Surround yourself with good people – don’t do it alone
2 August 2021
Tell us about your entrepreneurial journey before you started Talent Works.
I founded Talent Works after my time at DWC and Spherion. As a Major Account Manager at DWC, I was responsible for both UK and European assignments to help build leadership capability from mid to senior management and director level roles.
Technology clients have long played an essential part in my roles, having worked with a number of high profile tech and established brands to design and deliver effective recruitment strategies through both executive search and advertised selection campaigns. During my time at DWC I won and delivered full cycle retained assignments offering diverse and innovative recruitment strategies in order to attract and hire great talent.
What inspired you to start Talent Works?
When Talent Works was started, it was borne out of frustration with the lack of innovation in the recruitment industry. The inefficiencies of traditional recruitment and agility in Talent Acquisition demanded something new. However, the business of 12 years ago was a very different business to what it is now as we’ve continued to evolve with the demands of the landscape.
Talent Works’ continual vision is to bring new ideas to Talent Acquisition as a service and embed this into the organisations it works with. There are still inefficiencies in the market, including old pricing tropes and a lack of joined-up thinking between services of employer brand, attraction and RPO, that are ripe for disruption today, and that’s why and where we are creating a new category.
What has been the most challenging part about setting up Talent Works?
After years of consistent growth, our revenues were suddenly and dramatically hit by the pandemic as organisations decided to halt their growth plans immediately. The pivot to a different business model (fixed to on-demand) and target market (enterprise to scaleup) happened at speed.
This was a move that I was looking to make regardless, but with the plan still in early stages when the effects of the pandemic hit, it forced a sudden readjustment of business focus. Within weeks, the company underwent a rebrand, refined its services, shifted its marketing emphasis and adjusted its new business focus, rather than the original plan of a gradual shift over months and years.
This move has actually resulted in 100% growth quarter-on-quarter since December, a 400% growth in March 2020 compared to March 2021, and a sustained 20% month-on-month forecasted compound growth.
Our workforce has pulled together to make it through as a team with a people-first strategy throughout the pandemic. It’s a year that has seen shifts in our roles and some restructuring of our teams. However, 12 months on, I can say that this was a surprise that resulted in the business being back on track and forecasting 60% growth from pre-pandemic revenues.
What is your vision for the company?
Following our recent pivot, as a business, we’ve refined our services to focus on employer branding, digital talent attraction and our flexible RPO offering. Therefore I don’t anticipate any change being necessary when it comes to positioning and servicing our clients. We have a continued focus on customer acquisition and retention, and our investment in the Client Success team will help with the smooth onboarding of new recruitment partnerships.
Going forward, we’re looking to continue to rapidly grow Talent Works’ own team whilst ensuring that the company culture remains undiluted and embedded in all aspects of our work. Recruiting the right people and inducting them into the workplace culture in a hybrid, office / remote working environment is another new challenge for us. The Talent Works culture is central to our business vision and the sense of purpose for our employees.
Our team isn’t just here to solve talent acquisition challenges for our clients: we want to grow the business and make a tangible difference to the recruitment industry. I try to communicate this continually throughout the business. Every Friday, our all-hands meetings provide the opportunity for teams to update each other, give shoutouts of appreciation, and ensure complete transparency of our common goals at every level of the business, from the bottom up. Everyone has an opinion and the right to make that heard.
With the loss of those all-important “water cooler conversations”, we will need to find an effective way to maintain interactions that aren’t forced or an agenda-driven conversation over Zoom but actually driving connections more socially.
Ultimately, my three-year vision is to continue this mission to help scale-up leaders overcome talent acquisition as the number one hurdle to growth whilst demonstrating a people-first strategy for the Talent Works team, who remained together throughout the pandemic. I want to see Talent Works as the number one recruitment partner for scaling tech businesses and continue to form innovative new recruitment solutions which will support these businesses once they have scaled.
What is your advice for a founder looking to build a new venture during a pandemic?
Surround yourself with good people – don’t do it alone. On reflection, I tried to make my journey on my own, and this wasn’t the right way to go about it. Yes, you need the right skills and experience to grow your own business, but you also need the right attitude to commit – and it is a huge commitment.
To drive real innovation in an industry, you need to have the confidence and conviction to see things through in the early days and continue this through in the years to come.
What would you say is the biggest misconception people have about working in a startup and how does it differ from reality?
I find the biggest myth around working at a startup is that the best opportunities only lie with the ‘hotlist startups’ – the ones in the limelight with the most funding. However, the best opportunities are often found in the lesser-known startups in many cases. This is because the team gets exposure and more autonomy in the company. They can make a bigger impact.
There’s also a misconception that startups are ‘all or nothing’ environments where employees must dedicate their entire lives. Working at a startup is fast-paced and exciting, but there’s also a need for a healthy work/life balance.
What have you leaned on to navigate the challenges of the past year?
I’ve primarily leaned on past experiences of growing a company organically. Throughout my career as a business leader there have been many tough times, and I’ve needed to adapt and pivot quickly. Navigating challenges need to be done carefully, and I’ve drawn on these past experiences to help guide and grow Talent Works over the past 18 months.
I have also leaned on the brilliant team within Talent Works. The team understands the challenges we’ve faced within the business during the pandemic, and have been a great source of guidance throughout it.
What is a lesson you learned the hard way?
The main lesson is that the most experienced people don’t actually make the best hires. You might hire someone with brilliant experience who has done fantastic work at another company or a competitor, but they might not be the best fit for helping to scale your business. It all comes down to finding the people with the right attitude and adaptability. Skill is very important, of course, but having new starters with a slightly different mentality can elevate a company much better and faster.
Which entrepreneurs do you respect and why?
All entrepreneurs deserve respect and admiration, but I have a particular affinity for those that are self-made and bootstrapped their businesses, and have grown their company organically. Making decisions and working through hard times, when you have invested your own money, requires a much different mentality compared to those that have not done this.
What question are you asked more than any other?
I’d say that there are three questions from three different types of people:
Business leaders often ask ‘How can I attract and hire developers and engineers?’, journalists always want to know about my morning routine, and my kids are forever asking what they can have to eat.