Director of the Year Awards 2018 – Danny Brooks, managing director, VHR

Danny Brooks - Director of the Year Awards

Every day over the Christmas period, we’ll speak to winners from the recent IoD Director of the Year Awards. Today it’s Danny Brooks, managing director of VHR, who won the Global director award

‘Success is a lot closer to you than you might think’

VHR is a technical recruitment company serving industries such as aerospace, automotive and engineering in 45 countries. Brooks, who started the business in 2003, has led it to the point where it turns over £35 million annually and employs 80 people. It also won a Queen’s Award for Enterprise in 2018.

What has been the most pivotal moment so far for your business? “In VHR’s early years we won a contract with a start-up airline in the Middle East. We continued to work with this client as it became the fastest-growing airline in the world. In the 12 years since then, we have recruited more than 1,100 skilled employees for that business.”

What has been your biggest challenge and how did you overcome it? “Starting a business on my own, minus £20,000 and in a difficult economic climate. Necessity was the mother of invention, but the fear of failure was my biggest driver.”

What’s the key to great leadership in your view? “Great leadership is wearing many hats, wearing them well and hiring and managing great people who can do the things that are outside your skill zone or that you don’t have time to do. Listening is core to leadership: your employees each have their own unique perspective of your business.”

The best piece of advice you’ve ever had? “One of the simplest, yet best, maxims I’ve always heeded is a quote from Nelson Mandela: ‘It always seems impossible until it’s done.’ No matter how daunting a challenge first appears, success is a lot closer to you than you might think. Hard work and determination are the most important components.”

What advice would you give less experienced leaders about navigating turbulent times? “When getting a new business off the ground, start as you mean to go on. Keep an eye on costs, don’t spend on anything that isn’t necessary, and build close relationships with suppliers as well as clients. However, don’t skimp on the costs of marketing your business or driving sales. The adage of ‘you have to spend money to make money’ is true, but you need to understand where to invest and where to cut back.”

The biggest lesson you’ve learnt so far? “Get everything in writing – unfortunately, not everyone honours their word. This was a lesson that cost me my first venture, but it taught me to protect myself, my business and my clients.”

What are your aspirations for 2019?  “The past year has been fantastic for VHR: it grew to 80 employees, opened its fifth office [in Valencia] and worked with hundreds of businesses. In 2019 we aim to continue our growth, establish offices in Italy and Germany, and look at potential acquisitions that could add true value.”

Entries are now open for the 2019 IoD Director of the Year Awards – click here for more info and to nominate

Click here for more winners’ interviews

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Director magazine

Director magazine

Director is the magazine for business leaders. Free to IoD members and available to purchase through subscription, each edition is full of insightful interviews with entrepreneurs and company directors.

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