Meet John Lennon, CEO of Technology Recruitment Business: THRYVE

John Lennon – no, not that one, Beatles fans – is not your typical CEO. Facing challenges from a young age, the odds of John succeeding in the business world were firmly stacked against him.

From growing up in a single parent household in Wandsworth, his mother working multiple jobs to put food on the table, to funding himself through his degree – as the first person in his family to attend university – John’s drive was plain to see. Despite continually battling difficulties such as a stammer, depression and undiagnosed ADHD, John’s meteoric rise has seen him set up one of Europe’s leading technology recruitment businesses, THRYVE, whilst still in his early 30s.


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Tell us about THRYVE, how did it start?


While my stammer presented me with a series of obstacles as a child, it has also shaped my career. I didn’t want it holding me back, so I challenged myself by studying a degree that forced me to speak. I graduated with a BA in German and Politics, and a year abroad speaking German was the foundation of my career.

As a fluent German speaker, I joined a technology recruitment company and built out their German function, growing the team from just a handful of staff to over 25 employees. This led to me founding THRYVE in 2014 and I have specialised in technology recruitment across that market ever since.



What challenges have you faced?


I had a difficult childhood; I was a very quiet child as a result of my stammer, and the concept of reading aloud at school, for example, filled me with dread. This manifested itself as anxiety in later years as I avoided social settings.

I knew I had to challenge myself to overcome these issues and aged 16 I went on a two-week intensive speech therapy course which changed my life. Mind you, my stammer hasn’t been ‘cured’ – you can’t cure a stammer – but I use various techniques to help my fluency and continue to challenge myself to do things that I know will boost my confidence.

Having ADHD was also prohibitive and my life has dramatically improved since the diagnosis. I am now able to understand myself better.


How have your issues with your mental health influenced your business mentality?


Recruitment is notorious for promoting practices and behaviours that aren’t conducive to good mental health. The pressure of high targets can lead to stress, risky behaviour, and substance abuse. Add in toxic masculinity and inexperienced managers who don’t know how to deal with issues, and you have disasters waiting to happen.

We cannot change the nature of the job – recruiters are the mediators between two very volatile parts and this creates stress – but we can take mental health seriously. We need to look at the cultures we create in our own businesses, see where we can improve and encourage debate about mental health, which starts with business leaders being more open.

It was important to me to build a support system for staff at THRYVE and we researched extensively how to improve the team’s work/life balance. Amongst other initiatives, we introduced a four-day working week in 2021 and the results have been incredible. Staff have committed to working effectively and focusing on quality, in the knowledge that they have an extra day available – because time is the most precious commodity. After just three months, 84 per cent of staff reported a significant drop in work-related stress, nine in ten (89 per cent) stated they have become more productive, and 94 per cent say that they have a far better work-life balance.


What can we hope to see from THRYVE in the future?


While many businesses struggled through the pandemic, we achieved 138 per cent revenue growth between 2020-2021 and doubled the size of the team in our best business year to date. So, we’re very excited about the prospect of building on this success and continuing to grow the team, particularly as the economy continues to pick up. We are also creating a community within the tech space, Tech Leaders Germany, that will facilitate peer-to-peer networking and learning from the industry’s brightest minds.

Meanwhile we are supporting charitable and sustainable causes – we partnered with Ecosia in 2021, planting 10,000 trees and raised funds for MyAFK, a community charity in North London that supports children and young adults with learning difficulties.