How To Start Your Own Recruiting Firm – In our post on entrepreneurship, we explored whether now is a good time to start an agency, how to start a business, and what can potentially attract the best claimants to a new startup.
You already have an agency license, home or service office, CRM and website. It may not sound like much, but it’s all you need to build the foundation to become the next big brand in the job market.
How To Start Your Own Recruiting Firm
It’s running smoothly. You have an interview scheduled, you have your first few clients, and you have predicted your first batch by the end of 3 months. Waiting for 30 days already, we closed with a sigh of relief.
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At this point, your mindset starts to change. Your customers haven’t paid in 30 days, and you’re starting to worry a bit about cash flow as you approach the 40th. Customers pay in 50 days and you are already experiencing your first planning problems as an entrepreneur. It’s an exciting evolution and you’ve started talking to recruiters about joining your journey.
How can you expand from the three-piece band scene to over 100 people over the next 10 years? According to a Find Recruiter report, 94% of agencies in Singapore employ less than 10 people. Of course, there are many lifestyle businesses, but why do some businesses never grow beyond that point and why do some grow very quickly?
I will draw a lot from my personal experience. I have built a recruiting business from one person to over 150 professionals in 5 offices in 4 countries. I have no problem admitting I’ve been a lot wrong and I hope the lessons I’ve learned can help you on your journey.
Having cash is a prerequisite for building a recruiting business. You can start with very little bank balance or start with small investments in private or PE funds. Either way, you need to build a model that will generate enough money to hire the best talent in the market.
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I started Robertson Smart (now known as Charterhouse) with a relatively small investment, and it’s no exaggeration to say that the dominant months have been a rollercoaster ride. I had two choices. Either take the safe route of hiring a few recruiters and wait until they’re profitable, or take a risk and scale faster. I did the latter. I recouped my initial investment in less than 9 months and scaled much faster than many of my competitors.
Looking back, I had no idea that having a clear vision would be one of the most important ways to grow a business. I’m not sure if I had a vision on the first day. More eager to focus on the work in front of me, I’ve arranged my first accommodation in Dubai so that I can pay my rent and take one step at a time.
Over time, I began to understand the importance of having a vision. It has become very clear that business requires strategic planning and people must embrace what they are trying to achieve together. Look back 10 years from now and you’ll see that the seeds of your business were planted on day one. What you do in the first year will affect you in the future. Most of my war stories come from the early days of building from scratch, and some of the decisions I made after that stayed with me until my last day at the company.
I suggest you look to the future in your first year. What do you want your company to look like in 3 years, 5 years, or even 10 years? Focus on where you want to be on a personal and commercial level and work backwards from there. At first, this isn’t absolutely necessary, but it’s important when you’re starting to scale up and try to get the best or fittest ones in the market.
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What are your ambitions? Do you want to build a business with 100+ employees and 5 offices? Do you see yourself as royalty forever, or would you rather hire someone better than you to replace you as you progress?
Of course, there are no wrong or right answers here, but having a clear vision will help you make decisions today. This is a decision to make your ambitions come true and stay with you as you grow.
Training begins with the induction ceremony, regardless of the recruiter’s experience. In the early days of Robertson Smart, it was common to hire industry experts such as lawyers and bankers with no previous hiring experience. Back then, it was important to take a ‘big business’ approach, even with only six recruiters.
Robertson Smart has developed a personal onboarding and training program. How many recruiters will remember RS-TIM! Training and admission guides were provided to each new student and accompanied them during their first three months of admission. As we began opening additional overseas offices, we shot a series of training and introductory videos accessible from company computers. It sounds normal now, but back then access to the internet and video content was very limited. Our training material was pretty good back then and was one of the big factors in helping people become great recruiters, which ultimately led to scale.
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Of course, the founder is the zero point of the business, a mentor who must lead from the front. All of this is important as your business expands. However, when the office reaches a certain size or opens an international office, it starts to spread a lot. Training then spreads the founder’s message throughout the growing business, helping maintain cultural consistency. This is a huge economy of scale.
Motivation, people and culture came first. Recruiters were all too clear why they would rather join Robertson Smart or Charterhouse than any other company. By having a consistent and clearly communicated culture, your agency will start attracting teams that are equally similar in motivation, attitude and outlook. This will definitely help scalability a lot. If your cultural values are conflicting and scattered, don’t be surprised if your business is too.
Hiring motivated and committed people is an important component of any recruiting business. If your hiring leader is extremely enthusiastic, consistently positive, and your business appears to be booming, then that’s the engine’s fuel. At this point you start to grow. We hired 15 recruiters in Dubai and the same number in Singapore. It’s time to fight Hong Kong. Please tell me it’s not an exciting story to share with current and potential team members.
I think we’ve used our motivation to scale our business very effectively. Monthly, quarterly and annual incentives and travel make it a great place to work. We weren’t shy about spending money, but it was always about achievement. To celebrate reaching S$1 million since our Singapore launch, we took our entire team and partners to an island resort in Bintan over the weekend, all expenses paid. People are starting to hear that we are a great place to work and that we pay very competitive commissions.
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We have been able to grow from one person to 150 people in Dubai, Singapore, Hong Kong, Sydney and Melbourne. We are driven by a clear strategic vision coupled with the development of a positive and healthy culture supported by tremendous levels of passion, ambition and motivation.
This probably sounds a lot easier than it actually is. We had a lot of bumps along the way. We’ve had both recessions and booms. We went through the Asian financial crisis in 1997, the 9/11 tragedy in 2001, and the SARS outbreak in 2003. All of these events hit us very hard, but the four factors above have remained consistent over time.
We hope this has been helpful to any hiring entrepreneurs considering expanding their business and we would love to hear your thoughts on the above elements. Let us know what you think about LinkedIn and we look forward to exciting discussions.
If you are looking for employment opportunities in Asia, feel free to contact me on LinkedIn for advice and career opportunities.
The Millionaire Recruiter
Roger began his recruiting career in 1995 when he founded Robertson Smart, renamed Charterhouse Partnership, a global recruiting firm with over 180 employees in Sydney, Melbourne, Milton Keynes, Singapore, Hong Kong, Dubai and Doha. My name is Adam Bolton and until recently I worked for a recruitment agency. Although he worked for almost 8 years
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