Scaling a recruitment business can be incredibly hard work. Outdated business models don’t help either.
So how can you scale, make more profit and get your life back? These are the exact questions I put to Katy Green from Centredexcellence.
A former successful recruitment MD herself and now high performance coach Katy shared a number of ideas; many of which will surprise you.
Paste here…This is a full transcription of my conversation with Katy. Please excuse and rogue typing errors, please!
Well, hi there everyone, this is Denise from Superfast Recruitment, and I am excited today because finally I’ve got THE Katy Green, one half, of the rapidly expanding Centred Excellence with me today. And I have so many questions, I don’t know quite where to start.
But what I want to do is I’ll let Katy introduce herself, but for those of you that don’t know Katy and the Centred Excellence brand, this is a fantastic brand who I am delighted to say that we have been working with ourselves for gosh, I think it’s coming up to 10 years now since we first met Nicky.
In various guises we’ve worked with the guys, but one of the things about them that I love is their ethos and the way that they work with business owners, particularly around helping them scale the business, but also critically getting their life back at the same time which I think is critical.
So, Katy, I’ve got all these questions to ask you. Excuse me if I keep referring to my notes because I don’t want to miss anything because we’ve had a couple of our guys put questions here that they want to ask you as well. But I think tell us a little bit about yourself, and Centred Excellence first.
Yeah, lovely, well thank you very much for a lovely intro there Denise, really appreciate it. And we’re very appreciative of being your client too, thank you so much for the work you do for us.
So, as you said, my name’s Katy Green, I am the other half of the Centred Excellence. So, Nicky and I joined partnerships, it was about three and a half years ago now. So, yeah, time has flown in a really positive way and yet at the same time, there are so many changes, positive changes to our business too.
So, my background, which most people will be interested in, is that I have been in recruitment pretty much 18 years, 19 years, maybe even 20 years. So, a long time, and I think like lots of different people in recruitment, especially with their own recruitment businesses.
I started classically as that recruitment consultant and worked my way up to running a recruitment business, MD of a business called Aspire.
And I did that in London, I ran their London office for around six years. That was a niche recruitment business, yes fairly large. So at the time that I ran that business, I had around averaging 65 fee earners, turnover of around £8 million.
We were contract and perm. I also ran or was responsible for an outsource function that we did for one of our digital clients. So, I had quite a breadth of experience and responsibility. That was across about 12 different disciplines, so I’ve got lots of experience that I can pull on for my clients around all those service offerings and models, and also around launching new desks because most of those desks came off the digital revolution.
Also, the first thing that I did when I started recruitment, I started a team in the marketplace that I worked in beforehand. So, a very colourful background, I’ve had lots of experience on merging databases. We acquired two businesses, bedded them into London, so I’ve got experience of doing that too. Plus the outsource function, and we had international offices in Singapore and Hong Kong.
So many different things that I was I’ve got say very grateful and very lucky to be a part of and to experience because that’s what gives me some of my uniqueness now in terms of the areas of expertise that I can share with individuals.
Yeah. And a cheeky little question from me, what made you move to the coaching? Because I know you’re a fantastic coach as well, and I just wonder what prompted the shift?
Yeah, well for me, I had always been interested, one of the things that’s probably the biggest part of my role and I enjoyed the most was around people development, succession planning. I grew all of my managers organically up through the ranks, so from consultant through to managers. And I had a team of 12 managers. So, I absolutely loved coaching, loved developing, getting the best out of individuals.
And then I took myself off on my own NLP journey. This was before I actually even started working and met Nicky. I decided to do my own personal development plan, and that took me into the world of NLP.
And it was off the back of that, similar to Nicky, I started applying some of those things into the business, and just seeing the shifts that people got from some simple tweaks and techniques that I’d learnt was incredible.
So, then I was a client of Nicky’s, so I’ve been on that other side as well. And I really wanted to continue to do more on the coaching, personal development, helping people to become the best that they possibly can, which I believe everyone has that ability within them.
And I approached Nicky and said, “Look, I’m thinking that I’d like to do something like you’re doing. What do you think? Do you think I’ve got enough experience to be able to add value to people?” And she said, “Yeah, better than that, why don’t we join forces and do this together?” And the rest is history as they say.
NLP has a lot to answer for.
It does, it does. Yeah, it is transformational, it is. Also, it’s taken me on another journey into other areas now, but it’s a big life-changer.
I haven’t realised that because both Sharon and I started our NLP journey and then left our corporate roles and started our own business. So, it’s an interesting one, isn’t it?
So, let me ask you this question first of all. As an ex-recruitment business owner, as an MD, what do you think are the three biggest problems that business owners are facing today?
We are in a very disruptive market; lots of things are changing, the 360 recruiting model is not effective any more. What are those three key things you think that are the big problems that people need to be aware of and handle?
Okay, they might not be expecting. The first one that I would say is actually focus.
And let me explain why that is. It’s because we all have the same time and energy, so everyone has the same amount. We all have the same constraints that we work under. But what makes the difference is what you choose to spend that time and energy on.
So, we know people get different results. You look at recruitment businesses, some people get some results, some people get other results. And the key difference in those results will be what you choose to spend your time and energy on.
What I notice and I can say this because hands up I’ve been there myself, is what most people in recruitment do, unknowingly, are they burn themselves out. And they burn themselves out on doing too many things at once.
So, it could be things like one minute I’m doing an invoice, the next minute I’m I don’t know, searching for a candidate. The next minute I’m doing some business development, the next minute I’m writing a PSL pitch. The next minute I’m looking at my stats and my conversions.
So, what will happen is they could be doing 20 things all at the same time, but what they’re doing is they’re proportioning their energy and time on those 20 things. So, actually the effectiveness of being in those 20 areas is limited, whereas what super successful people do is they focus on the two or three, no more than three, key areas that will give me the biggest return, that will make the biggest shifts.
Because when you focus on less, then you can spend more time on those and energy on those areas, and therefore get a greater output.
I’m thinking how do they identify those three big areas? Is there a formula that you guys use? I know you’ve developed a lot of processes and models.
Yeah. And you’ve probably heard us talk about the 80:20 rule. And that’s Pareto’s Law.
And that’s primarily if you think about it, what’s interesting is certain actions will not have the equivalent result out of that action.
So, what I mean by that is you can do one action, but your return on that action, so the input might be a small amount, but the output might also be a small amount. Or the input could be a large amount of time and energy, but actually what you’re getting back on the output is a small amount of time and energy.
So, here comes the difference between being super successful and super disciplined and focused like that monk-like discipline, versus I am a jack of all trades and I’m doing too many things at once.
Because then what happens is I could be proportioning 80% of my time, or more or less, but a good proportion of my time on actions and activities that have a big input but very little output. So, I’m not as effective as I could be.
And we know that in recruitment there are so many things that you can be focusing on that actually it’s really important that you do learn, and that will probably bring me to the question you’ve just asked me in terms of the answer to that, that you do learn what are those things that I need to be spending more of my time on?
This is something that we teach people. This is the one thing, focus and discipline, that we teach people because people often think it’s all around the strategies that I need in terms of implementing in my business, like business strategies. And yes, absolutely they are critical, they’re important, yet the biggest change that you need to make is actually in yourself.
And one of those key areas is often around this focus point and this discipline, this monk-like discipline that people need to have. Because if you look at the uber-successful people in this world, they will be very clear on what are the actions, the 20% of my activities that will give me 80% of my output? Also, how do I make sure I’m doing more of those actions?
So, you do need to know what to focus on, you’re right. And the first place to start with that is actually what’s my goal that I want to get to? Because you have to be able to measure things to know what to focus on.
So, what is my goal? Because when you’ve got a clear and defined goal, and you know what this is, that’s going to help you keep on track. That’s going to help you actually keep focused. Because then what you can do is start measuring well where is my time going? What am I giving my time to? And are those actions moving me towards my goal, or are they taking me away from my goal?
So, does that make sense?
Yeah, and I’m fascinated as well because often when you talk to people, and we talk to business owners all the time, is that when you say it’s your goal, often you’ll have a conversation and they’ve got three or four goals or more.
And in many ways I understand why that is because the challenge that we have with recruitment is that it’s so reactive.
So, what happens is every single day you have hundreds of actions, activities, scenarios, situations, problems being chucked at you. Fact. You do. And so it’s even more difficult for recruitment business owners to be able to move those … break that noise, silence that noise, and actually say hold on a minute, I’ve got all of these things coming at me.
What are the one or two things that are going to make the real difference today? And the reason they’re going to make that difference is because they’re going to move me powerfully towards that goal that I have.
And this is the difference between us setting a target, like you’re saying, so let’s say we set a goal at the beginning of the year, and that goal might be a financial target. And we set that goal and then we work our way towards it.
But actually what happens for a lot of recruitment business owners if that’s a goal, but that gets lost in the air very quickly. And suddenly any budget, any target that they started with at the beginning of the year, even as quickly as something within three months, has been chucked out of the window. Why? Because things are landing in their lap and they’re not making sure that everything that they’re doing is focused on that one point to get them there. And so they’re working on things reactively around them, and actually those things aren’t going to move them powerful. And or, worse than that, they’ve just lost their top biller and their top biller is 40% of their revenue target.
Focus is, honestly is the key thing. So, how would you do that? Here’s something that people could do that would help them to do it. So, the first thing that you want to do is track your time. Now, we do this in a more in-depth process, but I’ll literally give you five steps to how you could do it.
The first thing is over the period of a week, track every 30 minutes where your time is going. So, what activities is your time going on?
So, track your time every 30 minutes and then categorise them. And you’re going to put them into categories. And then what you’re going to do is you’re going to calculate the percentage of your time that is spent in those different categories.
And then you’re going to label those categories, is it of value or is it of waste of time or can I outsource it?
And then you’re going to say right, what are the ones that I want to eliminate that are the waste? And then what are the ones that I want to do more of that are of value? And focus on those that are going to move you towards your goal. That’s a really, really quick simple way.
Yeah. So, focus, what next? What are the other two that you would suggest?
So, the other two, we teach … so, to build a really super successful recruitment business, there are four key machines that get you there.
We call them the four machines. And these are all about the flow of the pipeline. So, the first machine is all around your acquisition, your acquisition or your clients and your candidates. So, that’s your incoming. The second machine is around your conversion, and I was just talking about this actually on our Q&A call earlier to some of the guys. The second one is your conversion, so how am I converting those clients that are coming in and converting those candidates? And then the third is your delivery, so what’s your service delivery to do that? What value have you added to your client? And then the fourth is the economic machine, so how well is my business running in terms of finance?
But the key ones here that I would say that people need to focus on are certainly for the benefit of this call, is those first three because what will happen is that people’s business will not be being successful, and the reason that it’s not being successful is because this flow of pipeline between those machines somewhere along the line is not flowing properly. So, either I haven’t got enough of my clients coming in and therefore I’ve got a BD issue.
And so I can’t convert them because I don’t have enough at the front end, or candidates. So, that’s the first part in terms of the acquisition. Or, they’re in the second stage, which is about conversion, and that could be that they’re just not able to convert those clients properly.
So, that could be things around the model. It could be things around their team. It could be things around the processes that they’re using. It could be things around maybe competency, and or it could be around how they’re actually delivering that value, that service to the client. So, it could be lots of different reasons why that second machine has got a problem or a block.
And then that third machine on the service delivery will absolutely be about how they are delivering that service. And I’m talking about not just the pre-placement management, the post-placement management. The whole structure from start to end of how they’re delivering that service. And there could be blocks in that.
I think customer service gets so overlooked, and it is so vital as we move into the next decade.
Ryan Deiss who runs one of the biggest marketing conferences in the world ran a whole day on this exact topic. Though we live in an online world where everything is about the click of a mouse , amazing customer service will help you stand out.
Yet so many people, and I think particularly when it comes to recruitment forget this.
I remember old school recruitment, I worked in the pharmaceutical industry before I had my own business. And I’ll never forget, you knew your recruitment consultant by name, you could ring them at any time. And they would always give you a steer on things. And you just felt included.
Then things started to change and you can never get hold of anybody. And I think now we’re starting to move back again. So, I think it’s such a vital thing.
You’re right because, in the world that we’re in today, it’s all-around customer experience. Whether we want to embrace it or not, it is. And people are looking for a different degree of customer experience. They want more innovation, they want different ways to be engaged with. And, again, I think recruitment sometimes we can be a little bit behind the times shall we say.
We think that we can still offer the same level of service and do things in the same way that we’ve done for years, and that’s still going to work. And it’s fact, it just isn’t. You’ve got to be different. You’ve got to be clear on what your differentiators are. You have to be clear on how that client or candidate is experiencing you in a different way that is going to put you in a different pond if you like from other people.
So, you’ve got to make sure that there are unique abilities in that way. And that repeatable business is absolutely critical because you cannot scale a business unless you have something which is repeatable.
Could you talk a bit more about that Katy? When you say repeatable, you mean with the same accounts, or …?
Well yeah, absolutely. So, you want to make sure that you have clients coming back to you. And that you want to have if you like a group, or some major accounts that you know are giving you almost guaranteed revenue every month, every year.
And the moment that you can systemize your service offering so that you are providing a very high level service offering, that is when you can start moving that client from contingent business to retained or exclusive.
And that’s where the repeatability starts to become more exciting, because then what you have is you not only have things coming in a different format to you, or in a more guaranteed way, but also your clients you can have contracts with them that could be for a year, for two years, rather than you’re a spot business, contingent recruiter who’s only as good as the last placement, or the current placement that I’m making.
And that’s risky.
When it comes to other problems, what other actions do you and Nicky experience that make a huge difference to people’s results?
Well, I think we’ve touched on it, haven’t we, which has to be around that 360 model and around processes and systematisation.
Because if you want to grow a business that can release you from working 24/7, that potentially if you have an appetite or desire or aspiration that you want to sell it in the future, or if you just want to have that right work-life balance where you can go on holiday with your family and not have to be working while you’re on holiday, or not having to be worried about what’s going on in the office, you have to have a business which is systemized.
And one of the key areas that is a big problem within that whole systematisation piece is that 360 model, because that’s probably one of the biggest culprits I would say that affects recruitment businesses in their ability to create a reliable, a sustainable, a scalable business.
It’s interesting because one of our clients, we had a call with one of our groups recently about 360 and this particular company were recruiting. And one of my clients text me after to say, “360, definitely dead. How can you possibly ever find a 360 recruiter now that will stay with you and can deliver.”
And he or she is right. And in fact I did a call earlier with a gentleman who actually had come to one of our events. Hasn’t been on our course, and had come to one of our events. And he said to me, “Katy, the reason I’m calling you back now three months later to say that I want your help is-You were right all along! – is because these two guys of mine that were doing 360 have literally just walked out of my business setting up in total competition because they think they can do it themselves.”
And he said to me, “And I know what the problem is. I know what the problem is. It’s because I’m still working with the 360 model.”
And it’s a killer. It’s a cashflow killer, it’s a killer in so many different ways because it puts you at high risk.
Because in that same scenario if one of your top billers walks out tomorrow, you don’t have the relationships with the client, and you’ve lost a major chunk of that revenue for the next year. And that’s not easy to make up. We all know that. That takes time.
So, what do you suggest people do instead? What do they need to start considering?
Well, the wonderful news is there are other ways of recruiting now which will leverage your time and resources and expertise 10 times greater than running a 360 model.
The first place to start is we actually map peoples service offering first, to understand what model works for them because there are two different types of models that we teach.
We have what we call the 120 model. I’ll call it 120 because people understand that means rather than our language for it. And the 120 model is where you have resources, then you’ll have people doing delivery and people doing business development: So, you split that 360 function into three.
Then we have something we call the 240 model, and there’s two different ways you can do that. So, you can have business development and delivery as one core function. So, you would either have a consultant who’s doing business development and delivery together, or a pod of people who are doing that, depending on the size or your team. And then you would have somebody else who would be doing the resourcing function, or that candidate acquisition and supplying those candidates to that individual.
Or, you can put resourcing and delivery together as one function and then have somebody doing the business development as a separate function.
In preparation for this call, I was looking at some of your different stats and some of the results that some of your clients get. And they’re pretty outstanding, aren’t they?
Yeah, actually. Let me give an example of that. So, you might have seen an interview that I did recently with James Moorhouse.
One of our clients. So, James was doing the 360 model and they were, well it wasn’t being successful for them. And at the time he even said to me and I’ll quote him on the interview, he said, “I thought 360 was the way to go, and it wasn’t until I met you ladies and learnt that there were other ways of doing it, and came on the course.”
And then when they did that, we taught them. They picked up and decided that actually having mapped their service offering, the one that was going to work best for them. Well, when I say best for them, let me reframe that. When you map your service offering, the way you want to decide which is the right model for me is based upon how am I serving my customers? So, it’s not about me as a recruitment business. It’s not about how I want that service to be delivered. It’s actually about what’s right for my customers. And that is part of the process that we do.
So, from there, it was the 120 model for James and that’s what they applied. Now, he will tell you, quoted in that video, they have in the last six months produced 50% more revenue with that model than they were doing previously.
And they’ve gone from two people to seven.
He’s five at the moment, he’s got two more joining shortly. But those guys are not all fee earners. He said the profit that they’re getting, they’re getting 26% more profit on every placement that they make.
26% more profit? Wow. And that’s purely from working from people’s strengths then?
Absolutely. And he said I now realise where my flow is. And part of that will be actually going back to what we were saying about focus. Where am I spending my time? Am I in flow? Am I focused on the things that I’m best placed to be doing that work in my flow and that I get great results from? And then how do I make sure I’ve got the right people around me in those right roles?
Because somebody who loves business development and is really good at business development probably isn’t going to be as good or as motivated with finding candidates, or doing the resourcing function. Because they take different types of energies.
I would totally agree with your client that if you are still working a 360 model, it is going to absolutely prohibit you in a very big way to scale that business.
Yeah. Am I allowed to ask … I know I’m allowed to ask because it’s our podcast , but when you say different energies, what do you mean by different energies, when you say it takes a different energy from a resourcer to a BD person?
Yeah, so we use a profiling tool that looks at when you’re most in flow and what those energies are. And then when you understand when you’re most in flow or what type of energy you are, you can actually build a team around you to compliment those energies. And it very much, it totally maps onto the 360 role. So, it’s a no brainer because it means that when people hire, they can actually again it’s more confidence because if they’re looking at people’s energy sets as well as interviewing them from a competency base, it gives them a much tighter and a better interview process. More successful.
I think it’s fascinating, there are so many things out there that can help you with your business. And it’s not just the next marketing strategy or the next sales process or script that you use, it’s so many other things that interact with your business results.
‘ve shared a lot. Where do you think people, if you think about … you talked about focus, you talked about the four key areas of the business, you’ve talked about the 360. Where do you suggest somebody they’ve just come across you for the first time, they’re in an absolute mess. They’re overwhelmed, they’re worried, they’re concerned. Things just aren’t working. Apart from getting on the phone to you, where do you think they start? Where would you say, “Look, okay, let’s just start here?”
Right, okay. So, the first thing that we do is we start to cut through the crap. Sorry, I’m going to say that. And we will literally remove things for you. So, we will show you how to get 80% of things off your plate straight away. So, people leave us after the first experience with us off just feeling lighter, just feeling clearer on what their focus is.
We get them absolutely clear on what are the next steps for the next 90 days, the next quarter? And those steps will move them forward powerfully.
And what’s interesting, because you mentioned about the results that we get for our clients, is that that first time that they meet us, what happens off the back of that for people is probably one of the biggest uplifts that people will get. And you know Dawn really well.
Oh yes, we do.
And a great example is probably Dawn. I know you’ve worked with Dawn as well. And Dawn in the first two weeks of coming off the back of working with us the first time suddenly did six times more placements than she’d done in the last previous six months. And that was because we got her very focused on what are those types of roles that you’re recruiting for and the process to follow to do that.
I would say whether or not let’s say us or any other provider in terms of other people that you could work with, the first thing I would advise people to do is do that time process, because even if they did that and weren’t working with us, it’s going to give them insights.
Yeah. Like you said, for any business owners I still fill out an activity inventory even to this day. If I suddenly get to .. we finish about half five, probably about half six really, and I’m still here and I’m thinking, “What have I got up to today.”
I know that I need to get that form out and I need to fill it out again and just think, “Oh right, so I’m doing this, I’m doing that.” And that’s how we identified all the roles in the business now that we need as we’re scaling, so it’s just that absolute clarity.
As we draw to a close is there anything else you think is really key for people to know about scaling and growing their recruitment business which you haven’t already mentioned?
I will go back to the systematisation of their processes because I think sometimes … some recruitment business owners have a fear of key success factors, KPIs and processes let’s say.
That is probably because they might have had a bad experience themselves in the past where they worked for a company and it was very KPI driven. And then they start their own business with that absolute aspiration, goal of I’m going to make sure that my business is different.
I don’t want the control mechanisms that make us feel like we’re becoming a slave to our business. And yet actually by having a business that’s systematised and processed, you are giving more of your own flair and creativity and delivering much more.
So, let me explain what I mean by that, it’s because if you have a process and you know that process is one that you personally would use with a client. So, if a client touches you and they say, “I get an awesome, awesome level of service whenever I work with you.” And then they work with one of your colleagues or part of your team and that person doesn’t follow that same structure to you, so actually what the client or the candidate experiences is substandard in comparison.
So, when you have a process that you know that everyone follows and it is the magic moments that you create, that you give to that client and that candidate, and everyone else is giving that same magic moment, then you will have a far, far more successful business.
And it’s turning that kind of if you like misunderstanding of what systems do for you. Because they actually enable you to control your business, rather than be a slave to your business. And it definitely means that you can grow your business and that you can remove yourself from having to be in that business 24/7 and also having to micromanage people.
You’ve got to allow … those systems actually allow the empowerment and the autonomy to happen.
Structure is freedom.
Yes. Structure is freedom!
I might claim that one. I don’t know if I’ve stolen that from somebody else, however, it sums everything up perfectly.
But I think that really is a key point about its structure. And you may, probably you and Nicky do. I know because I’ve spoken to Nicky about it, is that often people say, “I don’t have the time.” And it’s about well, if you systematise things, you would have the time.
And it’s about making it important enough. So, Katy, you’ve been incredibly generous today with all your insights. If people want to find out more about the Centred Excellence magic, what do they need to do and how can they find you?
Right. So, you could either probably the best way is to either pick up a phone or email me. My email address, is firstname.lastname@example.org. You’ve got our website which is www.centeredexcellence.co.uk. Or connect with me on LinkedIn.