An Interview With Chris Bailey: Where It All Began

HR Gazette: Tell us a little bit about yourself; your educational background, where you’re from, walk us through your career up until this point, and what you’re doing in the future.

Chris Bailey of DisruptHR Cayman

Chris Bailey of DisruptHR Cayman

Chris: I started out in Birmingham in the UK. I originally did a sports science degree at Liverpool John Moores University, and I did it because I used to play rugby and I loved the competitive nature of sports.

Fast forward a few years after graduating and I didn’t have a job in my field, and I was tired of being poor, so I decided I wanted to become a stockbroker; head down to London and get started in the stock markets. I ended up getting a job in Birmingham in a broking firm and within a few months, I thought to myself, “how do people do this? Is this really it?” Luckily enough, shortly after that, I got hired at another company and I was trading commodities which sounded really sexy, but unfortunately still located in Birmingham.

HR Gazette: How long did you do that for?

Chris: I did that for about a year because it was a bit more interesting but I knew I had to get find my way in the markets. At the timeI was still relatively poor at the time and figured I’d never be able to buy a house in London so I was going to buy a house in Birmingham, which was cheaper at the time.

I went to a viewing, and the person who’s house I was looking at was the director at Michael Page. We got to talking, and he asked me, “why are you in the stock market? You could be in recruitment and earn really good money.” I wasn’t sure if he was trying to sell me the house or interview me but either way, I ended up going to an interview with Michael Page which resulted in me helping start their Coventry office way back when. I then spent the next five years working for Michael Page in the UK really getting that grounding in recruitment and search.

Sometime later, I got a call from a chap named Alan Dickinson who was the managing director at Michael Page and I didn’t even know he knew my name. I guess he knew the names of the people in the offices that were making money for the company, I happened to be okay at what I did. He said: “I’m leaving Michael Page, I’m setting up a new company, and I need someone to run the Midlands region.” He then said to me, “Do you think people use you because you work at Michael Page or do they use you because you’re Chris Bailey?”

HR Gazette: How did that make you feel?

Chris: It was like a bull seeing red; I said: “of course they use me for me and not for Michael Page, I’m brilliant!” Of course, I signed on the bottom line, and I help set up a company in the Midlands called ECHM which we then floated into a company called Imprint PRC. That took me through until about 2005, so I’ve been in pure recruitment and executive search for about ten years. There was still this nagging gut feeling that I had to get out of Birmingham. I never intended on living in Birmingham, and now I’ve been here for ten years doing recruitment. So my wife Kim and I talked about moving to Spain, buying a few houses and figuring it out as we go along. While that sounded great and romantic, we couldn’t sell our house. I then said, “Maybe there are other options.”

I remember looking through the Internet and there was a job advertised for a rainmaker, and it was based in Bermuda. I thought to myself, “rainmaker? This sounds interesting, what is it?” and it was just a cool way of saying a business development manager for a recruitment business or an HR consulting agency or a payroll company; a whole different group of human capital related services. So they wanted a business development manager to come and help them out. So I read through this job spec, and it just sounded right, and everything inside of my gut was saying “you’ve got to apply to this job.” So I asked Kim if she would move to Bermuda and she said, “where’s Bermuda?” *laughs*

So I sent off my CV and the next day I got a call from the directors of this company, and they were interested and wanted to set up a proper Skype interview. I said let’s do it now, and we had the Skype interview that day. We had 4 or 5 more Skype calls, and then they wanted to fly us out for a long weekend to get a chance to look at Bermuda and check out the office, and if everything was good, I could sign the contract and start ASAP. So my wife and I flew off to Bermuda, and it was a great company, we fell in love with the island, and they were great people.

HR Gazette: How was the actual job? Anything they left out of the job spec?

Chris: The role was actually much bigger than advertised but they managed to get me interested. It was a lot more HR focused than it was recruitment focused and was developing an HR consulting agency in a foreign country that I knew nothing about! For me, it was the type of transition and change I was looking for, and I got to do it in a beautiful place like Bermuda. So six weeks later we were all packed up and on the airplane, and we then spent the next 3 or 4 years making a home in Bermuda. But eventually, Kim and I decided that we needed to leave Bermuda because the role I was doing wasn’t going to be there. There were around 400 different companies in Bermuda, and most of them were signed to long term contracts. They were great; they gave me a 9-month window to find a new job and so I told my wife “it’s been a blast, but let’s go home!” I told her we’d move to London, and everything would be wonderful. So we moved to Nottingham. *laughs*

I was there for a bit when Steve McIntosh from a company called CML offered me a job and asked if I wanted to come down to the Cayman Islands to check it out. 12 months later I went down for four days to check it out, and I thought to myself “this is not a bad place to develop my career.” It all played into the same thing; I was consulting with a lot of companies that had international offices, but their central finance offices were located in the Cayman Islands.

HR Gazette: Finance offices? Sounds like a completely different market than Bermuda.

Chris: Definitely was! We were recruiting from all over the world bring in the best talent you could think of to 5th largest financial center in the world, which is a completely different market here as it’s very much banking, trusts, and funds here as opposed to the insurance marketing in Bermuda. So my scope of skills regarding the nuances of being able to see across different industries and the different problems related to HR and talent in those industries was just becoming bigger and bigger. When I arrived here, Steve said to me “Why haven’t you got your HR qualification because as soon as you’ve got that we can really start pushing this human capital consulting piece.”

So we took it together, and we ended up doing the GPHR which is the global HR qualification run by HRCI, while it was still apart of SHRM at that point. So for the past four years there’s been a lot of HR consulting with a lot more clients in the region, but where that’s lead to is a crossover between the bigger players in the field. So it brings it back to that very first quote of “do people use you because of the company you work for or do they use you because you’re Chris Bailey?”

HR Gazette: Amazing, that’s one hell of a story.

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