Here at iknowho we’re celebrating a milestone this month as the business turns 10 years old.
Throughout the last decade we’ve helped approximately 1,800 marketers find new roles within companies such as Apple, Host Havas, Allianz, Nickelodeon, M&C Saatchi, Woolworths, Expedia and The Sydney Opera House. Over the years our candidates have become our clients, and our clients have become our candidates.
One person who has seen it all is Director & Founder Dene Gambotto. We sat down together to reflect on some of lessons and highlights of the last 10 years of iknowho have brought to her.
Based on what you've learned along the way, what advice would you give yourself 10 years ago as you set up iknowho?
Celebrate the wins, learn quickly from the losses and above all, always follow your gut. If something or someone does not seem quite right then trust that instinct – ask more questions, explore your options and explain your decision honestly. I’ve never shied away from the truth – as I believe we learn/grow from it.
I’d tell my younger self to be prepared to work harder than you knew possible, to accept that people will surprise you and that investing in technology will mean more time to be spent with people.
And so what has been the best advice you’ve received since opening the doors in 2008?
Look after your people and the numbers will follow.
As a team we’ve had lots of fun doing what we do – we don’t take it all too seriously, we’re supportive of one another and celebrate often. We work towards common rather than individual goals - which ensures collaboration and sharing of knowledge internally. We have monthly, quarterly and annual goals – when we hit these we celebrate! These celebrations have taken us to a beach retreat in Noosa, various day spas, numerous cocktail parties, and even a survivor themed race on Hayman Island.
What’s your favourite thing about running iknowho?
Without a doubt the people…our clients, candidates and colleagues. I’m a people-person and I love love love working with people. I’ve learned a lot about people in almost 20 years recruiting, and in return that’s taught me a lot about myself too.
The impact we make when placing someone in a job they love is huge…the ripple effect on their life is significant. Watching someone transition into a role that will engage and inspire them is very satisfying – when people love their work their perspective on life changes…so it’s pretty cool we get to facilitate this change.
I remember an ad agency Account Director who said she was “done with agency”…I wasn’t so sure as she still loved the creative process, social side of agency and working on a variety of brands – so with some gentle persuading from me she took another agency contract role. Two days in she called to say “thank you for challenging me - I had no idea agencies like this existed.” She loved the new role in an agency and had no interest to go client-side.
You’ve retained staff for well past industry averages, what is one thing you do as a leader that you believe helps to retain staff?
My positive attitude – even when things go wrong I’ll remain positive, focused on the solution and I will persist. I take responsibility for my mood and the energy that I bring to the office. I choose to be honest, upbeat and above all genuinely caring with my team.
Of the hundreds of placements made through iknowho in the last 10 years, do you have a personal favourite?
Yikes there have been so many to choose from, but a standout for me personally would have been in 2017 when I placed the new CEO for NFP The Gidget Foundation.
I recruited this role pro-bono whilst I was on maternity leave with my second child. It felt so good to be giving my time and skill to such a worthwhile cause. We successfully recruited a CEO who’s since gone on to increase the organisation’s income, awareness and community. She’s made such a positive impact and I’m so proud to have been able to find her for that charity. More about that placement here.
You coined a phrase “woowho” at iknowho. Tell me about one of your favourite woowho moments since starting the business.
I’d have to say the day I had a call from the Talent Lead for Apple ANZ wanting to know if he could meet me to discuss making iknowho a preferred recruiter for their marketing team – as he’d heard good things about our brand! I was ecstatic! The meeting went well and we’ve had a really successful partnership with Apple for a number of years now.
There’s been lots of moments like that; whether that be when a candidate says “thanks for taking the time to get to know me and asking about what I want”, or a client saying “you nailed the brief – thank you”. Either way the best woowho moments for me are when I know we’ve made a positive impact on someone’s life.
So, looking back have the last 10 years been as you expected?
When I started iknowho it was never with the vision to have a full recruitment agency – I simply wanted to help marketers find jobs they love – with no other agenda. I didn’t aspire to have a team or business to manage.
Even today my favourite moments are when I’m involved in recruiting. Recruitment is such a fun gig where you can make a real difference to other’s lives – so I’m grateful that all those years ago I “fell” from marketing into recruitment.
We only recruit for brands and candidates we are passionate about - this is liberating for a recruiter. There’s never been pressure to hit call targets – the focus has and will always be on people. We choose who we work with and that is a wonderful thing.
Finally, what do you hope the next 10 years at iknowho will bring?
More woowho moments! Which may be helping a marketer transition to a love job, partnering with like-minded brands to source marketers and achieving together as a team. What’s cool is the mid-level marketers we placed in our first few years are now in Director or CMO roles – so when candidates become clients it makes me smile!
This year we’ll also hit our 2000th placement so watch out for how we celebrate…