After two decades in the same pub chain, Bruce Wakeling wanted to try something new. Luckily, rail hospitality brand SSP were on the lookout for someone with his skills, vision and commitment. Here’s how he found working with executive headhunter Daniel…
In 1985, I was fresh out of the air force. A pub consortium called the Spirit Group hired me for one of their territories. It took 22 years, but I went from collecting ashtrays to managing 200 pubs across the UK. Eventually, they were purchased by Greene King, who switched to ‘leased’ operations and selected me for redundancy.
This turned out to be a blessing. I was in a dilemma; like a soap opera star, I was only used to playing one character – people used to call me Mr. Pub. If I’d stayed there, that’s all I would’ve been. I wanted to see where my skills could be transferred… especially since the pub sector is 70% male and 90% White English. I needed more diversity to grow my communicative talents.
When Daniel called, I was more than ready to listen. He told me about an Operations
Director role at SSP, which runs catering for brands such as Starbucks, Burger King and Upper Crust at British railway stations. The staff at these businesses have a great ethnic and cultural mix. It was exactly what I wanted, and I think he knew that.
From day one, Daniel wanted to understand who I was, where I was going and what my
professional goals were. He seemed smart, genuine and extremely thorough in his job. After a few phone calls, we met face-to- face at St. Pancras station; he’d clearly done his homework on me. Really, his candidates represent him as much as themselves – I felt he only selects people that are a proper fit for the position.
When it came to the interview stage, we were in for a few surprises, as the interviewer left SSP a month after we sat down together. There was a bit of a lull period until a successor was found. Normally, that would be quite a frustrating experience – yet Daniel spoke to both parties every couple of days, informing me that I had nothing to worry about.
Three months later, as I was embarking on my new career, Daniel and I went out to dinner. As ever, I didn’t feel like I was simply a key to his financial success. Our relationship has only grown stronger since then, as SSP promoted me to a Senior Operations capacity, in which I cared for two thirds of rail outlets in the UK. He’s part of a 100-strong dining club that I founded to bring sector experts under one roof.
Although I left the business a number of years ago to start my own company, my relationship with Dan has only grown stronger.