From obtaining capital to moving fast enough to compete, finding new employees and retaining them to genuinely connecting with customers, managing growth expectations whilst managing reputation and protecting your business from modern dangers and advancements – every year presents new and different challenges to business leaders.

Saltwater was founded with a single aim, to use our understanding of recruiting businesses and enterprise talent acquisition to help business leaders in the UK recruitment sector and wider UK & International industries overcome gaps in expertise to realise their vision.


In the UK 79% of recruitment firms reported an increasing net fee income – the second highest since 2013. However, the proportion of businesses reporting static income has also increased from a year ago, suggesting the pace of growth is slowing down.

(APSCo Deloitte UK Recruitment Index 2016)

Our Story

The blueprint was set 15 years ago, but it all crystalised around a swimming pool in Greece…

We are a married couple with different professional disciplines, one a multi-sector recruitment executive and the other a private equity HR Manager, both however focused on the common goal of effective talent acquisition and helping businesses being successful.

We discussed the challenges and pitfalls faced by business leaders today, the value of external leadership and expert guidance, and the importance of a true partnership in a business relationship. We saw the potential of our holistic experience and how we could drive performance in business today. So we set out on a journey to create an effective advisory and consulting business for the UK recruitment sector and UK & international industries, Saltwater was born.

Our 40 years of combined experience on the sell and buy side of executive and specialist recruiting, in the context of organisational HR and talent acquisition, and the leading of international staffing and strategic resourcing businesses to growth, give us a unique perspective. We have also learnt the importance of being reliable partners in business, and we believe in the sentiment and actions of being professional concierges - we learn our client’s problem and the context in which it exists, and then use our expertise, resources and energy to get optimum results.  Everything we do is geared to help our clients succeed.

“With any testimonial I believe it is important that the reader is given some context in which it is given. My current portfolio of Chairmanships within the sector, when combined, add up to an entity that has a turnover approaching£500m; NFI of over £120m and EBITDA of c£30m and over the years I have been on the Board of more than a dozen recruitment industry organisations.

Turning to David, I have known him for close to 20 years since he was a senior consultant and have acted as both a formal and informal mentor to him over the years. It is fair to say that David has grown to be an accomplished MD within the sector and a proven business leader. He has the rare mix of having both good strategic thinking capability and strong operational delivery skills. I particularly admire his commitment to looking at issues from the client's perspective and tailoring solutions accordingly.

I would recommend him to almost any business in the sector. He will work with you; he will challenge you but always deliver for you.

P.S. He's also a nice guy and fun to work with - which should not be underestimated in choosing an adviser.”

Stewart Rogers - Chairman of a portfolio of both private and PE backed recruitment businesses, currently including Morgan McKinley; Nurse Plus, Templine and Hallam Medical.
The Name

Salt water is a solution with inherent physical attributes of buoyancy and cleansing  – through the consistent delivery of our services we aim to become the Clients first choice, bringing such positive effects in all of the work we do.


Talent leaders aren’t convinced that they’re measuring quality of hire effectively. Only 33% of respondents feel that their methodologies are strong, and an even smaller 5% felt “best in class.” Therefore, there’s a lot of opportunity to improve how you calculate and present quality of hire.

(LinkedIn Talent Solutions - Global Recruiting Trends 2016)

The Team

David Etherington

A well networked and accomplished business manager with a broad range of experience at Board level, acquired through the successful management of a number of multi million pound recruitment businesses.

Experienced in both SME and Corporate firms, and thrives in the challenges both represent.  Market sectors served include international ICT, Software, Business Consulting, Engineering, Transportation and Security.

Core experience of growth planning and delivery, performance turnarounds, sales strategies, account strategies, executive mentoring, complex delivery strategies and execution, product development and new market creation.

In-depth understanding of sales and operational fundamentals relating to recruiting flexible or permanent resource in horizontal or vertical markets on a technical and professional level.

Leadership by example and personal coach with an underlying drive and determination to succeed combined with a desire and focus to develop others around him.  Well known for getting things done.

Professional Roles
  • Group COO at NP Group (Global)
  • Associate Partner at Astbury Marsden (UK) < PE backed ~ NVM Private Equity
  • Director at Capita IT Resourcing (UK & NI)
  • Director at Dome & Momentum Recruitment (UK & W.Europe)
  • Managing Director at White & Nunn Plc. (UK & EMEA) < PE backed ~ Sovereign Capital
  • Director at TechPartners International (UK, EMEA & US) < PE backed ~ Sovereign Capital
Recent Achievements
  • Delivered 25% CAGR (FY10 to FY16)
  • FY16 NFI £9.8m EBITDA 15%
  • NP Group Best Companies ‘One to Watch’ 2016
  • NP Group ranked 14th place in the 2016 Recruiter Fast 50
  • NP Group undergoes MBO with 3rd Party Investment 2015
  • NP Group proud winners of the Apprenticeships Program in 2010
Contact Details

TEL: +44 (0) 7810 828648

EMAIL: david@thesaltwaterproject.com

Helen Etherington

A Licentiate Member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development, and practiced professional HR Manager, possessing a broad range of generalist experience at a senior level, gained within the Private Equity Industry.

Extensive experience of internal recruitment as HR stakeholder manager including management of recruitment processes for all professional staff from management to executive levels, identifying resourcing requirements, working with senior management to drive activity, appointment of headhunters, interviewing and testing candidates, through to offer and on-boarding.

Talent management project management, including design and delivery of global end-to-end talent management programmes, assisting in the development and management of the personnel and training strategy within the framework of corporate strategy and policies, and management and development of annual appraisal, talent management and succession planning processes.

Responsibility for restructuring and redundancy exercises, advising on any company/departmental restructures and run subsequent redundancy processes.  Developing guidance notes and advising senior management teams on all HR policy related matter, including redundancy and restructure.

Compensation and benefits experience, managing full salary review, bonus and promotion processes. Management of the annual salary review and bonus process.   Preparation of salary survey data and making recommendations to the Remuneration Committee.  Administering capital allocation and carried interest payments in conjunction with offshore jurisdictions.

Professional Roles
  • HR Manager at Pantheon Ventures (Europe & Asia)
  • Human Resource Generalist at USS Investment Management (UK)
  • Human Resources Officer at Terra Firma Capital Partners (UK)
  • HR & Office Manager at Soden Construction (UK)
  • Human Resources at 3i Group plc. (Continental Europe)
Recent Achievements
Contact Details

TEL: +44 (0) 7841 163661

EMAIL: helen@thesaltwaterproject.com


72% of CEOs are concerned about the availability of key skills, particularly with 48% planning to increase headcount in the coming year. And it explains why by far the most CEOs (75%) say that a skilled, educated and adaptable workforce should be a priority for business in the country where they’re based

(PWC 19th Annual Global CEO Survey / January 2016)


Our services have been developed to support business owners and leaders in the staffing sector, as well as those industry leaders endeavoring to unlock talent challenges.

Growth NED

A Non Executive Director brings independent thinking and a fresh perspective to the Board Room. The extraneous factors that may affect a business can be changes in legislation, changes in competition, products or services and an effective value adding NED is a very cost effective tool in challenging complacency in the Board Room. Choosing the one who fits your circumstances will be dependent on where you are on the maturity curve.

Saltwater will focus on supporting business leaders with challenges associated with the growth agenda, broadening the horizons and experience of existing executive directors, facilitating the cross-fertilisation of ideas, particularly in terms of business strategy and planning.

Our guiding principles set the tone of honesty and transparency, with one simple goal in mind, to help business leaders succeed and prosper.

Strategic Advisory

Leveraging expertise in the business of recruitment, talent acquisition and structuring for fast growth, to assist business leaders with developing, communicating, executing and sustaining strategic initiatives.  Saltwater offers expertise in the following areas:

  • Expert sounding board for owners and directors
  • Creation and execution of company vision, strategy and business plans
  • Business transformation strategies
  • Optimising business operations
  • Market focus and development strategies
  • Hiring and retention strategies
  • Key staff motivation and rewards
  • Sales and marketing strategies

Project Consulting

Defined as work being project based, outside of a client’s business-as-usual and where there is a clear end point for Saltwater involvement as a service provider.  Responsibility for the final outcome or on-going service largely rests with the client.  Saltwater offers expertise in the following disciplines:

  • Business transformation
  • Business turnarounds
  • Client strategies
  • Product strategies
  • Industry expert due diligence
  • Sales management coaching
  • Profit improvement

Interim Management

Defined as a person filling ‘business as usual’ roles within an existing organisational structure that would otherwise be undertaken by a salaried permanent member of staff.  Saltwater offers interim services in the following roles:

  • Chief Executive
  • Chief Operating Officer
  • Chief Strategy Officer
  • Chief Sales Officer/Head of Sales
  • Managing Director
  • Human Resources Manager
  • Human Resources Business Partner
  • Talent Acquisition Manager 

Launch Partner

From taking a new idea to market to assisting an established business make a new regional entrance, Saltwater is able to utilise its experience and resource network to drive the legal, operational and outward facing workload.

Strategic Talent Acquisition

With significant experience of managing complex and critical hiring projects and programmes in a local and international context, Saltwater has the capability to own your most important or challenging projects through to completion, whether personally delivered or through managing your internal talent acquisition and recruiting partners.

  • Retained executive search
  • Retained managed talent acquisition
  • Talent acquisition strategies
  • Optimising internal talent acquisition team performance
  • Effective supply chain establishment
  • Quality of hire management/measurement
  • Fast Start – probation coaching

“Dave makes doing business very easy. He listens, presents back solutions and then, most importantly, executes.”

Mike Davis – Client Director at Temenos
Values & Guiding Principles

Our guiding principles represent the professional and personal beliefs we have become known for, providing daily decision guidelines that keep us true to ourselves and help others to understand what to expect from us.


is central to our client-first strategy, borne out in our concierge-style services. Everything we do is geared to help our clients succeed and we pride ourselves on fostering long lasting relationships as trusted industry specialists who can take a task and deliver it in the best interests of our clients.


with integrity, counted on to do the right thing, at the right time and for all the right reasons.  Consciously making moral and ethical decisions every day, building trust, and positively influencing others to act, to know, or to be.  Delivering the truth consistently.


and accountability in everything that we do together, accompanied by drive and determination to complete tasks successfully; flexibly, creatively, resourcefully.


Faced with significant transformation plans and rapidly advancing technology, 99% of CEO’s report taking action to develop existing or future talent. In line with these findings, most CEO’s report some level of skills gap emerging. Over 50% report skills gaps in key business functions. This will likely create challenges for the 96% of CEO’s who plan to increase their headcount over the next 3 years.

(KPMG’s 2016 Global CEO Outlook)






TEL: +44 (0) 207 856 9270