Having guided talent into exciting careers for over 26 years, Major Players
has evolved to become the UK’s leading talent agency in digital, marketing, creative and tech. The team pride themselves on their long-standing client and candidate relationships, covering all types of agencies and brands from the most renowned right through to trailblazing start-ups. Some of their most noteworthy clients include the likes of Havas, Tag, McCann London, Mullenlowe Group, Sky, ITV, Burberry, Nike and Deliveroo.
As the current landscape proves to be a difficult time for both those in the industry and those looking to get into it, Major Players reinforces its commitment to being more than just a standard recruitment agency. With their additional services of coaching and business consulting, Major Players believes that the potential for transformation exists within any career or company, and promises to help clients and candidates make major leaps forward.
Business manager Tiku van Houtem has seen the agency grow and evolve over the past decade and believes that exemplary service and great relationships are key to its success.
“During my time at Major Players I have seen the teams get bigger and stronger. There is an energy about the office which is quite infectious. We have a presence in many new markets and I like how we are always innovating. I believe we have a trusted partner status with many of our clients and candidates. Candidates know that we will have the best briefs because we have the best relationships with our clients. This can only be achieved by continual training and investing in the people - I have had some of the best training here, be it industry training, management training or more. We also instil a sense of pride in what we do. For us it's more than just a transaction, we are in it for the long haul.”
She continues: “Often the conversations are not just about a candidate’s next job, but in fact their career as a whole. They ask us for our advice and market insight to help them make important decisions, and the trust that is placed in you creates a special bond. And in many instances clients only work with us and no other recruiter because they trust us. We know their business and we know what they look for in a candidate. We save them time.”
Managing director Joanne Lucy comments: “I’ve worked in recruitment for 13 years and spent 10 of those within the creative industries. I joined Major Players having worked for two previous competitors; Major Players felt like it had the right mix of recruitment and industry knowledge as well as passion, which meant that they were creating something really special. The company has always had a fantastic legacy and a great reputation – I wanted to be part of that story.”
Since joining the team seven years ago, Joanne has been through huge growth, moving through the ranks from Senior Consultant to MD and steering the growth of the business. “We went from 35 heads to 120 people (at our peak pre-COVID). We’ve grown new teams across digital, product, and tech to move with the development of the creative landscape. We’ve developed heavily into brands with 50% of our client base now encompassing a mix of big global brands and lots of challenger brands. We’ve developed new products and services as we’ve noticed what our clients need. We’re not finished – that’s something we always say.”
For chairman Jack Gratton, the success of the agency comes down to three things: “Great people, great people and great people. I have been with the company since its inception and I have gone from the coal face, to life coach, to agony aunt, to marriage guidance counsellor, to piggy bank, to whipping boy, boom, bust, happy, sad, laughing, crying - but always proud of our people. We put great emphasis on treating others how we want to be treated ourselves, being honourable and honest.”
Tiku remembers experiencing this first-hand when she came for her first interview all those years ago: “The vibe I felt at Major Players was one of friendly warmth. This was demonstrated by how consultants met their candidates and how they interacted with each other. Two of their staff asked me if I would like a drink and people smiled at me. This showed me that these were a happy bunch and I wanted to be a part of this tribe. Everyone I met was very friendly and welcoming, and they generally took what they do seriously but they didn’t take themselves seriously. There were no big egos. This is what I liked and why I chose Major Players”
Joanne adds: “High standards of what ‘good’ looks like as recruiters and doing the ‘right’ thing means we have a very open and transparent relationship with our clients, candidates, and teams. We never rest on our laurels; we’re constantly refining, improving and innovating to ensure we remain the go-to recruiter in the sector.”
Above and Beyond
Speaking to past candidate Paul Sethi (now creative director at Culture Trip), you get a real sense of the incredible support that Major Players provides: “I was freelancing for the first time back in 2014 and hungry to do as much work as possible. When you’re working with designers for the first time, you usually ask each other how you got the gig and Major Players was the biggest response, so I knew that’s where I had to be. At this point, most of my gigs were sporadic and through word of mouth, so I was in need of a strong foundation, structure and advice. Having someone to knock on doors, help refine my portfolio, and talk about personal goals was invaluable, taking things to another level. I honestly don’t think I’d be where I am today without them - and I wasn’t paid to say that!”
He explains: “They were the first agency to represent me as a designer. Once work started rolling in and one job led to another, my portfolio kept getting bigger, better, and sharper. Now, as creative director at Culture Trip, they've helped me scale teams, up, down and sideways, to achieve fantastic results with fantastic people. At Culture Trip we inspire and enable curious travellers to explore the world. It’s a lot of ground to cover, and as such, one of the fastest-paced creative environments I’ve ever experienced. Major Players was always there to go above and beyond to help me out within very tight timeframes. I’ve also gotten to know a few of the old guard there quite well, so it’s always nice to have a check-in and natter about the general state of the industry now and again.”
Joanne says: “The fact we cover all specialisms across the industry and that we have such a wide client base means that not only can we give specific skill set advice but also an overarching view on what is going on in the market at the moment. We provide advice, training and guidance as well as jobs. Due to our journey of taking a business through rapid growth and digitalisation we recognise that businesses require more support and innovation when it comes to attracting, engaging and retaining talent in this fiercely competitive market. Major Players is the only recruiter across digital, creative and tech that can really offer support in every area which I think gives us a view of the market and an insight that you would be hard pushed to find not just across other recruiters but in any business.”
It is this value that their clients see in Major Players. Jessie Griffey, studio manager at design agency Accept & Proceed says: “We have been introduced to some incredible creatives through Major Players. We have a list of designers and animators that have come through them, who we use again and again on our various projects. What impresses me most is how positive and reliable they are. They take the time to get to know you and your business to make sure they match you with the right type of freelancer for the job and the response is almost immediate with multiple portfolios to choose from, normally within the hour. This is invaluable when we have last minute jobs that come in and we need someone to start ASAP. It makes our lives so much easier knowing we will be able to find someone to help us out, especially at short notice.”
A Bright Future
Ultimately recruitment is matching together clients and candidates – that process doesn’t change recruiter to recruiter but it’s the approach that makes Major Players different. “We want to be part of the process rather than just facilitating it,” Joanne states. “What’s amazing is the fact we’ve literally helped people get their first job and every job since; our candidates become our clients and then come back to us when they are ready for their next move.”
Reflecting on her personal highlights so far, Joanne says: “Two stand out moments for me have been our 25th Anniversary party last year with some of our faithful clients and candidates as well as alumni from Major Players through the years, all of whom have gone on to do brilliant things. The second moment was our freelance party of 2016 – seeing how much we’d grown freelance and become a partner to over 200 of the best and most in-demand talent in the industry was just such a proud moment. We work tirelessly, and to be able to celebrate with our loyal candidate base is just such a fantastic thing to be part of.”
On what the future holds for the company, Tiku is passionate about ensuring their team is in the best shape yet: “I am an active member of our BAME affinity group and my aim is to ensure that we truly are a diverse and inclusive team.”
Joanne highlights that “the world of work is changing and our candidate’s expectations of work places continue to evolve; supporting them with advice around flexible working, pay parity and getting access to the right opportunities will be high on our list of priorities.”
And for Jack it’s as simple as: “More laughing, less crying!”