Hit the north – The Global Recruiter – Recruitment Live 2018

Supported by FastTrack

Recruitment Live headed north last month, aiming squarely for Manchester. The round table event was held in association with FastTrack Recruitment Software, providers of the latest innovative recruitment back office software, FastTrack360. Attendees were treated to the high life as they gathered at the 20 Stories restaurant in the city centre, an auspicious location which gave a top level view out over some of the current developments in the city. There is clearly a large amount of aspiration and forward thinking across the region and the recruitment experts and professionals who came together for this dinner discussion reflected the tone, both in terms of what they had already achieved and what they were aiming for in the future. With the agenda firmly set on recruitment company growth, those in attendance were:

  • Mark Mitchell, Non Executive Director, Meridian Business Services
  • Miles Lloyd, Founder and Director, Milestones
  • Francis Dunleavy, Co-Founder, Worldwide Recruitment Solutions
  • James Soden, Owner/Director, E3 Recruitment
  • Stewart McCoy, Strategic Operations Director, Randstad Public Services
  • Rob Archer, Director, Zachary Daniels
  • Simon Kent, Editor, The Global Recruiter
  • Stephen Blackmore, UK Country Manager, FastTrack Recruitment Software
  • John Gaughan, CEO, Finlay James
  • Jo Lee, Managing Director, Marmalade Marketing

Global Recruiter - Recruitment Live 2018

John Gaughan kicked off the discussion by giving an insight into recent developments at Finlay James. A management buyout roughly in 2016 had put the company into his and his partners’ hands. Now Gaughan has a simple path ahead for his perm based business. Already growing the company significantly in terms of head count and having achieved a 50 per cent increase in revenue, his approach is to ensure consultants bill an average of £100k each and to take the business to 60 consultants this year, rising to 80 and then 100 in the future.

Interestingly, the business is now split between locations in the UK and the US. Following an APSCo led trade delegation trip to New York and San Francisco, Finlay James has effectively spread their risk across Europe, the UK and the latter US location, the idea being that each part of the business will support the other as the markets change. Gaughan gives the example that a bad Brexit experience could depress the UK market, but then the business will push its staff to concentrate Stateside instead.

Finlay James are a niche recruitment business, and yet are spreading their risks through geographical diversification. Given this example, and that of others in the room, Mark Mitchell wondered whether any recruitment company could truly say they were ‘niche’ any more. In the majority of cases there are separate departments and sections addressing specific markets, but this means recruitment businesses generally have a number of interests in a number of markets, designed to give themselves the security and resources from which to grow.

Market led

E3 Recruitment’s James Soden noted that in his experience, success or failure in a niche was very much driven by market conditions. He recalled one experience where the business had survived based purely on demand from a few clients in the oil and gas industry – while every other sector experienced difficulties, that market remained lucrative.

“You need absolute clarity of focus within the business to make sure you’re taking the right approach,” said Miles Lloyd. “If you want to grow your business successfully you need to have a quality mission statement which identifies what you’re doing well and what you need to do to move from A to B.”

Very often achieving this shift, growing the business, increasing fees and therefore turnover is a question of ensuring your clients understand the value they are getting from your business. Francis Dunleavy suggested that in some instances recruiters need to take the bold move of turning down certain job profiles either because they fall outside their actual specialisation or because the margin is not as high as is achievable for other roles.

The issue of company culture came under discussion as part of the process of growth. Francis Dunleavy noted that for international expansion in particular there was always a balancing act to be had between putting “one of your own” in the new territory to get the business moving and finding a local who could do the job with possibly a greater understanding of the country’s business practice.

Back on home ground, James Soden emphasised the importance of identifying and pushing through the company’s operating vision from day one, ensuring the principles and values by which the business was going to operate were understood and maintained throughout the growth of the company. Interestingly his business has just reached a size where they have appointed a head of people and operational development, with the intention that this person will take responsibility for understanding how company culture is developing and reporting back to directors once a month in order to keep them in the loop and make changes where appropriate. Soden is clear that company culture has to be worked on from the top down and must be established in the first five years. As the business grows culture requires investment and attention if the business is to maintain its image and value for clients and candidates.

Evolving cultures

Mark Mitchell also agrees company culture cannot be an add on, and noted that what’s right for a company of twenty people may not still be right when that company reaches 50 or 100 people. Explaining how company directors should not be afraid of this kind of change or of delegating responsibility for company culture he said: “Sometimes you have to get out of your own way and let your business’ management get on with it.”

Randstad’s Stewart McCoy said Randstad really comprised many different cultures, more increasingly in larger city hubs. The diverse teams addressing different sectors, education, care, construction and so on are certainly different types of people, each approaching their sectors accordingly, but, he says, they do get on and that allowing internal cultures to develop naturally, supported by the leadership team is important to ensure that people remain at the centre of the growth of the business. McCoy also reflected on what happened when the education recruitment business he was working for was bought by Randstad and the various challenges both internally and externally that came with being taken over by a larger operation. Certainly there was some stress as new systems and processes were implemented as the bought business was rebranded as Randstad. This had a temporary impact on culture as employees got to grips with the changes required.

Miles noted there were many successful examples of growth through acquisition where the purchaser did not try to assimilate the purchased business. The buyer has made an investment in their new recruitment business but left them to operate as they were – same name, same management structure – they have simply seen the potential that can be realised by giving that business some extra support and perhaps enabling them to gain efficiencies through shared back office services supplied by the owning company.

Global Recruiter - Recruitment Live 2018

New service challenge

The round table also raised the challenge of introducing a new product or service line to existing customers. It seems that it can be difficult for a company to start offering temp services, for example, to existing clients who only know that business for delivering permanent placements. A more effective way forward is to establish the new service offering with an entirely new customer base and then to approach existing customers when the ability to deliver has been proven elsewhere.

Addressing the fortunes of the recruitment industry in general, Mark Mitchell believes the current period has been and still is a good one for the recruitment sector. There are a great deal of new businesses starting up, the demand for skills and for a valuable recruitment service is unmistakable. Certainly Brexit and the word’s economic cycle could have a negative on the sector, but the sector continues to fare well despite the ongoing compliance demands and new threats presented by technology, employment platforms and the gig economy.

Indeed, one of the main challenges for recruiters moving forward is their own ability to find and retain talent for their own organisations. With their dependence on technology and differing life styles and outlooks, today’s potential recruitment consultant candidates look very different from how they looked even a few years ago. Many recruitment leaders are still to some extent experimenting with the best ways to attract, engage and harness that talent for their own businesses. Thankfully remuneration levels achievable make the profession attractive and it is clear that graduates and others are now making recruitment a positive career choice rather than simply falling into the profession.

Looking out over the Manchester city-scape there was every reason for recruiters to be positive for the future.

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