So, you’re thinking of starting your own recruitment agency but you’ve never worked for a recruitment agency?
Is this just crazy fantasy on par with me thinking that I could date Margot Robbie or is it, in fact, something you can do?
I bring good news. With a bit of grit, hard work and determination to do things the right way, you can start a recruitment agency without any experience of working for one previously.
How can I be so sure of this? Well, it’s something my business partner and I have achieved.
Over the past five years, we have built Logic Resourcing from dust to serving multiple businesses across Staffordshire and Cheshire. We have employed a small team and work in a cool office in Stoke.
There’s a bloody bleak statistic that states that over 8 out of 10 recruitment agencies fail to make it past their first year. I do not write that to ‘blackpill’ you but that is the reality. However, I want to tell you how you can ensure that you do not add that number. It can be done, we’re proof.
HOW HAVE WE NOT ONLY SURVIVED, BUT THRIVED?
I have a confession to make. It is true that neither Steve nor I have worked for a recruitment agency, we have worked in recruitment. Between us, we have over 20 years experience in this domain and it really helps.
Could you launch a recruitment agency without any experience of working in recruitment at all? Possibly. But I’d highly recommend you at least surround yourself with people who do understand the art of good recruiting.
Put simply, we knew recruitment but we didn’t know if we could transition into a recruitment agency model.
Working internally for a business as a recruiter provides a unique perspective and one that we think gave us an edge. Why? Because the internal recruitment process is quite robust. There is a heavy focus on the candidate, their experience, and cultural fit.
A lot of people go from agency recruitment to internal recruitment, but few go in the opposite direction. There is a reason for this.
DID WE THINK WE WOULD SUCCEED?
Of course, we believed in ourselves but ultimately we didn’t know how successful we would be and that’s the point. You can never know. It will never be the right time. But you can take the lessons you have learnt previously alongside the contacts you have built. You can use all of this and you should.
A lot of agencies, as you may know, promise the world. Do not do this. Take that experience you have potentially had with them and identify what you’re not going to do. It sounds rather counterintuitive, doesn’t it? Why would you focus on what others do badly? But this is where the real lessons can be found.
Starting a recruitment agency, as we discuss on the first episode of our podcast Nobody Likes Recruiters, has a very low bar to entry. One only needs a laptop and an internet connection, that’s it. But, as the statistic at the top of this piece shows us, most fail. You have to hone in on why they fail. What is it they do wrong?
DO YOU NEED TO NICHE DOWN?
Man, we thought about this a lot. We tore ourselves apart trying to think of our niche. It was futile. Being a specialist is good and there is a place for it, but you have to really know the sector you are targeting.
We found it better to take a more generalist approach while obviously being very aware of our strengths. This ultimately helped during the infamous COVID year of 2020.
Thought experiment: imagine we’d ‘niched down’ on the service sector prior to that period? We all watched restaurant after restaurant being forced to close their doors for lockdown. We wouldn’t have made it out of the other side if we’d picked that sector as our focus.
It’s humorous to look back now, but the early days of Logic were basic. We had a shoebox office that could just about fit us both in. We had to take calls at the end of the corridor. We borrowed our ‘desks’ from a canteen on the premises.
My point? As I alluded to previously, it is rarely the right time. A former banker, who rented the office across from us, would pop in every morning and remind us to ‘build the bank’. What he meant by that was to walk before we could run.
It is very easy to spend what you earn. You pull in your first cash injection and the temptation builds. Resist. Focus on accumulating what you can, especially in the first twelve months. If you have no cash flow, life is miserable.
Have something to fall back on. Businesses are notorious for not paying when you expect them to pay. When you do acquire cash, you absolutely have to ensure you are using it to build a reserve because you never know when you will need it.
YOUR NAN WAS RIGHT, PATIENCE IS A VIRTUE.
We went into this with some strong relationships. We had, or at least we thought we had, people who may potentially employ us to recruit for their business. But even with two decades worth of respective contacts, the revenue didn’t materialise instantly.
Being able to leverage these relationships helped, although ironically it wasn’t the most obvious ones that provided us with much needed business. Regardless, being able to reach back toward some of these people enabled us to get traction. Many shared our posts on LinkedIn and interacted with our website. While not always directly driving business, this certainly helped.
BE DEFINED BY YOUR SERVICE
Sometimes you’re going to need to have tough conversations with those who you’re recruiting for. Whether it be pay or flexible working, from time to time the employer might be a little out of sync with what the market dictates.
It is your job, fundamentally, to provide clarity. In some cases it may be that salary is the defining factor, but that’s all too often the reason recruiters cite as to why they’re unable to find a quality candidate.
Do not base feedback to employers on your ‘gut feeling’. Always try to rationalise and provide context or data on why you may be finding it tough to identify the right person. We frequently undertake quantitative research in order to back up our theories before we give feedback to the client on why we might be struggling to fill their role. This is something many others don’t do.
In some situations, the answer is to adjust the remit slightly. Could your client, for example, actually need a junior for the role? Could they be missing something in their spec that may be better placed to attract the right person? These are all things you must endeavor to establish.
A local business came to us recently looking to employ a bid writer. They said that the opportunity had been advertised with three other agencies to no avail. After diving a little deeper into the role, we took the information away and researched what others in the same geographic area were paying for the same role. Within a 15 mile radius from where the company was based, nine other roles were available at a higher rate of pay.
Outlining feedback like this softened the employer and I was surprised that no other agency had this conversation with them (or maybe I wasn’t).
TRUST, TRUST, TRUST
A lot of the behaviors, especially within a recruitment agency, are driven by an arbitrary number. While it is obviously important to ensure you are contributing to the ‘bottom line’, it can create pressure that negatively impacts the experience of a candidate.
Moreover, from the perspective of the employer, they can quickly lose trust in your ability if they feel like you’re putting people forward willy-nilly for roles that are just not right.
Everybody you speak to has probably had calls from recruiters who’ll tell them that they do things differently. We, as recruiters, have to change perceptions of our trade.
I hope this article has provided value for thought. I strongly recommended you listen to our podcast (embedded above) that goes into more detail on how you can start a recruitment agency without experience.
If you are thinking of getting started and have questions, we’re open to fielding them. Just drop us a message on any of our channels or via email and we’ll get back to you.