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“People need a sense of purpose.”: Gary Denton

Gary Denton’s successful career in recruitment wasn’t so much driven by a burning desire to work in the industry but more as a reaction to personal loss. “When I was in my final year at university I lost my father, and the time I took off from my studies meant that I missed the boat when it came to applying for jobs,” Gary explains.

Gary Denton, Managing Director of Marble Group

“When I finally finished my degree, I found myself in a position where I needed some money. So, I took a sales job on a commission-only basis selling people accident insurance. I would approach people on the street, sell them a policy, write it up there and then, and they’d pay me. How times have changed!”

While you can’t get away with that kind of ‘selling’ these days, he talks about it as being an incredible start to his sales career because it was “very much sink or swim” – something he certainly knows a thing or two about, having once worked as a lifeguard. “Would you believe it?” he laughs. “It was back in my early 20s when I was living in the US. It was an interesting job to say the least.”

Born in the UK, Gary came to Australia in 1998 as a way to recover from the shock of his father’s death. What started as a round-the-world trip ended in his putting down roots and choosing to call Australia home. “I visited a few countries on my travels, but as soon as I landed in Oz I immediately knew that I didn’t want to leave,” he says. “So, like a lot of people, I got sponsored and never looked back.”

Eight years later, in 2006, Gary and Marble Group’s Co-Founder Lee Corbitt found themselves working in recruitment and started to talk about how they could shake up the industry. They both knew that they wanted to focus on the heart of recruitment – the people – and so, after chewing over the idea for a while, they decided to take some time off from their careers to come up with a plan.

“I went overseas for a while. I actually came up with the name for Marble when I was on the back of a motorbike in Vietnam,” says Gary. “I raced to an internet cafe to see if the domain name was available and, fortunately, it was.”

Once Gary and Lee were back in Australia, they established Marble Group, a recruitment company with the core purpose of creating connections to enhance people’s lives. “Running right throughout the business is an unwavering belief that if we leave people in a better position than they were before they met us then we are doing okay,” he says.

Gary and Lee built the company from the ground up and now, almost 14 years later, they have finished the process of being acquired by Japanese company Outsourcing Inc.

“Being acquired has been a fascinating experience because you learn so much about your business. There’s essentially a microscope being put over the top of what you do, which for us was quite liberating. Everything in the business gets looked at so that’s your legal, compliance, finance, tax and so on, and we got a clean bill of health,” Gary says.

“If someone can bring their whole self to work every day and feel safe and secure then it creates a beautiful alignment with the whole team.”

“The whole process took around 12 months and, while we are still very much Marble and we still operate as Marble, we now have endless opportunities to grow organically and become an acquirer of other businesses in the future. There’s obviously a huge digital revolution in place and nowhere more so than in recruitment and, in particular, the industry in which we recruit for – construction and mining. So, we’re really interested in looking at businesses that bring together both sides of Marble Group. A good example would be a business using the latest digital technologies supporting construction and mining.”

Gary Denton, Managing Director of Marble Group

Recruitment as a career

At first glance, Gary doesn’t seem to have followed a traditional path into a career in recruitment. Yet at the heart of everything he does sits one defining factor – people. “I think the art of working in a people-centred industry is simply the ability to build relationships,” he says.

“It’s the reason I love recruitment. It’s all about relationships. I also love the fact that no two days are the same, and there’s always space to grow. Whether that’s gaining more understanding of your talent, getting a deeper understanding of your market, or learning about being the best leader you can be, while inspiring and leading your teams.”

Gary talks about how having the ability to grow a team and lead it forward has been an incredible journey for him. “I feel that when you start out in recruitment you take on two careers. You’ve obviously got your recruitment career, but you’ve also got a leadership career running at the same time. And that doesn’t necessarily have to mean literally leading people. It can be leading the creative direction of a company or leading client delivery; there are a number of different ways to look at leadership.”

As the business approaches its 14th year and settles into acquirement, Gary, Lee and their teams have taken some time to reflect on how they can best introduce new initiatives and strategies to Marble.

“There’s been a bit of a cosmic shift in our mindset over the past two or three years,” Gary says. “We’ve been working on discovering what sits at the very heart of our businesses. What we’ve found is that at the core of everything we do sits a question: ‘What would you like to achieve and how can we help you get there?’ Uncovering that has meant that there’s been a shift and a real sense of ownership flowing through the team.

“So teams are owning their business plans, they’re setting their own metrics and, with the help of the whole business, are growing together to achieve their goals. It’s a beautiful thing because people we bring into Marble – some with a lot of experience, some with none – are owning their own experience very quickly, and I love that.”

By encouraging a real sense of ownership throughout and empowering Marbles to run their own business, Marble Group is thriving, something Gary puts down to creating a space where employees can grow. “All we do is talk to the guys and listen a lot.

“We take everyone out for breakfast individually and ask them where they want to go within their role, how we can help them get there and explore what else in the business could give them a greater sense of contribution and fulfilment,” he explains. “We also ask them what they’re good at and what else they’d like to experience. It’s a wonderful way to uncover people’s strengths and put them in roles that align to their skill set – their genius within. Creating space for people to step forward is a beautiful thing.”

“One of the things we’re crystal clear about is that everyone should always be motivated.”

Gary Denton, Managing Director of Marble Group

Leading the team forward

From a leadership perspective Gary is very clear on how he and the rest of the leadership team should help drive the business forward. “One of the things we love to hold close is that everybody is always motivated; the trick is finding out what by,” he says.

“What we find is that people thrive with a sense of purpose and the autonomy to deliver on things. Our role is to support the guys in becoming more and more accomplished each day. Throughout the entire business, our teams have what we refer to as a cadence – a rhythm that flows throughout. This means that when we all sit down and have a weekly catch-up, we talk about the things that matter and do our best to empower one another. We talk about achievements, personal and professional growth, and we talk a lot about people’s stories.

“We regularly ask team members to share their most empowering habits and beliefs, which is incredible to witness. Just recently, a colleague in Melbourne presented seven techniques to the team that she uses day in, day out, to build her resilience. It honestly blew everyone away.”

“We regularly ask team members to share their most empowering habits and beliefs, which is incredible to witness.”

This heart-led, human-centred style of leadership is something Gary is incredibly passionate about; however, he’s the first to admit that it didn’t come naturally. “I’ve not always been this way,” he says.

“I think that over the course of my career there have been disappointments, stumbling blocks and challenges – the same as everyone has. The trick is to look at those disappointments, flip them on their head and ask, ‘What’s the learning? Where’s the opportunity to grow?’ The way I choose to lead has come from all of those experiences, and when I set up the business it allowed me to create something I wish I’d had when I started my career.”

For Gary, the opportunity to create a work environment where people feel motivated and safe to be themselves is what drives him. “To offer individuals across the business, myself included, a space where they can consistently grow both personally and professionally is, in my opinion, the only way to run a business,” he says.

“As a leadership team, we keep going back to this fundamental principle that if people feel a sense of fulfilment and a sense of contribution then that’s fantastic. If people feel that they are growing within themselves, beautiful. And if people feel that safe connection and, I guess, that sense of loving connection around them as they do their job, then I think you’ve got the building blocks for a great business.”

“We keep our business exciting, fun and dynamic, and we know our markets inside out.”

Gary Denton, Managing Director of Marble Group

Consistency is key

Leading a huge, and one day global, team from the heart is a unique way to approach business leadership, and one that could be seen as a challenge in itself. For Gary, it all comes down to making sure everyone is on the same page and having a like-minded leadership team.

“The leadership team get together once a quarter to discuss our focus for the upcoming quarter. Just recently we had a day based around empowerment, motivation, gratitude and how to create trust,” he says.

“There has to be a rhythm throughout the business and so we put a lot of thought into those leadership days and what we, the broader leadership team, want to focus on next and where we want to grow. I also believe that being aware of best-practice leadership is a fundamental part of remaining consistent with the message. Just recently we developed a separate platform, which the whole business has access to. On that platform sits a load of inspirational content – podcasts, business learnings, TED talks on topics such as the art of relationship building, mindfulness and growth mindset. It’s been really popular with everyone in the business, which has been awesome to see.”

With such an untraditional way of approaching recruitment, it should go without saying that Marble Group attracts a particular type of employee. Gary and Lee’s idea for Marble was always to recruit great people first and good recruitment consultants second. How do they do that? By having developed an unspoken checklist of attributes, a list of things they look for when recruiting people to join the Marble family.

“I think it’s really important that people show gratitude for previous experiences; it gives you a sense of where someone’s value set is. A deep level of grit and resilience is also needed. Some people have it and some people need to build it, but in an industry like recruitment it’s so important,” he says.

“This may sound a little strange, but when we’re recruiting for Marble we have people with a lot of experience doing the interviewing so there’s also a gut-feel to the process. What that feels like is an overwhelming absence of doubt that the interviewee is going to be able to do the job. What we generally find is if they have any niggling doubt, then guess what? That shows up. And that’s the subconscious doing its thing.”

“We can’t always define why there’s doubt but generally, when we recruit people, we need to see that they 100% believe that they can do the job.”

Gary and the team take a similar approach when they’re taking on new clients, which means that not everyone makes the cut. “We spend a lot of time attracting, unearthing and identifying the best talent in our markets. This means that we need to be finding them a lot of opportunities with strong employers who are essentially doing a lot of things right,” he says.

“We spend a lot of time attracting, unearthing and identifying the best talent in our markets.”

“For each of our key clients it’s essential that we have a full understanding of who they are and what they offer, how they motivate their teams, how they celebrate big wins, how they acknowledge staff for their work, and what the career path looks like. All these things that matter. Before we send anyone for a role they have access to all of the critical information that will give them a full understanding of what to expect from the company. So, it’s important or us that our candidates are happy to
be put forward. It’s the most important thing to us because if you can find a good candidate a good work-home they will be an ambassador for you.

“Anybody can read a CV and match experience to a role but, for us, it’s deeper than that. We want to go underneath the surface of the CV. What are this person’s inner motivations? What drives them? How is this candidate going to feel after they’ve met with our client? How is the client going to feel about the candidate after they’ve met with them? And you can only do that by getting a deep rapport with both sides of the party.”

Finding the why

Inspired by the learnings of Simon Sinek and Jim Quick, Gary has been leading his team into a bold and exciting future. In 2018, he stated that over a five-year period, Marble’s aim was to achieve a turnover of A$100 million and establish more offices across the country. Post-acquisition that goal is inching ever closer.

“The acquisition has taken Marble to the next level,” says Gary. “The company has been growing organically over the past few years and we’ve had a year-on-year increase in profits and revenue, and further acquisitions make the future even brighter.”

When it comes to looking to the future, Gary is fully aware of how society’s shifting view towards employment is changing the industry. And he’s excited by it. “People entering the workforce are coming through today’s education system and are expecting to have a voice and to be heard,” he says.

“If you’re not true to yourself and you’re not acting with the best intentions, then you’re not going to feel fulfilled; you’re not going to be the best version of yourself.”

“They expect to be listened to, they expect to grow, they expect to contribute, which is exactly right. People don’t take jobs just for the money anymore. Money is often just the pacifier, of course, but people want to feel supported and significant. They want to feel like they’re growing, that they’re being acknowledged for their contribution and that they are in a safe place to be able to speak up.”

Gary believes that the future of the recruitment industry lies with people. Because despite the inescapable technological revolution taking over many aspects of human talent, at the end of the day people like to deal with other people.

“At the heart of our technology strategy is the desire to embrace all technologies that will see us deliver even greater value to our clients and candidates. We have just introduced a growth analytics platform that allows us to make world class decisions at all levels of the business. Next on the agenda is process automation and gamification. All of these technologies will see our service offering increase; however, there’s no substitute for having someone in the middle who really understands their market,” says Gary.

“We’ve become storytellers within the industry. The strength and identity of the Marble brand is founded in the success stories we have created when we exceeded the expectations of our various clients and candidates.”

It seems that, whether in his personal or professional life, Gary is a man who practises what he preaches. He’s someone who is driven by his heart and has created an incredibly successful business based on personal and heartfelt principles.

“I believe that the truest measure of success is how you feel about yourself on the inside,” he says. “There’s a wealth of learnings out there on how to lead your most fulfilled life and be an inspiring leader, and there are so many incredible people talking about the art of human behaviour, motivation and fulfilment. I listen to a lot of it and then take what resonates with me. Listening to a TED Talk as I get ready for work is part of my daily routine. I pick a theme I’m interested in and then choose one at random, it’s an incredible way to get into the right mindset for the day ahead.”

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