Attract and Retain the Best Recruiters for Business Growth – Part One

AttractAs a recruitment company owner, how do you successfully negotiate transforming the small, ‘lifestyle’ business you created into the bigger, ‘corporate’ business it’s becoming?  How do you retain consultants throughout the process, and what are the benefits of doing so?  In the first of three blogs, Chris Orkney, Sales Executive at Bond International Software, draws upon his years of experience working with both ‘lifestyle’ and ’corporate’ recruitment businesses and shares some valuable insight…

When I started working in recruitment seven years ago, I was brought into a small niche agency by my brother-in-law.  It was a family business started in a garage – no big overheads, really good margins – and built-up from there.  The business was dedicated to growth, but it still felt like a family business. 

…a story not unlike many in the industry, but an especially interesting one because this particular agency eventually became one of the biggest in the UK.

When the time came, this agency, like many others, began transforming from a small ‘lifestyle’ business into a bigger ‘corporate’ business. 

Transformation is natural

Recruiters want progression, growth or development and if a company can’t offer those things, they will ‘job-hop’ and find a company that can.  If a business starts with four consultants, within a couple of years they will be thinking about their ‘next step’ and the owner will need to hire more consultants in order to move the original four into new positions.  If that doesn’t happen, one or more will probably leave.  The company might shrink, or, if it doesn’t grow compared to its competitors who started-up at the same time, it will look like it’s shrinking from the clients’ perspective.  And, sooner or later, it will look that way from the consultants’ perspective too. 

Without progression, a business goes stale

…but what happens to the family business feel?  In my experience, that’s a ‘honeymoon’ period and, eventually, things change.  Bigger companies simply can’t be ‘lifestyle’ in many ways, they may retain aspects, but it becomes more of a numbers game.  This might be a melancholy way to look at it, but, realistically, as a company grows so does the pressure upon its owner.  Running a business with four consultants is very different to running one with twenty – the wage bill is five times higher and, if there isn’t enough money in the bank to cover it should the consultants have a couple of bad months, the business is in trouble. 

But, like a caterpillar transforming into a butterfly, the cozy cocoon of the honeymoon period can successfully transform a ‘lifestyle’ business into a ‘corporate’ one.  It’s all about attracting people as a ‘lifestyle’, managing the transformation, and retaining them as a ‘corporate’. 

Attract as a ‘lifestyle’ business

Something my brother-in-law once told me still rings true – ‘You can earn more money working at a small recruitment company than you can at a big corporate one’.  At a small company, there are lower overheads and less upper management to pay for, so, as long as you’re billing, your commission percentage can be higher – certainly higher than working at a company with big overheads and layers of management.  I learned this to be true when I found myself explaining my commission structure to Rec to Rec consultants looking to recruit me – they couldn’t come close to offering the same rates and suggested I stay where I was!

The main factors attracting recruiters to a ‘lifestyle’ company are better commission, minimal micro-management and, importantly, being part of a business from the very beginning.

In Part Two, Chris looks at how to manage the business transformation – from using ‘lifestyle’ perks to incentivise staff to finding a true vision for the future…