A rare moment of calm, sat on a train to London allows for a period of reflection on a remarkable year both professionally and personally. If anyone has had their first child, set up a business, moved-house and tried to get married all in the same 12 months you will have a good understanding of my self-inflicted predicament.
A lifelong frustration with the recruitment industry remains the amount of “start-up” recruitment companies and lack of genuine ability and experience of those who deem themselves capable of running and directing their own business. The perception that starting a recruitment business is easy and anyone can do it is wildly inaccurate and frankly dangerous. Taking a directorship in your own or someone else’s Company is a serious job and should never be underestimated.
After a decade of working in recruitment and growing/running other people’s businesses 2016 was the year I finally took many peoples advice and formed SoCode. I have always loved recruitment (not necessarily recruiters), I had been there and done it before at board level with great success - it was a natural transition.
SoCode was formed in April 2016 within the modest surroundings of Diss Business Hub. A 2-person office without the luxury of windows (sometimes also without a roof if it was a windy day). Air conditioning was an optional extra - we were functioning on the bare-essentials, laptops, phones, business cards, a business account and stationary. We decided to turn down a number of investment opportunities and began business with a single £500 deposit.
We wanted to do something no one has ever tried before - a KPI and Target Free Business which was entirely relationship ad delivery focussed, treating and trusting consultants like adults and allowing our consultants the autonomy to use their best skills (we can’t be good at everything right?). A service led rather than sales led recruitment business.
First step - after 5 years it was FINALLY time for me to return to my natural habitat of the telephone. Another career frustration was that my “hands on” career had been cut short in its prime. At a young age I was managing 5, 10, 40 then 70 people, and I never really had the opportunity to maximise my personal billing potential. Even without clients, candidates and infrastructure this was my chance to get my head down and I was determined to make it work.
In a Year 1 start up, delivery is crucial and I was more than prepared to get stuck in. Personally, I have never understood why some people want to manage or direct and measure success by the amount of people they control. I find these people highly frustrating.
Business took off like a rocket, placements went in left right and centre and huge client wins were coming in daily - but something was missing….. I had no one to share the experience and journey with me and it quickly became a very lonely environment. With the business and workload already too high after only 1 month it was time to hire.
In May 2016 Colt joined as our first employee. I owe him so much, he is professional, hard-working, ethical and a great ambassador for the company. His own career has blossomed, today he is the leading biller (anywhere) in our Region after just 12 months – what an asset to have.
For several months we grew the business fast but organically and developed relationship after relationship (which is what recruitment is all about right?) soon again it was time to hire due to demand. This time step forward Miss Charlotte Zappia, delivery led, honest, trustworthy and professional – absolutely on brand.
As we grew we moved office (to one with windows), and then we moved office again (to one with panoramic windows). A new website launched but we never, ever took our eye off the most important areas of our business – Delivery and Relationships.
One honest surprise was scale and commitment level from several prestigious clients who found us or were referred to us - I can honestly say our client portfolio is small, carefully selected but incredible and we are proud to work with you. At this point I should thank you on-going support of our business, it has been absolutely critical in our continued development. We are just as passionate about your businesses as you are.
Our results have been sensational, we have out-performed everyone in the industry. I could not be prouder of everything we have accomplished.
The single disappointing element has been the reaction from other recruiters to our business. The dark side of recruitment....
I recall that after 6 months of our business trading I was strung up by a particular individual on linked in for suggesting that a Year 1 start-up could achieve £500k of billing with 3 people. Well I was extremely pleased to close our accounts significantly higher than that amount with only 2 people for that period. I think the moral of the story here is that nothing is impossible, you just need to create the right environment in which to acheive it.
That was only the start of it, believe it or not we have been threatened with violence, emails spammed and hacked, a friend assaulted, my family warned not to go to certain areas of the city we live in at certain times and the majority of my team insulted over the last year. The list goes on…… You know who you are, and shame on you. You give our industry a bad name.
Today we have 6 employees each of whom are above all decent human beings on their own life journeys, of which their time with SoCode will only be a small part of a bigger story. To celebrate our first year achievements we will be taking every employee and their families to France to take a well-earned break!
In the background and most importantly I am proud to have spent a good amount of time with my daughter in the first year of her life and my family have been incredibly supportive of the SoCode project. I count myself as an extremely lucky man.
Our ethics and values have only strengthened in our first year and we look forward to an amazing, exciting Year 2 of trade.
Our unending thanks to suppliers, consultants, family, candidates, clients and everyone involved.