‘Ahorn Blatt Lappen, that’s how you say Maple Leaf Rag in German. Not quite as catchy though, is it?’
Drayton Senior Partner, Wayne Mabbott, talks about how he’s proud to have played a part in Dr Martens’ ‘brand renaissance,’ finding the perfect Footwear & Apparel candidate and his love for both the German language and the music of jazz legend Scott Joplin. Wayne is relaxed as he sits down in a sleek minimalist meeting-room at Drayton HQ to, in essence, talk about how he got here, in a neat reversal of the usual saying Wayne is gamekeeper turned poacher, you see.
Someone who’s lived and breathed the Footwear & Apparel sector in a storied twenty-year career which saw him work in senior roles for Adidas both, in the sports’ giant’s fabled Herzogenaurach HQ (he speaks German fluently and is a lover of the language), and in the US, based in Portland, Oregon. But the time Wayne seems most proud of is the eleven years he spent at Dr Martens, the iconic British shoe brand, where he began as a category manager and ended up as Product Director. ‘I like to think I was part of something special at Dr Martens,’ he says. ‘When I arrived, everyone felt the shoe company had lost its way a little bit in the ‘90s. Over time, however, we managed to take the brand story back to its roots and re-establish its authenticity. Elevate it back up to premium-level status. It felt brilliant to be a key part of the hard-working and dedicated team that did that.’ This clear-sighted understanding of the psychological dynamic of what makes a great team, vital experience gained in the sector itself, is, I sense, an important part of what Wayne brings to his role as an executive recruiter. When I put that to him he nods.
‘Cultural fit is the number one thing I look for when sourcing candidates. Someone might seem – from a skills perspective – to possess everything a company needs but it’s only when you delve deeper, get a sense of who they really are, as a person, that you finally become confident enough to recommend them as part of a top team. I recently found a candidate based in Canada for a Norwegian company. We looked at people closer to home – of course we did. But, in the end, the Canadian simply stood out as that perfect fit. We don’t recommend square pegs for round holes.’
Wayne seems happier talking about prospective Footwear & Apparel candidates than himself but, once I coax him into a little self-revelation, it turns out he has lot to tell. As well as being a club team tennis player, experienced cyclist and keen runner he is also a Grade-8 pianist and, as a teenager, won a prestigious music prize in his home county of Nottinghamshire, hence his love for the foot-tapping life-enhancing ragtime of Scott Joplin.
‘Favourite tune?’ I ask. ‘Maple Leaf Rag,’ he says without hesitation. ‘Ahorn Blatt Lappen, that’s how you say it in German. Not quite as catchy though, is it?’
With special thanks to Chris Rickaby – August 2017