Congratulations to Richard Norris for reaching his 10 year anniversary milestone with Leadenhall this year. Learn more about Richard and his time at Leadenhall in our interview with him below.
Why did you join Leadenhall and what were your early days like with the business?
The business was looking to appoint someone in Sydney and build a presence here, and the timing coincided with me considering my next career step. Hamish Blair, who I had worked with previously suggested the role at Leadenhall.
I met with Simon Dalgarno and he was really personable and passionate about the business, so I decided to give it a go. Before meeting Simon, I didn’t know much about Leadenhall, but it seemed like an exciting opportunity to build something, without having to start from scratch.
As the first Sydney-based employee, I was tasked with finding clients and an office – which initially was pretty small – and then finding people once we built the business up to support bringing more people on.
In the early days I spent a lot of time looking at things I hadn’t been exposed to during my time working in big firms – IT, HR, Marketing and Office admin. I also worked with Simon on updating the brand and creating relevant collateral.
Why did you choose to stay with Leadenhall?
I care about my colleagues and I want to be here long enough to see the younger team members achieve their potential. It’s a rewarding responsibility – at the end of the day 14 people and their families depend on us to run the business successfully. We feel a sense of pride in building this sustainable business model.
Also, our clients actually do value what we do, which is nice. It’s not unheard of to receive a thank you from clients, and a lot of times in these types of roles you don’t see that. We get to know our clients well over time across different appointments and often people will keep in touch and engage us again even if they move to a different organisation. Because of our structure we don’t have to adopt short-term behaviours with our clients. If the client doesn’t really need something, then we won’t sell them something they don’t need – building more trust over the long term, hopefully.
I like also the type of work, we do. I’m always learning about new business and industries and solving intellectual problems.
What’s been the biggest challenge for you?
There have been a few different challenges. At the beginning it felt like all my time was taken up with office and marketing activities, having five coffees a day doing business development and trying to recruit a team. There were certainly some characters along the way.
COVID was a challenge but not in the way we anticipated. We expected to be facing a decline in demand, but the reality is we’ve never been busier. We’re facing different recruitment challenges now – good staff are hard to find and we are seeking to appoint people to help service the growing client base.
Like most other businesses that have faced lockdowns and working remotely, it’s harder to keep people connected. You can see people struggling at times, and it’s hard to know what to do about it (especially if you might not be feeling crash hot 100% of the time yourself) – you can’t just go for a coffee with them. You’re not seeing them every day; you don’t know what’s going on in their life the way we do when we’re in the office. Things are more easily misunderstood remotely; it can lead to difficulties that if you were in the same room just wouldn’t happen.
And one of the biggest – but also best – challenges for us has been growing the business to the size we are now. Communication is more complex – we want to be efficient and also keep people engaged. I don’t really like red tape, which is one of the reasons I wanted to work for Leadenhall in the first place, but we’ve had to bring some in to help maintain our consistency, it’s a difficult balance.
What have you enjoyed the most so far in your career at Leadenhall?
I think it’s seeing the team grow – creating opportunities for people that might not have otherwise existed. We’ve had teammates join us knowing nothing about business valuation and now they’re pretty good at what they do. Some of them started as an analyst, been promoted through the ranks to associate director and we are planning for them to have continued growth opportunities within Leadenhall.
We’ve got a great track record of retaining good people and they’ve really learned and improved themselves while they’ve been here. One of the points of difference I’m proud of is that you don’t have to ‘play the game’ here like you might at some other workplaces. You don’t have to spend time promoting your abilities, making sure you get credit for work or worry that your progression would stop if you don’t or can’t do that sort of thing. That’s not how we operate.
And it’s not a big thing, but I really like solving the little intellectual puzzles that come along all the time in the nature of our work. I get to exercise a part of my brain that you might not get to do in other types of jobs.
What was your favourite or most memorable valuation?
I don’t really have one, I’m a bit the same if I’m asked about favourite food or colours, I can’t give people a straight answer because I really enjoy the variety of things. In any given week I could be working on a project for a sugar mill, an airport and an insurance company – it’s not necessarily any one of those, it’s the diversity that I enjoy.
Continuing to work on our strategy, structure and how to get the best out of our team. I also like being the technical resource that solves some of the more complex issues and look forward to spending more time doing that.
But there’s plenty to do before then – I want to help take us further than we are now – we want to double in size in the next ten years. Not much more than that because we want to keep the culture that we’ve become known for and have worked so hard to build.
What do you love outside of work?
When we’re not in lockdown I referee touch football – earlier this year I got to go to the State of Origin which was pretty intense. At the other end of the scale, I still enjoy refereeing the local under 12s who are just happy to be out there running around.
My son has been learning drums, so I’ve started re-learning guitar at the same time. I really enjoy when we play together. He’s annoyingly quick at learning new songs.
I love doing stuff with the family no matter what it is, just going for a walk, heading to the beach or out for a surf.
Anything else you want to add?
A big thank you to clients and the people who’ve been with us along the way and continue to support what we’re trying to do. I’m grateful to the friends and colleagues that have referred us work and helped us to grow the business. Thanks to my whole team and especially Simon – if he hadn’t hired me, I wouldn’t be here. Ideally, we would have had a few drinks to celebrate – hopefully at some point we can – perhaps in time to celebrate Leadenhall’s 40 year milestone next year.