As a recruiter I can’t think of another Retailer that has as divisive a reputation as Phones 4 U. Sure, there are strong opinions about the people that work for Tesco, Boots, B&Q, Debenhams or M&S, positive and negative. Indeed we recruiters are absolutely guilty of making assumptions about people that work for certain companies. If you have only worked at M&S there is a good chance that you are great at managing politics, you will have managed large teams in a complex environment but you are also probably somewhat process driven.* If you work for Aldi or Lidl** you are paid above the market average to work LONG hours and you have little autonomy in comparison to other Retailers – you are however highly sought after.
As for P4U, well I probably don’t need to tell you what the stereotypes are about the people that work(ed) there. Aggressive, hard, sharp, commercial, pace driven, black & white and highly results orientated. Most experienced recruiters will be fully aware that, broadly speaking, there are indeed two stereotypes, the first is of the guys who were at the business in the early days through to around 2012 and secondly, the guys who were at the business after this point. There are of course a lot of people that straddled these two eras. The working culture at P4U prior to 2012 was edgy and highly aggressive with a horrendous staff turnover in triple figures. Just to be clear, this is the market perception and is not true of everyone that worked there. Post 2012, that turnover had reduced to less than 35% (I am happy to be corrected on that figure), which is relatively healthy in comparison. Indeed the business had one of the best apprenticeship schemes in retail offering fantastic careers to school leavers.
I have represented candidates from P4U throughout my recruitment career and whenever submitting a candidate with said business on their CV I have always had to justify their presence on the shortlist. In fact I could probably reel off a fair few people who have carefully erased their often short P4U career from their CV…but that is another story! However, I have always known that when I have picked up a brief for a sales driven candidate whom will drive change quickly I have known where to look. You know what you are going to get with people from P4U, they know how to sell and they know how to manage sales people. They are relentless, motivated and work at pace. In a growth economy this is essential. More and more of the briefs I am picking up from clients are for candidates that can drive growth, there is little mention of cost reduction at the moment. Like M&S and Tesco, P4U has provided a happy hunting ground for companies looking for a leader with a particular edge.
Indeed I have spoken to a few contacts that have, perhaps for the first time, had the honour of working with people from P4U in the last two weeks. They have been stunned by the quality of the people. I suspect that the old reputation of P4U people will be steadily replaced by the truth; P4U has been a breeding ground for high quality talent. The loss of this talent pipeline will be keenly felt in the years to come.
*This is the stereotype in the market and not always true!
**This is the stereotype in the market, currently, albeit one that has softened in recent years.