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The return of the specialists WWW.RECRUITER.CO.UK 19

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This year saw the return of the niche recruiters for constituents of the latest Recruiter FAST 50 Rank 1 2  3 4 5  6  7 8 9  10  11 12 13  14 15 16  17 18 19 20 21  22 23  24 25  26 27 28  29 30  31  32 33  34 35  36 37 38  39 40 41 42 43  44  45  46 47 48 49 50

2016 ranking 38

7 2

6 7



24 25 13

12 18 28 32 37


46 21 20


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Falcon Green Personnel One Call Recruitment Core-Asset Consulting X4 Group Urban Recruitment MSI Group Plan B Healthcare Red Snapper Group Swanstaff Recruitment Hallam Medical Your World Recruitment Group Venturi TeacherActive Prospero Teaching STR Group Service Care Solutions Athona Recruitment National Locums Caval MC Personnel Newcross Healthcare The Shore Group ID Medical Group BRC Spencer Ogden Specialist People Services (SPS) Group Smart Solutions Recruitment Gravitas Recruitment Group Time 4 Recruitment Concept Recruitment Group Phaidon International Antal International Nurse Plus Evergood Associates Encore Personnel Eames Consulting Group Engage Education Morgan Law Futureheads SSQ (formerly Shilton Sharpe Quarry) Oliver James Associates Tailored Recruitment Services La Fosse Associates Sanctuary Personnel Navartis Roc Search IC Resources Burns Sheehan Bespoke Careers Direct Medics

Construction Industrial Finance IT, engineering, pharma Healthcare Healthcare Healthcare Professional Multi-sector Healthcare Healthcare IT Education Education Technical Multi-sector Healthcare, education Healthcare Construction Multi-sector Healthcare Construction Healthcare Construction, healthcare Technical Industrial Industrial IT, finance Multi-sector Multi-sector Professional Executive search Healthcare Healthcare Industrial Executive search Education Professional IT Professional Professional Industrial IT Healthcare Technical IT, engineering IT IT Professional Healthcare

Revenue (£000s) 19,012 29,345 12,016 14,254 42,404 56,033 24,392 20,480 19,002 19,812 98,232 11,898 25,523 23,486 46,956 35,634 38,609 13,018 19,173 10,318 89,930 28,901 165,064 15,171 97,438 46,134 78,497 20,193 13,087 35,645 33,031 19,930 45,900 23,932 53,719 32,688 32,404 40,925 10,953 24,573 67,018 29,474 41,013 105,018 29,456 24,682 13,457 17,738 12,903 27,906

Compound annual growth rate (%) 76.0% 75.4% 72.6% 68.8% 65.2% 65.1% 64.5% 64.1% 59.7% 57.1% 57.0% 53.9% 52.4% 50.3% 49.7% 48.0% 46.6% 46.4% 43.3% 40.9% 40.7% 39.3% 39.2% 38.7% 37.7% 37.4% 36.7% 36.3% 35.3% 34.5% 34.2% 33.8% 33.8% 33.5% 33.4% 33.4% 33.2% 33.1% 33.1% 33.0% 32.7% 32.1% 31.3% 31.2% 30.8% 29.6% 29.5% 29.2% 29.0% 28.7%


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Key shareholders



Financial year-end

Jack O'Connell, Joseph Sweeney, Kieran Nestor Andrew Chittock, Sharon Chittock Elizabeth Williamson Glenn Norris, Michael Norris, Peter Rabey H.T. Smith Settlement of 22.07.2009 Nicky Simpson Kevin Coyle Martin Jerrold Stephen Rogers Key Capital Partners Anthony Moss, Richard Phillips Brad Lamb Simon Ryder, Jagjeet Uppal Robert Grays, Lesley Phillips Richard Crawley Richard Freye Stewart London, Tina London David Cook Multiple Claire Robson, Melanie Maynard Michelle Gorringe, Stephen Pattrick Frank Ashbee, James Hobden, Lewis Johnson Mike Sacoor, Mo Sacoor Paul Howe Peter Ogden, David Spencer-Percival LDC Nathan Bowles Jonathan Ellerbeck Grant Lillywhite, Kamal Martin Concept Group Employee Benefit Trust Multiple Tony Goodwin Sovereign Capital Martin Healy Christopher Hockey, Greg Latham Matthew Eames Robert Harvey, Matthew Ellis David Morgan Gill Arnold, Charlie Hoult, Rachel Murray, Be Kaler June Barr Oliver Castle, James Rogers Alan O'Grady, Kevin Birch Simon La Fosse, Linda La Fosse James Rook James Sloan Conor Roughneen Multiple Sean Burns, Jon Sheehan Lindsay Urquhart-Turton Paul Mulvenna, Anne-Marie Flannery

London Peterborough Edinburgh London London London London London Dartford Sheffield London Manchester Birmingham London Portsmouth Preston Brentwood Milton Keynes Leeds Gillingham Totnes Hove Milton Keynes Bristol London Bradford Newport London Cardiff Leeds London London Canterbury Hertford Leicester London Watford London London London London St Helens London Ipswich Doncaster Reading Reading London London Belfast

Mar 2016 Mar 2016 Jun 2015 Sep 2015 Aug 2015 Dec 2015 Sep 2015 May 2015 Mar 2015 Apr 2015 Dec 2015 Mar 2016 Dec 2015 Jun 2016 Dec 2015 Mar 2016 Jul 2015 Feb 2016 Dec 2015 Dec 2015 Apr 2016 Dec 2015 Dec 2015 Mar 2015 Dec 2015 Mar 2016 Jul 2015 Dec 2015 Dec 2015 Jun 2015 Oct 2015 Dec 2015 Mar 2015 Sep 2015 Dec 2015 Dec 2015 Dec 2015 Sep 2015 Dec 2015 Dec 2015 Dec 2015 Dec 2015 Dec 2015 Oct 2015 Mar 2016 Dec 2015 Oct 2015 Nov 2015 Jun 2015 Jan 2016

* If the head office is not stated, then location closest to registered address used


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NICHE RETURNS Compiled by mergers & acquisitions specialist Clearwater International, the Recruiter FAST 50 demonstrates that privately-owned recruitment firms continue to deliver high levels of growth. Clearwater’s Marcus Archer and Mark Maunsell reveal the data behind this year’s findings


onstituents of this year’s 2017 FAST 50 grew by an average compound annual growth rate of 43%, marginally down from the 44% seen in 2016. The results are based on financial years ending between March 2015 and June 2016, and therefore do not take into consideration any potential impact from Brexit. Unlike previous years, when the multi-sector recruitment agencies had the highest representation, this year saw the return of niche sector specialists. Healthcare topped the sectors with a total of 14 companies, six of which have been ranked on the list at least once before. It is a market facing chronic shortages, but one that has undergone a structural change following the introduction of price caps in November 2015. While the full effect of these caps will not be reflected in this year’s FAST 50, NHS Improvement, which is responsible for overseeing foundation trusts and NHS trusts, as well as independent providers that provide NHS-funded care, has a target reduction of £1bn agency spend for the year 2016/17 and increasing appetite to suspend non-core services rather than overspend on staff. This will materially impact off-framework providers moving forward. In contrast,


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on-framework and compliant recruiters remain well positioned to benefit from the huge supply-demand imbalance in the NHS, albeit likely at reduced operating margins. Education is another sector with strong underlying market fundamentals. A growing number of pupils, an ageing workforce and a significant proportion of newly-qualified teachers leaving the profession within five years are just a few of the reasons the market faces acute talent shortages. The situation is being exacerbated by long-standing prestigious institutions, like Harrow and Marlborough, which are attempting to lure UK teachers to newly-developed international operations. Consequently, education recruiters who are able to

Next year will be particularly interesting as we look to determine any impact of Brexit

access vetted and compliant candidates have been achieving exceptional growth. In this year’s FAST 50, five specialist education agencies featured, up from one the previous year. A special mention should go to Birmingham-headquartered TeacherActive, which has ranked in the top 20 for the second consecutive year. The construction, engineering and technical recruitment markets featured strongly in 2016’s FAST 50 and 2017 is no different. Collectively, the companies in these sectors make up nearly a fifth of the total and include the fastest growing agency, Falcon Green Personnel. The data illustrates how the sectors have recovered since the recession, buoyed by major infrastructure projects such as HS2 and Crossrail, and government initiatives in the construction sector such as ‘help to buy’. With strong growth being recorded across the professional services market in the last few years, it comes as no surprise that recruiters with expertise in areas such as compliance, legal and consulting feature in this year’s FAST 50. In fact, a total of six specialist recruiters ranked, with Phaidon International and Morgan Law appearing for the second consecutive year. Furthermore, with law firms and consultancy groups being heralded as one of the likely benefactors of Brexit primarily due to an increase in regulatory work,


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+ L-r: MARCUS ARCHER and MARK MAUNSELL, compilers of the Recruiter FAST 50 report from corporate finance house and international M&A specialist Clearwater International

professional services recruiters are well placed to feature next year. In previous years IT recruiters were under-represented in the FAST 50, which was largely attributed to the high levels of mergers & acquisitions (M&As) and a more consolidated sector, rather than incumbents failing to achieve the appropriate levels of growth. However, in this year’s table, eight specialist IT recruiters ranked. The results come as no surprise, as similar to the education market, the technology sector suffers from chronic talent shortages and inadequate

levels of investment in training. Equally, demand is high as companies attempt to remain at the forefront of technology advancement and businesses continue to push further into the digital world. Further, high profile data breaches, as seen with the likes of TalkTalk and Sage, act as a stark reminder of the necessity to invest in these areas. The UK recruitment marketplace is not only one of the largest in Europe, but it is also one of the most fragmented. Research by the World Employment Confederation (previously Ciett) suggests there are 18,000

METHODOLOGY The annual Recruiter FAST 50 prepared by Clearwater International lists the fastest-growing, privately-owned recruitment companies in the UK, according to a revenue compound annual growth rate over the three most recent annual reporting periods.

CRITERIA FOR INCLUSION: To qualify, companies must be unquoted, registered in the UK and not subsidiaries, although their ultimate holding companies may be based offshore. Companies which are backed by private equity or other financial investors, either minority or majority equity stake, are also considered for inclusion. All companies considered for inclusion must achieve minimum annual sales of £5m in each of their last three financial years.

EXCLUSIONS: Companies that have filed abbreviated accounts at Companies House without disclosing audited sales are excluded from the FAST 50. Companies whose latest available filed accounts are 2014 or before are excluded. Companies that are not ‘pure play’ recruitment companies are also not considered. Recruiters that are co-owned by foreign trade recruitment companies or where a listed recruitment firm holds a minority stake are also discounted. Finally, employment agencies in breach of required licence arrangements are also excluded at any point during the period of analysis.

DATA COLLECTION METHODS: Qualifying companies are identified through independent research, which utilises a number of financial databases, Companies House information, press coverage and other research sources. Entry submissions are therefore not required, although any firm that believes that it may not be automatically assessed in the 2018 FAST 50 may contact Clearwater International to discuss. Please email mark.

privately-owned agencies in the UK and this number is growing at a phenomenal rate. Consequently, the makeup of the FAST 50 has been shifting, as more established recruiters struggle to maintain such high levels of percentage growth and, as such, give way to a new a breed of recently formed entities. In this year’s ranking, 32 of the companies placed for the first time, with six of them having been founded in the last six years. The best example is the aforementioned Falcon Green Personnel, a business that was only incorporated in 2012 and this year topped the ranking (see p26 for The Big Story). Though the recruitment sector is one of the most active in terms of M&A, FAST 50 firms, in both this year and previous, primarily opt to develop organic growth strategies. This often comes in the form of international expansion, as is the case with Gravitas Recruitment Group, which recently expanded its presence in the US, but often also includes targeting adjacent markets, as seen by MC Personnel. An alternative growth strategy is to leverage strong balance sheets and deploy capital through engaging in M&A activity. A good example is that of industrial recruiter One Call Recruitment, whose purchase of Lincolnshire agency Epton Employment Services all but doubled the size of the group. Mark Maunsell, associate director, Business Services Market Intelligence at Clearwater International, says: “It is extremely positive to see this year’s FAST 50 report such high levels of growth. The overarching theme continues to be the severe talent shortages, particularly in the construction, healthcare, IT and education markets. Specialists in these verticals with access to extensive candidate databases have outperformed multi-sector recruiters. Looking forward, next year will be particularly interesting as we look to determine any impact of Brexit, especially if the supply of skilled EU workers is in any way curtailed.” WWW.RECRUITER.CO.UK 23

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Topping the 2017 Recruiter FAST 50 charts, construction recruiter Falcon Green is aiming to soar to even greater heights in the years ahead. Colin Cottell reports


No one could accuse construction recruiter Falcon Green, the top-ranked company in this year’s Recruiter FAST 50, of not aiming high. “We see ourselves as the Virgin Atlantic of recruitment, providing a first-class service with a first-class team,” says Jack O’Connell, one of the company’s three director owners. Although Falcon Green provides staff CAMPBELL for companies that operate closer to the ground than Virgin’s 30,000ft, its position at the top of the 2017 Recruiter FAST 50, the definitive list of the UK’s fastest growing recruitment companies, with a compound average growth rate in the last three years of 76%, is proof that it is already flying high in its own right. Although only a smidgeon above the second-ranked company, this


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L-r: Joseph Sweeney, Kieran Nestor and Jack O’Connell

Secret of success Being hardworking and honest with your clients Jack O’Connell WWW.RECRUITER.CO.UK 27

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has clearly not taken the edge off the achievement for O’Connell, and his fellow directors Joseph Sweeney and Kieran Nestor. “We will take it,” says O’Connell, clearly delighted, as the three men sit around a table at the company’s City of London offices. Although Falcon Green (originally Falcon Green Personnel before a rebranding at the start of 2017) only opened its doors for business in the autumn of 2012, its growth has been impressive. Starting with just five staff, within the next three-and-a-half years, staff numbers quadrupled to 20, with turnover reaching £19m in the year ending 31 March 2016. According to Nestor, the company’s financial guru, as “a sign of efficiency” the company 28 RECRUITER

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Falcon Green Founded 2012 (original name was Falcon Green Personnel) Offices in London, Manchester and Birmingham Employees 24 Year ended 31 March 2013 31 March 2014 31 March 2015 31 March 2016 31 March 2017* *Projected

Revenue £350K £6M £12m £19m £24m

Staff 5 10 15 20 24

has adopted a rough rule of thumb of £1m of turnover per employee. With 24 staff currently employed and expected turnover for 2016/17 of £24m, the company is exactly on track. Falcon Green’s client list is equally impressive, including a host of wellknown companies such as Kier, Willmott Dixon, Galliard Homes, McLaren and Bowmer & Kirkland. “We have a lovely spread of clients across construction, development, luxury residential commercial fit-out and engineering,” says O’Connell, whose role is primarily one of business development and strategy. The company is also moving with its clients as developers shift their focus from central to outer London, and to other cities, notably Birmingham and


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Philosophy of recruitment Recruit, retain, engage and develop the best people possible Joseph Sweeney

Manchester. It works with 110 companies on a weekly basis. “You don’t want all your eggs in one basket. We have a great spread and are not reliant on any one company,” says O’Connell. On an average day, the company has around 850 temps on site across much of the UK, of whom around 100 are white-collar technical/professionals, and the remainder blue collar, mainly tradespeople. “A first-class service is our mantra,” says O’Connell, picking up the Virgin Atlantic comparison theme. “It’s all about face-to-face time with our clients, that kind of personal element,” adds Sweeney, who explains the thinking behind the company’s policy of employing mobile managers and consultants. “It’s a

hands-on approach, dropping guys to sites, and making sure that clients are happy with the service. Each labour manager looks after a particular area and knows the clients in that area, and who the best operatives are to meet their requirements.” Relationships are key, says Sweeney: “Clients probably don’t use Falcon Green, they probably use Jack O’Connell because they have that relationship with Jack O’Connell.” Adds O’Connell: “We like dealing with the decision maker.” The three directors clearly believe it is an approach that works. “We have yet to lose a project or client, so our service is always hitting the mark,” says Sweeney, whose role focuses on the operations side of Falcon Green’s business. Indeed, according to Nestor the most difficult decision they have to make is turning down work. “We want to work with the best. We will always look at a company’s history and its reputation as well,” he explains. Integral to this high level of service is what O’Connell describes as “the best decision” he has made, namely, Falcon Green’s business unit system, which consists of seven business units specialising in particular areas of the market. These include two wellestablished business units, covering trades, specialists and operatives (temps), and others focused on areas that are forecast to grow fast, such as white collar (temp and perm). Cross-selling between the white-collar and blue-collar business units is an important feature, creating “a fantastic team ethic that underpins the business”. Unlike many recruiters, staff have ‘a 360-degree role’ being responsible for both business development and filling the vacancy. “This makes us very efficient as a business and is a massive reason for

our success,” says O’Connell. Hand in hand with this is how the company treats and manages its own staff. Not only are they paid around 20% more than market rate, the three directors place great emphasis on spending a lot of their own time supporting, training and mentoring them. “We could easily double the overhead in terms of staff, it would be easy to fall into that trap, but we believe we are better off investing in our people and letting them grow as opposed to putting bums on seats, which is the industry norm,” says O’Connell. “Our team is pivotal, and we have to support them and value them if they are to deliver this product,” says Sweeney. “We really empower our workforce to make decisions,” adds O’Connell. “We have an open door policy,” says Nestor. “The only three bosses are us and everybody else can come straight in and talk to us. This means we know what is going on and if there is an issue. We don’t want anyone feeling they can’t tell us anything.” Nestor jokes about the company’s horizontal management, explaining that he doesn’t mean “horizontal in the sense that we are all lying down asleep” but that it refers to the company’s flat structure. But behind the humour is a serious point, which is this lack of hierarchy with its associated “open door policy” has been pivotal to the company’s success. O’Connell points out that only five staff have ever left Falcon Green and all of these did so because they were moving home. None have jumped ship to another recruiter. Choosing the right candidate for the right client is also important, says Sweeney, which is why, rather than registering candidates over the telephone, they are asked to come in WWW.RECRUITER.CO.UK 29

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to the office, where they are questioned about their experience and their documentation is checked before they are allowed to go on site. “They really trust us, and we get an amazing number of referrals, the phone is literally ringing all the time with ‘I heard you are really good to work for, can I register?’,” says O’Connell. The three directors – all originally from County Cork, Ireland, and all graduates in either business or law – got into recruitment through a mixture of both traditional and unusual routes. O’Connell, who briefly worked at Merrill Lynch, and Sweeney admit to falling into it after working on construction sites in London and New York respectively during their younger days. Nestor, who worked in accountancy before moving into pubs and nightclubs and renting out golf carts, knew O’Connell back in Cork, and says he was “delighted to jump on board” when approached by him in 2012. O’Connell and Sweeney first met when both men worked for a construction recruitment company in London in the late ‘noughties’ – although O’Connell says he does not wish to endorse the company concerned by identifying it – before setting up Falcon Green. “We were just coming out of recession, and people told me it was crazy to set up a company in that economic climate, but we have gone from strength to strength,” O’Connell says. With the company sitting proudly at the top of this year’s FAST 50 that cannot be doubted. However, the three directors say this is just the start, and they have ambitious plans to kick on. Not only do they want to continue to develop the seven existing business units to full maturity, they also want to add a new business unit each year until 2022, and have set a target of

Jack O’Connell


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£50m turnover by 2022. With 90% of its business coming from the temp market, the company has identified white-collar perm recruitment as a particular growth area, and have already put a team in place to drive that growth. Despite the construction sector’s long history of ups followed by downs, as well as the potential threat that workers, many of whom come from countries in Eastern Europe, will no longer be free to come to the UK after Brexit, the three men are relentlessly upbeat about the future. “The UK and London in particular will always have investors, such as Americans, Chinese and people from the Middle East, so you are always going to have those income streams coming in,” says Nestor. That said, O’Connell accepts the sector needs to do more to get youngsters interested in construction. With this in mind, they are actively considering going into schools themselves. The company also plans to invest more in technology. And following a successful digital marketing campaign that resulted in 2,000 workers registering with Falcon Green, plans are also well advanced for the launch of a new app. This will provide candidates with up-to-date information, as well as news from Falcon Green (for example, about the company’s employee of the month), and “get them more vested in our business and our philosophy”, explains O’Connell. As the fastest-growing recruiter in the UK Falcon Green is already flying high. But if things go to plan, just like the company that inspires them, Richard Branson’s Virgin, with its plans for manned spaceflights, the company and its three directors could be about to go into orbit. ●

Joseph Sweeney

Kieran Nestor


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Recruiter Fast 50 - February 2017  
Recruiter Fast 50 - February 2017