Community Article

The origin story of Think & Grow

Co-Founders, Ant & JJ, reflect on the journey so far and share their learnings of growing a start-up.

Think & Grow launched in September 2015, and has since grown in team size, services, and locations to be 'the human connection at every stage of growth'. To mark the milestone of the new branding and release of new services -- Co-Founders, Ant & JJ, share the origin story and reflect on the journey so far. 

Let's start with the obvious... Why did you launch Think & Grow? 

Ant: It was partly out of frustration. Both of us had spent years looking at the way the world thought about talent and felt it was too transactional. Traditionally, you engage a recruiter (whether you’re a business or a job seeker) and it either works out or it doesn’t. In both scenarios, everyone moves on to the next placement opportunity no matter the outcome. 

Our vision was for the talent to be a catalyst for change and a driver within a business for growth and performance. To do that, we had to put a different ‘success lens’ on our recruitment process. Success for us wasn’t just placing a role, it was to see our customers growing and scaling as they had planned to, with our continued support in driving that growth. 

JJ: Ant and I met when working at the same company and after collaborating on delivery projects it became clear we had similar skills and the same desire to own our destinies. We decided over a coffee that we should make Think & Grow a reality. 

We both believed there was a better way to support the tech and start-up community in Australia through the knowledge that was acquired from over a decade of being immersed in the market at the time, and that Think & Grow was an opportunity to support clients and early-stage companies better. But, also to take a more circular approach, using the profits to invest back into the industry to plug the gaps. 

Think & Grow are considered veterans in Executive Search. How does it differ from the more traditional executive search services in the market? 

JJ: After spending two decades in search and 15 years in tech, we both had the experience to know that the start-up sector needed a more applicable and educational process when hiring key people. If founders understood more about how each role impacted the growth framework then they could win over the right talent and the right time. 

Our method is to bring that education to the founders, leadership teams and boards along with clearer success factors and candidate requirements to align with their growth trajectory. Simplifying it all down to a basic level, ensuring to cover the fundamentals of growth, means you’re able to get more depth and quality from each role and candidate. 

Ant: Going above and beyond to get that customer growth is key for us, so much so that we position and pitch ourselves as core growth partners. We want our customers to be able to share with us in confidence the nitty-gritty challenges, and in turn, we listen and provide our advice based on their needs, not ours. Putting our customer’s interest first is far more important than a bunch of fees – this reflects our frustration with the traditional recruitment process, and being too transactional. 

JJ: It also derives from understanding the business and the humans within that business first before even taking a brief. We’re not order-takers – we work with our customers to help them build the right foundation based on their desires and strategies. 

Since launching in 2015, you’ve gone on to release additional services beyond recruitment like People Advisory and Global Expansion. What led you to take these steps?

Ant: It stemmed from wanting to assist customers in tackling deeper challenges about talent and teams fit for growth. Talent and salary benchmarking, org design and board structure were all released only about 6 months after Think & Grow launched because it quickly became clear to us that the problems and demand didn’t just stop at hiring key people.

As we grew out the team, we were able to take on bigger pieces of that pie and attack those challenges, providing more solutions in the form of new services, based on the deeper experience and expertise we were bringing onboard into our team. 

JJ: To echo Ant with Global Expansion, we simply saw a gap in the market with founders facing the same challenges when trying to expand globally, and even locally. We felt we could provide that much-needed education and support, so we built a model based on the three key pieces needed when expanding: People, revenue and investment.

It’s flexible and based on the business’ skill set at the time so that they could grow and scale at their own pace. We provide deep knowledge in the space and connections that link to sales, partnerships and mentorships. All of this combined with the scar tissue and experience we introduce makes Global Expansion one of the very few specialisms within our category of fast-growth tech in Australia today. 

How have you built out your own team? 

Ant: A combination of our network, existing relationships, referrals and trusted recruiters. There are a few that have come to us as job seekers hoping to use us to help them land a role in a tech start-up or recruiters we were working with and ended up joining us. This speaks to the people element we fundamentally believe in – they were the right fit for the right role at the right time.

You’ve both started and grown your families since starting Think & Grow. How would you describe your experience of growing a family whilst working for yourself? 

JJ: To be honest, tough. My daughter was six months old when we launched so I had big life-changing moments, both needing my time, happening simultaneously. But, it’s rewarding that we’ve now got to a point where our kids are old enough that we can have that flexibility and commitment we need to look at scaling our own business. 

Ant: Think & Grow was my first time working for myself so it’s not as if I can compare it to having a different job. But, obviously – it’s busy. You’re always on, whether for the business or for your kids. There’s also no separation between your personal life and your work, the lines just become blurred. But, there’s also a lot of freedom and fun. For example, I became acutely aware of my ability to drive the pace of the business – if I need things to slow down or speed up, I can control that myself which is helpful when you’re growing your family. 

What’s been the most interesting hire that you’ve made? 

Ant: Hiring the Head of Engineering for Canva was a critical one. They went from 40-50 engineers to around 300 under that hire so they did a really great job in scaling that team. Again, highlighting that our success measure goes beyond just placing a role but it’s to see our customers growing and scaling as they had planned to. 

Let’s look to the future, what’s on the horizon for Think & Grow?

JJ: Our mission right now is to look to triple the output of the business and for the ecosystem to see us as leaders in the people and growth space. 

We invested in the brand refresh, refined our services and honed our skill set as a business in order to emphasise Executive Search and Global Expansion going forward. In 2023, we launched Singapore and the UK as locations. We've also partnered with AWS to help deliver the AWS Passport Program to scale-ups across the world. 

We’re constantly looking for ways to support the community and plug gaps in the market because you can build the greatest product in the world, but without great people, it’s hard to grow a business. 

Think & Grow empower founders and executives to develop their businesses, their people, and their careers for the future economy of work. Get in touch if you'd like to find out more about how we can help you!


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