Emma Robinson, founder and managing director of Red Diamond Executive Headhunters.
Jane Imrie

Meet the MD: Red Diamond Executive Headhunters founder Emma Robinson on her passion for placing "the best of the best" in the right roles

A career in recruitment has taken Red Diamond Executive Headhunters founder and Yorkshire native Emma Robinson around the world and back again.

Emma, whose professional experience spans two decades, returned to her home region after founding international agency Red Diamond Executive Headhunters in the Middle East.

Bdaily spoke to Emma to find out more about how she identified a niche in the market for executive recruitment, how her values have shaped the business, and what the future has in store.

**Can you tell the readers about yourself first of all - i.e. your background, where you are from etc? **

“I grew up in Huddersfield, and my career began at Hays PLC on the Graduate Trainee Programme almost 20 years ago.

“I climbed the ladder in both the UK and within the Middle Eastern markets and eight years later, obtained a director level role for Hays International.

“I loved working at Hays but I felt that the business was so big that we didn’t have time to give people proper care and attention they deserved.

“The people we placed were numbers and statistics with no time to build a relationship; no sooner had you made a placement you were onto the next deal. I was sure that we were missing a trick and I was right!

“With my passion for senior level hiring, I spotted a gap in the international market for a strategic recruitment partner to help place executive candidates in roles across the globe and launched Red Diamond Executive Headhunters.

“After several years being based in the Middle East, my husband Simon and I moved back to the UK when we started our family. Huddersfield is home. It’s where our extended family live, and having both had lovely blessed childhoods here, we wanted the same for our children.”

What does your role entail?

“I run the business and oversee everything from strategy through to operations. I am a hands-on leader, but I am also responsible for headhunting and have a range of my own clients, placing senior level candidates around the world across a variety of sectors, including aviation, pharmaceuticals, manufacturing, finance, construction and engineering.

I will often place a managing director within a company, then help to build a team around this person, for example.

“As a global executive headhunter, I could do my job from the moon - a good internet connection and a phone is imperative, the rest is a bonus.

“I continue to love being an executive headhunter after all these years, and I’m more passionate than ever about diversity and putting the right people into key roles. Working for a global business forces you to think differently.”

When was Red Diamond Executive Headhunters set up, and how has it grown since then?

“Whilst in the Middle East, I realised my talents were in placing very senior level people into high end jobs.

“At Hays, lower to mid management roles were the focus, so I found it frustrating that after developing my career for almost ten years, I’d hit a ceiling. I developed a way to market map and learnt quickly that finding the ideal candidates for high-end roles meant looking further afield.

“As my experience grew, executive headhunters began approaching me to set up businesses for them, which ultimately gave me the confidence to do it for myself; so I set up Red Diamond Executive Headhunters ten years ago and haven’t looked back.

“We’ve experienced 30 per cent year on year growth over the past three years, which has been really exciting for us as we work hard to achieve our ambitions of being industry leaders – so I’m continuing my journey to grow the company further through attracting, retaining and engaging the right talent.”

What is it about your organisation that motivates and excites you the most?

“I’ve placed over 200 people into executive positions across the globe, many of them involving a full family relocation. Over half of these positions include talent lost from the UK to other countries, that myself and my team have brought back.

“One of my highlights is placing an entire management team into a business which later floated. The same management team are in place today and this business now turns over 20 times more than it did when we started.

“Good people really do make a difference. Regularly working with, and placing, incredibly forward-thinking senior management and business leaders inspires me to be more ambitious with both my personal goals, as well as my business goals.”

What have been your biggest challenges during your time at Red Diamond Executive Headhunters so far, and how have you overcome them?

“I set up Red Diamond Executive Headhunters in the middle of the global recession in 2010, which did present a variety of challenges, but not to the extent my friends, family and business associates warned me about.

“The key lesson I learnt from this experience was to believe in myself and be brave when taking a risk.

“We’re now in the middle of a global pandemic, which again, I can’t deny there are daily challenges – not least juggling home-schooling with running a business!

“But for me, I’m a positive person and able to see the bigger picture at times like this, looking to the future and listening to the experts puts me in a great position to continue supporting and motivating my team.

“Aside from the global crisis, the key challenge is recruiting my own staff. I have an incredible team and knew it when recruiting them, but there have been candidates along the way that didn’t make it as I wasn’t convinced that they were ‘the best of the best’.”

What does the future hold for your company? Any exciting projects in the pipeline we should know about?

“The past 18 months have been so exciting for us, with 30 per cent year on year growth - and we can see a healthy year ahead, with plans to expand internationally and open a second UK office.

“We’re also dedicated to staying ahead of the curve and keeping our competition on their feet, so we’re looking to change the way we work from a digital perspective, incorporating the many innovative ways to do things quicker and more efficiently.

“Recognising from previous roles that both traditional headhunters and recruiters place less emphasis on the emotional, cultural and physical aspects of changing jobs, these influential features now underpin our corporate strategy.

“Red Diamond Executive Headhunters is boutique in every sense of the word – creative, exclusive, niche and sophisticated.

“These are rules we live by and the entire customer experience is defined by the word boutique and when we say customer, we mean candidates and clients (who are much of the same thing to us).”

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