I’ve been running Wave for a while now and I’m often asked about starting a business. There’s so much enjoyment to be had starting your own business, the early days and the excitement of your first customers can be an unrivalled feeling. The downsides can be equally tough, cashflow, people management, and suppliers to name a few hurdles you may encounter. It’s a real roller coaster!
Many of our clients are start up recruitment agencies, and although I’ve never set up a recruitment consultancy I thought I’d put together my top 5 tips based on my experience for anyone out there thinking of taking the plunge and starting up your own recruitment business.
1. Buckle up
If you’ve been in recruitment before, you’ll know it’s not a 9-5 job. This will serve as good training, as with your own business you’re entering a world of 24-7 working. One of the biggest myths of setting up your own business is that it will give you a great work/life balance. Let me tell you now it doesn’t. You’ll be working most of the hours under the sun, and that’s especially relevant in recruitment where candidates are now registering and looking for jobs all the time.
Success may be slow as well; some people make millions in the first six months, but most businesses will take a few years to grow and establish, so plan for the long haul and if success reaches you sooner then you’re ahead of schedule.
2. Be versatile and don’t be afraid to fail
One of the great advantages of setting up on your own is that you can react faster than many of your larger competitors whose red tape can make them slow and cumbersome. Look for emerging markets or niches that you can move into quickly to create a first mover advantage. By the time your competitors enter the market you may have already carved out a bit of niche for yourself. Don’t be afraid to try different markets, go with the demand of the market, and if it doesn’t go well you can always move back. Don’t be afraid to fail.
Don’t feel you also need to follow the trend with what everyone else does too. Recruitment is so competitive so try to differentiate yourself a little. If you’re the same as everyone else, why should candidates register with you, clients work with you and employees join you? You might have to think of something better than ‘it’s our service that makes us different’ too as everyone says that!
3. Source candidates
Make sure you have a deep enough pool of candidates to draw from. LinkedIn trawling is great when you only have one or two jobs on but if your list of requirements is growing you’ll need to access more candidates, and quickly too. You can be sure that other agencies are working the same jobs. Candidate attraction comes from many sources and at a variety of expense. Job boards will still provide the main constant stream of candidates, so trial a handful of job boards (many will do a start-up package) to see which suits you best. CV access will help as it will give you a permanent selection of candidates and jobs will provide an immediate response to your roles.
Many job boards will also offer enhanced services such as social media searching, like Talent Bin from Monster, HTML emails sent direct to candidates, and premium branding adverts. They will add value to your advertising and help attract candidates that others may miss, however be cautious of cash flow and ease your way in slowly. Don’t be the kid in the sweet shop! Away from job boards, there are other sources such as SEO, pay per click, trade journals, social media, job aggregators, but in the early days try to keep it simple.
4. Be thrifty
So many businesses run out of money. In terms of your budgeting, take your forecasts, and double the expenses, and half your sales. Can you survive? It will probably be tough in the early days, so keep your expenses to the basics! You dream of the private jets and lavish champagne parties, but the reality right now is that every penny counts. And every penny saved is one step closer to your dream. The barrier to entry for a consultancy is pretty low, so make sure you have the basics right; a website, some business cards, a phone, and some job board advertising, the rest can wait until year 2!
Run the office from home, beg and borrow equipment needed, you might be surprised how many people will help you get up and running, if you ask for it (just remember them when you make it big).
5. Marketing marketing marketing
In recruitment, there are hundreds of agencies all going after the same candidates and the same roles. Everything you do is marketing. Everything. Candidate interviews, client prospecting, every email, every conversation you have with anyone will affect your reputation, so be conscious that you’re always being judged. Even ‘out of hours’ and your personal social media updates, so be careful what you post! In fact a lot of what you will do will be online, so make sure your website is as slick as it can be. You don’t have to go over the top with it, but make sure the text is up to date, you have good quality images (avoid stock images of handshakes and people crowding around a laptop) candidates/clients can see your jobs, and most importantly it’s easy for people to get in touch with you.
Remember that every candidate will be placed somewhere and if treated correctly will carry your name forward to either a client or another candidate. The quality of your network will get you into places that other recruiters can’t reach and that’s driven by the quality of your reputation. So be genuine in your marketing and grow your reputation.
Good luck with your new business. I’m sure there will be lots of ups and downs along the way, and in addition to the above, sometimes you also need a little bit of luck too. Other than the well-trodden rhetoric that luck is where preparation meets opportunity, I have no other way of quantifying how you bump into the hiring manager of a FTSE 100 company who happens to need your current recruiting skill set urgently. You may have to figure that one out by yourselves.