Struggling, becoming desperate, close to giving up ……what is the lesson?

Struggling, becoming desperate, close to giving up

……what is the lesson?


Are you struggling?
Do you feel times are tough?
Did you set out on your current career, business quest with high energy, focus, enthusiasm and loads of belief and now after many weeks and months, maybe of obstacles and challenges, are feeling worn down and beaten up?

Then maybe you will allow me to tell you a story of one of my sales team who was struggling during the recession of the early 90s. For the purposes of this tale let’s call her Sophie.

Now Sophie was ambitious very talented with many skills but was struggling to generate sales and move her business forward and her life too. Though she was in her early 30s, very attractive, both personality and appearance wise, Sophie was encountering numerous challenges with men too who were unwilling to accept her as an equal and in some cases her ambition and perceived success made them uncomfortable.

To make things worse in the previous 12 months she had left the company we were both now working for but due to a takeover of her new company by our present employer she now found herself back in the same place, with the same job, at the same desk feeling very exasperated.

I too had only just joined the company and was faced with managing and helping Sophie.

You can well imagine however how frustrated Sophie was feeling, like she had nowhere to go, no one to turn to and totally like giving up.

As Sophie’s manager I sat down for a chat with her and she shared her troubles and feelings with me. I listened and reflected back to her on a practical level places where I believed she could improve her performance but I felt there was more to this. So at the time not knowing Sophie well I took a risk and shared with her a book I recently been made aware of; If life is a game, These are the Rules by Cherrie Carter-Scott.

If you are not familiar with this book then I suggest you check it out. In the book Cherrie Carter-Scott shares what she considers the 10 Rules for Being Human and it was the first four rules I shared with Sophie.

  1. You will receive a body. You may like it or hate it, but it’s yours to keep for the entire period.
  2. You will learn lessons. You are enrolled in a full-time informal school called, “life.”
  3. There are no mistakes, only lessons. Growth is a process of trial, error, and experimentation. The “failed” experiments are as much a part of the process as the experiments that ultimately “work.”
  4. Lessons are repeated until they are learned. A lesson will be presented to you in various forms until you have learned it. When you have learned it, you can go on to the next lesson.

I am delighted to say that Sophie did this and went on to be very successful with the company and eventually become a Sales Director and run her own business as well as finding a loving, caring husband who respects her and with whom she now has a lovely family.We discussed the rules but most particularly No 4. I pointed out I did not know what the lesson was that she was not learning but what I observed was that life was for some reason repeating a lesson. As her new boss I was prepared to work with her and help and support her whilst she worked through this lesson.

Since the early 90s I have met many more people who I have coached and supported, who have had similar issues with a lesson being repeated because in my experience that appears to be the nature of the universe.

In my experience if you set out with intent to achieve something the universe will support you initially but in order to achieve it you will have to undergo an element of personal growth. The bigger the vision you have, the greater the personal growth you must undergo.

So I suggest to all of you that if you feel like it is Groundhog Day. If your dream seems a long way off and you have feelings of giving up then look at yourself. Look into your dark corners and ask yourself what is the lesson I am missing.

You will be amazed that as you work through it how this will release all those other blockages in your life.

One piece of final advice is from Albert Einstein –

No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it

Good luck on your journey

Recruitment Agency Owners – Do you have an end game?

Recruitment Agency Owners – Do you have an end game?

It might seem obvious but one of the first questions we ask our clients when we start working with them is, where do they want to end up or what is their exit?

Very often the subject becomes a discussion around options open to them, which generally results in two to three choices.

  • Grow to sell in an open market sale
  • Sell to your staff MBO
  • Grow to retain but role change

Growing your business to sell in an open market

screen-shot-2016-11-16-at-11-26-45This will require you to make decisions about how you grow it, which will be different to some of the ones you might otherwise make.

When you sell your business to a would-be-buyer generally you want to maximise the value it is worth. The value you receive for your business will typically be a multiple of the EBITDA (Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization). This in turn will require you to look at many factors but profitability is probably the key one.

A quick glance at the Recruiter Hot 100 will give you an idea of the types of productivity other clients are achieving in your sector. These are the productivity levels for all employees and include non-fee earners and trainees so a figure over £100,000 per head annually is a good starting point. This year the top companies are achieving in excess of £175,000 per employees.

Another key consideration is how important are you the owner(s) to the businesses viability and profitability. If you intend to exit the business when you sell then how strong the business would be without you is key otherwise what are the purchasers getting.

There are other considerations such as:

  • Are you a niche recruiter or generalist?
  • What is your spread of clients
  • Length of key client contracts?
  • Strength of your candidate database and talent acquisition processes?
  • Which market sector are you occupying?
  • Assets and debt of your business?
  • Business mix Perm vs. Contract/Temp/Interim
  • Consultant Training and Development programmes
  • Strength of your leadership team
  • Staff turnover and tie in
  • Branding

All of these have a part to play in determining the value of your business and even then other factors such as the economic environment and markets attitude to risk will have an impact.

Typically it can take clients three to four years to get their business to a level where investors would pay serious money for your company. The world can change and the ‘multiple’ they expected for their business changes with it so this is not without risk.

Grow to sell to your staff

screen-shot-2016-11-16-at-11-23-36Many of our clients have a strong emotional connection to their business and staff and often have a preference for selling the business to key employees. This may surprise many as it does not often leverage the highest return for owners but for a whole set of emotional reasons this is preferable.

Naturally in any independent valuation all the above factors have a consideration but the strength of your leadership team is obviously key.

For clients who are considering this exit they often see a role for themselves in this newly formed business structure. This can either be as a non-exec, chairman, advisor or mentor.

Payments to the owners can be staggered and staged and are often less dependent upon external factors.

The transition is seen as gradual and less time critical and formal. Whilst this might work for the owners not all potential acquirers may be happy.

Getting the ‘old boss’ out of the way so they can make the changes without interference can be highly desirable for some management teams and also a challenge. Emotions and feelings can make this more complicated, hazardous and not always preferable.

Grow to retain but with a Role change

Finally the last group of exits are less about exiting the business but owners exiting their existing role. This usually involves people moving from a situation where they are 90% involved in the day to day transactions of the business even as a key biller to one where they have no operational requirements for securing, delivering or managing candidates, workers or clients and are working 90% ‘on the strategic management’ of their business.

Many of our clients who go for this role are seeking an ‘ambassadorial’ role where they can lead and champion the business whilst retaining a ‘strategic leadership and mentoring’ role.

Like both the previous examples the development of the senior leadership team is key but as there is no exit required it does allow key employees who are deficient in certain leadership qualities to play a key a lead role in the business and develop their leadership skills and qualities overtime.

In many cases this is often never the ultimate destination but on the journey to either of the two outcomes already discussed. This however can take many more years to achieve and therefore worthy of consideration.

Your business exit

screen-shot-2016-11-16-at-11-29-43Your business will be individual, your market, clients, circumstances and staff will all be unique and what works for some may not work for you. It is why when we meet customers this is an interactive discussion and a key consideration.

Often we start with a ‘Grow to retain’ objective that shifts and changes as the process of evolving the business progresses.

Whether you contact the Recruitment Training Group for guidance and support or another business coach we would encourage you to seek support.

The final consideration for you is how the ‘coach/advisor’ is being remunerated. If the coach becomes an ‘investor’ in return for their advise, then maximisation of their return will be a key consideration for them. They will naturally have a preference for a sale in the open market, which as long as your aspirations are aligned will not be an issue. This will work well for you, as it will ensure you receive the maximum return too.

A coach however should be working with you to help you make the right decision for you and on developing you as a person they should not be ‘telling’ you what to do but guiding and supporting you in making the decisions you encounter. You should expect some work with you on developing your personal skills as well as highlighting and working on any ‘limiting beliefs’ you may have that are inhibiting your personal development and that of the business.

If a confidential discussion would be beneficial then feel free to contact us.

Millennial Recruiters need flexibility with boundaries and consequences

One of the most popular topics we come across today in our discussions with Recruitment Business Owners when we are creating their high growth strategies is the concept of output-focused working or Results Only Working Environments.

The ROWE ™ concept was developed by Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson, founders of the consulting firm CultureRx. They published the approach in their 2008 book, “Why Work Sucks and How to Fix it.

In a ROWE ™ recruitment agency environment, you measure consultants by their performance, results or output, not by their presence and hours in the office or the hours they put in after work. In a truly ROWE ™ business you give them complete autonomy over their projects, and you allow them the freedom to choose when and how they will meet their objectives and goals.

WOW – and yes this stuff scares the sh*t out of most business owners especially the Baby-boomers and Generation-X business leaders and managers who have spent the last 10-20 years in our industry. In many cases it challenges their whole philosophy, their fundamental beliefs and values about work.

So why do it?

The answer is your new hires are typically drawn from the age group born between 1980 and 1994 who are termed Generation-Y or Millennials (as they entered the workplace after the millennium). Their attitude and approach to work is different and as such they are changing the workplace globally.

Ressler and Thompson would also argue that:

  • You will attract and retain the best talent
  • Drive greater accountability at all levels within the organisation
  • Evolve managers into coaches who hold people accountable to measurable results.
  • Catalyse innovation in process by removing senseless workplace barriers.
  • Operate in the leanest manner possible by reducing wasteful practices in time and materials.
  • Drive competence in all roles.

It is our experience that all of these are possible but you will also:

  • Increase discretionary labour
  • Liberate your teams latent passion and desire for success
  • Empower your staff to grow themselves and your business
  • Secure wider family buy-in from (spouses and children)
  • Reward optimisation of working practices
  • Reduce sickness and absenteeism

Is this all possible? Well actually yes it is and it is the “Future-of-Work”. Regrettably for those businesses that don’t embrace this way of working you will be deemed out-dated and not attractive to the Millennial Generation. You will struggle to attract and retain the most accomplished staff and skilled professionals.

Some companies are already seeing this.

There has been a huge amount written about Gen-Y and Millennials mainly from the US but in 2016 we passed a significant milestone on the UK Workplace in that Millennials took over from Baby-boomers as the largest generation represented in the UK workforce. This is now true in most developed nations. Although are still the largest proportion of the population many of them have retired in the past few years.


Taken from Guardian 07/03/16

This is changing the UK workplace as businesses increasingly come under pressure from Millennials to change their working practices.

According to accepted research Millennial Generation typically seek many things:

  • Meaningful Work
  • Fun at Work
  • Collaborative Working
  • Freedom of Choice/Expression
  • Flexible Working

They tend to place a greater value on the work-life balance than Gen-X and Baby-boomers. They shy away from ‘command and control’ and traditional authoritarian leadership styles. Small intimate, collaborative working environments where they can make a difference, is what attracts them. There’s a lot here, which, Hertzberg would recognise:

  • Personal recognition
  • Achievement
  • Recognition
  • Responsibility

So it is not all new or revolutionary.

ROWE ™ Recruitment Agency environment

So how do you create an Output focused or “Results Orientated Working Environment”, which recruiters and agency leaders and owners are happy with?

It is simple by defining the key daily activity targets consultants are expected to achieve. A lot of this will depend upon your agency operating model either as a niche recruiter model or generalist one but either way you need to define the daily activities your consultants must to achieve. Typically these will include:

  • Outbound candidate calls
  • Outbound hiring manager calls
  • New Candidates found
  • New Sales leads secured
  • Job Board Searching
  • CVs Spec’d in to clients
  • Market research
  • Social Media Sourcing and LinkedIn Activity

In many of our clients who are achieving high growth their consultants who flex-on and off are achieving their daily activity targets within their hours plus their sales targets are either being exceeded or met on a consistent basis.

As one MD said to me recently “if our guys are over target and exceeding their daily activity targets then I have no issue in them leaving at lunch time one day a week to go to the Christmas Markets or Surfing in Newquay or mountain biking in Snowdonia.”

“It is amazing too! When everyone’s finishing early on a Friday because they are delivering the required results it’s a pretty big incentive for the weaker performers to hit their sales and activity targets to leave early too.”

“Families can leave for Centerparcs, Mums and Dads can see children’s football matches, ballet performances and come in late when their daughter/son has a ‘special assembly’. Everyone wins the company, staff and their families”

“They all have work phones so can still be contactable if they are needed.”

Some clients have to work skeleton cover for workers/contractors on paydays but it is all possible.


Agree Boundaries and Consequences

For this to work as managers, leaders and owners you have to be clear on several things?

  1. Activity Targets
  2. Sales Targets
  3. Consistency
  4. Exceeding targets is consultants responsibility not yours
  5. Agreed consequences of missing targets

Many consultants are like teenage children, after all many of them were teenagers until recently. They will challenge the boundaries and seek ‘special dispensations’. It’s a dangerous road to go down both morally and legally. You must treat all staff equally and be consistent. Failure to do so could result in an employment tribunal if it goes wrong.

One of the easiest ways to achieve this is to adopt the principle that you have agreed the conditions under which your teams can flex-on and off but it is not your responsibilityto make sure consultants exceed the required targets. It is theirs.

Finally as long as these conditions are agreed up front then you should not feel guilty if a consultant is left alone in the office whilst everyone is down the pub on a Friday afternoon. My experience is that next time they will make sure they are the right side of the line.

The by-product of adopting this regime is you will attract people that want success. They will invest the hours and effort they need to do to accomplish their activities in the week. Working on personal development, which improves performance becomes a WIN/WIN. Peer-pressure is a key tool in a managers toolkit and your consultants will want to be seen to be in that ‘winners enclosure’.

So if people want to spend 30 mins at the coffee machine talking about last nights Eastenders or Champions League game they can but they cant really complain if they miss their activity targets and end up staying behind. Thats the consequence of their actions.

Over time good consultants will optimise their ways of working.

Some will make calls in an evening as candidates tend to talk more freely away from work. You may find some spouses are also more flexible supporting working Mums and Dads at bath-time if it means the family can leave for their weekend trip early on Friday.

You will find staff investing greater personal time if they get even greater flexibility. “Flexi-ing” a whole day off for being 125+% over target for the quarter. In this case you might see people committing larger proportions of their personal time in the week to make targets.

When you achieve this you will start to see high performance become embedded in your culture. Gen-X and Baby-Boomer recruiters did this in 80s, 90s and 00s for different drivers, promotion, recognition, financial rewards, etc. Millennials can be motivated to exhibit the same behaviours they just have different drivers.

Tapping into that and harnessing it to drive your overall business performance and achieve high growth is the Art of Leadership, which as they say is our job as leaders.


Meeting the Challenges of an ROWE Workplace

Establishing an Output focused Working or ROWE ™ workplace can be a minefield and there are challenges in regulatory controlled working environments like Education, Healthcare and Social Care but all of these can be overcome with the right structure and controls. You might need some external support from Growth Coaches, like those of us at Recruitment Training Group but there are others, who have been through the process.

So don’t delay talk to your Millennial Workers and start to discuss an Output Focused or ROWE ™ Recruitment Agency Working Environment.

The benefits to your business and profitability can be huge. Call us if you want to learn more or for an informal discussion.

Top 4 Recruitment Sectors to AVOID for the next 5-10 years



Since March 2013 when I wrote my immensely popular blog

Top 5 Recruitment Sectors to be in for the next 5-10 years,

I have been consistently asked what are the recruitment sectors agencies should be avoiding. The first thing to say is that in my opinion, and those of most employment sector commentators, over the next 5-10 years we are entering a period of massive skill-shortages. Only last month the CIPD’s chief economist Mark Beatson indicated that the War-on-Talent was set to intensify.


In addition in recent months several reports by the IMF, the EU and Accenture support this view, which I have commented on in numerous blogs on the topic:

The demographics in many developed and developing, countries mean they will be facing declining skilled workforces and populations over the next 10-20 years. As a consequence severe skill shortages are inevitable in these economies. Recently the Telegraph highlighted this issue further in an article:

Britain’s baby boom will affect our economy more than anything Mark Carney does by Allister Heath, June 7th 2013.

In the case of China the issue is so large that the IMF claim it will have a 140m-worker shortfall of skilled workers by 2030 which could have strategic implications for the security of the Pacific rim.

Therefore against this backdrop where demand for skilled labour will exceed supply there will always be an opportunity for enterprising recruitment agencies to plough their furrow. That said there are going to be some sectors where the opportunity for reward will be greater than others.



So having outlined my caveat here are my five sectors you should be avoiding if you wish to your agency to make the Sunday Times Fast-track 100.


1.         Admin and Clerical

11797609_sSince 2007 the US economy has lost 2m clerical workers and the UK 160,000 or 4.8% of the workforce. In the US clerical work accounts for 16% and in the UK 12% of all employment. (Sources: US department of labour projectionsUK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) Working Futures Report 2010-20 (revised August 2012))

In the UK this figure is projected to decline to 10% of the UK workforce by 2020 with the loss of 400,000 jobs.

The reasons are that as businesses grow they increasingly seek to automate processes particularly those involving data collection and data processing and also use call centre to handle customer eqnuires. So the consensus is that this number, as a percentage of overall workforces will decline in most developed or developing regions of the world.

In our blog Can you win the Talent War we considered the McKinsey Report  which discussed the New Employment Structures. We pointed out that McKinsey;

Highlight the trend over the past 30 years of where transaction-based jobs that could be standardized or scripted have been automated or shifted to low paid workers. Now they highlight the knowledge worker jobs such as managers, sales reps, engineers, lawyers, managers, teachers and doctors which they label interaction jobs as being the major growth area and vital for companies and countries a like.

Clearly some recruitment of admin and clerical staff is going to continue and there will be thousands of jobs to be filled. The question for me is however with all the tools of job-boards, social media and direct/in-house recruitment teams how much will be conducted via recruitment agencies? My guess is nowhere near as much as there has been in the past.

During my research I have spoken to several admin and clerical agencies and reluctantly agree. They do pioint out however that those ones with strong long-established client relationships will survive and in some areas prosper especially where their focus is the SME market who do not have effective internal recruitment solutions. For those wishing to remain in this sector perhaps this should be your key focus.

Gone however are the days when thousands of admin workers will be supplied via agencies to FTSE 250 companies. Clearly if you are operating in this sector you might need to undertake a SWOT analysis to review your future position.

You however may violently disagree. If so please let me know. I believe debate on this issue is healthy.


2.         Unskilled Industrial/Manufacturing

18124171_sAgain the data that exists on this comes from the US & UK employment figures. The US department of labour projections point to unskilled manufacturing jobs declining between 5-10% during the period 2010-20. In Britain the (UKCES) Working Futures Report 2010-20 (revised August 2012) provides good employment sector data and projections. For those in recruitment it represents a must read even if you don’t necessarily agree with its findings. This report itself points to a decline from 8% to 7% in the number of people employed in manufacturing.

These declines will be heaviest in old traditional industries where offshoring, productivity gains and industry decline will account for most of the reductions. In hi-tech sectors such as IT, Aerospace, Oil & Gas and electronics, much in line with our previous blog on the topic, the declines will be smaller. The overall decline in this sector is projected to be a fall of 400,000 jobs with particularly sharp declines expected for unskilled and semi skilled manual workers.

The reasons are obvious the cost of labour in the UK compared with China, Asia and the emerging African economies means that production of low value items will move abroad. Hence why UK Plc. needs to focus on hi-tech products or those where we can add-value.

In addition where these people are recruited I see an increasing role for In-house/Direct Sourcing teams who can leverage their clients brands to attract the numbers and volumes they seek.

The opportunities in this sector for recruitment agencies operating a traditional model are therefore limited. Again the SME market who do not have access to strong brands and in-house recruitment teams may offer some agencies hope.



3. Customer Contact and Call Centres

10112935_sWe have seen this area decline for many years now and the decline is set to continue further caused by three factors:

  • Off-shore of customer contact centres
  • In-house/Direct Sourcing Teams
  • Switch to Online and Mobile App purchasing

The combination of these three will see volumes of recruits via recruitment agencies continue to decline. There has been a reversal by some employers of the strategy of offshoring their customer contact centres due to customers complaints and service issues but this trend is being more than offset by the greater use of technology which are creating contactless purchasing systems.

In addition as with the other two areas Direct/In-house Sourcing teams are having great success in attracting staff and filling the needs of their business. They are in many cases more than managing to cope with the level of applicant attraction required to maintain and increase employee numbers.


4. Public & Third Sector

public-sector-pagesThe final sector I have highlighted to avoid will not surprise anyone in the UK. There has been much written in recent years about the decline of the UK public services from their peak in 2008, virtually all of it by interested parties on various sides of the political spectrum.

Once again the UKCES Report points to a total 2% reduction in the number of people employed across this sector falling from 27% to 25% by 2020. This reduction is actually masked in my opinion by the switch of roles from the public to the third sector as local authorities and NHS trusts reallocate the provision of some of their services into social enterprises.

For example the Office of Budget responsibility forecast in February this year that central and local government employment would fall by 900,000 between 201011 and 2017/18 as a result of government cuts.

This figure has been challenged by many commentators, who claim the reductions could be even greater, as much as 1.2 million. Clearly some of these jobs will switch to the third sector but it is unlikely that we will see more than 400,000 new third sector roles created and some claim it will be as little as 150,000.

Whatever your political views on this it is unlikely to be an area of growth for recruitment agencies in the way that it has been in recent years.


Common factors

imagesYou will by now have noticed that there are some common themes emerging. With the exception of the public services one or more of the following appear to contributing factors in all of the remaining cases.

  • Offshoring of roles and business functions
  • Supply of unskilled or semi-skilled workers
  • Technological advancements
  • Direct/In-house Resourcing of staff

Only one of these is new, namely the rise of Direct/In-house Recruiters. As a young adult of the 1980s I can bare witness that we have seen all this before. The only change here is the jobs being off-shored today are the ones we were saw replacing the old declining industries of the 1980s era such as coal mining, clothing manufacture and steel working. You only have to visit parts of Lancashire and South Yorkshire to see the plethora of call centres and customer service centres that populate the old mining and cotton mill towns. Some even operating on former sites.

Technology and alternative sources of cheap labour have always meant that job functions will shift round the globe where a predominance of unskilled or semi-skilled labour is required for the production, manufacture or delivery of a service or product.

No country is immune to this.  Germany saw the switch of its manufacturing eastwards after the collapse of the Berlin wall firstly into the former East German regions and then into Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic. India which was the recipient of so many of the UK jobs  in the 1990s is now seeing many of these transferred further eastwards or even into Africa.

The only way a country can retain its employment is to become experts at leading edge technology industries. Where design and development is a key factor but this too may shift elsewhere with university education globally changing.

As recruitment consultancies we are, to all-intense and purposes, ‘traders of skills’. We must not lose sight of this. We only exist because of the inefficiencies of the supply side of the economy. That is where:

  • Nations fail to direct their investment in skills and training in workers to satisfy their future businesses needs.
  • Where employers fail to invest sufficient in their workers over a period of time to satisfy their future organisations needs and hence have to pay fees to appropriate staff from other employers.
  • Where employers do not have the skills, resources or mechanisms to identify, attract and retain their workforce needs

Is there a better solution?

sc ience UniAs a parent of four children with ages from 12 to 22 you can imagine we have plenty of barbecue discussions with friends around the whole issue of youth employment. As a former advisor to Liverpool John Moore’s University on employability I have debated this subject many times.

I do question whether the time has come for Government, the Further Education Sector and UK Employers, perhaps the CBI, to attempt to address this fundamental issue for the long-term sustainability of the UK economy. Shouldn’t there be a degree of connection between the number of degree spaces for subjects and the projected UK demand for a skill area. Why if industry, commerce and education are crying out for maths, science and engineering graduates are we using scare resources to educate large numbers of people in subjects for which the volumes of meaningful employment does not exist.

In addition it seems ludicrous for tens of thousands of students to be accumulating up to £50,000 worth of debt each to acquire a degree in a subject for which there is no likelihood of them all getting a job. Aren’t we are deluding these young people that they will ‘get a job’? It could be argued we are ‘mis-selling university degrees, now there’s a thought!

The rapidity with which the economy and employment shifts means that the laws of supply and demand which should ultimately rebalance this inequality may not ever have time to take effect.

In the meantime we could be destroying a whole generation of young people and ultimately ourselves as a society by failing to remedy this issue.



In the meantime it is clear that whilst supply side inefficiencies exist there will always be opportunities for entrepreneurial recruitment agencies that are experts in their niches but it does beg the question; Are the days of the generalist high-street recruitment agencies numbered?

That however is another blog.

As always these are my thoughts and I’d be delighted to hear your views too.