Hilarie Geary was just 25 years old when she founded recruitment consultancy Executive Connections in 1991, the company of which she currently holds the position as Chief Executive. She is a member of the Institute of Directors and the National Recruitment Federation and is a much in demand conference and event speaker.
Geary, originally born in Cork, moved to Dublin at the age of five with her family. Apart from her love of golf, a game she occasionally gets to indulge in, and an equal love for cycling throughout Ireland where she participates in many cycling sportives, life is busy with three boys keeping her active!
Where it all began…
From a young age she knew she wanted to own her own business and at the age of 25, having previously worked within recruitment, she established Executive Connections as a specialist Banking and Financial Services Recruitment consultancy in Ireland as a resultant demand of the emergence of Irelands IFSC. Here she employs 26 great people from her offices in Dublin and Galway. As part of the ongoing growth Strategy Hilarie established her Executive Search firm, Principal Connections which now has offices in Dublin, Galway, Cork and Athlone employing a further 9 personnel. Principal Connections is the Irish Arm of Agilium Worldwide Executive Search Group, one of the world’s top global Executive Search Organisations. Together with their colleagues across 55 Offices in 30 Countries, each year they complete in excess of 1300 Assignments within most Major Industries and Functional Areas.
Executive Connections and Principal Connections haves won many awards from the National Recruitment Federation – “Best in Sector”, “Best in Specialism” to name but a few. “Most forward thinking advertising campaign” – Irish Times. During the early stage of the company’s development Hilarie was voted “Young business woman of the year”. In 2019 she received “Best Female Led” Award at the All-Ireland Business Summit. Both companies are “All Star” Accredited since 2018 meaning they have clearly demonstrated that they are progressive, indigenous Irish Businesses, meeting the highest standards of performance, trust and customer centricity.
“What has been your biggest challenge to date?”
We are constantly challenged but we’ve learned how to adapt over the years. The recruitment business is highly competitive and one you need to work very hard at to be the best. It is always changing which is probably why it is so attractive to work in for most. Finding the right blend of employees is always a great challenge and is key to the overall success of a recruitment business. We have a great team within the Executive Connections group of companies – a group of genuine entrepreneurs who are committed to delivering a results driven service to our candidates and clients. I feel very lucky to be working alongside such talented individuals whom I truly value.
More recently the Financial crash in 2008 was a difficult and trying time. we had to realign the business and look to new markets and sectors. Business declined by 35% between 2007 and 2008, and a further 20% the following year. We had to make redundancies which, in a people-based business, was very difficult to do. However, we recognised an opportunity to recruit outside of Ireland where the economy hadn’t taken the same hit as here and commenced a strategic plan to expand into Europe and beyond. In the end we recruited globally on a much larger scale than we ever had before and developed relationships with clients in the UK, China, Canada, Jamaica, Switzerland, Germany and the Far East.
“Where does your motivation come from?”
I think if you were to ask my mother what I was like as a child she would say “I was born ready”!
I started at the age of 21 in recruitment and within 6 months I was made branch manager of a team of 12 people. I am ambitious, not just for me but the people that work for me and of course the business. We have a lot to do in terms of further growth and 2019 is shaping up to be a strong year. There is no time to sit back. Being busy is my main motivator inside and outside of the office. Accountability also motivates me – that feeling of growth and a need to constantly adapt and develop is what drives me on a daily basis and I am never finished looking at new ways to do things in order to be the best I can be. The recruitment industry is highly competitive and I’m eager to maintain our status as a leader in our sector.
“What is the best business advice you can offer
Get a great team around you and don’t be afraid to hire individuals who may balance out your potential weaknesses. It makes for a more rounded workforce with people challenging ideas and bringing new perspectives and creativity. It makes for a more authentic, powerful team. Instil your values in all you do and finally, keep learning!
“What would you say about your experience at UCD Smurfit School?”
Having completed my MSc. in Business (Leadership and Management Practice) at UCD Smurfit Executive Development I have gained significant benefits from my 3 years of study. It has allowed me to bring my organisation on a journey of change and innovation. It has been a deeply reflective and transformative journey. The course has allowed me to build exceptional levels of strategic, high-performance and self-awareness leadership skills. I feel it truly meets the challenges C-Suite Executives face in today’s business world. The role of an Executive Search Partner is a complex craft. Success will only manifest through the accountability of high performing teams. The MSc truly allowed me to cultivate my leadership style to get the best out of our people and drive powerful results throughout my organisation. Throughout the three programmes I undertook, I learned how to create a high achieving culture which not just provides long term growth but also allows me to create future generations of great leaders…