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Seizing the Day

In Focus
NAME:Gary Denton
COMPANY:Marble Recruitment
LOCATION:Sydney, Australia
Just as Marble Recruitment was emerging from the uncertainty of the pandemic, CEO Gary Denton was served up another curveball – a major accident that has changed the way he thinks about life, in more ways than one.

On a rainy Sunday morning in October, when it seemed the downpour would never end, Marble Recruitment CEO Gary Denton headed down to the garage to rummage for some toys to occupy his two small children. Gradually descending the stairs in an old pair of trainers, he slipped on some moss that had sprung up on the steps and smashed his head sharply on the concrete.

It was a life-changing moment. The serious hematoma that he suffered that day proved to be an incredible test of Denton’s spirit and determination over the following months – on a personal front as well as from a professional perspective.

More than that, the dramatic event helped to prove the strength of the organization he had devoted so much time and energy into building from the ground up over the previous 17 years.

Co-founded in 2006 with longtime friend Lee Corbitt, Marble Recruitment is now a leading national independent recruitment group within the construction, infrastructure and mining sectors. As testament to its stratospheric rise, it was acquired by Tokyo-based staffing firm Outsourcing in 2019.

Denton now sits on the board of the US$517.8 million regional business.

“I’m ever so fortunate to have a loving family, and also the company didn’t miss a beat. Everybody stepped up.

The company counts more than 70 staff across six locations. This year alone, it has placed more than 4,000 people in roles.

“It was a traumatic brain injury, but I also had something called post-traumatic amnesia for a couple of weeks afterward as well,” Denton tells The CEO Magazine. “It was quite a frightening experience. For a little while there, I felt I couldn’t find my way back. There were times when I didn’t know where I was and even who I was.”

What followed was four arduous months of working with a variety of therapists specializing in behavioral psychology and speech therapy, with Denton having to relearn basic tasks like crossing the road.

“I’m ever so fortunate to have a loving family, and also the company didn’t miss a beat. Everybody stepped up,” he reflects.

“One of the guys in the hospital actually said to me, ‘You reap what you sow’. What he meant by that is it was fantastic for me to feel that we’d laid the foundations of a business that would support one another at all levels when things like this happen. And I certainly felt that even in my role as the CEO, I really felt the magnitude of support from the entire business.”

Looking Ahead

The experience has certainly made Denton feel more grateful for every aspect of his life, from his personal relationships to his professional achievements, particularly after two stellar years in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’ve had two record years, one after the other, which is fantastic,” he reveals. The period saw Marble open two new offices – one in Tauranga, New Zealand and the other in Byron Bay, Australia.

“As a business, just on the brass tacks, we deal with over 800 clients throughout Australia and New Zealand,” he says. “We supply most of the top-tier contractors, infrastructure companies, engineering and mining companies throughout the region.”

This enhanced performance is largely due to the fact that, post-pandemic, there was a strong sentiment that the company needed a refresh.

“We needed to realign. There was a feeling that life should complement work, work should complement life, and the two should be really intertwined,” Denton recalls.

“We believe that people really do have the answers, that the answers to what they need are inside of themselves.

By acting on this, Marble has ensured its people are happier at work and able to truly inspire their markets. Some of Marble’s recent development areas include building resilience, connecting to a higher purpose and authentic empowerment.

“We believe that people really do have the answers, that the answers to what they need are inside of themselves,” he Denton. “It’s really about us as a leadership group asking the right questions and being OK with mistakes, celebrating mistakes even.”

Marble has also crafted an environment that prioritizes people’s lives outside of work as well as their professional lives, while also helping them “refine their art” on a daily basis.

Whatever it is doing seems to be working. More than half of the company has an average tenure of seven years or more, according to Denton.

“That’s pretty incredible for a recruitment staffing business,” he points out. “The bonds we have throughout the business are really super strong. There are a lot of ‘work family’ relationships where people really just rely on each other. It’s really, really important for people to feel supported to be themselves every day.”

Talent Quandary

The possibilities for Marble are considerable, thanks to an ongoing talent squeeze among mining companies. Research from consultancy firm McKinsey found that 71 percent of mining leaders are “finding the talent shortage is holding them back from delivering on production targets and strategic objectives”.

“We expect this trend to continue,” McKinsey said. “There has been around a 63 percent drop in mining engineering enrollment in Australia since 2014, and a 39 percent drop in mining graduations in the United States since 2016.”

In addition, Australia is facing a considerable skills shortages in the construction and infrastructure industries.

“Construction is the backbone of the Australian economy, employing approximately 1.3 million people, providing infrastructure, commercial and community buildings, and homes for the growing population,” said Master Builders Australia CEO Denita Wawn.

According to Master Builders Australia, 486,000 workers need to enter the building and construction industry by the end of 2026 to meet growth projections and replace workers that leave the industry.

Learning Values

Creating space for deeper learning is another priority for Marble, with Denton highlighting this as another crucial way of showing its support for its people.

“When we believe in someone, we sure as heck need to tell them so,” he stresses. “And without doubt, to support all that, we’ve got to have this forever learning DNA. We never know enough.”

In line with this belief, one of Marble’s new values is ‘learn more, become more’, with four learning avenues in place to help keep the business firmly in growth mode.

The company regularly invites external leadership coaches in to tackle a wide variety of topics such as ‘Atomic Habits’, ‘How to Tame Your Advice Monster’ and ‘Influence with Storytelling’. Denton draws inspiration from such sessions in addition to podcasts and books such as Great Relationships Don’t Happen by Accident and The Art of Impossible.

“There’s such a wealth of incredible learnings out there that everyone has access to,” he says. “When you are reading something like that before bed each night, you’re thinking about it the next day, bringing it front of mind. It’s having that awareness consistently and then the skills transfer at the same time. It doesn’t have to be a lot, just one percent better every day.”

“Our purpose is to inspire careers. And so what better way to inspire careers than to share some of what we believe is a great way to operate?

Denton is heavily focused on tapping into such resources to work out out how Marble can hone what it offers its markets in a way that will add value.

“Not for any reason other than we are impacting the world of work,” he says. “Our purpose is to inspire careers. And so what better way to inspire careers than to share some of what we believe is a great way to operate?”

Sessions with external coaches are an important part of this, with some of the topics covered so far including the science of calm, which looks predominantly at mindset, and sleep for success, which has offered Marble’s team great information around both nighttime and morning rituals, according to Denton.

“Another one was gut health for mental health. That was a great session that went down so well with everyone,” he recalls. “Who knew that 90 percent of your serotonin and 50 percent of your dopamine is made in your gut? It really is if you want to feel good, eat well.”

Marble has also just embarked on a fresh session in partnership with The Resilience Project, focused around vulnerability and imperfection.

“When you show vulnerability and imperfection, it can have such a positive impact, both personally and in the workplace as well,” he says. “So we’re excited about that one.”

Other integral parts of the company’s learning approach are internal conversations and national industry collaborations around the things that matter, Denton explains. Such conversations are important to stay on top of the latest trends. They also helped Marble land upon its new vision and values – a critical part of the refresh.

A New Vision

As Denton explains, one of the main reasons that Marble placed such emphasis on resetting its purpose and values was to help its people truly understand what the company was about.

“It’s really important for people in any organization or any part of their life, whether it be work or study, to understand why we do what we do and why it matters,” he says.

“Each Marble team member is really aligned with those three things. They want to love their industry. They want to understand the impact that they’re having.

“They want to know what we value along the way as a business and obviously their own personal values as well. And then what’s the journey for them? What does it mean? Where are we going and why?”

“Our team is in a unique position to be able to inspire the careers of literally thousands of people each year.

He refers to the learnings of Andrew Huberman as an ongoing learning resource in areas such as growth mindset, optimizing dopamine and building lasting health.

“We love learning more and more around ways that we can hack our minds. We call it our highest-version platform, or HVP,” Denton says. “Everyone in the business recently enjoyed some breathwork sessions followed by ice baths – it was exhilarating.”

Although team members and their daily work are subject to a wide range of external influences, instilling this sense of wellness in them has had an important impact on their output.

“Mindfulness and meditation are a key part of our business such a core part of being successful,” he explains.

“Our team is in a unique position to be able to inspire the careers of literally thousands of people each year. So it’s how they navigate through each delicate situation in such a way as to leave the world that little bit clearer and a little bit more aligned. It really is an art form.”

Marble’s inside-out approach has seen it tap into the internal knowledge base held within its own talented team. What started off as an organic conversation quickly gathered momentum.

“We’ve got lots of incredible people throughout the business, and we wanted to understand their monologue that enabled them to be successful,” Denton says. “We had no idea where this was going to go, but we started a conversation. We asked a bunch of questions of the people who’ve been in the business for a while, and who are successful within the business as well.”

A Deeper Look

Denton’s initial thought was to simply extract some key learnings from the answers. But when he realized that what had come back was a treasure trove of knowledge, he decided to put it to greater use – helping everyone in the business to understand how they can get into their most impactful state, where they can reframe whatever’s happening, despite any challenges at play.

“So we asked questions such as, ‘What are some of the tools you use to reset your optimism and positivity?’ ‘When you’re completely in the flow, what’s happening?’” he reveals.

After an intensive process of consultation across the entire company, then going through the findings with his management team, Denton established five key conversations that would then help the ever-evolving business establish a fresh vision, something he saw as critical to the company’s ongoing success.

“One was mastering your mindset, another one was being in the state of flow, the third one was creating energy, our fourth one was high-powered habits and then finally, the art of focus,” he says. These five strands now make up Marble’s ‘True North’.

“I learned so much stuff. It was fantastic,” he says.

“I think that you don’t create new values; they’re already there. They’re already in the business.

Denton envisages a process whereby the company will revisit these conversations every six months.

“We really truly believe that we’ve got the answers inside of us,” he enthuses. “There are fantastic learnings outside, but sometimes it’s about looking inside as well.”

Beyond gaining these valuable insights, Marble eventually achieved its objective and landed on its new purpose – to inspire the careers that build Australia.

It also established five key values that now underpin every move. Along with ‘learn more, become more’, these include ‘grow stronger together’, ‘be the benchmark’, ‘live with gratitude’ and ‘make s*** happen’. Just for good measure, Denton decided to add a sixth – ‘be a bloody legend’.

Every mug in the company offices is now emblazoned with one of these punchy values. As we chat over the phone, he laughingly admits that he is sipping from one marked ‘grow stronger together’.

“I’m super proud of where we landed and I’m glad we took the time to really breathe and listen to the whole business,” he reflects. “I think that you don’t create new values; they’re already there. They’re already in the business. And so this is the business. Those values are the business.”

Reclaiming his Chi

After lying in a hospital bed for so many months, Denton felt a burning need to reclaim his life, so he and some of his closest friends headed to Tasmania where they took on an eight-day adventure along the Franklin River.

When you start on the river, that’s it. Everything that you’ve got with you is all that you have,” he reveals. “You’ve got no mobile phone service. There’s no roads. There’s no shops. There’s nothing. You’re sleeping outside, you’re wet and cold. It was raw.

“We all get caught up in the world as mentioned. I really believe in having those circuit breakers, and I really needed a big one.”

Voted the number one rafting experience in the world, the Franklin River trip proved to be the perfect choice – a reminder of the power of nature and of our place in the universe. Tackling the white-knuckle Thunder Rush rapids proved particularly eye-opening.

“It really allowed me to shift back into getting back to myself. I think nature sometimes is the best tonic,” he says. “The real world is out there.”

A Flexible Approach

Flexibility is also key to building the right culture for Marble to thrive, according to Denton. When the company first started looking at how to embed flexibility within the organization, it opened up one of its national conversations.

“We went to the broader leadership group, 20-plus people in the business initially, and the long-termers and we said, ‘What do we want to do with this? We want do something, but we want to work out what it is that works for us,’” he remembers. “The general consensus was, ‘We’d love to have a little bit of flexibility, but we also love being in the office together.’”

“The general consensus was we’d love to have a little bit of flexibility, but we also love being in the office together.

The end result was that the team would work from home on Wednesdays, traditionally a less busy day for the recruitment sector, and that it would be a shorter day.

“You wake up in the morning, you’re at home. You can almost catch up a little bit on the Wednesday and focus on things that you want to focus on personally, if that’s what you need to do,” he explains. “And then you can come back and finish off the week.”

It doesn’t end there. Anyone in the company who needs additional flexibility, such as women returning from maternity leave, can have it, Denton insists.

“The broader business wants to be in the office together. In fact, our Brisbane team don’t even take the Wednesday, they come in and work,” he adds.

Planning for Success

When planning their next moves, the Marble leadership team tends to look at the next three-year period, Denton explains.

“We always look three years ahead every year, and then we build it back to basically a simple one-page plan for the next 12 months,” he says.

As part of its current plan, the company is addressing three key areas that Denton identifies as its one-year business priorities – how to thrive as a team and how to lead the business.

“We are very much in an expansion mode at the moment,” he states. “We’d like to be dealing with 1,500 clients in five years and multiple offices in our biggest states, which are Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria.”

“I think I’m very much more grateful for everything that I have in my life.

Unfolding trends such as the burgeoning renewable infrastructure space and the population shift are creating immense opportunities for Marble, according to Denton. Its embrace of technology helps it to capitalize on these, with some major developments on this front made over the past 12 months.

“We’ve implemented some AI candidate search tools and business automation,” he specifies. “They’re the two main tech areas that can impact our business.”

The company’s focus on learning continues to be a priority too, with exploring the potential of neuroscience as well as deeper relationship-building all on the agenda over the coming years.

“We are in a position where we are supported for acquisition if we want to acquire from the global group, which is great, so that might be on the cards as well,” he hints.

Denton’s excitement about what the future holds in store is evident, made more pronounced by his recent brush with disaster.

“I think I’m very much more grateful for everything that I have in my life and every moment that I have with my children, every smile that I’m able to share with people,” he reflects. “Even my ability to reframe what’s happening quite quickly has certainly, in a strange way, benefited from having this happen to me.

“I’m very fortunate to have gotten through this.”

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