Human Resources

C-suite career advice: Geoff Smith, Experis

We ask industry leading C-suite professionals for their expert career advice...

Geoff Smith

  Company: Experis

  Job Title: Managing Director

  Location: London, UK


What was the most valuable piece of career advice that you received?
My previous CEO gave me an excellent piece of advice which is to surround yourself with people you trust, who complement your own skills and are prepared to challenge you. It’s easy to gravitate towards people who share similar traits to yourself, however, to make the best business decisions, you need different perspectives and a good mix of analytical, financial and practical skills among your peers.

What was the worst piece of business advice that you received?
A former manager suggested that ‘clients and employees come and go’, implying that a career-orientated individual is better off spending their time managing upwards. At the time I disagreed, and now, 15 years on, I realise it’s one of the worst pieces of advice anyone could give an aspiring new manager. In my opinion, every manager needs to find the right balance for their business between spending time servicing their customers, developing employee talent and managing executives. Another piece of poor advice was never to hire anyone who you thought may be a threat to your own job. This is simply short-sighted as it demonstrates a lack of vision for company strategy development. I always hire or promote senior managers thinking ‘could they do my job one day?’ and ‘can they bring innovation to our clients?’

What advice would you give to someone starting their career in the tech industry?
Follow your sense of passion by working in a technology field you are genuinely interested in and one that has a future. Don’t just choose a job to pay the bills. If you have to choose between pay and passion, choose passion. A role that challenges you will be more rewarding and, as a result, you’re more likely to succeed. Also, make sure you continue learning. Technology moves so fast that without investing in your own development, your skills will soon become obsolete. Read about new trends, learn about new applications and programming languages and apply them to your day job. There’s no time to rest on your laurels!

What tips would you give to someone aiming for a c-level position?
Aside from surrounding yourself with people you trust, look after them and don’t be afraid to make bold decisions as long as you have the facts and figures to support your reasoning. Set yourself an annual and three-year plan and keep your goals customer-focused. Don’t get ahead of yourself or get so obsessed with becoming a CEO that you forget about the people who keep your company going.

Are you particularly proud of any career advice that you’ve given or the career route/development of anyone you’ve mentored?
I’m not so much proud of the advice I have dispensed, as the relationships I have formed with those I have worked with throughout my career. By taking the time to nurture each professional relationship, exchanging ideas, and above all, treating them with respect, I have a network of trusted advisors both within my company, but also in other organisations and industries. Occasionally those around me have decided to pursue development opportunities elsewhere; however, far from taking offence, I have always sought to offer objective advice. This has helped me maintain these strong relationships, which last year saw me welcome an old colleague back to Experis on the Board.


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