Many recruitment agencies get their start when successful consultants realise that there are little (or big!) things that they would do differently if they were in charge, or they feel like they have more to offer the recruitment industry than their current role allows. Of course, like any major change, taking the plunge can be daunting. But when you strike out on your own, as long as you do it strategically and surround yourself with the right people, you’ll find that many of the reasons that were holding you back could easily be overcome by learning from the successes and mistakes of others. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel!
The good news is, starting an agency is much easier than you might think. If you’re a consultant with strong people skills and a commitment to building long-lasting relationships that add value to your clients’ business and your candidates’ careers alike, then you’re likely finding that your hard work is reflected in your great hiring and retention rates. Being a great consultant lays the foundations for running a great recruitment agency; everything else, you can either learn yourself or learn from someone else who already knows.
Here’s how to turn those “can’ts” and “buts” around, and create a business to be very proud of.
Surround yourself with the right people
Surround yourself with the right people: employees who are fantastic at the areas you are inexperienced in, mentors who have taken this journey before and have wisdom to share, candidates who are genuinely enthusiastic and motivated, and clients who value great staff. Listen to ideas with an open mind, whether they come from a seasoned expert or an insightful newbie. Expect the business to grow, and hire people who you have faith in, so that you can let go of the reins a little when you are ready, to prevent yourself from becoming the bottleneck that holds things up.
Many recruitment consultants have transitioned into becoming successful business owners, and enjoy sharing their knowledge and experience with people who are just starting on their journey. They’ve stood in your shoes, they likely had mentors of their own, and now they are happy to have the opportunity to pay it forward by cultivating talented new entrants to the field.
Of course, directly asking someone to mentor you is very awkward and should be avoided, unless it’s someone with whom you already have a close relationship and feel comfortable with asking. It’s much better to develop relationships with people as individuals, ask questions, and make it clear that you are there to learn, not use. Given time, a mentoring relationship will often grow organically. Attending industry events like Recruitment Yarns is a great way to meet like-minded people, as well as to find out about all of the great support services that are available.
You could also consider hiring a business coach, or a professional mentor, such as Sophie Robertson to help you grow and develop your business (this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still be networking - the more people in the industry you know, the more you can learn!).
Don’t wear too many hats
There are many different aspects to the back-end of a business, and that’s often the obstacle that scares people off from even trying to start an agency. It would be very difficult for you to wear all the hats, and it wouldn’t make sense to: you’d be taking time away from doing your core business.
Much of the administration and accounts work that needs doing can be done by someone else. But this is where mistakes can be made: if you’re bringing someone in with very little experience in how the recruitment industry operates, they may not have the right skill set to be the best person for the job. And if you’re hiring someone full-time, you have certain obligations to them, such as ensuring that there’s an ongoing, steady flow of work. Outsourcing can be ideal in this situation: you only use their services for as long and as much as you need them, and you can hire a seasoned expert who has done similar work for other agencies in the past.
Read, read, read
There’s plenty of wisdom to be gleaned from the wealth of books about business ownership in general, and starting and growing a recruitment business in particular. Business.gov.au is a great place to start your research, and if you’re looking at starting either an on-hire recruitment business or a recruitment business that has a thriving temp desk, the brilliant Sophie Robertson’s Secrets to Running a Lucrative Temp Desk is a goldmine of useful information (including a chapter by yours truly on how to go about getting funding). You should also subscribe to the blogs and newsletters of industry veterans such as Rod Hore, who has also written an excellent blog on starting your own recruitment business.
Believe in yourself
Don’t let self-limiting thoughts stop you from discovering and achieving your potential. What you don’t know can largely be learned, and you don’t know your own abilities until you’ve tested them. By stepping outside of your comfort zone, you’re giving yourself the opportunity to actually become comfortable with new things, and you’re growing – not only in your career, but as a person.
Starting your own recruitment business means that you can guide it towards success. You can choose to work with passionate people of your choice, who help you to learn new things and for the business to grow strategically. It’s a wonderful feeling to cultivate the success of a business from scratch: you’ll enjoy a sense of purpose, direction and fulfilment of potential.
Remember: you’re more qualified than you think.