Starting a Recruitment Business that Matters (A Short Story by NextGear)

One of the best ways of communicating your business journey is by storytelling. You are about to begin a journey with Nicki and Rob. Their story is a modern day recruitment fable.

Over the next five installments, this fable focuses on the excitement of setting up a new recruitment business all the way to scaling that business. You’ll witness the hurdles they face and the challenges they’ll overcome. You’ll join with them on their journey. It may inspire you to do something similar. It may confirm that you definitely will not. It may remind you of things you have seen for yourself. 

This fable is for you. As Lumiere put it, “Go ahead, be our guest.”

— Dave Pye, Director, NextGear


Chapter 1: It’s Time to Do It For Ourselves

The Scene: Sales Conference Day Two. Evening in the Bar. 

The Mood: Tired, but thoughtful,


Nicki and Rob were in the bar talking about the latest sales presentation they had seen from their managing director. He was as enthusiastic as ever. They knew he had every intention of making the business the best recruitment agency out there. They appreciated his support.

They weren’t too sure about some of his leaders, but they earned a good living and loved most of the people they worked with. It was a good company with good people and a strong position in the market. They both thought that life in recruitment was good.

But there was a thought that would not go away.

The presentation was the same as it was last year. Only the hyperlinks had changed. The presentation was a bit more colourful. The clients seemed to be the same although there were a few new ones. The rest of the team seemed onboard and the evening ahead looked great. But, the thought lingered.

There was something inside them saying, “It’s time to do this for ourselves.” The logic was simple. “If he can do it, you bet we can do it!” They had a quiet chat. Shared some chips and a Jack & Coke. Then they shared an idea that had been brewing for some time.


There was something inside them saying, ‘It’s time to do this for ourselves.’



‘What if we started out on our own?’ What if we ‘gave up’ all of this and created our own business?’

Their confidence grew and they went to dinner. The evening was great. The boss thanked them many times for a great year. Even though he had a few Sauvignon Blancs too many, Nicki and Rob knew he was grateful for their contribution.

But, it was a contribution for him and his fellow leaders. It wasn’t necessarily for them. They had not risked anything to join. They had not put anything on the line. He had. He had done well. They had done very well. Their income was good. They were helping him to build his business through their work. Of course, this is what was expected with all recruitment businesses. But Nicki and Rob wanted a change.

It was time. They knew they needed to go at it alone. How hard could it be? Nicki and Rob knew their market. They spoke with clients and candidates every day. They knew the issues faced on the sales floor. They knew what worked and what didn’t. They knew how to generate revenue and they knew they could do better.

After all, one of the key ingredients to a good recruiter is confidence. There have always been many hurdles to overcome from closing a candidate who has been offered another role at the last minute all the way up to deciding to start a new business. Confidence is what you need and Rob and Nicki had loads of it. Well, some of it. Enough to get going. Enough to do what they needed to do and believe in themselves.


They knew how to generate revenue and
knew they could do better.


But, it was a big step. Or was it? Yes, it was. They agreed over a hungover breakfast that they could do it. It wasn’t the chips and the alcohol talking. They could do it. They could create a business of their own. They would take the best bits of where they worked and leave the less good bits behind. Even at this very early stage of their thinking, the idea did not seem too daunting. Nicki and Rob went for it.


Chapter 2: The Beginning of Something Great

The Scene: Starbucks. Notice and agreement signed. No job.

The Mood: Tired, but excited.


The deed was done as amicably as these things can be. The boss seemed surprised and disappointed. It took all of two minutes before he went into business protection mode. ‘Doing what?’ ‘Where?’ ‘With Who?’ ‘Called What?’ ‘With Our Clients?’

Too much information to digest. Nicki and Rob just wanted to get out of there. They felt a bit like they had cheated on their boss even though they told him as much as he needed to know. To be honest, they thought they did not know much themselves! 

Nicki thought they had nailed a name for the NewCo, but then backtracked when she convinced herself that the name wouldn’t work well when they expanded. ‘Hold on’, said Rob. ‘Do we know if we will expand’? That particular conversation wasted an hour or more and was revisited many times in the weeks ahead.

Eventually, they agreed on a name. The registration process was complete. Lots of coffee was consumed and some sort of plan was put together. ‘Perm and contract services?’ ‘Maybe just perm initially?’ ‘What if we get contract roles?’ ‘How will we finance it?’ ‘Will we need to?’ ‘What if we go outside our sector?’ ‘Will we place anybody initially to get some quick wins?’ ‘Won’t that detract from the brand?’ ‘What clients do we have to avoid?’ ‘Can there really be this many questions to answer just to get started?’ 


How will we finance it? Will we need to? 


Both of them realised they were going to take a big hit on income for at least a few months. Luckily, they had had the foresight to save some money to help see them through. But it was worth it. They were going to own their own business. 

Nicki and Rob had never been afraid of hard work. Calling candidates wasn’t an issue. Forensically searching through LinkedIn was what they were used to. But now there would be a lot more to do. They knew they would have to rely on their own admin abilities (“Do we have admin abilities?” thought Rob.) Desire and ability is a powerful concoction. They were ready to set the world alight one step at a time.


Nicki and Rob had never been afraid of hard work. Calling candidates wasn’t an issue. Forensically searching through LinkedIn was what they were used to. But now there would be a lot more to do.


They weren’t sure if they wanted a fancy office with free coffee all day and beers at 4:00. Or, somewhere cheaper, out of the main center to keep costs low. ‘We don’t need to have a nice office. Just an office. We can use coffee shops to get going. Our clients will understand. Will the RPO type companies worry if we don’t have an office? That’s okay, we won’t use them. We’ll go direct.’ Rob was worried that might impact them later down the line. He put that thought to the back of his mind. There would be no ‘later down the line’ if they didn’t get rolling.

They settled on the security sector as they had previously made good, productive perm placements in that area. It was a growing sector. Even the Times had one of those 16-page pullouts on Cybersecurity. They were on the money if it was heavily featured in the Times. It was easy to get info on the security sector and candidates were happy to talk about developments. A niche is always good. Didn’t someone say it was better to be an inch wide, mile deep than spread too thinly? Nicki was sure she had heard that at a recent recruitment event. Security provided security.

Nicki remembered a one-on-one meeting she had with her old boss and one of his acolytes at the ‘last place’ they worked in the industry. She thought this sector was hot. They wanted results. She thought ‘they’ could invest in it. They thought they could be successful very quickly if Nicki made a few perm placements. They had wanted to be more generalist in tech. Nicki realised then that she didn’t. She hoped she had not left it too late to create a niche.

‘What about a logo?’ ‘Which bank?’ More questions. They decided to ask John, a family friend, to do the accounts. Nicki and Rob now had a finance function. All the branding conversations began. The ideas flowed. Rob’s father asked him if he had anyone guiding him through the process. Rob was pretty sure he knew all that was needed to do. Pretty sure was pretty good as far as Rob was concerned. His focus was on ensuring that they generated revenue quickly. They were both confident it would be, and as luck would have it, clients were coming in already.

Nicki and Rob were on their way.

Stay Tuned for Part 2: Growing Pains

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