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Ben Cooper
Jan. 20, 2020

January 14th 2019. The day my Difrent adventure began. It’s been a hell of a year, and I wanted to share some key takeaways from my first 12 months with the business, as I did after my first 6 months here.

Given that one year is, historically, just about my average tenure with former employers, this seems like a good chance to reflect. The 12-month milestone usually has me itching for ‘what’s next’, looking for the next challenge and wanting to push myself out of my comfort zone. With Difrent, however, I feel that I have so much more to achieve, to prove and the first 12 months feel like I’m just getting started.

It’s been hard work. Lots of travel. Lots of long days. Lots of learning!
It’s a very competitive space, the ‘professional services’ world… in a different way to recruitment. With recruitment, a client either works with you, or they don’t. They’ll have a PSL, an exclusive agency, RPO etc and that really closes the door on any chance of working with them, for at least a period of time.

Due to the nature of the tender process in Public Sector and Healthcare via frameworks like DOS, you constantly have opportunities to work with new clients, which is great! The last twelve months saw us build relationships and start working with some incredible new clients.

It’s not all been plain sailing though… on several occasions, it’s been a case of ‘close but no cigar’. Two proposals, a presentation, and… oh… two percent off the winning supplier. Cue punch in the stomach. Over the course of the year though, these punches in the stomach have become easier to take.

A big lesson for me here was managing my own expectations (I can sometimes get a little over-excited and have a very glass half full approach). Our internal bidding process has come a long way since I first joined and each procurement offers a new opportunity for learning and refining.

It’s also a great opportunity to meet clients, allow them to gain insight into your culture, discuss our approach to delivery and to start building a relationship, irrespective of whether we were successful or not. It’s been a really enjoyable aspect of the role for me and another skill that I’ve developed. Our shortlist success has risen by 40% and through our work with NHS BSA, Public Health England, Department for Work and Pensions and BPS, we’re developing a really strong portfolio.

There’ll be a few more joining that list very soon, you heard it here first!

Difrent's Summer Party

It’s been great fun
. I have genuinely never worked anywhere like Difrent.
It’s an incredibly diverse group of people, distributed across various locations throughout the UK, yet every time we come together, be that via remote means (Slack, Hangouts etc) or in-person (our annual Summer/Xmas Party, client visits) you really feel part of the same organisation. There’s an immense amount of respect for every member of Difrent, and it’s bloody good fun. More than that though, it’s abundantly clear that everyone is committed to driving the business forward and passionately believes in the work that we do.

It’s just a great place to be. I’m loathed to call any of the Difrent team colleagues, bosses, mentors etc because it’s more than that. We’re creating something great here and I am delighted to be part of the journey.

It’s been inspiring. My mind has genuinely been blown by some of the incredible work that our teams have done this year and continue to do. As I’m a bit of a nomad and spend my time between HQ in Chiswick, client site and home, I usually receive information about our projects via Slack or weekly round-up emails. On several occasions this year though, I’ve been lucky enough to witness some of our teams’ retrospectives, stand-ups and show and tells. Each one has truly inspired me, seeing the way our teams interact both with each other and our clients’ own teams, solving problems and delivering everything with passion.

In just two years we’ve grown from a handful of staff to a collective of over 70, working with some huge clients and delivering services that really well help improve the lives of users and citizens. The exciting thing, as I said earlier on, is that it feels like we’re just getting started!

So there you have it! My first twelve months have genuinely flown by, and I’ve loved every second.

A few thank-yous before I wrap this one up.

Firstly thank you to Rach and Steve for giving me this opportunity. I’m very grateful.

Thank you to all of my friends at Difrent for making me feel welcome, supporting the various aspects of Business Development this year (despite being super busy with your own roles and my constant nagging) and helping me learn so much.

(from l to r) Ann Kempster, Ben Cooper, Daniel Leakey

Thank you to my friend, Phil, whose mentorship and guidance over the last year both work-related and on a personal level has been totally invaluable.

(from l to r) Ben Cooper, Rachel Murphy, Phil Williams

Finally, thank you to all of our clients. Everyone who’s met me for a coffee. Everyone who’s given advice. Everyone who's taught me something new.

You’ve all made year one with Difrent the best year of my career to date.

Here’s to a massive 2020.

Written by Ben Cooper Business Development Manager, Difrent

read more

Feb. 11, 2019
Introducing: Ben Cooper

Everyone at Difrent is extremely passionate and committed to affecting real change in the public sector, delivering quality outcomes on projects aimed at ‘public good’.

July 10, 2019
I left recruitment for this

I’d placed ‘teams’ onto projects before, but I’d never won, or even explored outcome-based deliverables.

Dec. 19, 2019
2019 Fireside Chat

Rachel Murphy and Steve Dhillon sit down to discuss Difrent in 2019 and visions for 2020.