Looking back, looking ahead: reflections from our MBS company offsite

This week the entire team at MBS – including our colleagues from across Europe, Asia, and South America – came together for our annual offsite.

Every year, we pencil in a couple days to look back on the past twelve months and plan for the year ahead. It is always a real highlight of our collective calendar, a chance to spend quality time away from the office with colleagues and to take a step back from the busy day-to-day.

And this year has certainly been busy! In 2022/2023, we partnered with clients as they led their businesses through yet more truly extraordinary circumstances: record inflation, the devaluation of the pound, mass industrial action, supply chain disruption, a worsening war in Ukraine, soaring energy prices and serious food shortages – to say nothing of the political turmoil in many of the countries we serve.

It has been such a privilege to work closely with our consumer sector’s leaders during these ongoing unprecedented times, and to have helped them build the leadership teams that are today navigating these choppy waters. In 2022/23 alone we successfully advised on over 150 key appointments across 23 geographies. This included 36 CEO successions, 23 CFO appointments and 25+ chairs or non-executive director roles – for some of the biggest and most exciting companies in our consumer sectors.

As we now transition into our new financial year, and begin working towards the ambitious goals we have set ourselves as a business, we wanted to pause to consider the year that’s been, and share some reflections.

We couldn’t wish for a more exciting group of clients to serve  

At MBS, we are unashamedly brand snobs. We feel a genuine passion for businesses that are disrupting our sectors with a true sense of purpose. One of our absolute favourite parts of the offsite was a presentation we gave looking back at our clients over the year, and seeing the breadth of companies we partnered with – truly some of the most exciting, and most influential brands across the global consumer sectors. We’ve advised businesses from rapidly-growing challenger brands and health-tech distributors to FTSE 100 giants and Fortune 500 firms. But common among each one is a sense of ambition and dynamism.

Our consumer-facing sectors don’t operate in isolation – and neither do we

Over this last year, we’ve advised businesses across the retail, consumer goods, travel, leisure and hospitality, healthcare, fashion, luxury, lifestyle, sports, and digital sectors. To some, these industries may seem very different – but at MBS we know that they are all linked together by an overriding passion for the consumer, and a deep understanding of how consumer mindsets and demands continually change.

We’re one of the only search firms that puts together an industry like healthcare with fashion or retail, noting that what underpins them all is this unrelenting focus on the end customer. When we come to search work, this means that we consider the talent pool across all adjacencies, leveraging best practice, learnings and newness that may businesses need to thrive.

At MBS, we have practices dedicated to each consumer industry, but collaboration lies at the heart of all our work. This felt particularly powerful during our offsite, when every one of the presentations mentioned the power of knowledge sharing, and many colleagues recalled applying learnings from one sector to assignments in another.

Our Consumer Healthcare Practice has expanded and evolved

Our consumer healthcare practice was launched in 2021, with a mission to bring different, consumer-centric and patient-led thinking to the sector. Since then, our dedicated team has balanced a deep understanding of the nuances of healthcare with creativity drawn from taking inspiration from adjacent consumer sectors. In just eighteen months, we’ve placed CEOs, Chairs, and NEDs into some of the Healthcare sector’s most exciting organisations, across both public and private spheres. Along the way, it’s also been wonderful to welcome chief executives and Board-level leaders from healthcare to numerous events – from Chair-led roundtables to intimate dinners.

The global landscape of the consumer industry is shifting

Those who’ve been to visit us in person will know that our offices are based in a mews in London’s Primrose Hill. But while the majority of our desks may be in the UK, our work has continued to be truly global over the last year. In 2022/23, we worked in more than 20 markets, appointing CEOs and MDs for global corporates and advising companies with HQs around the world – from Spain and Singapore to the US and the UAE.

It’s been interesting to see the shifting sands. On the one hand, how international travel has returned to post-Covid, giving companies in isolated markets like Australia access to a much broader talent pool. But on the other, how candidates’ outlook on relocation has changed – in an era of hybrid working, fewer people are willing to permanently move for a new role.

CSR is fundamental to our DNA

About a decade ago, we decided to start leveraging our professional relationships to drive positive change within our sectors. Today, CSR sits at the very centre of what we do, and it was wonderful to spend time with colleagues this week discussing MBS’ purpose and impact on our communities. In 2022/23, we worked alongside our sector’s industry bodies to drive up D&I; completed pro-bono work for charities and non-profits; continued to make our own organisation more sustainable; connected executives displaced by war to businesses looking to hire, and advised companies on their own CSR and leadership diversity strategies. Today, we dedicate 20% of our time to CSR activity, and a core part of being part of the MBS team is genuinely wanting to help drive improvement in the sectors that we serve.

We are proud in the last year to have advised on over 20 pro-bono searches. In 2022/23, it’s been a privilege to partner with industry bodies like the BRC and IGD; charities like the British Heart Foundation and 10,000 interns; and organisations like the Women’s Prize Trust.

This is the biggest, and most unified consumer executive search team in Europe  

This year, MBS has grown to be a team of more than forty partners, consultants, associates, researchers and project managers– between us we represent 12 nationalities and can speak 19 languages! The scale of our work is made possible by our growing team, each of whom have made a unique contribution to MBS over this year.

Our year at MBS has been exciting, challenging and rewarding. It has also been deeply varied – taking us from supermarkets in Africa to manufacturing in Asia, from luxury restaurant businesses to the world’s biggest streetwear brand, and from blue-chip retail in the UK to global FMCG businesses.

The MBS mission is to advise and and unearth exceptional leaders of today to accelerate the most transformative consumer businesses of tomorrow.

Through it all, we are proud that we are living out our new mission: To advise and unearth exceptional leaders of today, to accelerate the most transformative consumer businesses of tomorrow.”  What we love about this statement is its sense of ambition and momentum. At MBS, we want to continue sitting at the very forefront of our sectors, identifying the best senior leaders to drive change in the most impactful organisations. In many ways, we’ve been living out this mission since the beginning: seeking to work for some of the most dynamic, innovative and challenged businesses within our sectors and always looking to ensure we move beyond the “usual suspects” in any assignment.

Hopefully, the next year will see calmer times for our consumer sectors. But whatever the next twelve months hold, MBS remains excited for the year ahead!

moira.benigson@thembsgroup.co.uk | elliott.goldstein@thembsgroup.co.uk