The Accounting Department Blog

Starting your own recruitment business - are you thinking big picture?

Many recruitment consultants find that the better they get at what they do, the more they start to notice ways in which the agency they work for could be doing things better. You may have had clients or candidates rave about how you go the extra mile, the little things you do that make a big difference, and the passion you bring to your work. People might have said “I wish all recruiters were like you!” or even suggested that you should think about running your own recruitment business.

Great recruiters like you aren’t in this business just to turn a dollar and tick some boxes: if what motivates you the most is the sense of purpose you get from acting as the backbone that helps clients and candidates to grow, thrive, and achieve their potential, then you deserve to fulfil your own potential by starting a recruitment business.

Being in business for yourself is a wonderful feeling; you’re steering the strategic direction of this ship, and by collaborating with your talented employees to make something new and special, you’re changing lives (and making your mum very proud, I’m sure). But there are a few traps that people sometimes fall into when starting a recruitment business, and one of these is not practicing big-picture thinking. Here’s some tried-and-tested advice for how to avoid this pitfall and make sure that your business achieves all that it is capable of.

1.    Plan

When you’re driving your car, you don’t usually just start the engine and drive randomly: you’ve got a destination in mind, some idea of how to get there, and probably a GPS or Maps app to plan your route. Running a business is very much the same: you need strategic direction, a business plan, and an understanding of the routes you want to follow and the tools you need to get there. There may be some unexpected bumps in the road, you might find some interesting detours or shortcuts, and you might even change your destination many times as your business develops and you learn from your successes and mistakes, but you need to think ahead and have the foundations in place before you set off on your adventure.

2.   Be a lifelong learner

Your business won’t be operating in a bubble. There’s a big industry out there, and indeed a big world out there. The more prepared you are, the better. There are many excellent resources out there that share valuable lessons on personal and professional development, and keep you abreast of trends in the recruitment industry and in the economy at large. Being intellectually curious can make you better at business, leadership, productivity, and so much more.

3.   Let go of the reins a little

It’s all too easy to think on a micro level, but if you want your business to grow and thrive, then you must be prepared to let go of the reins a little. If you don’t want to be a one-person recruitment business, then you’ve got to be prepared to hire other people who share the same vision as you, and have a variety of skills, talent and expertise so that you can work together to become more than the sum of your parts. Hierarchical leadership is rapidly becoming a thing of the past in all industries, including recruitment, and some of the best ideas you’ll ever hear might come from your most junior staff members. Cultivate, delegate, encourage, and let the people who you’ve carefully selected to be part of your business know that they are valued and trusted to do their best. If you give people credit, they’ll rarely disappoint.

Another important part of letting go of the reins is realizing when you can’t do everything yourself, and knowing when to ask for help. Stabbing around in the dark repeating other people’s mistakes can be damaging, even fatal, to a business. But the good news is, even without prior experience in running your own business, starting a successful recruitment business is much easier than you might suspect: rather than a leap into the abyss, it’s a path that many consultants have gone down before, and there are many people in the industry who would be more than happy to advise you, mentor you and share the lessons they’ve learned. Networking with experienced, talented, passionate people who want to pay it forward is a great way to learn the ropes.

Of course, there are many back-end aspects of your business that are just as crucial as recruitment. At best, these can take up a lot of your time; at worst, you face issues of due diligence, compliance, or not realising important financial patterns that can harm your business, such as overspending in one area and underspending in another. Business accounting is a very specific field that takes many years of learning and experience to master, and as a recruitment business owner, the more time you have to develop your core business, the more it can thrive.


David Payne is a Chartered Accountant with over 20 years of accounting, payroll and finance experience, including roles as CFO of four companies specialising in the recruitment on-hire and health industries.

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David Payne