Seasoned Interim executive Damon Jones tells Rachel Bridge at Drax why his role suits him down to the ground
Some people might regard being an interim as a temporary state to fill in gaps between more permanent roles. Not Damon Jones. For the past 12 years he has deliberately chosen to work in this way and wouldn’t want it any different.
He says: “I do this because I absolutely love doing it. I turned down two permanent roles last year because I don’t want them. I like to go in, fix something and get out. I have got one of the best jobs in the world.”
It was not a career Damon had envisaged while growing up. He started out as an apprentice engineer and then became a police officer. When he was injured by a drunk driver however he left the police force and retrained in procurement.
He joined the electronics firm Phillips as a trainee buyer and worked his way up to become the procurement director for 24 factories. Then he spent three years in a management consulting firm before joining Securicor, the security business. When Securior merged with Group 4, Damon was given a wide-ranging senior role on the merger team with responsibility for delivering 30% of the synergy benefits. It was an exciting time.
He says: “The management team was really strong and we were acquiring a new business a week and growing at a phenomenal rate. It was very much like a private equity environment.”
Within four years the team had helped to turn the £900 million turnover business into a £6 billion one. It was a fantastically fulfilling role but there was no obvious next career step for him within the business, so he left.
He quickly discovered that the global experience he had gained in the Group 4 Securicor was immensely valuable to private equity-backed businesses and was offered work as an interim commercial director. What’s more, the skills he had accumulated gave him a real edge because it meant he could provide a service that was part interim, part consultant.
He says: “Procurement people are good at negotiating contracts, but I am very good at saying, do we actually need to do the negotiation, is that the right firm, should we be buying this in the first place? I have a natural talent for looking at things with a holistic view and understanding whether this is the right thing for a business to do.”
Damon also discovered that his willingness to work flexibly suited the needs of the private equity industry perfectly.
He says: “Private equity companies want a fast fix and they want access to the very best people in the market for whatever period of time they need. I provide them with a unique solution. They can hire me in for a day, ten days, 30 days, whatever they need, with complete flexibility. They have access to an expert in the field and they have not had to commit to six months or half a million pounds worth of loaded salary costs. I will look at a business with a completely unbiased view and tell them what they need to do, and if they want me to help them do it that’s an option too.”
In many ways the role has brought him full circle. Damon says: “I come from a long family of entrepreneurs. I was brought up in family businesses and I understood from childhood that a business is there to make a profit - and to do that it must be focussed and great at what it does.”
He also brings experience from running a business himself. Indeed when he is not immersed in an interim role Damon is likely to be found unloading a digger for his property development business or helping out with the caravan park his wife runs on their farm in Suffolk.
His other projects also provide a nice balance to the challenges of undertaking an interim assignment.
Damon says: “It is a very full-on stressful role because you are usually being dropped into a problem and the private equity house want it fixed quickly. They don’t have tolerance, when you are talking time scales with them you are talking days or weeks not months and certainly not years. So everything has to be done under pressure. Also you often have to make some quite harsh decisions, for example to make a big redundancy cut. But if you don’t do that, the business won’t exist in six months’ time.”
Indeed because Damon is often brought in to recommend changes to an existing management team, he has had to become adept at managing delicate situations.
He says: “My father used to say that we have two ears and one mouth for a reason – so when I go into any assignment the first thing I do is go round the business and listen to what the people are telling me about it. You have got to be able to get on with people and to manage them and work with them.”
Again Damon’s previous experience helps. He says: “I learnt so much from my days in the police force about how to negotiate, how to read body language and how to understand and manage people’s reactions. I am good at managing relationships and directing awkward situations where I need them to go.”
Now 47, and having achieved dozens of successful assignments, he has clearly found his niche. He says: “I love the pace of private equity and the need to drive things through quickly. That is the buzz for me. It is not process for process sake; they want the result and they want it as quickly as possible. It is an incredibly lively atmosphere to be in.”
Associate Director, Drax Interim Practice
Tel: 0203 949 9547