In the spotlight: an interview with Sam Proctor

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Sam Proctor joined Recruitment Entrepreneur in April 2018. After being headhunted from a large healthcare recruitment provider by James Caan CBE, she worked across the Hamilton Bradshaw portfolio in close collaboration with him. Since deciding to work solely with Recruitment Entrepreneur, she has built the in-house marketing function to a team of five, responsible for delivering campaigns, driving new business and supporting all the portfolio brands. We sat down with her to talk about how to make it in marketing, the power of communication, and her greatest achievements thus far.


What’s the first thing you notice about someone when you meet them?

Their body language – I think non-verbal communication gives you a really good indication of someone. Being able to read people’s body language is really important as it gives you insight into their state of mind and how to effectively engage with them.


You joined Hamilton Bradshaw in 2017 before moving exclusively to focus on RE last April – what was it that appealed about RE?

It was the unique opportunity to make a difference to lots of brands across different markets and sectors simultaneously, whether creating new brands or refreshing those of existing businesses. I view the marketing function at RE like that of an external agency – we support our partnerships in the same way an agency supports its clients.


What was your very first job?

My parents and grandparents all ran their own businesses at certain points in time, so I was put to work at an early age helping out in an office supplies company, beauty salon, brick haulage business, and as my grandmother used to be a postmistress, I worked in a post office when I was 10 years old, serving customers sweets, usually after they'd collected their pension.


RE's marketing department was established last April – what have been the highlights since?

Building a team that I’m proud of; delivering 11 websites in 13 months; and branding and launching five new businesses. Even though we’re a relatively newly founded team, between us we have over 30 years of experience, with a diverse range of skills and backgrounds. The exposure and progression here is unprecedented and it’s really rewarding watching the whole team develop different skills depending on what they’re interested in.


Which person, living or dead, would be your dream dinner party guest?

Joan of Arc so I could learn more about that time and her motivations for doing what she did. At the time in history, it was hard enough for women in general, but that physical role of leading an army is impressive. And Robin Williams  – just to lighten the mood.


How do you define success?

Constantly developing yourself and being comfortable with what you have.


What do you think it takes to be a good marketeer?

I think it takes the ability to see things from somebody else’s perspective. There’s never a definite answer – it’s whatever you want the answer to be. That makes it interesting because you’ve got a lot of freedom of thought. You have to be somebody who wants to build something from scratch and tell a story. As technology and marketing are so intertwined, you have to be technically-minded, whilst also having strong emotional intelligence and empathy.


Sam with the RE Marketing team

What new skill do you want to learn?

If it can be an unrealistic goal, I would love to be able to sing but I have the voice of a drowning cat. I was so bad that music teacher told me to mime in choir. In the real world, I’d want to get my pilot’s license.


Where do you see the marketing team in another years’ time?

I would like it to be a driving force of Recruitment Entrepreneur, operating at a higher level. At the moment, we’re busy fixing legacy issues on top of the day-to-day. I would like us to get to the point where we’re forward thinking, proactive and progressive; I want us to be known for embracing and implementing the latest marketing practices.


If you were stranded on a desert island, what one thing would you bring with you?

I’d go for something practical, like a Swiss army knife. Or a dinghy.


What should every new company think about in terms of launching?

Never underestimate the power of your brand. Too often, especially in recruitment, the brand is seen as just a logo. In reality, that is one very small element – a brand is a set of principles about who you are and what you want to be. It is the building block of your business. Telling a story and creating something for people to believe in is what engages audiences and creates followers. If you achieve that, you can cut through the noise of the competition.


What is your greatest achievement to date?

Finding my forever home. As soon as I walk in, everything is calm. It’s in Staffordshire where I grew up – even though I always swore I would never go back.


What is your managerial style?

I trust my team to work autonomously, whilst being there to support them. I think you have to allow people to make mistakes – it’s only through making mistakes that you learn how to do things the right way. I try to create an authentic environment where people are comfortable and can be who they want to be and develop in the areas they're interested in.


What is your idea of a perfect holiday?

Scuba diving, abseiling, parachute jumping – an action-adventure holiday with a bit of sunbathing at the end. For my 40th birthday, I went shark diving in Cape Town and it was the first time in 23 years that there were no sharks to see… So that’s still on the bucket list.


What are you currently reading?

The Wisdom of Psychopaths by Kevin Dutton. It’s about how most psychopaths are perfectly positioned to be surgeons or CEOs, as a lack of empathy helps you rise to the top - studies have found that 1 in 5 are. They don’t feel fear or pressure so they perform better in that space.


What projects are the marketing team currently working on?

In regards to branding: launching our new venture, accountancy recruitment firm Williams Munroe; refreshing Graham Matthew’s website; and redeveloping Hayward Hawk’s branding to reflect their new joint venture with Hayward Hawk Professional Services. We work hard on ensuring consistency of the platforms and integration across the group and everything we do is done with scalability in mind.

Internally, we are reviewing our own proposition of who we are and what we stand for as a business, whilst building our social media presence and following. We create regular content pieces, covering everything from market insights to broader thought pieces, and deliver a variety of campaigns, including press coverage and video campaigns. We recently hit 60,000 LinkedIn followers which is a fantastic milestone.


Do you have any secret talents?

I’m a qualified alternative therapy practitioner. The type I perform is science based and required me training for 12 months (at weekends) under Dr Dan Khan who’s a Harley Street practitioner. The only reason I started it was because I knew someone who did it and I challenged them, claiming it had no basis in science. So I tried it in order to disprove it and was shocked to discover that it actually helped many clients I went on to treat – I was totally converted and operated my own practice for a period of time. Now, I have a little less time so it's more hobby based.


What opportunity does working within RE provide?

The intensity of the RE environment brings out the best in us; we are incredibly efficient, resilient and are all constantly learning new skills. I think that working here sets you up to work anywhere. It’s the ultimate training ground – whether you want to work in marketing, recruitment or to build your own business, the opportunity really is limitless.


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