What does it take to succeed in internal audit?

 “Internal audit, it’s like accountancy or finance”, is what I hear a lot. There’s a common misconception that a career within internal audit is defined by a lot of hours, numbers and constant policing. Sounds fun right? Luckily the role has hugely evolved in recent years and now there’s a lot more to “internal audit”. What was once a reactive and control-based practice is now a highly proactive and transformative profession; attracting highly analytical and successful communicators, adept at fostering relationships to inspire change.

As an internal auditor in the industry you reduce risk in the broadest sense of the word. You have an important role in contributing to an organisation’s success, working across all areas; from culture and ethics to IT, supply chain and, of course, finance. But internal audit also follows the latest trends: topics such as cultural behavior, social media, sustainability, etc. In fact, literally anything that has an impact on the effective operation of an organisation may be included in internal audit’s scope.

| Like all professions, internal audit has its own skills and qualifications. A good internal auditor likes to travel the world, is bilingual or trilingual, openminded and curious. Oh, and don’t forget: adventurous! |

Internal auditors work for large corporations operating globally. For this reason most auditors spend 50% of their time overseas, visiting each and every subsidiary. Some travel 100% of the time. They live like a backpacker, out of their suitcase and they go from hotel to hotel while the company pays for their costs and living. Is this not the dream of every twenty-something nowadays?

For the adventurous among us, look no further! Each project can find you somewhere else in the world, sometimes in the middle of nowhere. Last week I spoke with an auditor who was in the jungle in Brazil, auditing the plant of a large global business. There was no Wi-Fi, no electricity and he needed to stay for two more weeks than planned. It was time to light a fire and enjoy the experience to the fullest!

Because auditors come to work in so many countries, most speak more than one language. They love to learn new languages and are skilled communicators, building great relationships with any member of an organisation, from operator to director.

Linguistic prowess is not the only important thing when working internationally; the ability to acclimatise to different cultures is key. It’s really important to be openminded and a ‘people person’ in order to adapt to new teams and different ways of working. To achieve an agreement on recommendations and actions plans that add value to business, it’s important to be an expert negotiator. Negotiating in your own language in a familiar work culture is a skill, negotiating with a new team, in a different language is an art!

Curiosity is also key to being a great auditor. Since the techniques of internal auditing have transitioned from being reactive and control based to more proactive and risk orientated, you have the chance to be the first to spot great opportunities for every single part of the business, and to  share best practice to improve efficiency. Due to this cross functional knowledge gathered throughout your internal audit career, you become a highly valued talent within the organisation with the possibility to permanently move into the business.

In my job, recruiting across the internal audit field, I’ve spoken to many happy internal auditors who love their jobs. So much in fact, that most of them aren’t ready for a new opportunity just yet. A shame for me, but good for them: ensuring people are happy in their jobs is one of the most rewarding parts of mine!

And a police officer? Not at all. In the end, it’s about being innovative, an excellent communicator and making a substantial difference to businesses all over the world.

Are you considering a career in Internal Audit? If so, Denise van der Lans is happy to help you. Please get it touch by emailing dvanderlans@hanamiinternational.com or 0207 048 7880

Networking event in Bermuda, July 23rd 2019


Networking drinks

Hanami International are visiting our clients and candidates in Bermuda on July 23rd and will be hosting a networking drinks event from 5:30pm.

This is just a chance to meet other people in your profession – no pitch from the team here! So if you would like an informal chance to meet some like-minded people in Bermuda, please RSVP to register your interest.


An interview with Mike Taylor, Immediate Past President at the Chartered Institute of Internal Auditors

Bradley Alexander sat down with Mike Taylor, who is the Immediate Past President of the Chartered Institute of Internal Auditors. He was Head of Global Internal Audit for Experian and before that worked in internal audit leadership roles in insurance and financial services for 20 years. His career has spanned internal audit, risk management, governance and finance. He holds the CMIIA, CIA and QIAL qualifications, starting his career as a Chartered Accountant with what is now PwC.

Could you tell me about your journey into Internal Audit (IA)?

When I moved across, out of the Big 4 to Allied Dunbar, I actually moved into a finance role. IA wasn’t part of my career plan to start off with. After eight years in finance, I was asked if I would turn the internal audit function around, as it wasn’t adding value and wasn’t seen as critical to the business. Despite it not being part of my career plan, the leadership team there thought I might be good at it and even if it wasn’t for me, I could always do it for a couple of years and come back into a finance role, with a broader and deeper knowledge of the business and a better network internally.

In short, I started the IA role and really enjoyed it – and in a sense, the rest is history. Firstly, the challenge of turning it around was tremendous. It brought home to me the privilege of the position of internal audit, the breadth to look at every aspect of the organisation, the ability to be liaising with the board one minute and the folk on the office floor the next and the opportunity to be involved in the sheer range of challenges facing the business.

After three months doing the role, I found a third party that was leaking information and got involved in solving the case and gaining damages, as well as finding and getting all the money back from a major fraud – internal audit suddenly had an incredibly high profile and I thought ‘hang on, this is actually a great role… you know I can really do something here’. After 6 months or so, I thought ‘actually I’m not sure I want to rush back from this role’ and I got responsibility for internal audit at other group companies as well. I set up a risk function too to help the group and internal audit focus on the things that matter and therefore add more value. It was a real whirlwind start. Very quickly I was introducing audit and risk to many parts of the organisation and I thought ‘I think I’ll stay here’. A little after that, risk-based audit was being seen by the business as really successful and so whilst delivering that, I was asked to look after compliance as well, so very quickly my whole role had grown hugely for the better.

British American Tobacco (BAT), Allied Dunbar’s parent, built something called British American Financial Services and I was privileged enough have responsibility for all of internal audit and risk, except for the US business. It was an exciting position to be in and as you might have gathered, I was thoroughly enjoying my time in IA and continued my career in that direction.

BA – What would you say to people that are considering a career in IA, but aren’t yet convinced?

IA certainly wasn’t part of my plan at first, but I quickly realised that it’s a great place to develop a career. The things that have continued to excite me throughout my career are the same. I can’t think of a better place to make such an impact on a business day to day, from such an early point in your career.

One of the main attractions to IA, is that it is a high exposure role. You’re putting yourself out there and if you are talented and able, you’ll gain an immense amount of personal profile at potentially quite a young age. For those that are focused, ambitious and want to get on, you are able to, through an internal audit role, if you make it your own. You have the opportunity to explain your findings to management, to explain why they are important, why they matter to the business and what changes need to occur. You get a chance to showcase your abilities to the most senior people in the organisation. If you have the confidence to do that, it is a real career accelerator, which is why for the right person, I think the opportunities are tremendous.

BA – Internal auditors can come from all sorts of backgrounds in terms of education and experience. Why should someone choose IA, as part of their career?

The career path for a financial accountant is well mapped out, so it’s a relatively easy option for people to take. You can see how your career is going to progress and, as you gain more knowledge and experience, eventually progress to perhaps Financial Controller or CFO. In IA however, it is a little more self-made, which for me is one of the great attractions. The exposure you’re going to get to all aspects of the organisation, the learning you’re going to get and the understanding of your company’s key functions along the way will allow you to build and shape your career the way you want it.

The other good thing about IA, which I knew from the moment I started doing it, was that it can be a great experience, even if you don’t dedicate your whole career to it. IA is a great place for finance and audit professionals to consider, as well as people completely away from the traditional ‘practice’ background.

If you are dead set on being a senior finance professional, then IA is probably not going to contribute a massive amount to your finance technical skills, but it will give you some significant exposure to senior stakeholders and insight into the way the organisation works. Also, there is no problem with someone considering a time in IA if they want to advance their career, whatever their background. For a long time now, I’ve been a big advocate of the ‘guest auditor’ and ‘rotation’ in my teams – getting someone from the business who has a completely different perspective and outlook to the other auditors has always proved incredibly valuable for both sides, both during audits and going forward.

If you approach someone in your organisation and say ‘you’re an expert at ‘x’, come into our internal audit team, and help us in your specialist field, work alongside my auditors and contribute your expertise’ that can be very powerful. When I have identified someone for an IA guest audit role, people are typically reluctant, but once they give it a go, the feedback I have been given almost every time is that IA is not what the preconception says. It’s an incredibly engaged function, a very supportive function, with a lot of very bright people there and the opportunities to really impact the organisation for the good is substantial – so why wouldn’t you try it, if not just for your career development? If you want to grow your network and learn about a business, I’d argue that there’s no better place than IA.

BA – Internal audit must have changed quite a bit from the time you first joined the profession?

What I want to do now is help people think about careers in internal audit for what they really are. Nowadays, a career in internal audit is a cool job, but that hasn’t always been the case. When I started (in 1993!) IA was very much seen as being down amongst the weeds, as a function that wasn’t adding value. The transformation I lead in Allied Dunbar and that my peers drove in other organisations helped to change that. Now that couldn’t be further from the truth and professional internal audit has become a key and highly valued function in any organisation.

BA – How do you feel about people using a role in IA for 2-3 years as a steppingstone into a bigger role within the business?

Over the years, I saw a lot of my best people move into key roles in other parts the business and I always found this to be a positive thing. There are a couple of people I can think of in particular, that were really good internal auditors. They loved the role that audit played and shortly after joining, both of them said to me ‘this is great, I’m seeing a lot of the organisation, I’m building a tremendous network because I’m known by a lot of the company’s leadership team and more than anything, I really enjoy what I do’.

After around 2 years in IA, because they were known and because they were seen as being high talent, the business identified them for senior roles and took them off me. But that’s fine by me, because I think talent generation is one of the best things internal audit can contribute. It gives people the opportunity to gain profile and exposure which you might never have been able to build otherwise. It’s win-win-win. The organisation gains, the individual gains and internal audit gains, because of course it is seen as not only adding value through its contribution, but it develops some tremendous people for the organisation, who can go on to top-level leadership roles in the company.

BA – IA is normally associated with the biggest and best companies in the world, and with that, travel is often associated with IA.

Yes, for some people, the travel is one of the big perks, although that obviously doesn’t apply to every organisation, but if you take Zurich Insurance or Experian for example, one of the positives is the fact you could be off to the USA or Singapore or Australia or Brazil, and that gives you the cultural exposure and the opportunity to learn how to interact and operate internationally. You also get to understand the challenges of the business in unfamiliar territories which again is a huge benefit, whether you stay in audit or if you go on and do a different role later, and it’s a great aspect for the CV, obviously.

BA – As the immediate Past President of the Chartered Institute of Internal Auditors, why should someone join the IIA?

There are many advantages. The Institute is a source of great information for internal auditors, helping them to be successful in their roles, and as we continue to transform the Chartered IIA, the ways people can access that information grow. Our product offerings for internal auditors are also increasing and the launch of Audit Leaders provides an excellent service for those growing their careers, while the Aspire network has received great feedback from those starting out. The upcoming launch of our Women in Internal Audit network, although undoubtedly overdue, is another service that is proving very popular, with the launch event heavily oversubscribed. More WIIA events will follow.  The Chartered Institute in the UK and Ireland does a great deal to contribute to the profile of Internal Audit and internal auditors, in the public eye and with regulators, company directors and opinion formers. That has to be good for all of us working as internal auditors. Although I could go on, the last thing I will highlight is the importance of the qualifications the IIA offers. I am a strong believer in the importance of professional internal audit, and the prime way of showing your professionalism is to gain the relevant qualifications, whether through our new apprenticeship offerings, the Certificate and CIA exams or the more advanced Chartered status.

BA – How can audit leaders use the IIA to stay ahead of the tide in an ever-changing world?

I have already referenced the Audit Leaders service and for those in the UK’s biggest companies we have the Leaders Forum. Both offer access to information and knowledgeable speakers, but significantly, the opportunity to network and share ideas with your peers. Our website, guidance papers and conferences provide regular access to the latest thinking in the profession, both in the UK and Ireland as well as globally. Publications, such as Risk in Focus, which we produce together with our fellow institutes across Europe, have also been well recognised as a great resource for internal audit leaders. Finally, come and get involved – our regional networks provide a local opportunity to talk to your peers and share thoughts and ideas and we are always looking for internal auditors to help us develop and grow the Institute to keep it relevant for the future.


Bradley Alexander (balexander@hanamiinternational.com)

An American in Paris

What it’s really like to move to the City of Lights.

In late 2017, Mulu Araya left the sunny shores of California to start a new life in Paris, France. She partnered with Hanami International to find a role that would suit her background as an Audit/CPA professional, and a year on, Hanami caught up with her to get her advice on moving countries, learning new languages, and eating cheese!

Hanami International – What attracted you to Paris?

Mulu Araya – Well for me, it’s a combination of things. So first I have always been international. I was born in Ethiopia and moved to the US when I was young, so I’ve always had this desire to work internationally. It has just always been in the back of my mind. And then I met my husband, who is French and American. He also had the same desire to work abroad, and as he was born in France, he thought it would be a great place to start. I always wanted to learn French and in the end it all worked out!

HI – Amazing! You moved over from California, landed in Paris, I imagine it was a big culture shock. What did you notice to be the biggest cultural difference as an American in Paris?

MA – That’s a tough question because everything is different. But, I think I was mentally prepared because I knew it was going to be different. I think if I had to say one thing that I didn’t anticipate, is that to get things done in France, you go through people. Being from San Francisco, and the US in general, which is very tech orientated, you are used to doing everything online.  Whereas in France, you have to have a banker to handle your banking, which is a very different experience. It has its positives, but you have to prepare your time to work around this.

HI –What about finding somewhere to live?

MA – I think all round, you have to do things in person. There are so many processes where the phones aren’t answered so you have to go into an office or see a realtor, so I think those processes move a little bit slower. I had to adjust myself to move at the same pace of Paris; long lunches and coffee breaks for example! It’s nice and there are a lot of positives; change certainly isn’t a bad thing.

HI – That leads really nicely to what I was going to ask, what have you found the real benefits to life in France to be? What have you noticed that is a positive change from your old life?

MA –Being able to learn and understand the culture. I think you can hear a million things about a country or a city like Paris, but working and experiencing it, is very different and an exciting way to learn and develop yourself. You have to adapt to a specific culture because your way of thinking and approach to situations or problems have to be different. To me, that’s a really big positive. I’m learning through new experiences, like learning the language through everyday interactions. It really opens your mind and broadens your perspective. The daily fresh smell of baguettes through my window is also a perk!

HI –I think that would be my best bit as well, the wine and the bread! You don’t need anything else do you?

MA – And the cheese, oh my God… It’s dangerous living here!

HI – Dangerous to the waistline! You know these two-hour lunch breaks, is everyone just in the gym all the time or something?

MA – No, people really do the sit down for lunch and get the salad, the main meal and then the cheese: it is very nice! I’m used to working in the US, where in audit you grab your lunch and sit at your computer whilst you work away. It’s really refreshing here, for sure.

HI – That sounds like a really nice change. Any advice for future candidates of Hanami considering going to Paris but don’t have those advanced French language skills yet? Is there anything that would be useful for them to know?

MA – Honestly, enroll in classes. I know it’s probably the most obvious answer but take courses consistently and don’t give up. The language is the most important part of feeling integrated. Keep at it and eventually, it will happen. Being in a class where you are learning and then applying it in your life immediately after, that will really motivate and propel you. I came here with no French at all, so I was just getting settled in and I started taking classes to get exposed to a lot of French as soon as possible. It’s also a great way to meet new friends

HI – Any final thoughts, experience or advice to any future international mover?

MA – Definitely use Hanami! I’m not just saying this, but every auditor I speak to I’m like ‘are you looking for a job abroad? Because Hanami work internationally’. You did a really good job, I was reluctant to start looking for a job because sometimes you can look in the wrong places and get discouraged. When I came into the market where I didn’t have the knowledge, you made it so, so easy for me, and you guys are really great at what you do.

HI – That’s very sweet!

MA – Also, I’d tell anyone ‘don’t isolate yourself’ and really make an effort to embrace all your new city has to offer!

For information about opportunities in Paris, speak to either Matthew Harrison (Commerce and Industry) or Adam Nelson and Andrew Bell (Professional Services) on +442070487880

Networking event in Paris, March 21st 2019


Networking with the Audit community

Hanami International are visiting our clients and candidates in the French market on March 21st and will be hosting a networking drinks event in the city centre from 6 – 9 pm that evening.

Delphine and Adam will be arranging this meetup, with professionals from the Big 4, Commerce and Industry Internal Audit, and IT Audit in attendance.

This is just a chance to meet other people in your profession – no pitch from the team here! So if you would like an informal chance to meet some like-minded people in Paris, please RSVP to register your interest.


Reasons I love my job & why you should too

Find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life” – Mark Twain


Culture is everything in the workplace; not only does it boost morale, but it also encourages your team to be more open to change. Personally, I have always enjoyed work more when everyone is not only hard working, but can also have fun.


Having a goal to work towards is extremely important, not only is it motivating but it also gives you a sense of purpose. Having clear goals also shows your company are truly invested in your success and because of this, you invest into the company. If you really want to progress in your role, you must be prepared to step away from your job spec and take on different challenges. Doing this is extremely rewarding and always leaves me with a huge sense of achievement.


I like to have a good work-life balance. I have read a lot of articles on the benefits of flexible working hours but until I was given the option, I never realised how beneficial it was. I can plan my working week around other commitments and when I am at my desk, I can be fully focused.


It’s always better to have a good working relationship with your colleagues. I have always found work more enjoyable when I like the company I’m surrounded with. I am more confident to voice my opinion as I feel like a valued member, which also helps me to grow in my role.


There are so many benefits to enjoying what you do, not only do you become more confident and continue to grow but your health improves and overall you are a happier person. On average, you spend a total of 82,086 hours at work in a lifetime, so why would you want to spend that time being unhappy?  If you can find more negatives than positives in your role, maybe it’s time for a change….

By Katie Smith – Business Support Executive, Hanami International


Head to our Careers page to explore current vacancies at Hanami.

TOP 10 TIPS - for a successful career move

Our consultants have gathered a few tips for you to start the new year fresh and prepared.

1. TAKE ADVICE – Deciding to make a career change can be daunting, talk to as many people as possible, such as family and friends so you are confident in making the right career choice. Take advice, but your career plan should be personal, it’s your alarm clock that goes off every morning!

2. BOOK A MEETING WITH YOUR CURRENT BOSS – See if you can improve your current role/responsibilities, you never know if you don’t ask!

3. KEEP WORKING HARD – Even if you know you are definitely going to leave – besides the fact you’re going to need a reference, it’s good for the soul to look back on previous jobs with fond memories. Slacking off towards the end may make you feel guilty when you reminisce.

4. HAVE A PLAN B – Be positive about your job search but set yourself up to succeed. Have a plan A but also a plan B that you genuinely believe in and do not see as a compromise: adaptability is key.

5. THINK ABOUT YOUR PERSONAL CAREER GOALS – Ensure your new role is both aligned with your career plan and enjoyable, this will prevent you from looking again in a few months’ time.

6. BE PATIENT – Finding a new job is not going to happen overnight; be prepared to put in a lot of time and effort into finding the perfect job for your next career move.

7. UPDATE YOUR PROFILE – Update your CV and LinkedIn profile and spend time proofreading, because a spelling mistake or a typo can make all the difference.

8. START PREPARING ALL YOUR DOCUMENTS – When accepting a job offer, you’ll often need to provide a copy of your degree certificate, professional qualifications, passport etc. Have a PDF copy saved to your computer ready to send. You don’t want to delay processes searching through boxes of paperwork. Likewise, if you’re looking to relocate, make sure you have this ready before applying. Many countries will want to see copies prior to the interview to check eligibility and make sure your passport isn’t running out!

9. STAY IN TOUCH – Keeping in touch with recruiters regularly is also important, you never know when you will need a job or when a great opportunity will come along.

10. BE PREPARED – Being well prepared for an interview is key, see our blog about interview tips here.

Head to our Live Jobs page to see all of our opportunities.

Corporate vs. Start-up, Established vs. The Unknown

Will Glover compares his time as a corporate recruiter to his time with Hanami.

Firstly, to address the elephant in the room, by no means am I an expert in recruitment (yet). However, being lucky enough to have experienced both sides of the same coin over the last 20 months in the world of recruitment, I can say I’ve learned a thing or two.

The topic of corporate vs. start-up and comparing the pros and cons are easy to think about but much harder to discuss. As with most things in life, it’s completely subjective, so for this reason I’ve outlined my experiences as to what it’s like going from corporate to start-up!

Walking into Recruitment Entrepreneur and joining the team at Hanami International I had no idea what to expect. I’d met the team, knew the business model, and had an idea of the company’s vision; but I hadn’t even spent a year in recruitment, so I was nervous. One thing I was certain of was how different a company of hundreds would be to a specialist boutique.

My short stint in the corporate world was spent listening, learning, and taking orders. Survival of the fittest. The aptitude test in recruitment for a graduate… Which didn’t suit me at all. However, I genuinely feel lucky that I experienced this as the foundations and recruitment ‘building blocks’ that you acquire within a corporate environment are indispensable.

Spending a year in a high-pressure and heavily KPI-driven environment taught me a lot about myself. Moving into an environment at the opposite end of the spectrum, made me realise just how much I’d learned in such a short space of time. Recruitment’s reputation in London is cut-throat and most people are aware of that, but when you actually learn and understand what needs to go in to get the rewards out, it seems straightforward. The things I picked up before joining Hanami have made such an impact in the way I work, I really don’t think I would have survived so far without them.

Inevitably there are hundreds of differences between working in a large, established business and a young start-up; here’s what I’ve learned from moving between the two:

Mastering organised chaos

As a graduate starting my first ‘proper’ job I was determined to succeed. I joined a warm/hot finance desk where there was a lot of business, so I was in a privileged position. This doesn’t negate the fact that I still had to organise a lot: I mapped out my target clients, who I needed to speak to, candidates I wanted to interview etc. However, there was a large aspect of organisation that filtered down from higher up. My manager and director had a substantial say around how to plan my day and when to do what, with business development, candidate calling, and admin hours all in place.

Joining Hanami, I quickly realised that recruiting internationally and working in a smaller team independently, you’re actually in charge of your own desk. The biggest difference I’ve found between the two environments is this autonomy around what you’re doing and when you’re doing it. Working with firms all around the world, you will likely have a different schedule to the people around you so it’s not easy to do everything at the same time with the rest of the team. For this reason, you need to bring a sense of clarity to the way you approach your schedule which brings me on to my next point…

“When things are steep, remember to stay level-headed” – Horace

I’m not saying everything is exacerbated but, s**t happens.

Stuff goes wrong.

That’s life.

However, when you’re in a small business where you can’t hide behind the rest of the team and you’re accountable for your numbers, being able to think about things logically and overcome hurdles quickly is extremely important. I found that in a corporate setting, you can hide behind your numbers for quite a substantial amount of time. If I’m completely honest, maybe I did that for a while (I think most new people in recruitment do whilst they find their feet), but when you’re one of the few revenue-generators of a business and you see first-hand where your hard work goes, you don’t want to be that person who isn’t pulling their weight. You need to be able to deal with difficult situations, learn from them, shake it off (as Taylor would say), and move on.

Get up, recruit, repeat

I remember interviewing for recruitment jobs when I first started job hunting and was always asked the classic question, ‘Why do you want to work in recruitment?’. The obvious answer is to make loads of money, buy nice things, and have a nice life. Shortly after joining Hanami though I realised how flimsy an answer that is. Relocating people all over the world gives you a far greater sense as to how much you’re changing lives and that’s when the job becomes so much more.

When you work in a start-up environment like Hanami, there’s so much transparency around every aspect of the business; you see first-hand how a business functions, where the money goes, and you have the opportunity to drive the development of the company. This has made me realise how important it is to be self-motivated in a start-up environment and have longer-term goals, as well as just the standard perks of working in recruitment.

You don’t have to force yourself through bad times. I was at a low point several times when I worked in a big, corporate environment because it didn’t suit me personally. If you read this and feel the same, there will be a business out there for you. I’m so incredibly lucky to have found the guys at Hanami and be given the opportunity to work here, and it’s changed my perspective on what a ‘job’ should actually be.

It’s common to hear ‘work smarter, not harder’ in recruitment, which I do believe in, but now for me, it’s become so much more about ‘working happier’, which is something everyone should have the option to do!

To find out more about a career with Hanami International, email our co-founder Andy Bell - abell@hanamiinternational.com or call him on +442070487880

Networking event in Amsterdam, September 12th, 2018


Networking with the Audit and IT Audit community

Hanami International are visiting our clients and candidates in the Dutch market on September 12th and will be hosting a networking drinks event in the city centre from 6:30 – 9 pm.

Alex and Adam will be arranging this meetup, with professionals from Audit and IT Audit in attendance.

This is just a chance to meet other people in your profession – no pitch from the team here! So if you would like an informal chance to meet some like-minded people in Amsterdam, please RSVP to register your interest.


The Power of Two

Andrew Bell writes about the benefits that being a joint-CEO brings whilst running Hanami International.

It’s often mooted that a company only needs one CEO. Someone at the top who makes all the decisions, good or bad, and sticks to them. He or she has complete control and the buck stops there. The commander-in-chief, the standard bearer, the sole protagonist.

In recent years, many organisations have moved away from the traditional setup, with companies such as Samsung, Wholefoods, Deutsche Bank and Oracle opting for co-leadership.

Let me share with you the perspective from Hanami International, formed in June 2014 by Matthew Harrison and myself. In just 3 years we have placed several hundred Audit & Finance professionals in 73 cities throughout 35 countries. The team has grown from two founders to a 12-person operation, with plans to further grow by the end of 2018. Our co-CEO structure isn’t the only factor behind our success but it’s certainly at the heart of Hanami’s company culture and has been instrumental in our growth.

A safe investment

Back in June 2014, investors were attracted to us because, in essence, we had already scaled. Investing in a partnership was lower risk because we could support each other, we could both make placements and we could both generate income. Within a few months, we were a PE-backed business in the best possible position to grow.

As we grew, we were able to share the hiring responsibilities; one could interview whilst the other made placements. One could devise a training structure whilst the other developed our HR policy. One of us put the sales forecast together whilst the other analysed cash flow. Trust and consistent communication defined our process: we had mastered working in tandem.

A force for change

Adaptability crops up time and time again as a quality essential to entrepreneurship; if you don’t adopt new approaches, neither you nor your company will flourish. Start-ups embrace change and have the distinct benefit of being small enough to evolve quickly. Having two CEOs means that our most important decisions are better informed, well debated and fully supported. A co-CEO forces you to consider alternative approaches and to question your initial reaction.

When it comes to hiring, all too often you meet a prospective employee who appears to tick all of the boxes, only for your colleague to play devil’s advocate and flag potential issues that you’d failed to spot. Think of your co-CEO as a built-in devil’s advocate; you’ll challenge each other, develop both personally and professionally, and run a better business as a result. In most cases, a dual opinion halves the risk.

Wide appeal

Once you’ve hired your employees, they are at the mercy of your management style. Regardless of your approach, some will love you and some won’t. Being a duo, a yin and yang, has a far greater chance of your employees being drawn to at least one of you. As long as you share the same vision and ideals, then it really doesn’t matter who they gravitate towards.

I could use a million clichés about two heads being better than one, about how we don’t rush decisions, how we are more balanced, how we can face the market and our investors with more confidence, how we can pick each other up when times are hard. However, I’m going to leave you with one thing most CEOs of medium-sized companies fail to appreciate, something they then really struggle with when running their own business, something they wish they could do but quite possibly they cannot without their business collapsing…

Being a duo allows us to have holidays, to see our wives more often and watch our children grow up! This final point – priceless. Thank you, Matt!

To find out more about some of our live vacancies, email us at jobs@hanamiinternational.com or call us on +442070487880