This week we hear from Matthew Sampson, who started his own business, Aspect Personnel, in 2007 after just two years working as a recruitment consultant. The specialist engineering, architecture, and construction recruiting business has since grown to headcount of 15, and achieved an impressive retention rate, along with BRW Fast 100 and Fast Starterstatus.
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What drove you to launch your own business?
“While I thoroughly enjoyed working for a large recruitment firm, I felt that the necessity to work to standardised activity metrics inhibited my ability to customise my service offering to both clients and candidates and thus, limited the value of my service. I was ambitious to build a business that employees were proud to work for, clients and candidates eager to work with, and competitors envious of.”
What have you done in your own business to address the issues you encountered with standardised activity metrics?
“We have our consultants set their own monthly activity targets. So rather than working to a standardised KPI format, we slice it down with each of our consultants at the end of every month, and reflect on that month and also plan forward for the next month. So I’ll ask them what they want to achieve, and then they’ll design a road map in terms of what outcomes they want to deliver and then what activity they best believe is going to… deliver those outcomes.
“Three key [factors] impact on that: one, the nature of their desk [and] the nature of their clients; two, where that desk is at at the moment and what the requirements are likely to be in the coming weeks; and three, the skillset of the recruitment consultant. We’ve got consultants here who are particularly talented on the phone and [their] activity is often geared towards phone activity. We’ve got others that are much better face-to-face so set themselves activity targets around meeting candidates and clients.”
What do you look for in the consultants you hire?
“We hire staff based on their fit to our organisation, rather than their billings record. As a service provider, our corporate brand is a collection of our employees’ personal brands. We are consistently looking to employ staff that will complement, if not enhance, our businesses brand and the values which we promote. Brand fit is the number one assessment. Trainability and willingness to learn is number two. Past billings performance is a distant third. I am also a subscriber to Greg Savage’s ‘no dickheads’ policy.”
What would you like to see change in the recruitment industry?
“Our industry is often labelled as being unprofessional. While I certainly do not agree with this generalisation, I can’t argue with the case studies that I occasionally see and hear. Placed candidates being called about other opportunities one day after the expiry of their probationary period, [and] candidates’ skillsets being embellished are just two complaints about our industry I heard last week.
“In the vast majority of cases, the consultant at fault is no longer at the same firm, if in the industry at all. We, as an industry, hire and reward on billings, often not on quality of service and stakeholder satisfaction. When the money dries up, consultants often leave.
“As ironic as it sounds, I think our recruitment, training and retention in our own firms could improve. I would like to see our industry filled with career recruiters who are here to build a long-term brand amongst stakeholders. I would like to see these people better trained in technical areas such as employment legislation and WHS, as well as formal training in softer skills, such as negotiation and influencing. The accepted high turnover rate in our industry is giving opportunity to consultants to arrive untrained, make a relatively substantial amount of money in 12 months and leave the bridges burning behind them. It is not only their personal brand and their company’s brand at stake, it is the recruitment industry’s brand as a whole.”
How do you incorporate service quality and stakeholder satisfaction into the rewards program at Aspect?
“We run quarterly client satisfaction surveys. We also run quarterly… desk checks, so calling up a random selection of clients and having a conversation with them about consultants’ performance and how they would describe us as a business and the consultants themselves. We absolutely work on a commission basis, but the reward and recognition, and the targets that we set for development within the business are very much around repeat business as well as results of those client satisfaction surveys and phone calls. We do incorporate billing performance, but it’s one of many [metrics].”