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You do the recruitment, we do the rest. 01489 854 741 3rÃ&#x;QDQFHFRXN

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3R is pleased to be sponsoring Recruiter’s start-up guide for a third year. During 2016 more people have started their own recruitment business than ever before – 4,529 to be precise. That’s up 13.7% on the previous year. This backs up our views at 3R that the shape of the industry is changing. Clients of all sizes recognise the value provided by small, niche recruitment businesses and are keen to engage with them. As with all business there is a fundamental need to be well presented and professionally run; beyond that, though, it’s all about your ability, determination and enthusiasm as a recruiter. We have been directly involved with a handful of last year’s 4,529 new businesses, and like previous years we have been incredibly impressed with the dedication and expertise their owners have brought to their new ventures. And we’ve been impressed more than ever by the clearest measure of success – the value of invoices that we have sent out on their behalf! Evidence is clear that with the right support, start-ups can not only succeed but positively thrive. It’s all about the people behind them. Have you got what it takes to start your new business in 2017?

“I want to start my own business.” Has this thought ever crossed your mind? Have you spoken it aloud, shared it with a life partner or friend, or has it been a closely guarded secret? In 2017, the time to act might be now. Let’s be frank: starting one’s own business isn’t for everyone. Many appreciate the ‘safe haven’ of having an employer. However, jobs in today’s gig economy may not be the safety net that previously existed. And you may feel the urge to chart your own course and build your company in a different vision than that operating where you currently work. Could it be that time for you? Read the following articles for insight into possibly the biggest challenge faced by start-ups, new technology intended to help the start-up entrepreneur, lessons learned by the founder of the Recruiter Awards 2016’s Best New Agency, and stories of three brave but very different entrepreneurs. Oh, by the way, those three entrepreneurs are all women – but these stories are not about gender; they’re about confidence, strategy and meeting business challenges head on. We hope this guide gives you an idea of what your own ‘Brand New Day’ could look like.

Mike Bowler Managing director, 3R

DeeDee Doke Editor

04 Routes to success for your start-up An easy to follow road map to help your fledgling business on its way

07 Staffing challenges How can new recruiters ever compete with more established firms when it comes to finding talent?

14 Starting up all over the UK Meet our three recruitment entrepreneurs from the different corners of the UK

22 What I have learned along the way Ed Vokes, founding director of Evolve Hospitality, shares his experience to help other start-ups

EDITORIAL +44 (0)20 7880 7606: Editor DeeDee Doke Contributing writers Colin Cottell, Graham Simons Production editor Vanessa Townsend Senior Designer Gary Hill Picture editor Akin Falope ADVERTISING +44 (0)20 7880 7607: Senior sales executive Josh Hannagan Recruitment advertising +44 (0)20 7880 7553 Jude Rosset PRODUCTION +44 (0)20 7880 6209: Production executive Rachel Young

Redactive Publishing Ltd 17 Britton Street, London EC1M 5TP 020 7880 6200

PUBLISHING +44 (0)20 7880 8547: Publishing director Aaron Nicholls 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 Recruiter is also available to people who do not meet our terms of control: Annual subscription rate for 12 issues: £35 UK; £45 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 © 2017 Redactive Media Group. All rights reserved. ISSN 1475-7478

Total average net circulation between 1 July 2014 & 30 June 2015 – is also 18,667. sent to all REC members


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ROUTES TO SUCCESS FOR YOUR START-UP If you want to set up your own recruitment

business, success starts here – with Recruiter’s easy to follow road map to that pot of gold! OCUS AND RESILIE TION, F I NCE B AM START-UP ENABLER COMPANY







Be part of an established brand!

Grow in the warmth of a support business Get some money behind you to get you going


BASIC TOOLS OF THE TRADE Phone/web connectivity, a place to work

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Candidate/client management system, automated job board postings, sales, talent acquisition

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Become the ‘go to’ recruiter in your community or in your niche! Enter the Best New Agency category in the Recruiter Awards, gain a shortlisting or, better still, win and use the publicity and the accolade to push your business to the next level!



Grow with a plan and reap the benefits. Become one of the best employers in recruitment, with a reputation for developing your staff – and enter Recruiter’s Investing in Talent Awards! Then take stock: sell your carefully nurtured business for a great price, or stick with it and grow your business success even further!















REC-TO-REC SERVICES You’ve made it through the first year! What’s next? Is it time to grow? Build your client base? Find premises? Become a well-respected fixture on your local business scene

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STAFF Is it time to add a part-timer? Or can you make the leap to another full-time consultant?


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STAFF NG CHALLENGES Down the line, start-up agencies who are looking to scale up will need to hire staff. Yet in a talent-starved sector, how can they compete with the more established firms? Colin Cottell investigates

RECRUITMENT START-UPS with ambitions to grow face particular challenges in attracting and hiring the staff they need. However, those running start-ups and those companies who help them recruit say that with the right approach there is much they can do. When even established recruiters are finding it hard to find the staff they need, Laura Drysdale, director of Edinburgh-based professional recruiter Meraki Talent that launched in April

2015, says persuading someone to join a start-up is even more of “a harder sell”. “Why on earth would someone who is already performing well join a start-up that is unproven and unknown, and where they will have a hell of a lot more work to do?” she says. While Drysdale has had many conversations with potential recruits in larger, established recruitment firms since she WWW.RECRUITER.CO.UK 7

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They probably want to work in an environment with more younger people MARTIN HURRICKS, TALENT LOCKER founded the company, “when it comes to the crunch the easiest option is always to stay put”, she says. “It takes a certain confidence and not everybody has the appetite. A lot of people will sit tight and wait until it is a success before they jump ship.” According to Louise Ogilvy, director of rec-to-rec firm People Prospect Solutions, who supplies staff to recruitment start-ups, the nub of the problem is a shortage of candidates right across the industry that permeates all sectors. “You wouldn’t believe the shortage of candidates,” she says, citing her company’s efforts to find eight people for a recruitment academy that is starting in March. Ogilvy says the situation is not helped by the industry’s reputation. “Companies oversell the opportunities. People are not going to earn £60k in their first 12 months. There needs to be more honesty.”

HARD SELL For start-ups, Ogilvy says this unflattering picture is accentuated by additional factors that put many potential recruits off. “Part of the challenge is that compared to established companies, it is a bit of a risk,” says Ogilvy. Some candidates have concerns about the financial stability of a start-up and whether they have funds to sustain a new hire, she says. While others may be reluctant to join a start-up because of fears they will be expected to start earning for the company quicker than, say, at a bigger more established recruiter such as Hays. James Fowler, director of finance, sales and office services recruiter J2 Recruitment, which launched in June 2015, says the problem is not the number of applications from candidates he receives but their calibre.

Fowler says the type of people he wants to employ “who are hungry, and can work as part of a team” are few and far between. Fowler says the company’s workload means it has the capacity to add two more staff to its existing headcount of eight, and in the absence of those extra staff, the company has not been able to grow as quickly as it could have done. The only way to have done that would have been by increasing the workload on existing staff. However, Fowler says this is not an option. “We don’t want to overwork people. There is only so much staff can do in a day, and standards would slip,” he explains. Martyn Hurricks, director of technology recruitment consultancy Talent Locker, established in July 2015, says many candidates lack the type of attributes essential for working in a start-up, especially “tenacity and the ability to get on with the role, to deal with rejection, and to keep going, which is part of the life of a recruiter”.

Companies oversell the opportunity. People are not going to earn £60k in their first 12 months LOUISE OGILVY, PEOPLE PROSPECT SOLUTIONS

Andrew Marjeram, director of IT recruitment specialists Martin & Conley, which opened for business in spring 2015, says he finds it difficult to find people who are self-reliant, an essential trait for a start-up. Many recruiters, especially those in bigger companies, rely on others in the firm to support them, for example by providing them with accounts to work on. However, in a start-up like his, this is not available, he says. Hurricks says he has found it particularly challenging to hire staff at junior and graduate levels. “They probably want to work in an environment with more younger people, who they can go out with and where there is that more social element.” Ogilvy agrees that the absence of work colleagues of their own age can put off candidates, especially those in the 20-24 age group, from joining a start-up. Start-up firms need to work hard to make their environment an attractive one if they want to attract this group, she advises. “You have still got to make it a fun, working environment, and make an effort to have a social event on a Friday night,” she says. One solution is to hire two people at once so they have a buddy, she suggests.

ATTRACTIVE FACTORS While there are many reasons why candidates can be reluctant to join a start-up, those operating in the start-up sector of the industry say that compared to larger more established recruiters, start-ups have a number of advantages that can WWW.RECRUITER.CO.UK 9

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make them attractive. Start-ups offer the opportunity for recruiters to make a difference rather than be a small fish in a big pool. Hurricks says he recently recruited someone who declined a job offer at a bigger agency. “He sees it as a really exciting opportunity to build something around him,” says Hurricks. Fowler says the chance to be part of a growing company and the opportunities for ambitious recruiters can be very attractive. “If you are growing, then you are going to need more leaders, so you can turn that to your advantage,” he says. Start-ups’ greater flexibility, for example in working arrangements, can also make them attractive, says Ogilvy. “A bigger company might lack the flexibility to allow someone to finish work at 4.30pm, because if they allow one person they will have to allow everyone, whereas a start-up keen to hire a particular candidate can say ‘why not?’,” says Ogilvy. Marjeram says it is important that start-ups do as much as possible to promote themselves. In an effort “to get its name out there and attract the right candidates”, he says the

Why would someone who is already performing well join a start-up that is unproven? LAURA DRYSDALE, MERAKI TALENT

We have been able to attract better people because we are now more credible ANDREW MARJERAM, MARTIN & CONLEY company recently rebranded and ran a marketing campaign using social media. It also took on a marketing specialist. “We have been able to attract better people because we are now more credible, and people now know that as a company we make a difference,” says Marjeram.

CULTURE CLUB Drysdale says candidates joining a start-up will often base their decision on the reputation of the individual starting-up, and how strong they believe their relationships are with candidates and clients in the market. In the face of stiff competition for talent from other recruiters, Drysdale says it is vital that start-ups to “get their hiring story right”. “Be clear on your business strategy and on your vision and know exactly which direction your business is headed in and share that with everyone.” Especially in a start-up, cultural fit is also hugely important, says Fowler. “We don’t want to hire a £250k biller who could come in and create a bit of an

atmosphere. We want people doing things the right way.” Drysdale agrees that no matter how much a person can bring in financially “if they aren’t on board in driving the company in the same direction, it is never going to work”. Culture and cultural fit is critical. “You cannot take a chance in a start-up as you would in an established business. Go with your gut reaction,” she advises. Faced with the difficulties of finding staff, Ogilvy says many start-ups are going to have to give serious consideration to taking on apprentices, or at least train their own entry-level staff. “It’s a huge advantage to take on new entrants and train them yourself because they have no preconceived ideas.” Fowler (pictured left) says training its own entry-level staff has been successful. “They are ‘mouldable’ and we can get them to do things our way,” he says. However, there is a downside. “Apprentices take longer [than experienced recruiters] to become profitable, and a company needs to be in a financially stable position [so they can cover the cost involved].” There is undoubtedly a lot that start-ups can do to attract the staff they need. But at the same time, perhaps this should be tempered by realism that a combination of a shortage of talent across the wider market, and start-ups’ own unique recruiting challenges, means they will always face an uphill task. “A start-up won’t be suitable for everybody. There will always be people who are risk averse. That’s human nature,” says Ogilvy. WWW.RECRUITER.CO.UK 11

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Sponsored Feature

DRIVEN BY TECHNOLOGY Technology is one of the most important elements behind managing a modern recruitment business but the best needn’t be out of reach for start-up agencies. Recruiter’s Vanessa Townsend investigates how 3R technology helps start-ups grow RECRUITERS STARTING OUT on their own are naturally enthusiastic and excited. Any new venture needs the right technology to make the essential elements – such as admin, invoice financing, software, managing clients and candidates, security and fraud – run as smoothly as possible. Even if you find a supplier who can help you with these vital services, how can you possibly compete with agencies that have been in business for 20 years or firms with hundreds of consultants? The technology offered by recruitment agency start-up service 3R creates a level playing field for start-ups, giving new recruiters the ability to compete and even get ahead of the ‘big boys’. Mike Bowler, managing director of 3R, says with 3R’s comprehensive recruitment technology services, start-ups aren’t disadvantaged in the slightest: “You may start off working in a small office, with just two or three staff, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have the best recruitment technology on the market.” 3R offers an array of bespoke, up-to-the-minute cloud-based solutions that take the hassle away from the recruiter, (Left to right) Mike Bowler, managing director of 3R, and Alex O’Donovan, 3R’s head of technology 12 RECRUITER

helping them do what they do best on day one – recruit.

DESTINATION CLOUD 3R’s experienced industry specialists can advise new companies on everything from choosing the best name and creating a brand, to hosting and providing a bespoke website to get the new company name out there. One of the top

services from the many on offer is 3R’s bespoke CRM system. Existing contacts from social media sites such as LinkedIn are easily dropped in to the CRM to build up a database from day one. In addition, 3R also works in conjunction with the main job boards to enable recruiters to help populate their CRM quickly and efficiently. This all-encompassing flexible system combines three databases – candidate, contractor and client – that interact with each other. Multiple CVs can be uploaded at one time and 3R takes it to the next level by offering industry-beating CV parsing tools to dispense with inefficient data input tasks. With a simple drag and drop, CVs use ‘Burning Glass’ technology to create candidate files incorporating skills, personal information and contact detail. As it uses cloud-based technology, the CRM can be used anywhere on any platform, removing the initial outlay of costly IT systems and bulky servers. 3R’s team of expert developers are able to take on board user feedback and incorporate improvements. There are a number of powerful tools that work within the CRM. These include: Integrated email – inbound and outbound emails are automatically recorded against the appropriate contacts Vacancy management – simple posting of vacancies to job boards and online management of applications with a built-in Broadbean licence Automated contract generation – the CRM will automatically generate and save emails to clients and candidates to comply with current legislation and ensure that terms of business are in place Social media – as well as importing your network of contacts, it is straightforward to advertise jobs through social media Bespoke reporting – the CRM can be personalised to provide the most relevant data and information to each recruitment agency

CUTTING-EDGE TECHNOLOGY Alex O’Donovan, head of technology, says 3R,

MARCH 2017

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In the pipeline

through its 3R Finance division, offers its recruiters an array of financial services. These include: temp and perm invoicing contractor payroll online timesheet management debt chasing credit control credit checking The online timesheet technology is a groundbreaking development, which not only gives contractors the ability to submit their hours from a smartphone, but gives recruiters immediate access to the information, offering them a visibility and window on what’s happening to their contractors, as well as the payment status with clients. Cloud technology has grown exponentially over the past decade, but what about security measures? How safe are they from fraud or outages? Bowler says that new recruitment firms who go down the paper-based route instead open themselves up to a very high risk of fraud. O’Donovan explains that 3R’s growing team of developers and security experts can take the worry away from such concerns recruiters may have. “We take security very seriously,” he told Recruiter. “We incorporate many features to ensure the best possible performance and security including Microsoft Azure hosting; encrypted data transfer;

database geo-replication and back-up powered by Asigra.”

CONTINUED DEVELOPMENT One of the key differentiators between 3R and other recruitment start-up providers is the technology can accommodate the needs of companies as they grow, without having to move the business onto new software or different technology. “This is because 3R’s packages are comprehensive from the outset,” Bowler told Recruiter. “From day one, 3R gives you the platform to leap ahead.” All 3R systems are scalable and offer the flexibility to grow as the new company grows. So, for example, O’Donovan says, “if we found our cloud service providers weren’t capable of handling the current workload of CV parsing or website traffic, scaling our services can be done by the click of a button and are effective almost instantly”. New versions and features of cloud-based services are coming out monthly, and as well as constant IT support on offer, the 3R developers, who are leading industry experts, ensure security and feature updates are implemented on an ongoing basis. “The primary reason for working on these cloud solutions is for expansion – to help our clients grow,” O’Donovan explains.

Innovation and staying ahead of the game is key and 3R is committed to continually look for ways to improve and be at the forefront of technology. O’Donovan and his team of expert developers are already working on improvements to help contractors with their timesheets. Contractors can log onto a mobile site and upload their hours worked. 3R is looking into apps to improve the accessibility and integrate new security methods, such as Touch ID. In addition to recent rollouts, such as streamlining the ability for contractors to submit receipts for expenses directly from a smartphone photo, developers are working on continual improvements to their core service for contractors. As 3R-backed companies grow, new challenges arise. A major project, due to go live imminently, is telephone integration with the CRM. Working with a telephony partner, 3R is developing a fully integrated VOIP telephone system. This is a direct response to growing firms that need new technology to help manage and develop their own staff. Outbound calls can be made with a single mouse click. The CRM recognises all inbound calls and will immediately open a notes box relating to that particular client or candidate. Or if a recruiter is out of the office, on return they can see who rang and when, which means never having to miss a vital call. Telephone reporting can show how many calls were made or received and how long each call lasted. This way, managers can see whether recruiters are making efficient use of their time on the phone or if they can be guided to increase their return on investment.

Southampton: 01489 854741 Leeds: 01138 272186 WWW.RECRUITER.CO.UK 13

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PUTTING TIME AND ENERGY in a business networking organisation proved to be the most powerful investment Joanne Finnerty made in launching her own recruitment business. Finnerty had worked in recruitment for 20 years when she took the plunge in June 2013 to open her own agency in the Wirral, Merseyside. Her moment of truth arrived when the self-described 360-degree recruiter was told her boss’s career plan for her involved her training more junior consultants coming into the agency she had worked at for five years. “I said, ‘I actually don’t want to do what you want me to do. You know what, I just want to start up my own business’,” Finnerty remembers, thinking back some three-and-a-half years later. “I just said it out loud. I was just thinking it. I hadn’t planned it, nobody at work knew. “So he [the boss] shook me by the hand, gave me a big hug, and said, ‘Jo, you should have done it years ago. You will be incredibly successful. I just know you will’.” Then he advised her she would have to leave immediately, and he escorted Finnerty out to her car with a 12-month restriction on working with

any of her current agency clients. The restriction didn’t faze Finnerty. “You know Tina Turner and the film What’s Love Got to Do With It?” she asks. “She said, ‘You can take everything away from me but not my name’. And I thought, as long as I have my name, even if all my clients are barred from me for 12 months, they will still come back to me in 12 months’ time.” Thus was born Joanne Finnerty Recruitment. She had recently set up a small home office with a desk and a printer. But her most important business tool was her membership of Business Network International (BNI), which she had been part of for several years. The other members, many of them business owners themselves, had long been asking her why she did not have her own business. “These people could see in me that I could do it. I couldn’t see it, and I couldn’t believe that I could,” she admits.


Increasing numbers of people are starting up a recruitment agency, with more than 4,500 new agencies setting up last year alone. Each will go down a different path from launch to a successful business, as our three radically different start-up stories from across the UK reveal


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Recruiter Jobs helping you to attract the best candidates for your vacancies.

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Recruiter Jobs is the online recruitment site for Recruiter magazine, the principal magazine for recruiting prin and resourcing professionals. You can search through a wide range of roles; from recruitment consultants to in-house recruitment, based in both the UK and International markets.

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These people could see in me that I could do it. I couldn’t see it, and I couldn’t believe that I could For her part, she’d spotted early on the benefits of rubbing shoulders with local business owners when she had joined BNI while working for her previous employer. “I had thought, this is a great way to get business, and it’s a great way to get visibility for the company I was working for,” she says. Her membership paid off. At the next BNI meeting, she informed the other members of her business launch. “And they all stood up and cheered,” she says. “It was the best moment ever. I knew I had their support and wasn’t on my own.” BNI members and local Chambers of Commerce in Wirral and Liverpool helped her develop a new client base, she says, “passing

business to me left, right and centre”. As well as getting new business through her network, Finnerty looked to her network for business support in accountancy, IT and stationery, to name a few. “All my suppliers … are BNI members,” she says. As a result, she had no start-up costs: her accountant provided six months of service at no charge, she received 12 months of free call answering service and she also received a £500 investment from the Wirral Chamber. “Can you believe it?” Finnerty says. “They were all BNI members, and they wanted to help me set up my business.” BNI members also came to Finnerty’s aid when she needed premises to operate

from 12 months down the line. She secured pleasant offices with a BNI member, where her firm stayed for 12 months, at the low cost of £300 per month. Today, she has six staff and has grown out of those first proper offices. “I only invest and grow when there are about six months’ worth of overheads in the accounts,” she says. “My credit control is always within two weeks; nobody ever owes me anything. I love doing credit control. It’s my biggest buzz after recruitment.” Finnerty wants eventually to offer her staff shareholding opportunities in the business. And, she emphasises, she is “not here for the short term. I’m not here to grow quickly and sell and disappear”.

JOANNE FINNERTY RECRUITMENT Launched: June 2013 Start-up costs: £0 First year turnover: £45k Most recent year turnover: £290k Staff at launch: Self Staff now: 6 Location: Wirral, Merseyside

JODIE RAFFERTY RAFFERTY RESOURCING THE STORY OF Jodie Rafferty’s start-up and near-immediate shutdown in 2015 is a cautionary tale for any recruiter thinking of launching their own recruitment business. But it is also a tale of resilience, hope, loyalty and forging a stronger, more promising

enterprise from the flames of apparent disaster. Four months after launching Rafferty Resourcing in Waterlooville, Hampshire, Rafferty, whose career has included several roles with Northern Recruitment Group, was forced to close her doors for a

year. A former colleague was granted a ‘cease trading’ injunction against Rafferty following the latter’s departure from a business that the pair and a third partner had launched in 2011. The terms of the injunction, which Rafferty agreed to, meant that she WWW.RECRUITER.CO.UK 17

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could not have anything to do with recruitment for 12 months or “be fined a huge amount of money which I didn’t have”. “I didn’t expect the legal backlash I was going to get from leaving the last business,” Rafferty says now. “If I could go back again, the first thing I’d do would be to research the legalities of things a little bit; I’d have been a bit more thorough and had a good legal team behind me. And I would have made sure that I had the budget to deal with things better than I did.” During the 12 months away from the business, she says: “I did a lot of crying and a lot of soul searching. I had agreed to not work in the only job I’d ever done since leaving school. I did a lot of planning. I spent time with the family, which I’d never been able to do.” And, needing an income, along with a business partner she also launched an enterprise sourcing land in the New Forest and Hampshire for property developers. “It was like headhunting land instead of people,” she jokes. But Rafferty had laid the groundwork for her return to recruitment at the same time as she was being temporarily forced out of the industry. “When we had to agree to the closure,” she says, “we had quite a number of temporary workers out at the time. We went

on-site and, painful as it was, had to be truthful about what had happened. We sat down with them and said, ‘What can we do to make sure that these people still stay in work, are paid and looked after, and that what happens to us doesn’t affect you and your business?’ Those clients – I owe them so much. It makes me choke up to think about it actually.” The clients hired some of the temporary workers, and kept others working on in their temporary status. Rafferty did not charge temp-to-perm fees as a goodwill gesture, and in fact paid workers’ wages out of her own pocket for a period. “That doesn’t sound like good business sense, but in the long term it actually was,” she says. “When we opened our doors again, our clients remembered what we had done for them and the lengths we went to, to make sure people were looked

after. They were banging down our doors and asking us to recruit for them again,” she says. “People don’t forget in business, and that’s where the loyalty comes from.” When the restrictions were lifted, Rafferty still had court costs to pay. “The first few months were a real battle – to make a living, pay everybody, do a really good job with our clients and continue with those legal fees.” But nearly a year after reopening, Rafferty Resourcing is a family business on the rise. Rafferty’s husband and her two sisters work alongside her, and her teenage son will join them as an apprentice this spring. Operating across a variety of sectors, from professional services to engineering, the firm recruits across the UK because their Hampshire and New Forest-based clients have multiple sites elsewhere. Expansion is on the horizon, likely in

If I could g back go g again, the g I’d first thing do would be resear to research legali g the legalities thing g of things a little bit


Launched: February 2015, closed four months later; reopened April 2016 Start-up costs: £2.5k (2015) for marketing, equipment, home office, job board; £100 (2016) First/most recent year turnover: £240k Staff at launch: Self Staff now: 1 full-time, 3 part-time Location: Waterlooville, Hampshire Newcastle, where the Raffertys have family. “We can’t stay at the size we are because of the client demands,” she says. “We’ve been really successful in the last few months and we are going to have to take on more people.” She anticipates that the additional staff will also be family members. Of her start-up that had to wind down before it could really start up, Rafferty says: “It’s been tough but we’ve learned so much from it. I think sometimes it takes bad things like that to happen when you’re starting out for you to flourish down the line.” WWW.RECRUITER.CO.UK 19

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TWELVE YEARS AFTER the start-up of Core-Asset Consulting, the Edinburgh-based financial services recruitment firm earned the No 3 slot in Recruiter’s FAST 50 2017, the annual league table of the fastest-growing UK recruitment businesses. At Core-Asset’s helm is founder, managing director and major stakeholder Betsy Williamson, an alumnus of Hays’ graduate programme who launched her business just after completing an MSc in Human Resources Management from Edinburgh Napier University. “There didn’t appear to be a lot of organisations in the market at that point that I really wanted to work for,” she says candidly. “So the logical conclusion was, I’d create a company I did want to work for, and so I followed that path.” When Williamson started her business, she put 50% of the initial £30k costs into it from her own funds, and the remaining half came from Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) with whom she maintains a strong relationship today. “When I set the company up, I was given a very good piece of advice: I was told I should have a very good accountant and a very good lawyer. The third element I would add is that I think you should have 20 RECRUITER

a very good relationship with your bank and the financial backers you have,” she said. Core-Asset’s move into the fast-growth zone after what Williamson calls “relatively consisted growth” since launch resulted from a decision taken four years ago to enter into the contract and temporary market. The business is now 50% contract/temp and 50% permanent recruitment. “Strategically, it was a good move,” she says of entering the contract/temp market. “The reason we decided to move into that market at that time was, we were coming out of the edge of the financial crisis, and at that point, permanent recruitment was still in a lull and still in a dip.” While Core-Asset itself was not experiencing slow growth, she says that “to continue the growth of the business, we needed to follow the way clients were

moving and developing. The clients were very much in a space where they were looking to increase headcount and put traction back in projects, but not with permanent recruitment”. In spite of being in business for seven years before adding contract/ temp, Core-Asset had had invoice financing in place ever since Williamson set up the business. “A service facility has been integral to the business since 2005; it allowed us to have strong cash flow in the very early days of our business,” Williamson says. Williamson plans to increase headcount over the next year, with the aim of creating a graduate scheme and taking graduates on as part of a formalised scheme. Over the next three years, she wants to become the recruiter of choice in financial services and asset

CORE-ASSET CONSULTING Launched: 4 July 2005 Start-up costs: £30k First year turnover: £287k Most recent year turnover: £13,832,120 Staff at launch: 3 Staff now: 35 Location: Edinburgh

management in Scotland, and develop a global footprint with offices abroad that mirror Core-Asset clients’ needs. Asia is first on her list for an international office. Asked if she saw herself as a serial entrepreneur, Williamson said: “The drive for me doesn’t come from the starting; it’s from the continuing push, shift and drive.”

There didn’t appear to be a lot of organisations in the market at that point that I really wanted to work for – so I created the company I did want to work for

MARCH 2017

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What I have learned along the way A detailed business plan, hiring people you trust and knowing you can’t take on the world in your first year – the best possible advice to give to any start-up agency, according to Ed Vokes, founding director of Evolve Hospitality, the Best New Agency at the Recruiter Awards 2016. Graham Simons spoke with him


importance of not resting on your laurels and regularly writing a detailed business plan, admitting last year he had failed to so. This resulted in the agency not having the structures in place for success and not hitting budget, even though Evolve’s consultants were “working harder than ever”, he says. However, despite this omittance, Vokes puts great emphasis on longterm planning, having spent between June and December 2016 writing a business plan for the coming years. Vokes explains: “I’ve just written the business plan for the next three years. It took me six months to write – it’s far longer than my flipping dissertation was!”

I’ve just written the business plan for the next three years – it’s far longer than my flipping dissertation was to close the office in April 2013 as it was “haemorrhaging” money. Conversely, Vokes’ business partner Clare Downes, someone he knows really well and trusts, was chosen to launch the agency’s Birmingham office in November 2013, which is still going strong and contributing to the agency’s bottom line. Consequently, Vokes advises start-ups not to get ahead of themselves. Just because they have been successful in one market, don’t expand into another within six months of launch without trusting the person they have charged with running that business implicitly. As the business has matured, Vokes says, he has also learned the

BACK IN 2012 THE STREETS OF LONDON were paved with gold – both for Team GB’s Olympic athletes and any recruitment agency lucky enough to be operating in the capital’s hospitality sector. One of those agencies was Ed Vokes’ Evolve Hospitality – a catering and hospitality staffing specialist that launched in March 2012. According to Vokes, Evolve was “riding on the crest of a wave” in that year. Buoyant trading helped by the London 2012 Olympics meant the business made £125k profit in its first year. That gave Vokes the confidence to open a Manchester office in the October, a move he now he concedes was a “ridiculous” thing to do so soon after launching the business in London. Vokes explains that the mistake he made was his choice of consultants to run the Manchester operation. He admits he didn’t really know them and they failed to hit targets. However, he consoles himself at taking the decision

ED VOKES is director and founder of hospitality recruiter Evolve Hospitality

MARCH 2017

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Recruiter Start Ups - March 2017  

Recruiter Start Ups - March 2017  

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