Catching up with… William Laitinen
Written by Joff Alexander-Frye
It isn’t every day that you meet someone for a coffee and end up having your mindset expanded. This is exactly what happened though, when I recently had the pleasure of meeting William Laitinen, the Managing Director of global recruitment firm Exige International, at Hotel du Vin in Exeter.
After we had made our initial introductions (and ordered a round of, what I have found to be, some of the finest coffee in Exeter) William went on to talk me through his fascinating personal history. He explained how he had moved to Devon as a young child, attended Exeter College, gone on to work for his family’s business and then formed his own international company as a 20-year-old.
He talked openly about the 16-year journey of Exige International – from its humble beginnings on a friend’s sofa to now being the trusted advisors to some of the world’s leading firms and organisations. Through going on this journey, William seems to have gained a level of life and business experience – somewhat beyond his years – that can only be achieved by persevering through times of adversity.
One such example that William shared with me described a time that he had won a precious six-figure contract for his business around the time of the 2010 recession, only for the deal to fall through at the eleventh hour. The way that he then navigated through this difficult and painful process meant that the owner of the firm concerned trusted William and ended up approaching him for another contract at a later date.
In a moment of real vulnerability, William described his coping mechanism for the initial disappointment of losing this important deal – how he had gone home, dug a hole in his garden and planted a seed. He described this seed as an embodiment of his disappointment and, now that a beautiful flower has grown from that seed, every time he looks at it, he remembers that beauty is sometimes birthed in difficulty.
This goes some way to demonstrating the sort of man that William is – a philosophical and strategic thinker who has a high value for emotional health and wellbeing.
One of the other things that struck me about William was that he has deliberately chosen to remain based in West Hill, Devon, despite the majority of his clients being huge global brands based in Europe or America.
And, I for one, believe that Exeter is all the better for it.