An interview with Virtua’s founders

Passion. Flexibility. Learning. Trust. Integrity.

Just a few of the words James Watson and Charles Mardon use when talking about their executive search company, Virtua.

It’s a new business with a new outlook. Created to change the face of recruitment, Virtua’s approach to collaboratively solving clients’ problems, whilst building a team of credible, passionate consultants, is already changing the norm.

We took some time out with founders James and Charles to learn more about them, the organisation they’re so proud of, and their exciting future plans.

Setting the foundations

Specialising in consumer goods, Virtua’s James and Charles are excited about how the business is already making its mark in the sports, fashion, and outdoor markets. The founders are looking to branch out further into beauty, food & drink, consumer electronics, and toy & nursery to list just a few.

Having launched in June 2022, the organisation already boasts multiple offices in Leeds, Amsterdam, and Dubai. A truly global company, with approximately 10% of its business currently UK-based, 60% of the organisation’s partnerships are in Europe, 20% in APAC and 10% in North America. And with ambitious plans in place for further international expansion, there’s no sign of Virtua’s pace slowing any time soon. But with James and Charles at the helm, perhaps we should expect no less. Inspirational partners, with boundless energy and drive, it’s no surprise to learn the pair met whilst training in Jiujitsu.

James shared, “…when you’re on the mats in the gym, your true character comes out – it’s the nature of the sport. We got along very well, and Charles always had great ideas and big ambitions. It made perfect sense to work together. His approach and integrity levels align perfectly to what we want to create for Virtua.” Similarly, Charles admired James’ approach to recruitment and his desire to make a difference. The pair both bring different attributes to the mix. Charles possesses business acumen gained from 20+ years in financial services and James has vast executive search experience spanning almost a decade. Combine these skills with the dedication and discipline required to progress through the ranks in martial arts, and Virtua is set upon the sturdiest of foundations to thrive.

Virtuous in name and nature

Wanting a simple name that quickly translated to their business ethos, James and Charles chose the name ‘Virtua.’ Based on the word ‘virtuous’ which is defined as ‘having high moral standards’, the duo believes this is what will set them apart from the competition.

James explained “We have a fully customisable business model. We care about our candidates and clients and will support them long after we’ve placed or worked with them. To be virtuous in business means to operate with true compassion, integrity, and transparency at every stage. We want our clients to love working with us and to see us as a reliable and efficient partner and someone they’d use and recommend time and time again.”

But doing things differently doesn’t end with candidates and clients. One of Virtua’s values is ‘philanthropy’ and this encompasses their own people too. James and Charles are enthusiastic about creating an inclusive, empowering environment for people to flourish.

“Virtua’s different first and foremost for our values”, explains Charles. “We believe in having happy employees who love working for our business and love coming to work – empowered staff who we’ll train intensively and support to grow. We encourage every single member of staff to go beyond and be the best.”

Employees enjoy brand new modern office space, generous holiday entitlement to focus on work/life balance and a refreshening approach to autonomy and flexibility. “It was our aim to set up a business that retains the highest calibre of consultants over the long-term”, James said. “We want our people to find their own groove when it comes to working day-today. No autocracy, no dictatorships, just an open-minded, people-first business culture where people are encouraged to learn but also bring new ideas to the table.”

The organisation also aims to support charities. Charles revealed, “This year, we’ll be supporting the homeless in Leeds. At Christmas, we’ll be giving food, supplies and warm clothing to help them through this tough time of year. We’re in talks with some amazing people to get this off the ground and we’re excited to see it go live. Helping others is a key focus, whether our staff, clients, candidates, or anyone else we can reach out to.”

An impressive portfolio

Virtua’s founders are thrilled to be supporting the lucrative consumer goods industry. They’re immensely proud of their client portfolio across the consumer goods sectors. James commented, “Right now, the sports, fashion and outdoor sectors are flying, and we’ve had a phenomenal start in working with some of the larger blue-chip brands and retailers.”

The company has witnessed an uprise in ecommerce talent and is seeing a huge demand for candidates in performance marketing, marketplace/.com trading and analytics. And an additional uplift in the operations and finance part of the business, led by Simon Warren.

James adds, “This has been really interesting given the challenges that Brexit and Covid have brought to many of our clients. Logistics, supply chain, automation, and management of 3PL’s have all been under focus. It’s fantastic to see what our clients have been working on and how we have been able to support them along the way.”

Virtua now hopes to see this growth continue across their markets and in key disciplines globally, including ecommerce, brand creative, marketing, sales, product creation, operations, and finance.

Continuing to ‘do the right thing’

James and Charles are proud of the organisation they’re building and the bright start they’ve shaped. Led by a mantra of ‘doing the right thing’, Charles explained how “great culture always trickles down from the very top, so we’ve ensured we’re setting the tone right from day one and will remain true to these values every single day we operate.”

It’s the founders’ objective to change the face of recruitment through providing a very different way of working. Right now, the team is on track to becoming a global player and a recognised industry- leading brand – alongside cultivating a professional long-term home for passionate, credible consultants.

If, like Virtua, you’re on your own growth journey, and are passionate about making a difference, get in touch. We’re already supporting some of the best-known consumer goods companies in the world with our global talent network.

If you’re a recruiter looking for an environment in which to learn and thrive, let’s chat too. We’re always on the lookout for passionate consultants who share our mindset to join us on our journey to changing the future of executive search.