Please beware of recruitment scams that are currently targeting jobseekers. Click here for further advice.
It may have started with a little ambition but now we're celebrating 24 years of Ambition Recruitment.
Hear about our journey from our
Co-Founder Nick Waterworth
Our Co-Founder and Executive Chair of the Ambition Group Ltd, Nick Waterworth shares the forward-thinking global recruitment company’s origin story, from its inception in 1999 to the bright post-pandemic future now taking shape. You can hear Nick’s full interview which can be found on the latest podcast episode of Leaders with Ambition (UK).
This lively conversation covers the entire journey, from Nick’s career highlights to the inevitable bumps along the way to a host of exciting new projects hitting their stride. He also offers advice about the importance of engaging mentorship and gives us a glimpse into his leadership priorities in the face of a global pandemic. (Hint: Nick emphasised transparency, communication and empathy – a formula that resulted in his team emerging from Covid-19 stronger than ever.)
Growing up in Warwick as a “spectacularly poor student” (with a gift for sport) found a passion for economics/economic history early on - sparked by an influential mentor who helped him set his course in life.
Nick applied for a statistics job on The Strand which wound up as a life-changing opportunity to train as a recruiter in their London office – a fun job that “exceeded all expectations!” Nick then made the decision to pursue growth by migrating to a competitor, joining the banking recruitment team at Michael Page, a company he knew “was going places.”
Nick explains why it was an easy “yes” when Michael Page offered him the opportunity to help open its office in Sydney – where he landed in 1985 for a stint of two years that turned into a long-term career and life path.
A new direction
In 1998 our founders embarked on a “crazy” road trip from Melbourne to Perth. This was the road trip during which Nick and his co-founder Paul Lyons conceived Ambition’s business model.
Nick’s laser focus and his belief that you can’t be “all things to all people” has been key to building a straight-ahead path to global success: a disciplined “inch wide and a mile deep” approach.
Nick hasn’t done it all on his own. His wife and board member Paul Young have played as long-time sources of wisdom, support, guidance and professional insight. Having passed the BBQ test, affirmation from stakeholders is the most powerful and satisfying form of reputational advocacy.
'Cultivate mentors (formal and informal) whose outside perspective you can trust.' - Nick Waterworth
Strong, healthy workplace cultures start with intentionality, and clearly defined core values are the bedrock. The ethos that shaped what Nick and his co-founder Paul Lyons envisioned as their mission right from its outset, including both a focus on a personalised customer experience and a global approach. This has made Ambition an innovative industry leader across the UK, Asia, Australia and the U.S. The secret sauce behind Ambition’s special alchemyis: a close-knit culture, shared purpose and honesty. Nick champions diversity & inclusion and believes firmly that equity is a non-negotiable, normal, natural thing to do – and an asset to corporate culture overall. “It’s just good for everybody involved!”
A corporate reset
There have of course been speed bumps along the way. For example, starting an office in Hong Kong on the eve of a major SARS outbreak. But one of the biggest challenges was sustaining “plummeting” business and corporate stress through Covid-19, which brought the erosion of morale when Ambition temporarily strayed from its core values. From this Nick doubled down on his strategy of transparency, clear communication, a return to basics, focused leadership and full disclosure allowed the organisation to blossom again.
'Know your purpose! Values are the bedrock of a healthy company culture and your ability to attract and retain great teams.' - Nick Waterworth
Nick’s personal highlights
Key quotes direct from our Co-Founder Nick Waterworth
“Sometimes it might be a weakness, but I’m not very good at giving up on stuff!”
“Values were very important to us as founders... We wanted a business that cared about our people, our stakeholders. That was something we really built into the organisation.”
“I value having formal mentors or simply people you trust and can look to for advice in different situations.”
“Where we stand now is incredibly satisfying and I love it. I still every day am genuinely delighted and excited to be involved. And that’s not corporate speak!”
“Going through a nasty time in some ways perhaps refocused us on the basics and right style of leadership... I really didn’t do anything all that clever. I was just straight with people.”
“The prospect of not having equal pay for equal work – I just don’t get it. Why would you do that or think you’re going to get away with it? Why would you think that it’s going to be anything but poisonous for your culture?”
“Building better futures is our mission. We’re very focused on growth and playing to our strengths.”
“Work should be fun. It’s serious and pays the bills … but you’re just going to do it better if you’re having fun. And fun can mean different things in different places.”
'You’re going to have a better (and more successful) life doing things you enjoy.'
'Don’t choose a course of study because you think it’s the “right” thing to do.'
Leaders with Ambition podcast (UK)
The podcast that delves deep into the careers if some if the most successful leaders in Professional Services (UK).
The Leaders with Ambition podcast is hosted by Nicky Acuna Ocana Regional Managing Director of Ambition UK, Europe and US. She has led high performing recruitment teams for over 20 years. As the Regional Managing Director of Ambition UK, Europe and US, she leads a team of highly-skilled recruitment consultants who are experts in their niche specialist areas. With an extensive network of senior and board-level contacts, she is also heavily involved in Executive Search, focusing on Director level appointments across Business Services for a range of Professional Services firms.
If you enjoyed this discussion and would like to see more episodes like this, please visit this link to find previous episodes of the Leaders with Ambition podcast.
This year was special, our team travelled to Bali in Indonesia to share their trip with the Dream Team winners from our Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong & S...Read more
Last month I celebrated my 10-year anniversary working for Ambition Group (Ambition & AccountAbility), something I’m super proud of because tenure...Read more
Lucy Cova, a Senior Consultant with a passion for engineering & design recruitment and a love for Australia, joined Ambition on September 2022.Wit...Read more