Issue 7 2020

18 CEO MONTHLY / ISSUE 7 2020 , Special Leaders for Special Times As the unfolding impact of COVID-19 begins to hit the economy, business leaders are being tested more than ever. Today’s CEOs continue to navigate unchartered waters of the lockdown whilst rebalancing business amid the constraints of COVID-19. Founded in 2017 by Eddie Austin and Andrew Frome, Operam Education Group (OEG), is a forward-thinking company, specialising in the acquisition and development of education recruitment agencies. Since completing its first acquisition in 2017, it has acquired a further 3 well established education recruitment brands, bringing together 40 years of collective experience. Eddie Austin is a recognised business leader, entrepreneur, board member and highly respected thought leader within the Education Recruitment Sector, with over 30 years of experience in both global public and private sectors. As well as being Chief Executive of OEG, he supports various UK and international organisations; he currently sits on the board of ‘The Sovereign Trust’, a specialist SEND multi-academy trust. The client and candidate relationship at OEG go way beyond matching candidates to vacancies, it’s therefore not surprising to hear that during the impact of Covid-19, OperamEducation Group has built an exceptional reputation in the education recruitment sphere through an ethos defined by resilience, dynamismand innovation. Following CEO Monthly’s recognition of CEO Eddie Austin’s significant achievements, we endeavoured to take a closer look at the company and its numerous successes. Mar20104 communication pathways remained extremely active. Eddie Austin, Chief Executive of OEG, drew upon his years of education and recruitment experience to demonstrate how a strongly framed business with positive liquidity can not only survive, but continue to build for the future. How did you respond to the impact of Covid-19? “We quickly established an operational plan with our staff and investors and most importantly the frequency of communication and support needed. Client and candidates’ conversations and communications followed the same structure, as well as providing reassurance, clarity and in some cases, simply being there to listen. We also felt compelled to support our suppliers, who had supported us over the years rather than to simply suspend services. We readjusted project timelines to bring forward plans, enabling us to make a significant investment in our technology infrastructure and CRM. We also pushed ahead with our marketing, social media, and advertising strategies. How do you maintain business clarity amidst chaos? “In some ways we chose to capitalise on the chaos, our investment in technology being a prime example. For us, people are our most valuable asset, and success of the OEG brands depends on the success of our people, and we therefore communicated as much as possible with them. Our values paint a picture about how we do business and are based on our core beliefs and principles. It is not a list of statements but a live dynamic set of behaviours that our employees exercise each day they come into work. Orchestrating a support network for our people, candidates, clients and suppliers came very naturally to us and was implemented within days. The senior leadership team have created a very ‘connected culture’ at OEG, almost immediately we realised connectivity was key, so we set up private social media groups where people could feel secure in sharing their lockdown experience, as well as providing regular updates throughout the day relating to Covid-19, education, wellbeing and of course some light entertainment. Our wellbeing programme already embedded within the company, played a pivotal role in our support strategy. An employee survey was devised mid lockdown to help us gain insight into employees’ personal and work experiences. The feedback allowed us to utilise the information to develop well-being interventions, devise support plans and assist us with amalgamating government guidance of return to work measures with people’s needs and preferences.” How did you overcome the uncertainty of Covid-19? “The only way to out manoeuvre uncertainty, is to balance the ‘now’ needs of business with the future competencies needed for growth. Our business strategy is very much geared towards organic growth and acquisition. We accelerated our technology investment and strategy by fourteen months, which included plans around applications, architecture, data, cloud, infrastructure and network. This investment allows a speedy shift to a remote workforce to protect and empower employees, connect with candidates and serve client, whilst establishing business continuity. Our transition back to business is seen as an important opportunity to transform business agility further. Orchestrating a robust and resilient technology platform now, which will enable us to become more data-driven, more digital and optimise automation. This agility will allow any further business adaptation to be easily made, whilst supporting future acquisition integration and synergy. Underpinning Eddies’ aptitude to identify opportunities and ability to develop creative solutions, is his passion for education and this means he naturally drives change for improvement. We strive to strengthen regionally intimate relationships to position our brands as the recruitment agency of choice. Our innovative and developmental approach, as well as our fundamental principles of getting to know the people we do business with, means we deliver a great service, regardless of the Covid-19 challenges ahead.”