LEARNING FROM THE EXPERTS Recruiter ’s Best New Agency award finalists share their tips
STARTING YOUR OWN RECRUITMENT BUSINESS 2016
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STARTING YOUR OWN RECRUITMENT BUSINESS A
04 SUCCESSFUL PIONEERS Separating the great from the good 08 FROM C-SUITE TO START-UP Even senior recruiters face challenges when striking out on their own 17 BEEN THERE, DONE THAT Recruiter’s Best New Agency finalists share their tips and advice
24 MY BEAUTIFUL RECRUITMENT START-UP CAREER Mark Stephens, CEO and founder of Smart Recruit Online 26 A YEAR IN THE LIFE OF... Darren Ryemill, Recruiter’s Entrepreneur of the Year 2015
SPONSOR’S STATEMENT We are pleased to be sponsoring Recruiter’s start-up guide for the second year in a row and it has been interesting to write for it 12 months on. So what has happened in the past year? Well, there are many people who are still thinking about starting! There are also many who are currently experiencing a mixture of nervousness and excitement at the first few months of trading as their business starts to take shape and the first revenue starts to roll in. Most exciting, though, is seeing some of the phenomenal success that some fledgling businesses have experienced in just 12 months. In 2015, we have seen companies grow, recruit staff, move offices and become key suppliers to an impressive client list. Being involved with the rapid success of many start-ups throughout 2015 has challenged us, ensuring that our support package is always one step ahead of our customers — the support and help needed by a recruitment business on day one becomes very different in month 12 and month 24. We are excited to still be involved in the continued growth and development of companies that we have set up in recent years. There are also some great plans among the 2016 start-ups, which we are pleased to be part of. We hope their success and our relationship with them follows the same paths as 3R start-ups from previous years.
Mike Bowler, Managing Director, 3R
Welcome to our 2016 guide to starting up your own recruitment business! If any single characteristic epitomises the UK recruitment industry, it’s entrepreneurship — the impetus to take one’s learning and experience and, with ambition and drive, to create a unique new business. Ours is an industry that is constantly regenerating itself into exciting and exhilarating directions with neither time nor inclination to stagnate. In this edition of our guide, we introduce you to a number of recruiters who have bitten the bullet and taken the plunge, and shared their experiences to both inspire and educate you to the possibilities of what is possible, and the potential pitfalls. If you’re thinking about going out on your own, while wide-eyed optimism is important, clear-eyed pragmatism must also be the dominant factor in your formula for success. Be brave, be bold and be practical. Success could be yours for the taking.
DeeDee Doke, Editor
EDITORIAL +44 (0)20 7880 7606 Editor DeeDee Doke firstname.lastname@example.org Contributing writer Colin Cottell Production editor Vanessa Townsend vanessa. email@example.com Production assistant Sarah Marquet Art editor Rebecca Worrell Picture editor Akin Falope ADVERTISING +44 (0)20 7880 7607 Sales manager Tom Culley firstname.lastname@example.org Senior sales executive Josh Hannagan email@example.com RECRUITMENT ADVERTISING +44 (0)20 7880 7607 Tom Culley firstname.lastname@example.org PRODUCTION +44 (0)20 7880 6209 Production executive Rachel Young email@example.com PUBLISHING +44 (0)20 7880 8547 Publishing director Aaron Nicholls firstname.lastname@example.org CIRCULATION AND SUBSCRIPTIONS To receive a regular copy of Recruiter, the leading magazine for recruitment and resourcing professionals, telephone +44 (0)20 8950 9117 or email email@example.com • Recruiter is also available to people who do not meet our terms of control: Annual subscription rate for 12 issues: £29.99 UK; £35 Europe and Rest of the World • To purchase reprints or multiple copies of the magazine, contact Abacus e-Media T: +44 (0)20 8950 9117 or email firstname.lastname@example.org © 2016 Redactive Media Group. All rights reserved. ISSN 1475-7478 WWW.RECRUITER.CO.UK
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STARTING YOUR OWN RECRUITMENT BUSINESS
BY CO BY COL C OL O LIN NC CO COT OT TTE TEL TEL LL
PIONEERING START-UPS: DRIVE, DETERMINATION AND RELENTLESS FOCUS
“ you look at the “If truly great new startups, they all come in understanding un that you are in a race against ag time before the money runs out and you go bust”
201 2016 016
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In the absence of a crystal ball no one can ever really know which recruitment start-ups will succeed and which will fall by the wayside. Suppliers to the recruitment industry, who deal with recruitment agency ‘newbies’ on a regular basis are, however, better placed than most to make that judgement. Mike Bowler, managing director of cloud-based technology provider for recruitment start-ups 3R, says one factor that differentiates the winners from the rest is the founders themselves. “I think the common theme is how people throw themselves into something — that determination and tenacity from day one. Those are the ones who you know are going to be successful,” Bowler tells Recruiter. “It is really about innovation and energy. These are the two most important things I look for,” says John Atkinson, head of commercial business at Hitachi Capital Invoice Finance. “Having that energy makes a massive difference.” And alongside this comes the determination “to follow through what they say they are going to do”. “Lots of people have great ideas, but not so many people put them into practice and follow through,” he adds. “It is not easy. There will be obstacles, but it is having the drive and determination to overcome them.” Mark Bowyer, commercial director of recruitment software company Microdec, agrees that being self-motivated and having the determination to do whatever it takes to succeed can’t be underestimated. “When people are in a start-up they have got to be a bit of everything: IT manager, ﬁnance manager, operations manager, as well as their own sales manager. They have to have a well-rounded view. As they get bigger they can pass these tasks off, but they have to take them on at the start.” Start-ups run by founders who are honest and straightforward in their business dealings are also the ones that tend to be successful, says Atkinson. “In the recruitment industry some people are kind of ballsy and over-egg it. But if you are not honest and straightforward in your
dealings it comes out, and it catches you out.” Bowler says that successful start-ups tend to have a relentless focus on what is important, and to ignore the fripperies and nice-to-haves of business life. “Okay, the website is not ready for a couple of weeks. No problem, let me just crack on. Their primary objective is to start doing business immediately.” In contrast, he adds, “you notice sometimes people procrastinate about little details”. According to Bowler, the latter are less likely to succeed.
SIGNPOSTING THE GREAT Darren Ryemill, founder and chief executive of Opus Professional Services Group, and Recruiter’s 2015 Recruitment Entrepreneur of the Year, concurs. Speaking of his own experience, the serial recruitment entrepreneur says his focus has always been “on sales and getting the money in”. He explains: “We needed to bill a pound before we could spend a pound, so what the website looked like, how many brochures we had to give out, or what my business card looked like — all these things were quite frankly irrelevant and not on my mind. “If you look at the truly great new start-ups, they all come in understanding that they need to make money because you are in a race against time before the money runs out and you go bust.” Bowyer says he looks for clues in a startup founder’s background. “If they leave a recruitment company at the top of their game to start up their own business, that is a good sign that they are going to do well,” he says. However, “if they are people who have worked for a couple of big recruitment companies and have struggled
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STARTING YOUR OWN RECRUITMENT BUSINESS and are under pressure, that is not a good d sign, and they are probably not a ‘natural’ at it”. t”. A founder’s motivation is often a tell-tale -tale sign Bowler concurs. “There are people who set up in recruitment, who don’t know anything g about recruitment. They believe there is good d money in it, but they soon realise how hard it is, and they take a backseat and disappear. “I would say if you haven’t really got experience perience of recruitment, you shouldn’t go into it at all,” Bowler adds. “At least some exposure to recruitment is an absolute must,” agrees Ryemill. “So often, I see people who set up recruitment businesses without any recruitment experience. You might get a software business who thinks ‘we can do recruitment’. You might know the people and you might have the contacts with people, but it doesn’t mean you will be good at recruitment. It’s a completely different business.”
“Another common trait associated with successful recruitment start-ups is careful planning combined with patience”
STAND OUT IN THE CROWD
well before expanding into other markets,” she advises. “Probably the most important thing is setting your store out and being very clear about what your area of expertise is and marketing yourself accordingly,” Bowler agrees. “If you are starting up a recruitment business the way to compete in that market is working out how you are going to compete against the larger established companies,” he continues. “You are going to do that by pinpointing a particular area in which you have expertise and cannot only compete against them but beat them,” he advises. “That is where we are seeing examples of successful start-ups who are doing extraordinarily well — who are all experts in really small niches.” Bowler says another common trait associated with successful recruitment start-ups is careful planning combined with patience. “These are the real slow burners in terms of understanding what their business is, what their target market is, planning it and thinking about it, weighing up whether it is going to suit them or if they are going to be better off staying in an employed environment. “These are people who are prepared to spend three to six months or even more to make a proper educated decision, and it almost always works out. The ones that are failures, you think, ‘You didn’t really think this through did you’. I think that’s the bottom line.” “So many recruitment businesses fail because people forget who they are and what they are trying to achieve,” adds Ryemill. “They need to cast their mind back to the starry-eyed individual who wanted to buy a Porsche, and wanted to buy a yacht, and wanted to be the best recruiter on the planet.”
Amanda Hobson, managing director of funding, payroll and back office service provider Easypay Services, says that in recent years she has seen a lot of new agencies set up in different sectors. “The ones that do well are those with a really good business plan and a niche target market, with a clear USP [unique selling proposition] and marketing strategy. The market is so competitive, and so much compliance and legislation makes it difficult for new entrants. So if you aren’t offering something that is slightly different then it’s really hard for you to stand out.” Hobson says successful start-ups ask themselves important questions before they start, such as: “What am I going to offer that is different and why am I different? Is the market already saturated, and is there going to be a space for me?” “They also understand that ‘just being the best recruiter is no longer good enough’. You have to have a good business head and understand margins and negotiation.” Hobson says the biggest mistake she sees recruitment start-ups make is “they think they can sell across all sectors and be a bit of a jack-ofall trades. They think they can go into the market as a new agency and sell to anybody. “You have got to walk before you can run. Make a name for yourself by doing what you do very
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STARTING YOUR OWN RECRUITMENT BUSINESS
FROM C-SUITE TO START-UP 08
BY COLIN COTTELL
After spending years advancing through the ranks to reach the highest echelons of the recruitment industry, high-flying recruiters are turning their backs on the corporate environment and setting out on the exciting and potentially hazardous journey of launching their own recruitment start-up. Being in charge of your own destiny and doing things your way certainly has its attractions, but almost surprisingly, recruiters who have left big jobs in established companies face a steep learning curve and a period of adjustment that will stretch them to their limits, often in ways they don’t expect. Yes, the potential rewards are enticing and the possibilities for personal and professional satisfaction are great. But leaving the relative security of the corporate world with its support structures and established ways of doing things to strike out on your own is certainly not for the faint-hearted. RECRUITER
GAVIN TEW CURRENT ROLE: DIRECTOR AND CO-FOUNDER, SOURCE TECHNOLOGY LAUNCHED: OCTOBER 2015 PREVIOUS ROLE: SALES DIRECTOR, NICOLL CURTIN
“We really enjoyed our time there [at Nicoll Curtin] but our view was, you only have one career. We were shareholders but not majority shareholders and we wanted to achieve our maximum potential,” says Gavin Tew, exsales director at Nicoll Curtin, who launched technology recruiter Source Technology with cofounder Lawrence Hargreaves in October 2015. Tew says the big challenge has been getting to grips with the “range of activities, from building a website to organising a fully integrated back office system, and the sheer volume of things to deal with”. Compared to his role at Nicoll Curtin, with its 75 staff and three offices — Singapore, London and Switzerland — Tew says the biggest difference has been the competing priorities “of setting up operationally at the same time as generating business”. Referring to Source Technology’s early weeks last year, Tew says: “Our roles had all those strategic and operational elements, but it was more akin to our early days in recruitment, on the phone speaking to candidates and clients. We absolutely loved that.” The duo’s long-experience in the sector proved invaluable, making them “better prepared should something go wrong”, he says. Tew urges recruiters in a similar situation to trust the professional instincts that helped them progress to the top of the corporate world. “I would say don’t think about it too much. Just do what you have always done.”
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NEIL WILSON CURRENT ROLE: CHIEF EXECUTIVE, STANTON HOUSE LAUNCHED: 2010 PREVIOUS ROLE: MANAGING DIRECTOR, BADENOCH & CLARK
“You are running around wearing lots of different hats and feeling as though you are not doing anything particularly well”
“Sometimes you have to put yourself through some difficult times to get the rewards,” says Neil Wilson, co-founder and CEO of mid- to seniorlevel executive recruiter Stanton House. “There is no infrastructure, no support and no time to think,” continues Wilson, who co-founded Stanton House in 2010 with partner Nick Eaves, after leaving Badenoch & Clark, where he was managing director since 2003. “You are running around wearing lots of different hats and feeling like you’re not doing anything particularly well.” Wilson admits that he made some mistakes along the way, particularly spending far too much time on the name of the company before realising “it’s what the company stands for rather than what it is called that matters”. w The decision to hire a lot of people and to open ne new offices within the ﬁrst 15 months when you don’t get a return on your investment immediately was also “a bit hairy”. immediatel Wilson say says the experience of launching Stanton House has taken him “very much out of my comfort zo zone”. However, the plus side is “you learn about you yourself and you develop a different skill set, and th that has been invigorating”. In retrospect retrospect, Wilson says he and his fellowfounder weren weren’t demanding enough of the staff they took on d during the ﬁrst few years. “This was born out of u us almost being grateful that they had agreed to jjoin us on our journey. We didn’t push as hard a as we do now after ﬁve years.” WWW.RECRUITER.CO.UK
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STARTING YOUR OWN RECRUITMENT BUSINESS
ADRIAN O’CONNOR CURRENT ROLE: FOUNDING PARTNER, GLOBAL ACCOUNTING NETWORK LAUNCHED: 2011 PREVIOUS ROLE: MD, PENTA ACCOUNTING N AND FINANCE
“The job at Penta was always with a view to starting my own company,” says Adrian O’Connor, Con founding partner of Global Accounting Network. ork “The thought was if I can grow an asset for somebody else, I can grow one for myself.” Although the new business was proﬁtable within three months, O’Connor says the early weeks were not without their difficult moments. “We were getting good recruitment fees and good percentages, and we were building a good client base. But perhaps we didn’t have our eyes on the cashﬂow as we should have done. We had a couple of, if not quite heart-stopping moments, then not far off, where a few people didn’t pay us on time, and a few invoices were due for payment. “Everyone who starts their own business says the thing you have to watch out for is cashﬂow. I would wholeheartedly reiterate that.” Recruiting the right type of people was the hardest aspect of running a start-up compared with a larger established business, O’Connor says. “You are trying to persuade people to leave a secure job to join a start-up business; that was pretty tough.” The early days when there were only four in the office were particularly hard for new recruits. “It was quite nerve-racking for them to be on the phone in the office — and the only person hearing them was their boss,” O’Connor says. “I think learning that lesson and growing staff numbers more quickly would have been useful,” he adds.
“Everyone who starts their own business says the thing you have to watch out for is cashﬂow. I would wholeheartedly reiterate that” 11
JOHN PULLAN CURRENT ROLE: CO-FOUNDER, KNOWNFOUR LAUNCHED: 2014 PREVIOUS ROLES: CEO, HUNTRESS GROUP; MD, JP GRAY (AN STHREE COMPANY}
John Pullan, co-founder of professional services staffing ﬁrm KnownFour, says he is “not a huge fan of the initial stages of a business, where the gap between success and failure is fairly small”. “I miss the scale,” says Pullan, a former CEO at Huntress Group and member of SThree’s operational board. “I will be a lot more comfortable when the business is running at 100 to 200 people,” he continues. Although Pullan says he went into this new phase of his career with “my eyes open”, he adds he is constantly surprised by “basic housekeeping issues”, such as scheduling the payroll, which in his previous senior roles were somebody else’s responsibility. As a start-up that cannot afford the luxury of an HR department, “HR and employeetype rules are something to which we should have paid more attention”, he adds. Pullan says the only gaps in his knowledge and skills lay “in the technical aspects of bringing people on board, and coaching them around our CRM [customer and candidate relationship management system]”, a task he subsequently delegated to one of his business partners, Anil Chandel. He also found himself in the unfamiliar position of being responsible for sourcing the best products and services for the new business. However, he says “the biggest sea change was ﬁnding himself immersed in the operational side and the nitty gritty of being a recruitment consultant, which I hadn’t done for years”. WWW.RECRUITER.CO.UK
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STARTING YOUR OWN RECRUITMENT BUSINESS
“I have had to evolve l from being a recruiter to being a businessman. They are two very different things”
LAURA DRYSDALE CURRENT ROLE: FOUNDER, MERAKI TALENT LAUNCHED: 2015 PREVIOUS ROLE: INTERNATIONAL MD, CHANGE RECRUITMENT GROUP
OWEN JOBLING CURRENT ROLE: FOUNDER AND CEO, BEECHERMADDEN LAUNCHED: 2010 PREVIOUS ROLE: DIRECTOR, REDCAT SOLUTIONS
Owen Jobling, CEO and founder of niche cyber security recruiter BeecherMadden, says he will never forget the ﬁrst day at the start-up. “I wasn’t going into an office with 25 staff but an office of one. I thought it is down to me now, everything is on my shoulders,” he recalls. And the biggest challenge has not been the actual recruiting — that’s the easy bit, he says. “I have had to evolve from being a recruiter to being a businessman. They are two very different things.” While Jobling admits “it’s been a steep learning curve”, he says he never doubted whether he had the business and leadership skills to make it work. Where he lacked the knowledge and skills he says he went out and got it — for example, by speaking to accountancy ﬁrms that specialise in recruitment, and to consultancy ﬁrms about staff leadership and management. He also “networked aggressively” at industry events, and learned from the ideas of other recruitment entrepreneurs. Having ﬁnanced the company from his savings, Jobling says the only thing he would have done differently would have been to have saved more, enabling him to grow the business quicker. RECRUITER
After starting professional recruiter Meraki Talent in April 2015, Laura Drysdale, former international MD at Change Recruitment Group, says she is “hopping and skipping to work”. “It’s exciting. It’s all hands on deck. We are all equal again. We all bounce off each other, and we are all motivated by each other,” she says. Drysdale says the change from Change Recruitment Group, “which at one point had around 150 staff in different divisions, to sitting in a room with nine people”, has been profound. “The challenges are the relationships and the dynamics within the business. It’s a very different situation. The way I manage the business, I feel I have been reincarnated,” she says. “My approach is very different now. You need to be mindful of the team we have pulled together, and the motivations around why they wanted to do this.” From a leadership perspective, Drysdale says she is “a lot more patient and understanding, and probably a lot more empathetic”. Her fears that clients would be reluctant to take the risk of doing business with ‘the new kid on the block’ proved misplaced, she says. “The one thing that this process has taught me is that it is not about the name above the door. People want to do business with people they like and respect.” Indeed, in retrospect, “we could have accelerated our headcount sooner than we actually did”, she adds.
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NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK
3R’S CLASS OF 2015 RUNNING THEIR OWN RECRUITMENT BUSINESS IS A DREAM FOR MANY RECRUITERS BUT IN REALITY, TAKING THE FIRST STEPS CAN BE DAUNTING. RECRUITER’S VANESSA TOWNSEND SPOKE WITH RECRUITMENT START-UP SERVICE 3R’S LATEST ‘NEW RECRUITS’ TO FIND OUT HOW THE FIRM’S SUPPORT HAS HELPED THEM GET OFF THE GROUND. IT’S ALL VERY WELL believing you have what it takes to make a success of your dream, but there are a multitude of behind-the-scenes practicalities that need to be taken care of first. These include the basics of naming your company, deciding on a brand and the legal element of registering your new company, to IT and technology challenges, backoffice and financial issues. And all this before you even start picking up the phone to do what you set out to do in the first place – recruitment! With over six years in the industry and having consistently performed as a top biller, Sarah Buttaci, founder of project management specialist SB Digital Search, decided to work for herself. “I never thought I could do it by myself though,” she admitted. But after an initial contact by 3R’s managing director Mike Bowler in June 2014, she began planning her new direction. “I wanted to get my finances in order first,” she explained. By January 2015 she was “confident I had everything I needed” and “hit the ground running”. With 3R’s bespoke database software, accountancy and back-office system in place, “I doubled all my targets and my billings than in my previous few years’ recruiting”, she said proudly. “Although I work for myself I never feel completely alone. If there are legal or financial queries, there’s always someone at 3R on the end of the phone. It’s priceless. They take RECRUITER
James Warburton (centre), James Fowler (second from right) and the J2 Recruitment team
Richard Barker (right) of Talent Locker with 3R’s Mike Bowler – first week in the new office
Sarah Buttaci, founder SB Digital Search
Simon & Bob Bath from Mexa Solutions with 3R’s Kim De’Ath
all the stress out of it.” As for the future, Sarah doesn’t want to build a big team – she’s got the work/life balance just right for her and 3R is supporting her in whatever shape her business takes. IT-focused The Talent Locker was founded by Martyn Hurricks and Richard Barker, both top consultants at an engineering and technical recruiter. The planning began 12 months before they actually launched their agency, ensuring the branding, logo, website and IT elements were all in place. 3R’s bespoke CRM was developed and designed in-house by IT director Ralph Holloway and his team. All
the systems are designed to use the latest technology and are Cloudbased. The ability to BYOD (bring your own device) is also crucial. “The CRM was very important,” Martyn said. “3R met with us to hear the changes we wanted. They were very patient with us!” Although 3R offers legal support as one of its services, The Talent Locker hasn’t needed that aspect. The accountancy service has been invaluable, though, Martyn said, helping the new company with backoffice support, tax planning, HMRC queries and credit control. “It’s a very tailored service, we’re very happy with them.”
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Mike Bowler, managing director of 3R
A few years before they launched financial services, sales and energy agency J2 Recruitment, rivals in their former recruitment life James Fowler and James Warburton jokingly said “we’ll end up opening a business together”. At the beginning of last year, frustrated with the stale culture of corporate recruitment, the somewhat flippant statement became a reality. Although excited by the prospect of owning their own business, “the thought of cashflow was scary”, James Fowler said. “And as for debt chasing – we knew nothing about it.” 3R listened to what the pair wanted for their branding – “they gave us advice but it was our ideas” – and helped build their website. The IT and telecoms side of the business also worried them. 3R advised them
throughout the initial stages, not pushing them into anything until they were ready. James Warburton was really impressed with 3R’s bespoke CRM. “It’s easy, it’s very intuitive,” he told Recruiter. “It doesn’t take days to use.” And with three new consultants on board, 3R takes care of their training. “They’re worth their weight in gold,” he says. James Fowler adds: “3R are passionate. We would have done well on our own, but they made it easier; we then had the time to recruit. They’re people you would want to do business with, and I can see in a few years’ time, we’ll still be using them.” Brothers Simon and Bob Bath set up Mexa Solutions last August, “leaving a comfortable, corporate world with nothing bar a vision”, Simon told Recruiter. They spoke with several recruitment start-up providers, but chose 3R because it was “incredibly simple and their expertise was credible”. They also liked the fact there were minimal start-up cost fees. “We needed input and support,” Simon explained. “You could see the flow of process. It’s a timebound, step-by-step guide.” At the start of the conversations, the brothers didn’t even have a fixed name. There were two weeks of “deep process with 3R, which helped us visualise. There was a lot of to-ing and fro-ing, but 3R were very understanding and quite happy to go back and forth”. It paid off as the brand was very important to them. The most important support from 3R was the partnering with an accountant, who set everything up for them so it was all tax-compliant. “It removed a big headache for us, as 3R had already done their due diligence,” Simon said.
EVOLUTION OF A START-UP THE PHRASE ‘MIGHTY OAKS FROM LITTLE ACORNS GROW’ MAY NOT APPLY TO ALL RECRUITMENT START-UPS, ALTHOUGH HAYS OR ADECCO HAD TO START FROM SOMEWHERE! BUT ALL FIRMS WILL EVOLVE and change over time from their incarnation at the start of their business journey. For this reason it is essential a recruitment start-up provider is also able to evolve and offer services that are relevant to the changing needs of their client firms. As 3R managing director Mike Bowler explains: “Our service is not just supplying the start-up essentials, but being there long term and contributing to a company’s growth and development.” 3R’s suite of recruitment services now includes CRM, back office, legal and finance for perm and contract invoicing. Bowler says: “Many of the start-up businesses we have backed in recent years have grown into solid, established recruitment companies – they have certainly outgrown the label ‘start-up’. And so we have learnt to adapt our service to grow with the businesses and continue the relationships that we have built with their owners. “Our start-up package is the best way to get your business of the ground, and when you can no longer be called a ‘start-up’ we will tailor a bespoke package, so you can keep moving forward at a pace that matches your ambition,” Bowler adds. Simon Bath from Mexa Solutions (see left) told Recruiter that 3R seemed to be “growing at the same time – evolving a few steps ahead of their recruitment businesses”. “It feels difficult to see how we’d outgrow them,” he concluded.
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STARTING YOUR OWN RECRUITMENT BUSINESS
BEEN THERE BY COLIN COTTELL
LEARNING FROM THE EXPERTS Recruitment start-ups are a leap into the unknown. So it pays to learn from the experts, those who have successfully walked the walk. So who could be better qualified to guide ambitious recruitment entrepreneurs through the ups and inevitable downs of a recruitment business start-up than winners and finalists in the Best New Agency category at the Recruiter Awards for Excellence in 2015 and 2014.
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STARTING YOUR OWN RECRUITMENT BUSINESS
HAVE A PLAN AND SET GOALS
QUESTION YOUR OWN MOTIVATION Starting a recruitment business is not something to be taken lightly, so make sure you are going into it for the right reasons, says Catherine Turner, owner and director of Rapid Search & Interim, which was shortlisted in the Best New Agency category in last year’s Recruiter Awards for Excellence. “A lot of people launch recruitment companies because they think they are going to make a lot more money. Make sure you genuinely have the passion and the hunger and the desire for recruitment,” says Turner.
“Have a solid business plan with realistic forecasting, and clear timebound goals and milestones in place,” says Gareth Thomas, director and cofounder of retail staffing business and 2015 ﬁnalist Venture Recruitment. Michelle Watson, chief executive of digital and creative recruitment agency Gemini People, shortlisted in 2014’s Awards under its previous name Gemini Search, advises new recruitment businesses to establish short, medium and long-term goals at the start. “Ask yourself, where is this journey going and what are the milestones to ensure you are on the right path?” James Fernandes, co-founder of technical recruiter Carrington West, which also made the 2014 shortlist, adds: “The planning process will encourage you to think about every aspect of the business from sales to marketing and business processes. “Plan for the ﬁrst three months, the ﬁrst six months, ﬁrst year and ﬁrst ﬁve years,” he advises. “These plans are unlikely to bear any resemblance to reality. But this is normal,” he adds.
INVEST IN YOUR PEOPLE Once you have hired new staff, invest time and money in them, says Tawhid Juneja, founder and managing director of medical staffing agency and last year’s ﬁnalist Primary Care People. This support is essential not only to ensure a new company gets off the ground but means you take your staff with you by helping them to maximise their earnings and succeed in their careers, says Fernandes. WWW.RECRUITER.CO.UK
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KNOWLEDGE OW BRILLIANCE
S INSPIRATION PEOPLE
STARTING ST TAR ARTIIN NG GY YOUR OUR O OU OWN RECRUITMENT RECR RE ECR CRUI UITM TMENT EN E NT B BUSINESS
A start-up will never get beyond stage one unless it can attract great staff to join it. “You need to be able to sell the dream to potential new employees, so get your vision for the business clear,” says Gemini People’s Watson. “Then ﬁnd the best people in your recruitment specialism or sector and go hire them — don’t assume they won’t be interested.” To attract the brightest and the best to a start-up it is important to offer something different to other recruitment companies, Johnstone urges. In the case of Hunter Healthcare, this is not the usual “KPI-driven [key performance indicators] environment but one that gives staff more freedom and autonomy”, he adds. “It is vitally important to start as you mean to go on,” says Carrington West’s Fernandes. “Embedding your vision and values as part of the company’s foundations will ensure the organisation continues to pull in the same direction with one clear path. Working to established values will give future employee’s something to identify with and help create a great company culture.” RECRUITER
INSPIRE GREAT PEOPLE TO JOIN YOU
HELP YOUR PEOPLE BE BRILLIANT “There are some very talented recruitment people around, but they need the right infrastructure and support to enable them to be brilliant,” says Gavin Johnstone, founder of Hunter Healthcare, winner of the category in 2014. Johnstone highlights the importance of having ﬁnancial expertise. “We had a very experienced ﬁnance director from day one,” he says. At the same time, Rapid’s Turner advises start-up recruiters to outsource all their support functions such as IT, payroll and office administration for the ﬁrst 12-24 months. “This allows you to concentrate on building your pipeline of business,” he explains. “The recruiters take the glory, but that’s ﬁne,” adds Johnstone. “Find a good bank, someone who has an easy-to-use payments and back office system, and who is willing to support you with sensible overdrafts, and who is available on the phone 24/7 when you need it,” suggests James Holland, director of technology recruiter and 2015 Awards ﬁnalist Quant Capital.
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STARTING YOUR OWN WN RECRUITMENT BUSINESS SIINE NESS S
SHARE THE JOURNEY
STICK TO WHAT YOU KNOW “Like anything you do in life, do what you are good at. It is too easy in the early days to divert yourself into different markets and to think ‘a fee is a fee’ and I can do that area and that area,” says Rapid Search & Interim’s Turner. “Operate within the market [in which] you have experience and strong networks,” agrees Thomas. RECRUITER
“Starting up a staffing business is hard and success isn’t a straight line,” says Fernandes. “So don’t go it alone, but share the journey.” Fernandes says he was “lucky enough to have co-founded Carrington West”. “This along with bringing in two further directors 18 months later has allowed each person in the management team to bring their own unique skills and experience to the company and help support each other when it doesn’t all go your way.” Turner concurs: “Always have two or three people, who can share the workload.” However, Barnaby Parker, cofounder and CEO at niche business transformation recruiter Venquis, which made the 2014 shortlist, highlights the importance of recruitment entrepreneurs choosing their business partners carefully. “There is no point sitting down on day one and ﬁnding out you all want to do the same job. There has to be a diversity of skills, a bit of yin and yang in there.” He goes on to warn: “Otherwise, there can be conﬂict” — a common cause of business start-up failure.
FIRST, GET THE BASICS RIGHT “At this stage, it’s more important to go for a series of quick deals rather than, for example going for absolutely everything you need to create a brand,” says Holland from Quant Capital. Adds Shubber Raja of healthcare recruiter and 2014 ﬁnalist MediLink Consulting: “Yes, it would be great to have an exceptional website, slick KPI monitors or even the best offices. But for the ﬁrst three years the focus should be on building a business, which has a good reputation and strong cashﬂow.” “Focus on growing at a pace that is manageable,” adds Lisa Greenhalgh, founder and MD of Finlay Jude Associates, winner of the category at last year’s Awards. “Yes, growth is important, but not at the cost of providing anything less than excellent service, which is the basis for longterm success.”
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HOW DOES IT FEEL TO OWN A SELECT APPOINTMENTS RECRUITMENT AGENCY FRANCHISE AFTER YOUR FIRST YEAR?
jobs for people people for jobs
A DV E RTO R I A L S E L E C T A P P OI N T M E N T S
Iâ€™ve been running my own business for exactly one year -- now is the perfect time to hit the â€œpauseâ€? button and: â€˘ indulge in well-earned, self-congratulatory celebrations, and â€˘ reflect on what I have learned Three key areas remain CORE to what I do:
CAROLINE DEUTSCH, Franchise Owner, St Albans
NUMBER 1: (and no surprises here) LOTS of HARD WORK â€“ thatâ€™s long hours, multi- tasking, implementing, managing, strategising and planning, list making -- and then thereâ€™s the day job! Having heaps of energy and a positive outlook goes far. NUMBER 2: Get OUT AND ABOUT â€“ I visit local businesses to introduce myself and our services. Making face-to-face contact makes a real difference. I have built up a wide circle of partners to do business with.
NUMBER 3: Being a calculated risk taker, becoming a FRANCHISE PARTNER within the Select network was a wise move. I own and run my business but also have a huge brand name and national company-sized support network covering IT, HR, legal, compliance and marketing. And I work with some of the best business minds in recruitment. I focus on building client and candidate relationships with my team without getting swamped by the everyday back office distractions my competitors struggle with. So, yes, itâ€™s hard work, and I hope to get some of my weekend back at some point -- but who wouldnâ€™t want to be their own boss and do something rewarding, empowering, flexible and fun. â—?
For more information on a Select Appointments franchise email: email@example.com, or visit www.selectfranchising.co.uk or call Suzie McCafferty on 07793 054 233
The Personal Approach to Franchising & Recruitment
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STARTING YOUR OWN RECRUITMENT BUSINESS
MY BEAUTIFUL START-UP CAREER 24
INTERVIEW WITH MARK STEPHENS CEO and founding director, Smart Recruit Online Previously: founder of the F10 Group, The Recruitment Alliance; owner, Priority Card WHAT IS THE BEST ASPECT OF BEING A SERIAL RECRUITMENT BUSINESS START-UP ENTREPRENEUR?
WHICH SINGLE CHARACTERISTIC CONTRIBUTED MOST TO YOUR SUCCESS AS A RECRUITMENT ENTREPRENEUR?
It’s been a long journey in business, to get to a point where I am able to act upon my own ideas. By far the best aspect is that I actually get to see my ideas become a reality. When you get someone telling you that they beneﬁted from what you did, it’s a great feeling.
A 100% determination to succeed. It has to be an obsession. Many successful people are obsessed with the thing that they become good at. I wasn’t born with natural talent, so I over compensated with hard work.
AS A RECRUITMENT ENTREPRENEUR WERE YOU BORN THAT WAY, OR WERE YOU MADE? Everyone has some creative genes in them, but according to Belbin [a British researcher and management theorist], some of us are starters and others are ﬁnishers by design. Being an entrepreneur can come in many guises, from deciding to go it alone in business to innovating new ideas that improve the way we do things. The common denominator is that we all want to do something for ourselves and take charge of our own destiny.
WHAT BUSINESS PERSON DO YOU MOST ADMIRE AND WHY? There are quite a few people that I admire and I try to take inspiration from as many places as I can. It’s a cliché, but my dad was an inspiration to myself and my four brothers, who all run very successful businesses. RECRUITER
WHAT DO YOU CONSIDER TO BE THE HIGHLIGHT OF YOUR STARTUP CAREER TO DATE? The highs come along the way as you hit the milestones and goals that you set yourself, but I am a long way from reaching my ultimate goals yet — the best days are still to come I believe.
IN A BUSINESS SENSE, WHAT KEEPS YOU AWAKE AT NIGHT? Staff issues… I am not the most naturally gifted manager. I would quite like to shout and scream at people that let me down or who don’t meet my standards, but I have learned to act more rationally over the years. In the past, other people had to clear up the carnage I created when people disappointed me.
WHAT SINGLE PIECE OF ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO SOMEONE KEEN TO FOLLOW IN YOUR FOOTSTEPS? Be realistic and meticulous in your
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the evening, drinking a cold beer. As I say this, the heating is broken in our office and I am wearing a coat as it’s -20C outside.
WHAT’S WRONG WITH WORKING FOR SOMEONE ELSE? Nothing at all. It’s far less stressful, and you can earn really good money if you are good at what you do.
THE APPRENTICE OR DRAGONS’ DEN: WHICH DO YOU PREFER?
planning. Be focused on what you want to achieve. Surround yourself with similar people who can help and inspire you. Dig deep when it gets tough, make hay when it’s going well and the momentum is with you.
I like watching both. I usually like to think which people I would employ when watching The Apprentice and likewise, which companies and people I would invest in on Dragons’ Den. I have to say that I would never take an idea of my own on Dragons’ Den. I just don’t think that the conditions are right for getting a good deal and I am never convinced that they actually go ahead with the majority of the offers that are made.
DO YOU HAVE A LUCKY ACCESSORY OR CHARM THAT YOU LIKE TO HAVE WITH YOU WHEN COMPLETING A DEAL? No not at all. I might have had a pair of lucky pants when I was single though.
IN YOUR DREAMS, IN WHICH COUNTRY WOULD YOU LOVE TO START UP A BUSINESS? Anywhere warm, where I can play golf, swim in the sea and sit outside in
“I wasn’t born with natural talent, so I over compensated with hard work” WWW.RECRUITER.CO.UK
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STARTING YOUR OWN RECRUITMENT BUSINESS
A YEAR IN THE LIFE OF DARREN RYEMILL, RECRUITER’S ENTREPRENEUR OF THE YEAR ‘A recruitment entrepreneur’s work is never done’ could be the lesson to all budding start-ups from Darren Ryemill, founder and chief executive of Opus Professional Services Group, and Recruiter’s Recruitment Industry Entrepreneur of the Year in 2015. Colin Cottell spoke with him 26
“You have to kiss a lot of frogs in this line of business” fter winning the accolade for spearheading Opus group’s growth, including the creation or acquisition of six brands between October 2013 and October 2014, Ryemill has lost none of his entrepreneurial zeal. Indeed, if anything, 2015 saw an increase in the frenetic pace of activity, with six new businesses founded, among them Addocura, a management consultancy for recruitment SMEs, and JDR Energy, a power and energy recruiter. The group also made three acquisitions, including data analytics recruiter Colston Consulting. On top of this, it opened new offices in Amsterdam, Los Angeles and New York. Unlike some start-ups whose ﬁnancial position ﬂuctuates, Opus has experienced an increase in net proﬁt over 2015, according to Ryemill. It’s an impressive record. However, Ryemill is quick to dispel any notion that the last 12 months has been easy. “I have probably spent half of the last 12 months away from home in Bristol, also the group’s base,” he tells Recruiter over Skype from Opus’s Sydney, Australia office, which has grown into a 20-strong operation in just over a year. “I have spent a lot of time scoping out places, such as Stockholm, Dubai, and Dublin, Singapore and Hong Kong, where we don’t currently have offices. So a hell of a lot of my life is spent doing things that technically are doomed to failure, that are going nowhere,” says Ryemill. “You have to kiss a lot of frogs in this line of business,” he adds. Ryemill says that what has sustained him through the travel, the regular 16, 17 and 18-hour days and weekend work is his love of what he does. “If someone says to me ‘Darren, do you like your job?’ my reply is ‘I love my job’. It’s not a hobby. I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t get paid — I am not that daft, but it is my interest.” If 2015 was a record year for the group, Ryemill says that it is a mere precursor for 2016, which he conﬁdently expects to be its best year for expansion yet, with plans to open 11 new offices around the world. “Whether we do all that, I think we won’t, but you know, go for the world and take Europe, it’s that kind of mentality,” he says. RECRUITER
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