Natasha Makhijani: Providing Professionals Professionally
If Mark Zuckerberg launched Facebook in the hostel room of his colleagues then Natasha Makhijani’s venture Oliver Sanderson was born in her dining room. What began as one lady and a laptop has grown into an international business at the cutting edge of executive search. Oliver Sanderson has built up a strong track record of senior and C-suite appointments at FTSE 100, FTSE 350, and Fortune 500 companies.
In an interview with EliteX Natasha communicates about the advent, present and what lies ahead for Oliver Sanderson in the years ahead.
I am passionate about tackling D&I challenges with clients, and I recently established a charity with some industry leaders to address a range of issues related to race equality, disability, and gender.
EliteX: It’s a pleasure to interview you, Natasha. Can you please tell us more about Oliver Sanderson and what it does?
Natasha Makhijani: I founded Oliver Sanderson in 2011, so we have been in business for 12 years now. We operate out of our office in Portman Square, Marylebone, in London, but we have coverage across the U.S. and India through our digital platform Snapp.
We offer end-to-end recruitment and consultancy solutions at Oliver Sanderson. Our team of highly experienced consultants offer a bespoke service designed to satisfy all recruitment and consultancy requirements. Unlike other recruiters, we offer a genuinely consultative service that ensures we listen to their needs and tailor the search process accordingly. This ensures that we can search for candidates that are the best possible fit for the company and role.
We aim to help clients achieve greatness by attracting, developing and retaining professionals of the highest calibre. We’re here to ensure they strengthen their organisations by identifying and recruiting the very best individuals, as well as supporting their progression into accomplished leaders.
Our mission is to help businesses build strong, diverse, and inclusive teams. In the process, we connect great people with great organisations and make a positive impact through the ripple effect. Together, we make a difference.
Oliver Sanderson is an executive search firm with a difference, combining experience and expertise with innovation and fresh thinking. Our Values of Honesty, Integrity and Passion are at the heart of everything we do.
EX: Oliver Sanderson today is a brand by itself. What’s the reason behind this tremendous feat?
NM: Thank You. We believe that our partnering approach is the key to our success in building strong, long-lasting relationships with our clients. We take the time to fully understand their needs and goals, and work closely with them to develop customized solutions that meet their specific requirements. As a result, we have been able to secure preferred supplier agreements with a wide range of top-tier companies, including those in the FTSE 100 to 350, Fortune 500, and privately held businesses. Our team’s extensive experience in serving a variety of industries has also allowed us to gain valuable insights and expertise that we can apply to new projects and challenges.
EX: ‘Life is a matter of choices and every choice you make makes you’. What are the choices that you took that made you Natasha Makhijani, the CEO?
NM: After graduating with a Bachelor’s degree from the City, University of London and a Master’s from DePaul University in Chicago, I began my recruitment career on the Graduate Scheme at Hays. Fast-tracked into management roles, I achieved four promotions in four years and took a team from billing £10,000 to £80,000 a month.
From Hays, I then moved to Michael Page, where I worked on a hybrid desk across permanent and interim senior leadership roles. I was given responsibility for growing Michael Page’s Public Sector division from its offices in London. I soon became the company’s number one biller in HR across the UK, but I always wanted to pursue an entrepreneurial route.
Having already set up executive desks at both Hays and Michael Page, I switched my focus to establishing a business of my own, and in 2011, Oliver Sanderson was born. What started as one woman on a laptop has grown into an international business at the cutting edge of executive search, working with big clients, winning awards, and making a difference internationally!
Natasha Makhijani’s Royal Walk of Fame:
Most recently, I was honoured to be invited to feature in the 2022 Platinum Jubilee Pageant Commemorative Album, as an organisation with aligned values. We were selected for our “transformational contribution to the sphere of business”. It is one of my proudest achievements. Being a British Asian, my life has been shaped by our Royal Family. In particular, I have always been inspired by the life and legacy of Queen Elizabeth II – her values, her global presence, her exceptional work ethic, and the way that she always upheld service, even in the most challenging circumstances.
EX: According to you how has the recruitment industry changed post-pandemic?
NM: The recruitment industry has already undergone a process of transformation triggered by the pandemic. We are now seeing a candidate-led market – talented candidates are in demand, and they are now setting their terms, especially concerning flexible working arrangements. There is no longer any obligation to commute or spend the whole working week in the office, and companies are building diverse, multi-talented teams operating across different countries and different time zones. There is now a bigger global talent pool to choose from, but talent competition is also increased. So it’s a candidate-led market, and the recruitment businesses are booming across many different sectors. I expect this trend to continue, and I also believe that we will see more businesses opting to move to a 4-day working week given the positive early results from the ongoing UK trial.
Innovation is the key to business growth. At Oliver Sanderson, we are constantly learning, and we have systems and ways of working in place to foster creativity and innovative thinking.
– Natasha Makhijani
EX: Can you please throw some more light on Snapp, the world’s first voice-technology-enabled mobile jobs platform with exclusive Amazon Alexa integration of which you are a co-founder?
NM: One of our specialisms is in digital recruitment – we are pioneers of digital innovations in executive search and recruitment. Snapp is a tech product that we also offer to clients, helping them reach new audiences and discover the next generation of business leaders around the world. The idea for Snapp originally came out of a conversation with a client about their evolving needs in a remote working / hybrid business model. We listened and made that idea a reality. Innovation came from openness. If you ask your Amazon Alexa device to “Find me a job”, the search will be powered by Snapp.
The platform recently featured on the Mayor of London’s TechInvest programme, an initiative delivered in alliance with the UK Business Angels Association to showcase London’s most ground-breaking tech start-up businesses.
EX: Tell us something more about the people who make Oliver Sanderson the brand it is.
NM: At Oliver Sanderson, no two weeks are ever the same – we are always working on new roles with new organisations and making new connections and relationships with candidates. It is this aspect of our work that ensures that we are constantly learning, keeping the working week fresh and challenging. Dialogue is crucial – daily conversations, feedback and brainstorming sessions. This helps us stay connected and supported together, constantly learning, and constantly striving to improve as individuals and as a team. It is this supportive culture and work ethic which I value most about my team.
Our team has driven our growth from day one, and I work hard every day to keep my team motivated and engaged with our vision and our journey. As a leader, I must be always challenging, support, and inspire them. We set monthly and annual targets to hit for our team across several areas, from sales to social media engagement. But we also support each other, understanding that growth isn’t always linear and that we sometimes learn more from failure than from success.
I firmly believe that a leader should have passion, drive, energy, honesty, integrity, and humour, to name a few! A leader has to be open-minded and find solutions through difficult times. Leaders must be challenged, actively listen, constantly know that they are always learning, and be open to others guiding them. As a business grows, a leader should be apt at identifying and cultivating talent; proper succession planning can lead to great leaders.I think it is vital to be aware of the needs of the sector, the job market, and the requirements of one’s company and people.
EX: Describe Natasha Makhijani as a ‘professional & a person.’
NM: As a professional, a typical day for me usually begins by catching up with my team and discussing what needs to be done for the day. I spend 2-3 hours a day on Business Development, making new connections and promoting the business to attract new clients.
As a person, there are a few different ways I like to unwind. The main ones are going to the gym and classical Indian dance. I also enjoy reading books, spending time with friends and family, going to the theatre (especially musicals) and doing charity work.
Never be afraid to speak up in the boardroom and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with other leaders, but at the same time be open to listening and change. Nobody knows everything and there is always room to learn from others in the industry.