both parties to talk outside of the formal interview process.


I had to do a presentation in the final stage and Dan arranged for me to meet the CFO and a couple of other people in Operations and have a chat with them about the business financials and what they saw as priorities moving forward. That was great because it helped me to build relationships more broadly, get other perspectives and prepare for the presentation.


What is your relationship with Dan now that you have started working?


There's still a relationship. We had breakfast just the other day, actually! We've regularly exchanged emails to see how things are going, and what's happening. He keeps in touch with the partners too. I know he rang them to get some feedback on me before we met up; which was helpful because although things have been going well it’s always good to get some additional affirmation.


It’s a very good relationship and one that I'd like to continue in terms of Dan's advice to me and so forth. I'd certainly come back to him if I was looking to recruit.


Do you have any success stories you'd like to share about your time at Keltie?


I think the most important thing to share is that I've been able to integrate quickly and  successfully with them. They've been very welcoming to me. Feedback is very good. I think it's safe to say in terms of fit,

I couldn’t have found a better place. Dan did very well in terms of matching us up.


Could Morgan Philips Executive Search or Dan have done anything to improve your experience? 


I don't think so. I felt like Dan told me all the key information at all the right points. He kept the communication open. So when the company had a question, Dan wasn’t afraid to give me a call and talk through it. I remember one chat of an evening around some queries the company had and being really pleased he was willing to bring those to my attention and discuss further to ensure an accurate response.


It felt like he was being open and honest and that's an important thing for me. I thought that Dan came across as very informed in terms of what was expected and how the business was run. Therefore he knew what sort of advice to give me and was very clear in his communication. 


What advice would you give candidates looking to work with Morgan Philips Executive Search and more specifically Dan?


My advice would be to speak to Dan. Listen to him. He knows what he's talking about. Take the advice and be open with him. Be honest with him in terms of where you are and he can help you navigate the market and in return he will be honest with you about whether he believes the role or company is a fit.


Is there anything you'd want to say about Dan or Morgan Phillips?


Definitely. This is the best recruitment experience I've had throughout my career. I think the overall impression of Morgan Philips and Dan was very good; very professional and a very well managed process. I’m looking forward to continuing my relationship with them as we grow the business at Keltie.



Dan Benson - Managing Director

0207 187 6156

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