2020: Year in Review

Updated: Dec 3, 2020

2020... What a year! There has been so much to learn from and adapt to.



The big element was, of course, digital transformation. We've also had to find new ways of connecting with our friends, family, colleagues, customers and network. Not to mention shifting services online and ensuring e-commerce is seamless.


We've also seen how different leaders handled the crisis. We've better understood the importance of looking after our mental, physical and emotional health. And we've swapped the office for the home with all the quirks, benefits and issues that went with it.


All in all, it's fair to say that this has been a crazy year and definitely one for the history books.


As we wrap up, we'd like to share insights from our events, conversations and research.


As executive headhunters, we're passionate about understanding more about successful leadership. And this year, we've seen leaders be more agile, innovative and resilient than ever!


HVO Search Live



Coronavirus took us all by surprise at the start of the year, so we started live sessions to tackle a range of topics, figure out new ways of working and stay connected.


Here's an overview of all our sessions, the recordings and write ups of each are available on our HVO Search Live page.


1. Jean-Denis Mariani (Chief Digital Officer, Guerlain) joined us for our first panel on How Coronavirus is Impacting E-Commerce. We spoke about digital acceleration during lockdown, as well as the need for talent who can bridge the gap between digital and physical.


2. Joel Palix (former CEO, Feelunique), Matthew Dean (SVP Digital Worldwide, Hugo Boss) and Nuno Miller (Chief Digital & Information Officer, Sonae S&F) were our panelists for Lessons in Digital: Navigating the NOW and Planning TOMORROW. It became clear that brands need leaders with agile mindsets, who have both a technical and business understanding.


3. Doug Stephens (Founder, Retail Prophet), Matthew Drinkwater (Head of Innovation, London College of Fashion) and Peter Cross (Customer Experience Director, John Lewis) joined us for First to the Future: Opportunities After Covid19 and discussed how leaders must think beyond bricks and mortar retail spaces and offer customers experiences that are new to them when shops reopen.


4. Caroline Issa (CEO, Tank), Lucy Yeomans (Founder, Creator & CEO, DREST), Sarah Crook (Former CEO, Dundas) and Whitney Hawkings (Founder & CEO, FLOWERBX) discussed Brand Storytelling in the NEW Digital Age. We chatted about the ways rules for marketing have changed in 2020 and how to be in tune with what your customers want.


5. Ben Gould (Global Strategic Partnerships Manager, Workplace from Facebook), Thomas Bucaille (Chief People Officer and CSR Leader, Petit Bateau) and Dr. Brennan Jacoby (Founder, Philosophy At Work) led the conversation Beyond the Office: Building a Successful Working Culture. We spoke about how the purpose of the office lies in human connection and building relationships.


6. Sarah Curran-Usher MBE (Managing Director EMEA, True Fit), Lucy Aylen (Founder, Neverfullydressed) and Darren Rajanah (CEO, THG Ingenuity) joined us to talk about Redefining the Customer. We talked about building an online presence, understanding your customer profile and how to offer seamless experiences.


7. Zach Duane (Partner, ABLT and former CEO, Victoria Beckham), Gina Kirch (Founding Partner, The Venture Collective) and Patrick Schneider-Sikorsky (Founder & Partner, Beast Ventures) spoke about Investing in the New World Order. Including how the investment landscape has changed and what investors are looking for in brands/companies right now.


8. Elizabeth Cowper (Founder, The Ludo Partnership and Ex Global Head of Wellbeing, Tapestry), Laura Moore (Founder & CEO, Nell Health) and David Plans (Head of Research, Huma) for our most recent discussion on Wellness at Work. It became clear that to resonate with employees and create a culture that encourages honesty and authenticity, leaders must be transparent themselves.


Anatomy of a Leader



In our Anatomy of a Leader podcast Maria spoke with leaders in Fashion, Beauty and Retail about their personal journeys, and the lessons they would share with their younger selves.


Our inaugural guest Peter Williams (Former CEO, Selfridges and Chairman, Superdry and Sophia Webster) spoke of his transition from CEO to Chairman.


"You have to be very clear as a chair that you're their to run the board not the business. The situations that can occur where it's not clear who's doing what is quite dangerous for the business and value creation within the business."

Jessica Blackler (Founder, Jecca Blac Cosmetics) shared how she'd overcome being overlooked.


"I didn't have 30 years of experience behind me but actually you have to make these things work for you and I made the fact that I was young not a negative but a positive offering I had."


Sherrille Riley (Founder & CEO, Nails & Brows Mayfair) chatted about facing challenges

"When you're setting up a business, you have a million obstacles to overcome. So the last thing you need is somebody trying to hold you back."


Sarah Curran-Usher MBE (MD EMEA, True Fit) explained how she handled negative experiences in her career.

"It's the negative experiences - if you take the lessons from them, that drives personal growth."


Lucy Aylen (Founder, Never Fully Dressed) talked about her journey from running a market stall to an in-demand fashion brand.


"We still keep our ethos that confidence is the best thing a woman can wear."



Leadership Case Studies



There are many innovative leaders reaching incredible heights in their respective worlds. So we decided to explore what makes them so successful and why they are exceptional role models to have.


Rose Marcario spoke to us about reinventing the classic business model as CEO of Patagonia.


"This idea that business can only serve one interest — the shareholder interest — is so wrong-headed. It’s outdated."


Riccardo Sciutto shared how he is uniting digital and heritage at Sergio Rossi.


"It is crucial to think innovatively and passionately about the future, be audacious and without fear of taking risks to guide a brand with as rich a history as Sergio Rossi into the modern era."


We explored how Serena Williams is empowering future leaders at Serena Ventures and how Calvin McDonald is growing Lululemon through innovation and acquisition.


When Sue Nabi was appointed CEO at Coty, we analysed why she has the leadership vision for turnaround. And when Gymshark was valued at $1billion, we looked at what made Founder Ben Francis an entrepreneurial unicorn.


For our recent studies, we went outside our core industries to explore the lessons we can learn and apply from Sir David Attenborough and Kamala Harris' astonishing journeys.


Hiring Series and Blogs


This year, we continued our Hiring Series, which is designed to help hiring managers in all areas of the hiring process.


Our first two episode tackled How to Hire Great Leaders First Time and How to Hire Great Leaders When Uncertainty is the New Certainty. Then we talked about ELTV (Employee Lifetime Value) and why great leaders use this measurement when hiring.


In our blogs, we explored a number of topics around leadership and the skills needed to succeed in the current climate. As well as an analysis of industry news. These included:


- 7 Traits of a Great Leader

- 5 Ways to Manage Your Energy Not Your Time

- How to Identify Your Top Performers in a Crisis and

- Why it's Time to Be Transparent About Your Mental Health.


And for 2021...


This year has been extraordinary and we are still finding ways to adapt to the new normal. Next year, we'll continue to bring thought leaders and industry experts together to share insights on the hottest topics. Dare I say, we might even be able to do so in person!


We hope you have found our content useful and look forward to hearing your thoughts on what you'd like to see next year.


As an Executive Search team, we are passionate about leadership and finding the right leaders for you. We work at the intersection of creativity, digital and retail. If you would like help in your search, get in touch.