Why all recruitment businesses need a business coach for growth.

Want to take your recruitment business to the next level? Here's why you could benefit from a business coach, non-exec or mentor.

If you’ve never had a Non Exec, a Business Coach, or a Mentor, but have been successful with your business so far you could ask why you would need one. 

I was in this position myself five years into growing my first business. My profits were excellent, staff retention was great and the office culture was fantastic. Why then would I need any help?  The answer can be as simple as “you’re good, but do you want to be even better?” Novak Djokovic is without doubt the best tennis player in the world and he has a coach, and appointing Boris Becker made him even better! With your natural talent, the training you’ve gained in your career up to now and general recruitment business experience, you’ll get so far but at some point you’ll hit a ceiling when your business growth will slow, stop, or worse still, start to go backwards.

I’m in the fortunate position to give you a very long list of real life examples of the benefits I’ve enjoyed from working with the Non Execs / Business Coaches I’ve appointed. They’ve helped me with the growth of my businesses, expanded my breadth of skills, and improved my vision on the future for me and my businesses and given belief and encouragement to think even bigger.  They’ve even helped me with my personal growth too; understanding the importance of the time you’re out of the business and how getting your work/life balance right not only benefits you and your family but really can help you perform better when you are in the business.

To become a recruitment business owner you do need to have confidence and a strong will, however these attributes can mean you are far more likely to turn help away. This may be because you don’t recognise the need for it, the arrogance a lot of great recruiters possess or subconsciously you want the world to see that all your success was purely down to you. I speak from personal experience, I had a bit of each of these, but don’t the smartest people hire people better than themselves? If I decide to work with a Business Coach and both myself and the business become even better for it, that was my decision so it’s still me who’s ultimately responsible for the success.

As the purpose of this blog is to give an insight into why I feel appointing a Non Exec or Business Coach is a no brainer I felt the best way to do this simply to tell you my story and share with you my own experiences which should help show why I am a big fan of taking in a Coach at the top.

Everyday_Tech_Death_to_stock_photography_1After nearly 6 years working in a recruitment business from New Business Consultant, to 360 Recruiter, Manager and Head of Search, I set up my first recruitment business Elliot Marsh.  After five years Elliot Marsh was a big success, stable, earning a very good profit, but it had reached its ceiling. It was then I decided to try to improve my skills by enrolling on Cranfield Business School’s Business Growth Programme. I confess I was a bit sceptical, I’d never attended University yet still did well, so the idea of entering academia now wasn’t something I was looking forward to. However during the course I had an epiphany, that eureka moment where I saw how much both me and my business would benefit from external input.

It was there I found my first Non Exec Director who was my tutor whilst I was at Cranfield. This was followed a few years later by appointing Mike Walmsley, a well-known figure from the recruitment industry. It was these positive experiences that cemented my opinion that every business should have a Mentor, Non Exec or Business Coach, especially start up’s and SME businesses.

Within two years of finishing my studies at Cranfield and taking on my Non Exec, the business had tripled in size and Elliot Marsh had given rise to a second business, Executive Headhunters Limited. In addition to the increase in turnover and profit, both businesses were far better structured and built on far more solid foundations. It was this structure and these foundations that were vital in allowing both businesses to maintain profit in the extremely tough trading conditions during the credit crunch which had such a devastating effect on the recruitment industry.

So what did I find having a Non Exec, Business Coach or Mentor gave my business and me? 

Make the move from “Hero Manager” to Business Leader. As in my blog How to Grow a Recruitment Business – for Dummies, I explain how being a Hero Manager holds your business back. And you need to move from working “in” your business to working “on” your business to see true growth.

Having monthly board/planning meetings helped keep me from being sucked into working in the business all the time. As your SME business grows of course you will still need to be in your business some of the time. But for your business to truly reach its full potential you need to step out and allocate real quality time to work “on” your business planning. Thinking about where you want the businesses to go, how you’re going to get there, also how to improve the business as it is now, improving such things as staff retention, hiring smarter, having a strong staff development strategy, looking at new technologies, the list goes on.

Board Meetings

Having a Non Exec lead to regular “board meetings”, educated me that when done properly board/ management meetings are a must to get the most from your business. However these meetings will not work best if they are filled with lots of blue-sky thinking that evaporates the moment you leave the room. Having the meeting minuted with actions and circulated afterwards is critical for the next meeting to review and help discipline those with actions to actually complete them. The actions discussed and agreed tare to help the business but can only work if they’re carried out. Without this it’s far too easy to walk out of the room and get sucked back into firefighting, being the recruitment office “Hero” and losing all the benefits of a great meeting.

Setting your business goal

In the book What they Don’t Teach You In Harvard Business School, by Mark McCormack he quotes a study on graduates of Harvard’s MBA programme. They were asked:

“ Have you set clear written goals for the future and made plans to accomplish this”

Only 3% had written goals and plans, 13% had goals but not written them down and 84% had no specific goals at all. A decade later they found that:

  • The 13% who had goals but not in writing were earning on average twice as much as the 84% who had no goals at all
  • The 3% with clear written goals were earning on average ten times as much as the other 97% altogether!

Hopefully your goal will grow as your business grows giving you confidence to think bigger, but it can only do this if you get into the habit of setting your business goal with a clear definition so it becomes quantifiably achievable and plan on how to make it happen.

Forming a real strategy for growth 

With your goal comes the “plans to accomplish this”. This plan is best developed using the minds available to you and reviewed on a regular basis. Your plan needs clear milestones, targets and project definitions so you can cascade down the detail of how to achieve the plan. At the end of my course at Cranfield I had to present a Business Plan for Growth, and at this point is was reinforced to me that it’s not just what’s in the plan that counts, it’s having one and carrying it through. A plan is useless if you don’t implement it, and having a “board” or Business Coach to update on the progress of these actions will, without doubt make it infinitely more likely to be achieved.

Helping my vision for the business 

Virtually all business leaders have a natural time scale for how they view their business going forward. Some think one month ahead, some six months, others a year or three years. However far you naturally look ahead, you need to develop the ability to look at all these time scales to review and improve your plan. I naturally grew from a month planner to a 12 month planner, but with the help of my Non Exec I could look five years ahead and backwards, which I found to be a massive help to not only thinking big but carrying that into actions and results.

Continuing my personal growth 

It’s a common failing in business leaders and recruiters that once you get to certain standard you become complacent with your own personal development.  You can then slip into bad habits of relying on a small number of skills and neglecting those that have helped you in the past. Think about it, how much of a massive hindrance is this to you achieving not only your own potential, but that of your business? A good Non Exec should not only help with your development from using their own skills and experience, but they should also keep you on track with seeking more learning from outside the board room. I for example, used to attend two business leaders forums, one for Recruitment Owner Managers, and one for post Cranfield attendees. I found adding the two together, Recruitment Leaders and Non Recruitment Business Leaders helped not only continue my growth, but also keep it more rounded. Rather than exposing myself only to the recruitment route every time, it helped give me the ability to see my business a different way. By meeting leaders from other sectors they naturally had strengths in areas a recruitment business leader would be weakso this way I could work better on the weaknesses that would be common across the recruitment industry.

Having someone to challenge my ideas 

If I’m honest this didn’t happen as much as I think it should’ve. But when it did I got huge benefits. In a forthcoming blog, “How to choose your Non Exec Director” I will go into more detail on how to choose one that’s right for you and your business, and with this comes the advice to choose someone who will challenge you in a way that gets results.

Being challenged helps you think in more detail about your ideas, and a good Non Exec should coach you on your ideas, to expand on the initial thought as well as looking at alternative ideas, how they compare then looking at the practicalities of making them work. Most recruiters can be impulsive or have that drive to get things done, and it’s this that can lead to rushing the formation of ideas. A good Non Exec should help you stand back and look at your ideas and add valuable extra time into working on them to ensure the ideas are both well worked through and to confirm they are ideas that will add value and can be practically actioned. It’s only then you can evolve those ideas into a plan to make them work.

I could give many more examples on the ways I feel a Non Exec, Mentor or Business Coach will help you and your business, however to keep this article “blog-sized” I’ll save further points for my next installment.

Written by Rhys Jones Managing Director – Davidson Gray.

Rhys sold out of his previous recruitment businesses in 2012 to focus solely on helping recruiters set up and build recruitment businesses. Follow Rhys on LinkedIn or contact him direct for help with your start-up recruitment business or for coaching to grow an existing one.