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Bright Lights Seeing Stars & Stripes

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The first, and most difficult step, was recruiting a suitable person to run our US office. As recruiters ourselves, we recognize the difficulty and importance of finding the 'right' people.

By Tom Savage

Bright Green Talent is an environmentally-focused executive search and recruitment firm that is channeling the next generation of environmental leaders into meaningful careers. We strive to ensure our positive impact by placing the best people in positions that enable them to maximise their contribution to society, their environment, and their personal wellbeing. By focusing on our common, long-term goals and values, we believe we best serve our clients, our candidates and ourselves.

Bright Green Talent began with two people, one book, and a single shared insight: the world needs more environmental leaders. Bright Green Talent's story is rooted in human connection. In 1999 its Chairman Paul Hannam, owner of a successful recruitment business, read a book about our environmental crisis while flying to a conference. Paul was so inspired by the book that upon landing he forgot entirely about the conference, tracked down the author, and went directly to meet him convinced of a new purpose: to plant the seed of environmental entrepreneurship in others. Paul left his business and embarked on a mission that led him to teach as a Don at Oxford, fertilising the great minds of a coming green revolution. One in particular - Tom Savage - would see the seed of inspiration grow most beautifully.

Tom began his career working in the undergrowth of an investment bank. Deeply unsatisfied, he left to become a social entrepreneur, founding Blue Ventures (www.blueventures.org) - a now award-winning marine conservation organisation - and embarking on an adventure that saw him pass through the hallowed halls of Downing Street, build businesses in Madagascar and the UK, win prizes at the UN, and earn a scholarship to Oxford.

It was at Oxford that- despite their 20 year age gap- Tom and Paul connected on a common insight spurred by watching both their peers and pupils struggle to find pathways towards fulfilling, rewarding careers. They decided to build a business that fuelled positive personal, social, and environmental change by channelling the next generation of environmental leaders into organisations worldwide. Bright Green was born.

In 2007 Bright Green sprouted one more branch. It shared the idea with Nick Ellis, another former investment banker, and so was born Bright Green Talent in the US (San Francisco). Today, Bright Green continues to make connections to business leaders around the world, greening the workforce one introduction at a time, and planting the seeds of a brighter, greener tomorrow, every single day.
Starting in San Francisco, USA involved huge risk and diversification at an early stage in our business's life, something that had huge opportunity cost.

The first, and most difficult step, was recruiting a suitable person to run our US office. As recruiters ourselves, we recognize the difficulty and importance of finding the right people. After perhaps 50 CVs and 20 interviews, we found our man, Nick Ellis. Fortunately Paul lived in California and was therefore able to do a search in-country. Agreeing the terms and conditions of his offer was testing over many time-zones, but once that had been achieved, it was up to Nick to build the business and initiate the legal contract and incorporation within the US. By leaving this to someone with knowledge of the local area and business practices, we saved many headaches that would have arisen from trying to start the business as UK-nationals.

Essentially, Bright Green Talent US is an American business, with UK shareholders and a sister business in the UK, no more. The business was given a head-start through an online presence and by sharing logos, marketing, training and experiences, but is responsible for its own P&L. That has helped BGT US get off to the quickest start possible -- it is its own company, with its own management and budget, rather than being tied to the company in the UK. There were a few tax and legal implications having UK directors, but nothing insurmountable.

Startup Overseas asked Tom what were the best and worst aspects of starting a business overseas?'

The best:

  • Enabling us to do what we do in two continents; changing the world by placing environmental leaders
  • Giving us the change to learn from two offices, rather than one
  • Benefiting from economies of scale
  • Ensuring we have an outlet for US-based clients and candidates
  • Meeting a new and different generation of environmental leaders and widening our candidate pool
  • Boosting our web ratings and marketing drive, ensuring that we capitalised on work accomplished in two places rather than one
  • The chance to travel and experience life and work in a different country
  • Perspective and the new ideas a different office brings

The Worst:

  • The desire to be in two places at once
  • Late nights due to the time-zone differences
  • Being forced to fly more
  • Distraction from working nationally, thereby reducing the momentum of the UK business temporarily

Startup Overseas asked Tom if there was anything they would you have done differently?

Actually, there is little we would change. We made some mistakes by repeating work on both sides of the Atlantic, but all in all it's been a fantastic experience and hugely rewarding. Even if we were to go bust, we've made incredible contacts, had fantastic experiences and thoroughly enjoyed the process. If things go well, some of us might end up in San Francisco!

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