A year in the life…of MBHRN

The end of this month marks the end of my first year as MBHRN, and what a year it’s been; probably the most enriching, surprising, and fulfilling that I have ever experienced.

It’s difficult to write these posts without sounding smug and arrogant in equal measure but I want to share some of things I’ve learned and thank those of you who have helped it happen, so I’m willing to take that risk.


I’ve been extremely flattered by the response from the market to my new venture and utterly delighted with the results we’ve been able to achieve hiring the following roles:



  • Group Reward Directors
  • Divisional Heads of Reward
  • Pensions & Benefits Directors
  • Payroll Leaders
  • Global Heads of Shared Services
  • Country HR Directors
  • Reward and Payroll Consultants

Across industry sectors including:

  • Travel/Leisure
  • Professional Services
  • Financial Services
  • Gaming
  • Telecoms
  • Retail

In locations such as:  

  • Zurich
  • Paris
  • Amsterdam
  • London
  • South East UK

Representing candidates from:

  • UK
  • France
  • Netherlands
  • Switzerland
  • South Africa
  • Hong Kong
  • Singapore
  • USA
  • Middle East
  • Belgium
  • Denmark
  • Australia

But it’s not just such success in the recruitment field that has made this last twelve months so wonderful. To be honest I’ve been doing that side of things fairly successfully for a very long time and while I still get a buzz out of it there’s been so much more that has really made this year. Please, allow me to indulge (or click on that meme about which cup is going to get filled first that’s bound to be above or below this post on your feed…):

Outside of the day job, having set up MBHRN and decided to work exclusively on my own, I have had the freedom to do almost whatever I want with my days and that has been an utter revelation. After years of the daily commute, of competing in one of the world’s most challenging market places, I have finally had a chance to step back, take stock, breathe and look around. I have found there’s a lot more going on around me than I ever knew, or certainly ever appreciated.

In the past, frankly, anything that was not fundamentally the pursuit of greater commercial success than yesterday was secondary to that singular goal. They say money doesn’t buy you happiness, in fact I’ve said it many times myself, but I would usually find myself whispering “but it buys things that make you happy” straight afterwards, only partly in jest and so justify my continued obsession with working hard to the exclusion of anything else, an anything else that I barely notices existed during the week, saving myself for a weekend to indulge in family activities that I was often too exhausted to fully appreciate.

Soon after setting up MBHRN last summer I wrote an article some of you may have read called  The Work-Life-Guilt Balance in which I discussed a surprising battle I was having with my conscience while balancing work & life despite being completely free to do as I pleased…12 months in, that article still resonates, but not as loudly, primarily because of the things I learned (mainly about myself) this year.

One thing that really stands out to me is that many of the things I strived for previously were important purely and only because of the situation I was actively encouraging to exist.

The most obvious example of this was in choosing holidays. To me, the success of a holiday was measured in how quickly and significantly I was able to “switch off entirely”, “completely relax” and “recharge”. Basically, how to escape the life that completely took over the other 47/48 weeks of my year. It took me a long while to realise that was probably not quite right and that I could do something about it. Now don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy luxury, but the difference I’ve found this year is that I don’t NEED it. Our holiday this summer doesn’t sit in the diary like a medical necessity, a sun-drenched therapy session; 14 days of which the first three and the last two are spent fretting about what I was leaving or about to come back to leaving 9 days in which to enjoy the fruits of the previous six months’ hard graft.

This year already feels different as I don’t feel the need to escape anything, and while I do enjoy a day by the pool with the kids and a cold beer or three, there’s no pressure to relax and forget everything else, primarily because I genuinely enjoy everything else.

A second thing that I’ve noticed this year is that I live in a really nice place. I think I knew that when my wife and I bought our house some ten years ago now, but for that last decade I’ve spent most of my time racing to escape it in the early mornings or trudging back to it in the dark at night. Turns out, during the day it’s a hive of activity, filled with people who not only live here but enjoy it, who stop and speak to each other. I think they call it “a community”, and I quite like being part of it. The fact that I’m recognised in the local restaurants, bars and coffee shops is, in equal measure, pleasing and slightly concerning, but I’ll get over that.

A third point I’d like to make, is that while I’m fairly evangelical about this being the way of life for me – at least for the foreseeable future – it’s certainly not right for everyone and I don’t want to suggest everybody should follow my lead. I was fortunate that I chose a career – or rather a career was presented to me – that has allowed this to become a reality, it was not part of the original plan at all but it’s become a welcome side effect of nigh on twenty years submerged in the HR world and for that I’m very thankful…more of that in a moment…

But even if you are in a career where working independently is perfectly possible, it certainly doesn’t work for everyone. Many people have asked me fairly recently if I get lonely working on my own, if I miss London and asked me how on earth I motivate myself without a team of people around me – and the very fact that they ask those questions makes it clear to me that they would not enjoy this way of life.

The fact of the matter is being a recruiter is not a lonely existence, I’m constantly meeting and talking to people, there is no time to be lonely. I’m also in London two or three times a week for all sorts of meetings and as such I get my fill of our fabulous city (and indeed others within Europe I’ve been lucky enough to visit in the course of my work this year) and I’m motivated because people still come to me asking for my help and indeed if I want to continue to support my family and live the life I currently enjoy – and trust me, that’s precisely what I want to do – I need to continue helping them.

I said at the top of this article that one of the things I wanted to do was thank those of you who have helped me get this far and settle into this way of life.

If you are in my network, indeed if you are reading this article and this is the first you’ve ever heard of me, you have already helped me do this. Regardless of whether you are a CEO or an HRD who instructed me to fill a role, or you are candidate who has started a new position to which I introduced you or if you simply took time out of your day to engage with during this last year, but nothing concrete ever came of it, thank you, I’m hugely appreciative. My global network in Reward and HR is now more vast than ever before and that is why companies ask for my assistance and that is why I’ve been able to have such a fantastic twelve months. But it’s also why I am unable to thank you / name you individually.

However, there is one person I should mention. While I’ve enjoyed some great success as a recruiter in this niche specialism I can’t take the credit for it all, it wasn’t my idea, I’ve often said that I was handed a golden egg and all I’ve really managed to do was not to drop it.

It was Mark Brewer, who many of you will know, who passed me that golden egg. He offered me the opportunity to build the first reward focused desk in an HR recruitment firm. I had no idea if I could do it, but he seemed to have confidence in me and, in the end, it worked. He also, somewhat inadvertently, introduced me to my wife, by employing her a couple of years later, and indeed he urged me to buy the house we’ve been in for the last ten years (although cynics might suggest that encouraging me to saddle myself with a sodding great mortgage while in his employment might not have been entirely altruistic).

Thanks Mark…

…I remember him saying soon after I joined him, that if I worked hard enough and got it right “Matt Brooks” would be the go to name for Reward recruitment; I’d like to think I’ve gone some way to doing that and justifying his confidence in me.