January 2018

Meet Nick Maughan...Senior Partner at Drayton

‘Sony never even saw the iPod coming. They thought they were invincible. But, as it turned out, they were not.’

As we continue with our Meet the Team features, the third in the series focuses on Senior Partner Nick Maughan. Nick recently sat down with Chris Rickaby to talk about his own very personal experience of travel broadening the mind, how big companies sometimes struggle to see the future and why, in recruitment, it always pays to be endlessly curious.

Look up the Cook Islands on Google Maps and the only thing that surrounds them is mile upon mile of deep blue sea. Two backward rolls of a mouse wheel and they disappear into nothingness. Nick has travelled – amongst many other places – to the actual islands themselves. He’s experienced that sense of impossible distance for himself. ‘I liked it,’ he says, ‘I realised I was a tiny speck in a huge ocean, on a very large planet. It made me ask myself some big questions.’

His meditative answer does not come as a surprise. Everything about Drayton’s Senior Partner suggests a subtle and enquiring mind. A penetrating curiosity about the world he lives in, which – with a quiet, almost forensic patience – he brings to the world of work, as well. Asking the right kind of questions is, after all, the business he’s in – being willing and able to coax a perfectly judged brief from a Food & Beverage CEO or MD is what makes him good at his job. Along with asking the right kinds of questions to candidates so as to accurately gauge their psychological preferences – the precise individual characteristics which will help him assess if they are culturally right for the leadership positions he recruits for.

Nick’s first job was with Sony – where he quickly progressed from a university placement to eventually becoming a Marketing Manager. When pressed he describes a hyper-competitive culture at the Japanese company which, he says, he thrived upon. The pressure he found ‘positive,’ the challenges ‘rewarding.’

The Sony experience did, however, teach him a different kind of life lesson: ‘…how things can go wrong when the questions stop. Sony seemed unbeatable when I first arrived there. But, over time, they became complacent - oblivious to their competitor’s skill sets. There was a strict hierarchy embedded in Japanese culture, you were often expected to just nod and agree rather than question the corporate view.’

As we talk he continues to expand on this theme of missed commercial opportunity ‘Sony thought they were invincible, I think. The Walkman had 90% market share and everyone had stopped asking “what if.” Then Apple launched the iPod and we all know what happened next.’

‘One more question?’ I ask, just before I’m about to pick up my iPhone and switch off the recording app. Nick smiles. ‘Funny you should say that,’ he says. ‘Always being prepared to ask that extra question is exactly how Apple overtook Sony in the first place.’

With special thanks to Chris Rickaby November 2017