What was your career prior to joining RE?
I have been working in the recruitment industry since 2001, starting out working for a leading financial services recruiter. I have run businesses from team sizes of 3 to over 100 consultants across various markets. Most recently I was responsible for a care and education business with 200 headcount and a £25 million GP. As an operations director, I was responsible for the performance of the business and took pride in developing my teams; over the course of my time in this role, I promoted over 100 staff from consultant level all the way up to Operations Director.
What does your role at RE involve?
My primary focus is identifying and securing potential investments for Recruitment Entrepreneur to make, helping entrepreneurs start or scale their own recruitment business. I speak to either current founders or experienced individuals within the industry who have an aspiration to set up on their own, in order to ascertain if their business vision and market is a right fit for our portfolio.
What do you look for in someone applying for investment?
It varies depending on whether someone is looking to launch a new business or scale an existing one.
For those wanting to start a new business, the key things we initially look at are: the longevity and success of their recruitment experience; their tenure in the market; and that they work in a niche vertical market. In summary, an inch wide and mile deep expert with a strong billing history; and a LinkedIn profile that displays excellent networks connections and demonstrates that they are active in their market. Once we’re in conversation with them, we want to see that they’re a strong communicator, can articulate their vision, and that their vision is something that is unique and of great potential value. We also look to assess the ability to become an inspirational leader who will not only lead from the front, but will develop into someone who can in the future run a large and successful business.
With founders who are currently running a business and are eager to take it to the next level, we discuss what that looks like and challenges they have previously faced in scaling their business. Whether for example that is talent attraction, retention, or breaking into new markets, we take a deeper dive into how we can support that business and what capital investment is needed alongside our support to make that happen. With 72% of recruitment businesses never getting past a headcount of 10, we know exactly how hard it becomes to scale a recruitment business without an appropriate infrastructure or support. This is our expertise area.
In all cases, applicants also need to demonstrate consistent billing performance, profits, and well-established client and candidate connections.
Underpinning everything is determining whether the individual simply wants to run a lifestyle business versus creating a business of scale and real value. As investors, we are only interested in people who have their sights set on growth and scale.
What do you think RE’s greatest strength is?
Its ability to support an individual to realise their vision for growing a market leading recruitment business. The support we can give a future or current founder is broken down into multiple facets, such as back office, finance, and marketing support, along with having a team to provide front office support which constitutes strategy and tactical support. With this dedicated support we enable a founder to focus on generating business and supporting their teams to win. Setting up and running a business takes incredible effort and dedication; there is no doubt that doing it on your own is vastly harder than doing it in partnership with RE.
What is the typical process that applicants go through to become a portfolio partner?
The first step is an initial discussion with a current or future founder. Whilst the idea and plan behind setting up a recruitment business is important, it is the individual we invest in. If I see potential, this is followed with developing their business plan, a detailed budget review, and the founder getting the chance to meet the wider RE support network. Finally, we put together a fully integrated implementation plan to launch or scale their business.
How did you come to join RE?
I saw the role advertised on LinkedIn. It piqued my interest because it is a role that harnesses all the recruitment experience that I have from an operational standpoint. Seeing someone realise their dream, which in this case is setting up a business or seeing their business flourish within our portfolio, gives me a great deal of satisfaction. It is no different to getting someone their perfect job which drives many of us in this industry to keep doing what we do.
What has surprised you most about the RE portfolio?
The strength and depth of the experience within the team. It is truly a world-class operation that ensures entrepreneurs can create a business of true value and ultimately a realisation event that creates true wealth.
What advice would you give someone applying for investment?
Really think about why you want investment and how you would use it. You do not necessarily need to have a complete vision of what the future will look like, but you should know exactly what you want to achieve from it. The fundamental basics of how to go about doing that has to come from the founder. We are not looking for people who want their businesses run for them; we want people who have the drive and ambition to do it themselves, but with the backing of world-class knowledge and expertise that will guide and support them to build a market leading recruitment business.
How do you think RE can support businesses to assist them coming out of the economic downturn caused by Covid-19?
Our management team is made up of individuals who have seen and weathered multiple recessions or challenging markets – we are here to guide founders on how to adapt and change to difficult market positions. Being part of a group portfolio of individual businesses also creates opportunity for joint tender wins and client development. Proof that this works is shown by the fact that we have profitable businesses despite the challenging period; without the group portfolio support, some would have quite likely been really struggling or even folded without the eyes and ears of RE.
Finally, when you’re not working, how do you spend your time?
My other passions in life have become home renovation, golf and flying a microlight, which I now have a pilot’s license for. But mostly, I enjoy just running around after my 2 young daughters! I often wonder who is in charge.