The Team

MEET THE TEAM

With over 175 years combined recruitment experience, take a more personal look and contact the senior management team at 1st Step Solutions.

Simon Cowdrey SIMON COWDREY
CHAIRMAN
Matthew Jones MATTHEW JONES
MANAGING DIRECTOR
Les Fillery LES FILLERY
MANAGING DIRECTOR /
FINANCE DIRECTOR
Andy Brooks ANDY BROOKS
OPERATIONS DIRECTOR
Careena Dabbs CAREENA DABBS
COMPLIANCE & STRATEGIC DIRECTOR
Mark Mariner MARK MARINER
REGIONAL DIRECTOR
Ralph Preston RALPH PRESTON
REGIONAL DIRECTOR
Davinia Farr DAVINIA FARR
DIVISIONAL MANAGER
Nana Boss NANA BOSS
DIVISIONAL MANAGER
Genevieve Norman GENEVIEVE NORMAN
DIVISIONAL MANAGER
Stuart Wallis STUART WALLIS
EMPLOYEE & INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS MANAGER
Guy Smithson GUY SMITHSON
BRANCH MANAGER
John Bayley JOHN BAYLEY
BUSINESS MANAGER
Matthew Williams MATTHEW WILLIAMS
BUSINESS MANAGER
Justin Perry JUSTIN PERRY
BUSINESS MANAGER
Scott Crump SCOTT CRUMP
GROUP TRAINING MANAGER
Sean Kelly SEAN KELLY
SENIOR CONSULTANT
Laura Holdstock LAURA HOLDSTOCK
SENIOR CONSULTANT

SIMON COWDREY
CHAIRMAN

Simon established 1st Step Solutions in 2004 and as a business owner appreciates that 1st Step is only as good as the staff it employs. Simon’s philosophy in life is to lead by example and always treats others how he wants to be treated.

Having served 9 years in the Royal Navy before venturing into the recruitment world in 1988, he has been able to apply business and management skills into the company from personal life experiences.

Through his ability to constantly 'think outside the box' he specialises in providing sound logical solutions when dealing with people. He places a huge emphasis on developing strong business relationships with the company’s diverse range of customers.

Simon shares a real passion for travel and recently he has spent time to understand the Middle Eastern and Asian Cultures after travelling to Philippines, China, India and other parts of Asia.

MATTHEW JONES
MANAGING DIRECTOR

Matthew is the Managing Director responsible for the day to day recruitment strategy and development of the company.

He joined the recruitment industry from School in 1999 and worked his way up from a Trainee to Board Director. He operates across all divisions and retains a hands on approach to recruitment and sales in both blue and white collar recruitment.

Responsible for tender submissions for some of the company’s key assets has ensured continued growth and development into new and existing sectors and operational trading regions.

He has an excellent working relationship with the Chairman and Finance Director which has seen a collective vision for the future plans of 1st Step.

Weekends are normally taken up with a young family, but has been known to venture across to Old Trafford when the Wife gives him a pass.

LES FILLERY
MANAGING DIRECTOR / FINANCE DIRECTOR

Les is the Managing Director and Finance Director responsible for setting and managing the company’s financial strategy and commercial development of the business.

He is a commercially aware accountant who entered the financial profession in 1980 and has spent most of his working life in construction related businesses.

He joined 1st Step in September 2007 and is responsible for the day to day running of the finance department, IT and Human Resources.

He is a results driven individual who thrives under pressure and enjoys leading from the front.

He has a strong working relationship with his fellow Directors and is key in implementing the company’s vision.

ANDY BROOKS
OPERATIONS DIRECTOR

Andy joined the Board of 1st Step in August 2015 as Operations Director and will be a key influencer in the strategic development of the company’s primary objectives.

Andy, a Welder by trade, started his recruitment apprenticeship in the early 90’s operating within the M&E sector and has since gone on to work for some of the Industry’s leading Recruitment Agencies as part of their senior management team.

Andy brings with him vast experience of operating within the M&E, Engineering (NAECI), Facilities Management and Renewable Energy Industry Sectors providing both blue and white collar personnel.Remaining focused on both customer and candidate satisfaction keeps Andy in the thick of the action allowing him to provide employment solutions to some of the toughest projects the industry throws up.

You will often find Andy on the Golf course and when asked “What’s your handicap?” It’s often met with a reply of a life, work, 19th hole balance.

CAREENA DABBS
COMPLIANCE & STRATEGIC DIRECTOR

Careena is the Compliance & Strategic Director responsible for managing the recruitment standards across all sectors.

Following seven years at a small works Facilities & Maintenance contractor, she joined 1st Step in the first month of trading as a Trainee M&E Recruitment Consultant and has worked her way up to a senior management position.

Highly customer focused, she strives to continually improve systems, procedures and working practices, to ensure both candidates and clients alike are given the best possible recruitment experience.

She has a keen passion for learning new skills and in her spare time she recently completed City & Guilds in Floristry and partaken in dressmaking courses.

MIKE WIDMER
DIVISIONAL DIRECTOR

Mike is the Divisional Director of the Management & Technical Division, specialising in the recruitment of high end professional staff. Since 2007, Mike has progressed through the ranks of 1st Step’s internal training structure and now takes responsibility for the Building Services, Design, Construction and Rail sectors.

He has an excellent knowledge of his market and a proven ability to successfully recruit hard to fill positions. He places a huge emphasis on strategy, implementation and delivery, born from the true partnering relationships he enjoys from a select client base.

He has built a team of passionate recruitment professionals that focus on their own niche sub-divisions, which encourages a familiarisation of candidate talent in order to maximise the potential cross fertilisation of candidates to customers.

MARK MARINER
REGIONAL DIRECTOR

Mark Mariner is the Regional Director for the M&E & Construction Trades and Labour Division and responsible for the growth and development across the East of the UK.

Mark joined 1st Step as a Trainee Consultant in 2007 and has since demonstrated his ability to improve and mould to react to new challenges . His expertise within the M&E and Construction sectors are formidable and has developed a solid and expanding team working to a collective goal.

The ‘client is king’ culture applies to all within his team which ensures the customer receives the quality of worker they expect time and time again.

As a Liverpool fan he normally enjoys roller-coaster weekends. He also enjoys a spot of golf, albeit as they say ‘all the gear, no idea’. Anyone fancy a game?

RALPH PRESTON
REGIONAL DIRECTOR

Ralph joined 1st Step in 2015 and is responsible for business strategy, growth and development across the West of the UK.

Ralph has worked for some of the leading UK recruitment businesses since 1995, initially learning his trade within Construction recruitment as a Labour Controller & Consultant. Today he has valuable experience in managing teams and branches working in M&E Building Services, Utilities, Power Generation (NAECI), Renewable Energy, Petrochemical, Facilities Management and Construction Sectors.

Focused on customer satisfaction and staff retention means Ralph stays close to daily operations, his drive and commitment are to deliver practical solutions and offer a transparent service.

On the rare occasion he’s not working, weekends are spent running the line for his Son’s Football team as well as organising the fixtures. Most of the other parents (including his Wife and Daughter) still think he has a bit to learn about the offside rule.

GUY SMITHSON
BRANCH MANAGER

Guy Smithson is a Branch Manager responsible for the growth of 1st Steps client base across the Construction, M&E And Rail blue collar sectors.

Guy joined 1st Step in October 2013 having spent a previous and successful 10 years within the recruitment Industry. Guy has the ability to deliver to new and existing clients and build strong working relationships for the outset.

Guy is a Manchester United fan, enjoys weekends with the family, especially turning his hand at becoming a lumberjack to feed the woodburner!!

STUART WALLIS
EMPLOYEE & INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS MANAGER

Stuart is responsible for all elements of Employee & Industrial Relations, both internal and externally for 1st Step Solutions, developing the employment strategy and delivery for clients and staff alike.

He entered the employee & industrial relations career path in 1998, having previous worked in motor manufacturing and repair in the North West. His IR experience took him into the Construction Industry in 1999, and he rapidly gained experience on many sides of the Industrial Relations, working with Trade Unions, mediation bodies and employers associations, before becoming the Head of Labour Relations for a major M&E contractor in the UK. Stuart offers a wealth of experience which complements the services 1st Step provide.

Outside of work, Stuart is actively involved in charity fundraising and community schemes in his home village of Plumpton, East Sussex, where he is also a football coach for the junior football team. He is married with a Daughter and Son, and rarely can be called a glory hunter supporting his beloved Everton FC.

JOHN BAYLEY
BUSINESS MANAGER

John joined 1st Step in 2013 and has been an integral part in developing the Rail & Civils and Construction Divisions on a national basis.

Having worked on the tools for over 20 years and having progressed through site supervision and contracts management, John turned his attention to recruitment in 2008. His relationships with the workers and clients alike ensures a practical and knowledgeable approach.

John can’t often be found behind a desk, but instead will be travelling the length and breadth of the UK on site and offering practical recruitment solutions.

When he does get time to relax its normally with a finishing rod in one hand and a cold beer in the other.

JUSTIN PERRY
BUSINESS MANAGER

Justin is a Business Manager responsible for managing a range of Clients and winning new business.

Having joined 1st Step in April 2013 following a successful period within the Highways Reinstatement sector, and in a short time demonstrated his ability to adapt to life in recruitment and has been a consistent member of the M&E sales and account management team.

Another avid Arsenal fan and a keen footballer himself playing at the weekends for a local Essex team.

DAVINIA FARR
DIVISIONAL MANAGER

Davinia is the Divisional Manager at 1st Step Solutions and her role is to manage the delivery of contract technical candidates into the M&E white collar market.

Starting in the industry in 2000 she has progressed from the recruitment of Trades & Labour to her more professional freelance staff working for some of the Country’s leading Engineering contractors. She prides herself on delivering the very best available candidates in an extremely buoyant market by offering a honest and  transparent service.

The building and maintaining of relationships has been key to her success.

TOM CARTER
BUSINESS MANAGER

Tom joined the 1st Step team in August 2015 as a Business Manager with the remit to expand the local & International Renewable Energy Division.

Having a passion for the environment and sustainable technologies, Tom completed a Masters degree in Environmental Consultancy and Renewable Energy. He has now become an expert in this field and is keen to enable his clients to benefit from his wide industry knowledge.

Tom has established himself as an efficient and effective recruitment consultant, making successful placements with some of the largest multinational companies in the renewable sector. He is no stranger to working in emerging markets and thrives on supporting new ventures in remote and challenging Countries.

In keeping with his green roots, Tom spends his free time participating in a wide variety of outdoor pursuits including mountain biking and fishing.

SCOTT CRUMP
GROUP TRAINING MANAGER

Scott joined 1st Step in November 2015 as Group Training Manager and will be a key influencer in the development of all in house training.

Scott is NEBOSH, PTLLS and SMSTS qualified and has a real passion for training. Having joined the recruitment industry in 2000 where he was fast tracked to Labour Manager, he truly understands the needs for focussing on the upskilling of the transient workforce.

Focused on providing a high quality and  informative  service, Scott has brought a wealth of experience to 1st Step.

When Scott is not working he spends his time split between family and being an active member of the Special Constabulary. He is a budding Triathlete in the making and is still trying to beat the Brownlee Boys into second and third place.....he has a long way to go!

JAMES FORDE
SENIOR CONSULTANT

James is a Senior Consultant responsible for managing a range of Rail Clients and winning new business.

Having joined 1st Step in February 2014 and having started out in the recruitment industry in 2005, he has been tasked with growing and developing the Rail Division in London which includes Network Rail and London Underground specific projects.

An avid Chelsea fan who also loves watching a good game of egg chasing at Twickenham.

SEAN KELLY
SENIOR CONSULTANT

Sean is a Senior Consultant responsible for Managing a range of Clients and winning new Business.

Sean joined 1st Step in March 2012 as an Apprentice and has developed through the 1st Step Apprentice Training Programme and has now become a successful and important member of the team. His experience resides within the M&E blue collar recruitment sector, but his keen eye for detail is what makes him stand out from the crowd.

A keen Liverpool fan, Sean gets up to Anfield as much as possible, but if his team are failing on the pitch you’ll be sure to find him on his Play Station trying to make them a success.

MATTHEW WILLIAMS
BUSINESS MANAGER

Matthew joined 1st Step in January 2015 to establish a new Bristol Branch. Since 2001 he worked as a Senior Consultant with a major competitor specialising in M&E recruitment; previous to this he worked his way up from an Apprentice, Labour Manager and Consultant.

Having grown up in M&E and Construction recruitment since 1999, he understands the importance on listening and delivering on client and candidate expectations, whilst focusing on a professional and responsive service. Business development has always been high on his agenda but not at the expense of existing customer requirements.

Over the weekend Matthew enjoys taking his son to Rugby Tots and walks with the family and his dogs, however he can’t understand why the dogs often head to the pub!

CAMERON STRUTT
SENIOR CONSULTANT

Cameron is a Senior Consultant responsible for managing a range of Clients and winning new business.

Cameron joined 1st Step in October 2013 as an M&E Resourcer after completing his Business Management Degree to pursue a career within Recruitment.

He manages a variety of clients within Main Contractors, Sub Contractors and Consultancies with a bias towards the Commercial department. Outside of work Cameron is an avid runner and takes part in Marathons around Europe raising money for different charities (but is still trying to break that 4 hour mark).

NANA BOSS
DIVISIONAL MANAGER

Nana is a Divisional Manager within the 1st Step organisation. He is responsible for maintaining client relationships and new business development with clients across the M&E, Sub Contracting and main contracting industry. His industry knowledge covers all areas across the whole building envelope.

Nana’s industry knowledge varies over different sectors and has strong clients and candidates across the UK, Europe and the USA. His aim is to get the company’s presence known internationally. He is always looking for greater challenges in the workplace where he can bring and create new ideas which will help to increase and develop his skills as an individual and will also contribute to the company’s network.

Weekends and evenings are quite packed for him as he is a drummer, part time youth worker, former UK streetdance Champ and a devoted family man.

GENEVIEVE NORMAN
DIVISIONAL MANAGER

Genevieve Norman is the Divisional Manager for Commercial & Support Services Recruitment.

Genevieve joined the Recruitment sector as a Trainee in 2003. It became apparent very quickly that Genevieve had a natural talent for the industry and rapidly progressed to Senior Management.

In 2005 she was promoted to Branch Manager and has been working her way up the ranks within leadership posts ever since.

Genevieve spent 7 years working for the World’s largest staffing firm, and during her time there, managed a wide portfolio of Nation-wide accounts specialising in various sectors.

She has extensive experience in trouble shooting underperforming branches and developing talented consultants.

She is passionate about service delivery and instils this work ethos into her teams and is a firm believer of “leading by example”.

In her spare time, Genevieve can be found running about after her Daughter and her busy social life! Otherwise, she is an avid rugby and superbike fan and weather permitting; will be found out on her Suzuki GSXR600.


LAURA HOLDSTOCK
SENIOR CONSULTANT

Laura is a Senior Consultant at 1st Step Solutions, working within the Commercial division.

Starting her recruitment career as a Branch Administrator in 2008, she has progressed to a Senior Consultant level, now responsible for managing a range of clients and winning new business.

Laura has the ability to deliver results to new and existing clients, whilst building strong working relationships from initial contact.

She is highly customer focused, continually focusing on self-development to ensure both candidates and clients alike are given the best possible recruitment experience.