Ten tips when starting a recruitment agency

This year marks the 10th anniversary for Ensure Recruitment. It’s hard to believe that we have been making our mark in the Australian and New Zealand Insurance markets for a decade!

Ten years is a significant milestone for any business and so it is particularly rewarding to see our company thriving in such a competitive market and as we celebrate this milestone, it is good to reflect on the things we have learnt along the way.

Founding Ensure Recruitment (pictured left) 10 years ago was the best career choice I have ever made. I literally love what I do, I control my own destiny and make my own decisions on my future. However, it is certainly not easy.

Here are my 10 top tips for you if are considering starting up on your own:

Consider why you want to open your agency Starting your own business is a big step in any industry and there are numerous scary statistics around the rate of new businesses that fail. It is going to be all consuming in the early years as you build your business, so really take the time to consider why you want to do this and make sure it’s for the right reasons. If you have access to a business mentor, they can be invaluable in helping you in the early and ongoing stages of a new venture.

Be prepared to put in long hours I had always been a high billing consultant and would sometimes think to myself that all this money could be mine. The truth is often very different. Starting your business, you will realise that while you once dedicated 100 per cent of your time to placing roles, suddenly there are so many more tasks you need to do in a day. You start to become responsible for finance, marketing, technology, suppliers and the list goes on. I would estimate in my first year that I spent at most 75 per cent of my time recruiting. Be prepared to do all non-client/candidate facing tasks in your own time.

Cashflow is king Something I never had to think about as a successful recruiter was cash flow but as a business owner, it is critical. In the early days you will have more bills coming in than placements. Make sure you have budgeted for all the things you will need and create a buffer zone in case that first placement takes a bit longer than you thought. Managing clients to ensure they pay on time is essential and not signing terms of business with extended payment terms is so important; after all, you are not a bank for your clients!

Have a business plan Plan your new business as much as possible and try where possible to plan for things that might not go the way you think. What will your value proposition be for the new business? Recruitment is competitive and how will you differentiate yourself in the early months? How will you attract clients and candidates? What will your specialisation be? Where do you see opportunities? What CRM will you use? How will you market your business? The more research and planning you can do the better. A business plan can also be your motivator to let you know you are doing better than expected and are hitting goals.

Don’t assume your clients will follow you Remember you are likely to be under a restraint of trade to your current clients and even when that ends there is no guarantee those clients will be able to use you in the future if they have tight PSA agreements. It is wonderful if your clients want to follow you but what is your back-up plan is they don’t or can’t? When I set up my own business, some of the clients I least expected to follow me did but others that really wanted to carry on using my services couldn’t because they were tied to strict PSAs.

Invest in a great CRM I would absolutely suggest investing in a good recruitment software solution. There are many to choose from in the market so selecting the right one based on your business model will take time and research but will be one of the best investments you will make. Consider what type of recruitment will the agency would be doing, what functionality would best support this, the support that would be provided and ease of use and reporting.

Hire well & invest in your people In the early days you really need to consider what your value proposition is for potential recruiters to come and join you. Put yourself in their shoes, why would an established and experienced recruiter want to join a start-up business? Consider your benefits, offer things the bigger agencies may not be able to offer. As your business grows and becomes more profitable, consider growing your benefits. Of course, you cannot offer everything from day one but keep revisiting your offering to make your business is appealing to recruiters.

Foster a culture of continuous development Make sure your team is focused on keeping their skills current and developing new skills. Everyone can improve (including the business owner) so make development opportunities open to everyone in the business. We have found a blend of internal and external training has worked well. We have found this structured approach has my team really focused on taking ownership for their own development and we have seen a number of our team promoted based on their own willingness to develop and take the next career step.

Partner with external companies As a business owner you will find your time is stretched constantly with a high number of competing priorities. Time will become precious and there will never be enough hours in a day. This being said employment legislation continues to evolve and as an owner it is your responsibility to ensure your business is compliant. I have personally found that partnering and being a member of the RCSA has been invaluable in terms of making sure my business gets the right amount of information as legislation changes as well as other invaluable support over the years.

Have fun and take stock of your success There are many tough times in running your own business and especially in the early years so do not forget to have fun along the way. Celebrate every milestone and achievement. Personally I have loved the last 10 years, having the freedom to shape my own business and make my own decisions has been the most rewarding 10 years of my professional career. The old saying “If you love what you do, you never work a day in your life” has been true for me and I hope it is also true for you if you decide to embark on this exciting journey.

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