If you’re thinking of starting up a business in 2020 being brave and wholly committing to your values is key

10 February, 2020

Reflecting on our preparation to officially commence Marmion Recruitment services back on 2nd January 2016, I can’t quite believe we have just entered our 5th year of trading. And it all started in my shed……..

I felt confident our business could offer something worthwhile, albeit I was quietly nervous because I was starting with 4 team members who were depending on me to make Marmion a success. Fear of failure and the frequently posted statistics about the number of recruitment agencies who opened and then closed was held in abeyance, and we opened our doors with a lot of hope and conviction that if we worked really hard and demonstrated great practice we would succeed. And, if you are reading this and have just started up or are thinking about setting up a new business this year I hope this article will give you confidence.

Year one was, as you can imagine, difficult. The phones didn’t ring much and at times it felt almost impossible. The office ‘canine’ crew had many an undisturbed nap. Continually having to apologise for the poor practice of so many other agencies was quite tough, and remaining motivated was one of our biggest challenges. However, we knew we could do better, and we remained focused.  It took 6 months to make our first placement, 3rd of June – the same day Muhammad Ali died, and then 20 days later Brexit happened. It could have been the kiss of death for a new business like ours because there was certainly a palpable shift in how businesses felt about the future. All I could do to reassure my team was to say, “Let’s keep our heads down and keep going”, which we did!

In the following 3 years we doubled the size of the shed (it was a nice shed); then expanded and relocated into 2 city locations (Leeds & Manchester); recruited trained and passed by qualification 5 colleagues; significantly increased our number of placement per annum year on year; retained the trust of 94% of the companies who started with us in the beginning and through recommendations we have continued to increase that number; have recruited in England Scotland and Wales and have been asked in 2020 if we would support overseas recruitment projects; have retained a 5 star status on google, and, more importantly, have never wavered from our commitment to providing a quality service to both our employers and candidates. I can count the number of failed placements on one hand (3 to be precise).

What has been critical to our survival is our ability to manage our finances. We have always been self funded, and for a small business it’s important to recognise that not all business is good business. There are times when it’s time to say no, and if ethically challenged to stand your ground. If you’ve done a good job then you deserve payment. To date all invoices have been paid and we’ve paid our suppliers. I’m really proud of that because what I’ve learned is that banks do not want to lend small businesses money, and when there are hard months, which there will be, budget carefully!

I remain eternally grateful to our candidates and employers who have entrusted us with their search for each other, and for taking the time to share their experience. I am also thankful to all of those candidates placed or not who have expressed their thanks for the service they’ve received. 5 stars on google from genuine clients who have taken the time to share their experience, for a small business like ours, is something we are all very proud of.

I am not afraid or embarrassed to say that our biggest challenge is promoting our services through aggressive sales. It would be true to say that none of us are particularly keen on that type of promotion. However, as we’ve become more established and have proven our recruitment expertise I have been overwhelmed by how loyal and generous our ‘employer clients’ are. The number of referrals they’ve made together with repeat business have helped us to continue to grow, and to those who have supported us I am very thankful.

Walking into a client company just before Christmas and realising we’d placed over a 3rd of the workforce in the last 2 years made me realise just how far we’d come. This relationship is all thanks to a candidate we didn’t place, but who we continued to support in her search for a new role. She believed in what we do and had we not been true to our values she would not have persuaded her boss to give us a chance. The value and power of naturally treating people with respect in both the good and bad times is something no business should underestimate.

Starting a business is never easy and no matter how many years we are in business I will never be complacent about Marmion’s future. Our journey to this point has been a roller coaster ride and it would be untrue for me to say it’s been great the whole way though, but if I’d wanted an easier ride, I’d have stayed at home and enjoyed a series of coffee mornings. What I have learned is that without a strong and committed team of people who are prepared to learn, contribute and follow the vision, none of our success would be possible. A sense of humour also helps!

For a business owner and Manager of one of 40000 recruitment agencies in the UK my pride comes from the consistent commitment to quality and great service delivered by my team, who really are remarkable, which has hopefully secured our place in the market. We still have much work to do and I am looking forward to this year, more confident than I was on 2nd January 2016. Our plan to extend our offering into HR consultancy services is going ahead in 2020 (Lee Williams), and our new website is being launched this month.