Retail Species – the specialist headhunter

The Person: Orlando Martins

The Company: Oresa

The Job Title:  Founder and MD

The Story: If you want to find someone for retail, then this is your man. Executive search maestro and board builder extraordinaire. He has turned finding staff into a virtual art form and stands almost alone as a male in the very feminine world of recruitment.

Ah, but this is not your normal recruitment agency is it? To say he has identified a niche is an understatement. In Martins’ own words his outfit specialises in executive search and board building for businesses who want to thrive in a cross-channel world.

You focus on multi-channel retailers then, or omni-channel retailers, or whatever they are calling themselves today? Martins says that while he has worked with many multi-channel and pure-play clients actually the point is that the majority of consumers use more than one channel. And so Oresa works with consumer-focused businesses of any kind that want to exploit the cross-channel behaviour of their customers.

I think so. Let’s get down to what Mr Martins actually does: Righto. He works with the non-execs and MDs of his clients to imagine what their dream teams could look like, then ‘sculpts’ what they think they want into something that is appropriate and achievable, and delivers it to boot.

OK, could I just zone in on the word ‘sculpt’ here: I thought you might. As he puts it ‘this is not a bums-on-seats operation.’ It is not just about filling specialist online retail vacancies but about making his clients ‘future-proof’ in this fast-moving sector. He works in partnership with companies, over a number of years, to deliver sometimes the whole board; and the importance to him is making the right decision to help those companies grow long term.

I get it. Average day…? There’s never an average day in executive search, he chides. However, as head of the company Martins will be meeting clients, interviewing senior candidates and overseeing his headhunters as they run their research projects to identify and narrow down the suitable talent pool to shortlist for, and then fill, particular roles. He’ll take a few calls from contacts asking for introductions to people he knows, or asking for career advice. And then he has to hold together the business side of things too.

So I take it you don’t just stumble into this line of work? That would be right. Martins background is entrepreneurial and that essentially is what he continues to do. Between 1999 and 2001 he ran start ups, worked for a US dotcom, then turned around a restaurant. And after all that he came into executive search; initially in hospitality. However, he quickly moved into the retail space.

Pourquoi? Retail, after all the start-up and online business experience he had, was where all the action was at the time. And that over blossomed into the cross-channel selling practice he now runs – Oresa.

And Martin’s finest hour would be what…? Well he’s hot on advising on organisational change. And at Joules Clothing he did exactly that, building a board of directors including the MD and HR director. And earlier in his career he placed key parts of the operating board at the phenomenally successful ASOS. He’s proud of that one too. Finally he’s getting much satisfaction at the moment from growing and developing his own team of headhunters and researchers.

And the future direction of Orlando Martins could encompass…? Well anything. He’s not one to limit himself. Oresa has recently undertaken a re-branding exercise and Martins’ ambition for the business is to help a wider group of businesses (fast track, turnaround or in-need-of-change) to realise their potential.

Now I’m curious about what you need to be a good head hunter?Well, tenacity, passion. You need to be intuitive and good at asking questions, matching an instinctive networking ability with great contacts. And an exacting intellect.

Obviously I have all those things. When can I start?Not so fast. As he makes clear there are lots of executive search companies and lots of recruitment companies. Lots of PR noise is often made by companies when all they really provide is a CV database. What is actually required is a differentiator – he has experience of helping retail brands build up whole boards that are fit to tackle the challenge of ‘retailing in a cross-channel world’. That’s his USP, so get one of those first if you want to make it as a headhunter.

And finally, his dream assignment? Never one to rule out anything for real he struggles to think of an assignment that he’d be happy to file in the dream category. Finally he comes up with the chief executive role at luxury goods group PPR. As the company is family controlled, and founder François Pinault handed over to his son François-Henri Pinault in 2005, it’s one that’s unlikely to trouble him any time soon.