Q&A with Richard Letcher: Reflecting on a 30+ year career
August 4, 2022
It is with best wishes and happiness that we announce Richard Letcher’s upcoming retirement from Profile and WilsonHCG. Richard's impressive career of 30+ years has brought immense knowledge, thoughtfulness and drive to the business in Asia. We interviewed him to reflect on his time and share what he’s learnt as he makes future plans to phase out of the workforce.
Q: What are some of your career highlights?
Richard: I’d say traveling and seeing the world is a big one. I’ve worked in London, Sydney, Hong Kong, and Tokyo, and experiencing different cultures has been a major highlight for me. Visiting Beijing, Singapore and Shanghai multiple times has enriched me in so many ways. I was born in Zimbabwe but was brought up in Asia, moving to Hong Kong when I was three years-old, so it’s in my blood. It has been wonderful to work in Asia and deep dive into other cultures.
Founding Profile with Andrew — 17 years ago now, as of May 9th — and building the business has been an incredible journey. The years have flown by — it truly feels like it’s only been about five years! I couldn’t be happier to have been part of building such a great firm and to have worked with such an awesome team. We have the best recruiters in the region, with the vast majority of leaders having tenures of 13 to 17 years. It’s quite incredible.
The business is in a really good place now after a record year in 2021 and a record YTD May this year too. It’s a great time to look back — this is a highlight in itself. I’m very proud of what we’ve built.
Q: Why did you co-found Profile?
Richard: Andrew and I both worked at another recruitment company together for quite a few years and we both learnt a lot there. Andrew and I met over a beer one night and talked about setting up on our own — we actually wrote some notes on the back of a beer mat, and those scribbles were the beginnings of Profile.
We wanted to create a place where passionate, experienced recruiters could come and do what they love to do and I feel like we’ve achieved that. We also wanted to create a professional, quality-led recruitment firm and I think we have done that too.
Andrew and I have different personalities, but I feel it’s those differences that have been one of our greatest strengths and reasons for founding Profile.
Q: How’s it been since joining the WilsonHCG team in 2020?
Richard: It’s been an amazing experience and we’ve learnt so much. It’s also been great working with such a strong executive team too. Although we haven’t had a chance to meet too many times in person due to the pandemic, we’ve made close and meaningful connections virtually that were bolstered from those initial face-to-face meetings.
The last two years with WilsonHCG has given us the ability to set up an office in Tokyo and grow the firm across RPO and executive search business lines. It’s been a great journey!
Q: What do you plan to do after retirement?
Richard: I'm planning to move to Portugal with my family and I’m really looking forward to spending more time with my twins who are 11 and eldest daughter when she visits, during school holidays, from the UK. I’ll also be closer to the UK where my parents and sister, and her family, live so I’ll be seeing a lot more of them for sure.
Extracurricular wise, I’m planning to pick up the guitar again and I have some sporting goals — learning to surf, continuing with my competitive swimming and seeing if my body can take me through another Ironman triathlon! I quit triathlon training a few years back as the kids and Profile came along, so this’ll be a great opportunity to revisit that challenge. Exercise has always been a big part of my life - I also play competitive tennis and have a ton of other hobbies.
Professionally, I'll be staying connected with Profile through some mentoring and advisory work. I love writing so perhaps there’ll be a blog or two also.
Q: What’s the one major lesson you learnt from founding a business? Anything you would’ve done differently?
Richard: I’d say that a big lesson I’ve learnt is that having a strong culture is vital; it’s so important. I recall Andrew found a Peter Drucker quote a few years back, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast,” and it’s so true. We’ve always tried to create a culture where people can be themselves and flourish in what they have a passion for, but also help others, working as part of a team. This team-based culture is sometimes difficult to find in recruitment, where it can feel like, in many companies, every person is out for themselves.
Looking back, I personally wouldn’t do anything differently. We all make mistakes, and Andrew and I have made plenty. Thankfully, they’ve been minor, and we’ve learnt from them. As long as you’re learning, you’re on your way to succeeding.
Q: What’s your advice to others thinking about starting a business?
Richard: I’ve got a few pieces of advice and these can be used in all sorts of situations including starting in a new managerial role or starting up a new practice area.
Plan carefully. Review your business plan and make sure you’re 100% committed and passionate about what you’re doing. Starting a business or a new division is all-encompassing and can take up a lot of personal time if you let it, so be sure to plan and find balance.
Be prepared to mess up. Mistakes happen. If you take things personally and mope, being a business owner or leader is not for you. Being able to pick yourself up and learn from your mistakes and move on is integral to starting a business. Challenges can be opportunities if you learn to frame them positively and learn from them.
Baby steps help get you to big goals. When things are overwhelming, and when you want to achieve a macro goal, doing things in baby steps helps, big time. In a weird way that was probably the biggest lesson I got from doing an Ironman. The marathon at the end is painful, but not so much if you break it down into kilometer bites, and just get yourself to the next marker. The training to get to the race is the same – think ‘where do you want to get to?’, break it down and go step by step, and build.
Don’t do it alone. If you can, have great people around you and a great business partner, peers and colleagues. It’s tougher on your own.
Think on micro and macro scales. See the forest but also the trees; otherwise, if you’re just looking at details the whole time, you’ll lack direction and it isn’t going to work. Have a goal and make sure that what you’re doing day to day, the minutia, is getting you there.
WilsonHCG is an award-winning, global leader in total talent solutions. Operating as a strategic partner, it helps some of the world’s most admired brands build comprehensive talent functions. With a global presence spanning more than 65 countries and six continents, WilsonHCG provides a full suite of configurable talent services including recruitment process outsourcing (RPO), executive search, contingent talent solutions and talent consulting. TALENT.™ It’s more than a solution, it’s who we are.