|Rewind to 1996 and no doubt you will be reminded of a lot of headlines. Charles and Diana divorce, Spice Girls release ‘Wannabe’ and bring girl power to the world, Dolly the Sheep is cloned, England beat Holland 4-1 in the Euros and Resourcing Solutions launches! They may have escaped your memory, especially the last one but it did happen and as a result, Resourcing Solutions has grown to be a Thames Valley top 100 company.
Here, founder and CEO Richard answers some questions about how it all got started and describes some of the highs and lows of recruiting for Rail, Power and the Built Environment across the last two decades.
1. Describe your background, upbringing and life as a young person?
I grew up in a time when kids should be ‘seen but not heard’ and adults ruled the world - a far cry from today. I did get the ruler at junior school for throwing stones when I was an 8 year old and senior school was not an environment for the faint hearted in the 1970’s – but I survived and look back with far more good memories than bad ones.
2. How did you get into recruitment?
By accident really – while studying at Thames Polytechnic I had used a Reading recruitment agency to get summer work doing manual labour on the Slough Trading Estate. They filled a minibus of a dozen or so people on a rate of about £3.50 per hour, and then charged us out at over double that. I remember thinking that just that minibus load was earning the owner a whopping £42 per hour for sitting in an office – and they had several minibuses!! I worked for one year as a Quantity Surveyor after getting my degree in Quantity Surveying, but didn’t enjoy it, and it was my father who cut out an advert in The Independent newspaper entitled “Graduates – your chance to train in recruitment”. I was the last interviewee of the day for Montrose Technical Recruitment - number 13 as it happened – and it proved to be my lucky break – I got the job placing architects and quantity surveyors and 8 months later had been promoted to running their Reading office.
3. What inspired you to set up RSL?
I had been involved in a number of successful start-ups by 1996, and never had the capital (or the balls) to take the plunge to do it for myself until I got unfairly (in my opinion) dismissed from a company I was instrumental in setting up and growing to £6m in two years. That inspired me to set up a business that was bigger and better than the one I had been sacked from!
4. How old were you when set up the company?
5. In a nutshell, how has the company grown?
The early months were very ‘do or die’. Each month was my last unless I could get in enough business to pay my two employees and the rent of the office. It was fraught with risks and wasn’t too far removed from playing a game of monopoly. I took risks and then had to survive until I passed go or someone landed on me and I could generate enough revenues to survive initially, and then thrive. I tended to recruit people in those early days in my “win mould” – people who some might argue had a chip on their shoulder and a point to prove. Failure was never an option – it was all about working harder than anyone else and smarter than anyone else. We were competing with the big boys and if we could get companies to take us seriously we were much more agile than they were, and the key difference was this, we were fighting for our lives – we were fighting for survival.
6. What has been your single greatest business achievement?
Reaching our 20 year anniversary (19th November 2016 to be precise), and achieving £50m in turnover - my original mission was to build a £6m company. There have been many challenges that could have wiped us out, but we have had lots of breaks too. Single greatest business achievement is getting to 20 years and seeing so many people develop their careers and become great at Resourcing Solutions.
7. What has been your biggest setback in business?
The biggest setback is always losing good people that you have become close to. If you have great people around you then any other setback is eminently more tolerable and manageable.
8. Who or what inspires you the most in business?
People! I am inspired by people who have come into the business and transformed themselves as a professional and in their life in general – I really get off on that!!
9. What’s been your most embarrassing moment at work?
Being seen through the window that backed on to our car park by one of our key financial suppliers spanking my first employee with a ruler (in a Basil Fawlty/Manuel sort of way). For the hour long meeting I was red faced with embarrassment. I thought I had blown my chance to be seen as a credible business person. Ironically the person who witnessed this very strange behaviour still supplies Resourcing Solutions today, and although it was never mentioned for years we can both now look back and laugh at how ludicrous that must have been ahead of our very first meeting.
10. What’s your biggest fear?
Failure – failure to keep my staff and our workers safe (we place many of our agency workers in a safety critical environment); and failure in general where we end up wasting the opportunity we have to make a significant positive difference in the areas we can influence.
11. Knowing what you know now, what would you have done differently during the history of Resourcing Solutions?
Of course with hindsight I would have only ever recruited the people that went on to be successful and dodged the ones that didn’t. But I don’t suppose that answers you question. I have very few regrets and accept that the very many mistakes I have made have all been part of the learning experience of running a business. I think the one thing if I had my time again is to keep it simple. It’s very tempting over 20 years to over-engineer a business to the extent it becomes unnecessarily complex and confusing. Have a vision and plan that everyone can relate to, chunk it down so everyone knows their role and importance in executing it, and make absolutely sure you celebrate the success in achieving it.
12. How has Resourcing Solutions helped the local community/economy and how do you plan to continue this in the future?
Well we are certainly a significant employer in the local area. Although we have three offices, our HQ in the Thames Valley has employed over 600 people since we first started. Many of those have had their careers boosted through the opportunity to train and develop at Resourcing Solutions. We continue to support charities, both locally and in particular ones associated with Breast Cancer and Prostate Cancer, as the low points at Resourcing Solutions has undoubtedly been where we have witnessed two of our staff lose the fight to these horrible diseases.
13. Do you have any regrets?
Just one really – the memories are much more fun and enjoyable than at the time and I wish I had come up for air and just enjoyed the moment more in real time and as much as I do in reflection
14. What are your hopes for the future of Resourcing Solutions?
I am a firm believer that companies should get the service they deserve, and that there is a much better way for them to engage with their recruitment provider to get a vastly improved service. I have become a pioneer for this to happen and much of my time is now spent discussing how this can work for companies. Companies that have engaged with us have seen a massive difference in their ability to get much better candidates. I hope to spread this word as it really does create a win-win situation for all parties involved in the recruitment process – and at no extra cost.
15. What advice would you give to young budding entrepreneurs?
Crikey – where do I start?
My ethos was “look after the pennies, the pounds will look after themselves”. When starting up this is crucial. Don’t get carried away with early successes and spend it on flash cars instead invest it in good people and the best tools that you can afford. You need to surround yourself with good people, staff and suppliers, who believe in you and aren’t just there to take your money. Choose people who share your passion for why the business exists and why they want to be part of it. At the outset while the brain might need to be engaged to produce a robust plan, it is the spirit and fight of the employees that will determine whether the business is successful.