This series of three articles will help you explore as a recruitment agency owner, director or manager what key changes, you can make to grow your recruitment agency. It will give you a great checklist if you are looking to start a recruitment agency. It will also act as a checklist of best practice for you if you have already made significant inroads into your growth plans. While I use the generic term ‘agency’ this will be as relevant if you are a recruitment business or search firm.
My opinions and ideas are based on a number of successful recruitment agencies that I have supported and helped grow over the years in my capacity as a management consultant to the recruitment sector. Please do feel free to contact me to discuss your own individual situation.
Before I delve into the first five of fifteen ways to grow your recruitment agency I have a question for you. Are you ready for all the time, energy, hassle, expense, stress, and heartache that it takes to grow a business? I have seen way too many business owners grow from one or two to twenty-two and yet still be making the same profit they were ten years earlier when it was just themselves, one colleague and the company cat for company. Seriously, you have to be absolutely sure you want to do it, or you may look back in a few years time and wonder (a) Where have all the years gone? (b) Where have all the creases in my face come from?(c) Why do my staff not care as much about recruitment standards as I do? (d) Why don’t I have a decent war chest by now? And (e) Why did I think growing the business was a smart move?
Still want to grow your recruitment agency or start up a recruitment agency? Ok. I’m going to have one last go at putting you off, and after that, if you still want to read on then I know you are the type of person who will really benefit from the information. So… If you are looking to grow your business so that it reaches a size that makes it something that you could sell and that will be your pension, then there is another potential option. Let’s say you want to sell for £2million. By staying small and lean, it is perfectly feasible with a team of just two or three that you could put aside £200k per year for ten years and have your desired £2million ten years earlier than planned with a lot less hassle along the way.
Still here? Great let’s crack on:
- Hire recruitment consultants (and other members of the team) based on their values and ability, not background and experience. When I say their values, they have to align with yours. Hire people with your DNA. Not mirror images and clones but people who share what you truly value. Make a list of ten things, e.g., Honesty, integrity, consistency, etc. and interview people against that ten. Score the interviewee out of ten for each one, and if they drop below a seven out of ten for any single one of then, DON’T HIRE THEM. Save yourself the hassle of giving a consultant recruitment training, mopping up after them and letting them talk to your clients and candidates only to have to let them go six months later because time and time again they haven’t adhered to your standards. Work out your company’s DNA and only hire people who share it.
- Pay yourself first every time and on time. Unless you can do that month in month out you will be stretching the recruitment agency finances too far and very soon be running it on an overdraft and credit cards. Build a war chest before increasing headcount. As well as existing business expenses being covered for six months (including your salary) if no more fees came in the door, have six months salary for any new recruitment consultant banked as well. While you may well want them billing quite soon, putting yourself under pressure financially will end up with them being put under pressure too. Environment and culture are two reasons people stay or go!
- Have a clear career path for your people. Even if you are starting with your very first recruiter hire then by letting them understand your plans for the business AND THEM will get things off to the optimum start. That means having a clear career path aligned to a skills matrix. For example, take the three initial career stages such as (a) Trainee Recruitment Consultant – that is for someone with no sector knowledge or recruitment experience. (b) Entry level Recruitment Consultant – for someone with either sector knowledge or recruitment experience. (c) Recruitment Consultant – for someone with both sector knowledge and recruitment experience. If you aligned each stage with a skills matrix that is befitting of what is needed at that stage then by proving in actions and results they have those skills they can then move up the ladder. Back that up with consistent recruitment training coaching and mentoring and you have committed, well trained, loyal recruiters in your recruitment agency. As time goes on you, then have ready-made employees to fit into your robust recruitment company management structure.
- Invest heavily in your database. That doesn’t have to be money. Without a clean, up to date and user-friendly database/CRM system, your recruitment consultants will be scouring job boards and headhunting fresh candidates rather than nurturing and building relationships with existing ones. Having the right depth and breadth of I.P. will make it so much easier to grow the team. Monitor and audit the quality and accuracy of the data continuously. Do not accept anything below the agreed announced and understood standard of documentation. Let me paint a picture to emphasise my point. If your business turned over £1 million in perm fees per year for ten years and you made £100k profit each year, you are spending £9 million on your database. After all, you that is the only sure fire thing you have to keep billing fees – your data. Lose a member of staff whose intellectual property (your intellectual property) is in their heads and their little black book, and you will lose 80% of their revenue to a competitor. Lose a member of staff who has documented everything, and you will retain 80% of their revenue.
- Stop fee earning yourself as soon as you can and ideally before your third hire. I have seen too many recruitment agency owners manage a team of people, run a business, do 101 other tasks to keep the business afloat and still bill 40-60% of the revenue themselves. Instead, spend the time to ensure every recruiter is billing to their maximum capacity. You add an additional 20 hours to your working week when you run a business and bill yourself. Your staff will underperform, and you will be the one who makes up the shortfall needed to break even – at the weekend! Train them well, train them regularly and mentor and coach them to be the best they can be. Better six people at 75% of their peak and getting even better rather than you at 100% of yours and six others at 40%.
If you have enjoyed this article then why not read part two of 15 ways to grow your recruitment agency here. If you have already ready parts one and two then you can find part three here. You may or may not know that not only have I authored, voiced and produced ku.dos and am the CEO of Recruitment Matters International, I recruit and headhunt on a regular basis too (see www.kempconsultancy.com). That’s a unique combo – online recruitment training, face to face recruitment training, coaching and mentoring, management consultant and headhunter. With regards to helping you grow your recruitment agency while not every recruitment agency I’ve worked with has been all plain sailing and not every recruitment agency is destined for success – I’ve helped an award-winning recruitment agency grow from seven staff to 74, expand from one office to 12 and helped sell them for eight digits. I’ve assisted an engineering recruitment agency increase sales by 30% in a year without increasing headcount and have been an integral part of a contingency recruitment agency move to 100% retained while doubling their revenue. If you would like a discussion with me about what it takes to make your mark in recruitment (whether you are looking to grow or not) then give me a call or drop me a line. Thanks for reading this article.