Tom Fleming speaks to a man behind a recruitment firm with a difference.
Adrian Mansfield has just finalised plans for a staff secondment to Oman as well as receiving confirmation that a group of contractors had been safely delivered into Camp Bastion, a military headquarters in Afghanistan.
Next on the agenda for this larger than life character is checking the progress of 60 staff who are working at a Nato hospital at Khandahar Airfield in Southern Afghanistan.
His company, the Fresh Approach Group, is clearly no ordinary recruitment consultancy and Adrian Mansfield, managing director of the Birmingham headquartered firm is certainly no ordinary 34-year-old.
This Oxford-born entrepreneur graduated with a degree in European Business Studies and German as well as a Diploma in Marketing from Klagenfurt University where he spent a year as part of his course.
He launched the Group six years ago after identifying a gap in the recruitment marketplace, particularly relating to civilian manning within the security and defence markets.
Now operating offices in Birmingham, London and India as well as Oman, the team provides staff at all levels from international managing directors through deployed specialist contractors to third country National personnel.
“People don’t usually plan a career in recruitment, he says, it is just something that you fall into and that’s exactly what happened to me,” he said. “It is a road that can lead you to success once you learn to effectively manage your desk and your team and that’s what I did .
“Soon, I wanted more than just the money though. After about four years into my first recruitment consultancy role I developed an idea to launch a consultancy that delivered to standards far better than anything I had seen or experienced before. I did some homework and identified a big gap in the marketplace that I could capitalise on,” he added. And the Fresh Approach Group was born.
“Our original business plan has been accelerated at quite a pace,” he said, “and our goal is now to achieve a £10 million turnover within the next five years. We have also split the group into two divisions. Fresh Approach Solutions provides a traditional contingency recruitment service across four main sectors including defence, security, aerospace and international project support.
The other division, Fresh Approach Consultants was formed at the end of 2007 in response to requests from existing clients for a service dealing with higher level and more specialist requirements. This arm of the company operates exclusively within the Defence, Security and Aerospace sectors and provides a more sophisticated headhunting and executive search solution.
Fresh Approach Solutions has a growing reputation as a one-stop-shop provider of deployable contractors for operational theatres – this means operational sites to the non-military readers amongst us – and includes countries and continents such as Afghanistan, Iraq and Africa. The team provides individuals or teams of Western specialists, often ex-military or police, willing to deploy on short-medium or long-term contracts in support of British or Nato forces overseas.
Adrian has attracted a number of top military professionals to the firm. They include characters such as Major General Andrew Farquhar and Major Dan Byles who both have distinguished careers in the military and were attracted by the passion, strategy and vision displayed by Adrian. The reason for the strong growth in this market is evident as the number of zones in which the UK military operates in grows.
Adrian reports that the MoD increasingly expects equipment providers to support deployed systems and equipment directly into operational fields. This is an option that many smaller and medium-sized companies find a challenge and therefore such companies welcome the opportunity to hire temporary, highly skilled contractors capable of servicing and upgrading military equipment and solutions, or providing relevant training on their behalf.
Adrian is no stranger to working with overseas players. His career began at the West Midlands Development Agency, now part of the West Midlands regional development agency, Advantage West Midlands, where he was a project manager for new investors to the region.
“I loved the international flavour of the role and it is this job that fuelled my passion for travelling and experiencing different cultures, which I have done extensively over the last decade or so. Another great benefit of the job was that as the only golfer in the project team, it was me that was invited to all the corporate golf days in and around the region. It was a hard job but someone had to do it... It’s no wonder that my handicap dropped to 11 – and remains there due to my perseverance in ensuring I play every week – something my partner is very tolerant of.”
His knowledge and understanding of the region was reinforced by his father, Harvey Mansfield, who is known by many in the greater Birmingham area from his role as chief executive of the Birmingham Community Foundation before taking retirement three years ago and moving to Dorset with wife Judy.
“Dad is a very calm man and takes everything in his stride. I watched him juggle the politics of private and public sector as well as successfully manage teams of staff throughout his career and I learned to learn. We talk regularly every week and he sits on the Board at Fresh Approach Solutions. He is most definitely an invaluable member of the team as well as being my mentor. My partner, Abbie, and I also get free holidays in The New Forest which is a nice added bonus.”
Teamwork and sport is something that follows Adrian into his private life. A level two rugby coach, he is currently working towards attaining his level three , as high as you can go as an amateur rugby coach. “Rugby is just something that has to be done. I played at both senior schools and also at University of Northampton, where I captained the team
“I’ve played for Birmingham Civil Service for the last five years and coached them for the last three years. Last year I also coached at Birmingham University and for the last two years have coached West Midlands Senior Ladies.”
Strategically managing a flourishing business, travelling overseas for a third of the month, playing and coaching rugby, playing golf and spending time with family and friends is a pretty hectic lifestyle so how does he manage it?
“A busy man makes time,” he says, and you are a long time dead although don’t get me wrong I can relax and do nothing – some say I do it too well! I love chatting and being out and about but need my quiet time as much as the next man.”
And why Birmingham as a headquarters for the business? Is this now home despite his Lancashire twang picked up during a ten-year stint living in Wigan? “I grew up in Birmingham and yes, I would say that the city and the region is now my home but it is objective rationale not emotional attachment that led to the decision to make Birmingham the HQ of the business.
“What is great about Birmingham is that it has a great communications infrastructure despite it being the constant target of criticism. Nowhere else in the country is as centrally located as this city and with the arrival of a new New Street, this communications asset will receive a great boost.
“I spend about six days a month in our London office and the rest of the time in Birmingham. I use the train, so can’t wait for New Street to be seen in all its glory, especially as our office is situated virtually next door to the station.
“Birmingham is a large city but is not arrogant like many others. It has a warm personality and people manage to communicate effectively outside the e-mail culture that is so obviously prevalent in today’s workplace. Communication via conversation is an art and Birmingham still seems to be able to do this well.
So where does Adrian see himself in five years time? “I want to achieve that £10 million turnover and I would love to be in a position to talk to investors about the acquisition of other companies both in the UK and overseas. Let’s see what opportunities cross the path!”