Sharon: Hi everyone, I am delighted to welcome Lee and Theresa Durrant, the co-founders of Resource on Demand. Now, many of you may not know this, but Resource on Demand was the UK and Europe’s first specialist Salesforce recruiters. So welcome, Lee and Theresa.
I know I know your story and lots about yourselves and Resource on Demand, but perhaps let’s start, for the listeners if I could ask you to give a little bit of background to yourselves, how Resource on Demand came about, and a little bit of that story. Because this year is a special year that we will come onto later, I understand?
Theresa: I’ll probably let Lee go with this one. Yes.
Lee: Okay, well, firstly Sharon, thanks very much for having us on. It’s a pleasure, and hopefully, we do your podcast justice, but yeah, thanks very much for this. So how deep… How far back do you want me to go?
Sharon: Well just, how did Resource on Demand start?
Lee: Okay. Well, so we were recruiting back in the credit crunch as another entity, if you like, in another industry. It was still IT, but it was a completely different industry, and in 2007/2008 that industry just seemed to grind to a halt along with, I’m sure, a load of others. So, we were scrabbling around as recruiters just trying to find any way of trying to make some money. It was quite a trying time, and fell into Salesforce initially because it was the one area where there seemed to be vacancies. I’d never heard of it, I didn’t know what it was, I didn’t know what cloud computing was, and there was no plan at that point to become a specialist in it. I just happened to start getting vacancies for this new shiny thing where there seemed to be more opportunities than people, and one thing led to another, before you knew it we realised that actually there could be some growth here, this could be a nice niche that no one else is doing, and this was a long time ago now it seems.
And so we thought, “Right, okay, a bit of a refresh, a rebrand,” and Resource on Demand was born as the first UK and I think it turned out to be Europe’s first recruitment company that solely existed to recruit for the Salesforce ecosystem. Yeah. So that’s how it started, was that the question?
Sharon: Yeah. No, I mean, and it’s an ecosystem that’s just grown and grown and grown, hasn’t it? Over recent years. So very briefly, what’s been the journey that ROD, as you are affectionately known, but Resource on Demand, have gone through over that time?
Theresa: Well, I think for us, when we first started out, it was very much a lifestyle business. We wanted the freedom to kind of pick and choose your hours, but I think because of the time that we set up, and the market was so buoyant, it suddenly turned not into a lifestyle, and we were working much longer hours trying to service the customers that were coming on board. And they were coming on board at a rate of knots at the time. It was just the two of us. So probably about four years after we set up we started to look to recruit. We were… those people that were holed up in a hotel somewhere trying to get the job done and the business has grown organically since then. So we only ever recruit as and when we have the demand.
We’ve just grown steadily over those last… well over the time that we’ve been in business. We’ve grown quite steadily at a nice pace. It’s become paramount for us and Salesforce, being the multi-billion dollar industry that it is – that for them it’s always been about their customer engagement and we’ve kind of in a way taken on board that ethos. So we’ve tried to set ourself apart from a typical recruitment industry that people might be aware of and for us, it’s always been about our clients and the candidates and the journey that they go on in respect to finding jobs.
And I think in some ways we’ve gone on that journey with the company because we’ve, as you do, we’ve grown as people. And it became less about chasing the pound and more about actually delivering a really good quality service, and I think that’s probably what set us apart from probably most of our competitors.
Sharon: Yeah. And over the time I imagine that there have been many lessons as there always are when you’re growing a business. But what would you say are perhaps some of the big lessons or the key lessons that have made the biggest impact when you’ve… I guess when you reflect?
Lee: Well it sounds a bit like I’m repeating what Theresa’s said but… we’ll do a lot of that probably, won’t we, in the next half hour so. It’s interesting because when we started one of the lessons was almost if you’re going to do this, you don’t need to necessarily have the end game in mind. So as Theresa said, we started thinking, “Yeah. Get the lifestyle business. We can work when we want, where we want, make a bit of money, everything will be great.” But then you get to a point; there’s a tipping point of… it’s no longer a lifestyle business; you’re working 14 hours a day, every day. And it’s taking over your life, and that’s the point where you need to go, “Oh man, do we need to make this a real business and recruit people for ourselves and go from there?”
Lee: So that was quite a difficult decision in the early days. What kind of business do we want this to be? And I think when we decided to recruit people, then you’ve got to think about, “Okay, what kind of culture do we want the business to be? Do we want it to be like the typical Wolf of Wall Street, London type of office?” And I’ll be honest, that’s a mistake we made because we did go for that option initially, and we’ve completely changed that over the years to actually, “No we don’t want that.” So that was challenge number one probably, it was what kind of company is this and what kind of recruiters do we want to be? I think you had some more points.
Theresa: Yeah. From a different angle, but I come from I suppose a property management background. I was used to managing people, but I’d never run a business. I’d never been responsible for P&L. Even the stats and figures and ratios and KPIs and all the things you’re meant to track as a business frightened the life out of us. And Lee comes from a typical recruitment business. Again, he’d managed a team of people, but he’d never run a business. And it’s almost like overnight people are looking at you expecting you to know what to do.
And sometimes you have to be able to put your hands up and say, “Do you know what? I don’t know. I’m slightly out of my depth here.” What I’ll do is I’ll go and do the research. I’ll go and find the answers. So I think as business owners you’re stuck in this headspace where you think, “I have to know everything” because you’ve got all of these pairs of eyes. You’ve got mouths depending on you, and you have to learn the hard way how to make decisions. Good decisions, but make them quickly. And if you don’t know the answer, be prepared to go off and find the expert who does know the answer. That’s hard when you’re used to being at the top of your game, suddenly you’re feeling really out of your depth. But we came through it. Thankfully we’re a pretty good team. We bounce off one another. We’re always communicating and talking about ideas, and when we need to we make sure we pull the team in and bring all the heads together so we can all come up with decisions and the best course of action.
So it does get a lot easier as you go through the journey, but certainly, in the beginning, it was hard. Because it is just the two of you, and if you don’t agree well you’re kind of at a stalemate. So another lesson is compromising. You have to learn to compromise.
Lee: One of the most challenging things even today I think, is knowing when to work in the business and when to work on the business which is something (as me being the recruiter) has taken me a long time to realise what I enjoy doing and what I don’t like doing and what you feel like you should be doing as a business owner. I’m sure we’re going to get on to that with topics about marketing and stuff like that. Somehow the reason we have a recruitment company is because we’re good at recruitment and you can get distracted with everything else that you think you should be doing sitting in an office on your own looking at P&L and all that sort of stuff.
Lee: Oh man, for me, that’s horrible. So it’s almost understanding what you are good at? What you like doing, what makes you bounce out of bed in the morning with excitement and maybe recruit for the rest of it. Or outsource the rest of it. That’s… I wouldn’t say it was a challenge, but that’s something that took us a long time to get our head around that.
Lee: What was the phrase that we used for you? Was it the major bottleneck? Because that sounds a bit harsh on Theresa but because she was everything else apart from recruitment it then became difficult to let go of some of those things, didn’t it?
Theresa: Well, and you think if you let go the plate’s going to stop spinning. So actually being able to have faith that other people could do that job just as well as you, that was a big challenge, but we got there. And now I sit around and do nothing, it’s great.
Lee: Yeah, I noticed. You must know that Sharon because you guys have got your own company there so you must have. I mean a big deal for Theresa was us getting a cleaner which sounds ridiculous, but we used to go, “Oh, just do it ourselves.” And as a business owner, you do that, don’t you? But this was a long time ago now, obviously, getting a cleaner just seemed like an expense you didn’t need to pay for.
Lee: What’s it like for you guys?
Sharon: Well, I think that is one of the challenges as business owners, is recognising and learning, and it was one of the questions I wanted to come onto is recognising learning. As business partners, what are your respective strengths, play to those strengths and yes, I suppose in the early days there are different things that you take on and at some point you know that if you need to grow in scale it can’t continue to be you doing some of the things that you’re doing. And it’s like you were saying, Theresa, you begin to trust that other people not only could do things perhaps as well as you think you can but you realise that if I employ somebody who could do some of these things even better, that the business is only going to benefit from that.
And there’s that leap of faith, and that element of trust isn’t there? That actually, the sooner we start to employ people that are better at doing the things that we’ve been doing because they need doing rather than they are one of our strengths. I think that’s one of the big things. And once you make that leap though and realise that, when you employ people who are good, they think, “God why didn’t we do that sooner?”
Theresa: Yes, I know. You seem like you’re kicking yourself because you suddenly realised you’re probably behind where you should have been. But as long as you’re learning from that experience.
Sharon: Yeah. Now while we’re talking about this, I want to come back and talk to you about the culture that you’ve built. But before I do as we’re on this subject, you guys have worked together now for a number of years. You founded this business together, and you’re married, and so that’s not unusual in the industry. We’ve got clients where again there’s a husband and wife team at the head of a company. Now I imagine, and you’ve eluded to that a little bit in terms of, there’s got to be compromises, and sometimes you don’t agree so there’s a bit of stalemate but how have you made it work? What words of wisdom might you have for other businesses where we’ve got a couple at the head of that business?
Theresa: Yeah, I suppose in some respects it may have been a little bit easier for us because as I said, we’ve come from completely different backgrounds. So Lee was the recruiter, I just happened to be quite handy at most other things. So I knew a bit about HR, I knew a little bit about CRM systems. I can’t say that I knew anything about marketing, but I learnt within the first few years how to write an okay blog. So for us, we’ve kind of always had separate roles in that respect. But one thing we realised as we started to recruit because people wouldn’t necessarily know who to go to regarding a decision.
Theresa: So we kind of defined our roles fairly early on so that people knew that if it was a question about recruitment, how to do recruitment, how to speak to, I don’t know, speak to clients or negotiate with clients then they would always go to Lee, and Lee’s decision on that would be final.
When it came about everything else, so anything to do with can we change the IT system? Or can we have a, I don’t know, a budget for client entertainment? And stuff like that, then people would come to me, and my decision would be final on that. To ensure that we weren’t undermining one another. But we had very, very clear roles about what decisions we were going to be making. Anything else that didn’t fit within those it would always be well, we’ll go away, we’ll have a chat together, and we’ll come up with a solution together.
And then one of the things we did do as soon as we were reasonably able to, was to get ourselves a sales manager. Because that person now acts as the in-betweener between employees and team members and ourselves. So there is also now a very impartial person who can make some decisions, and they’ve got the responsibility to make decisions within the team. So we tried to put that into place fairly quickly. It took a little while to get the right person, I must admit. We did take someone on; we got it wrong first time around because they didn’t quite fit into the culture that we were trying to nurture. But once we got the right person we can trust that even if we’re out the business or we’re in the business, people know where to go. They know where to get the answers. And that also means that Lee and I can have a little bit of breathing space as well.
Lee: I would second the mommy-daddy complex thing that I’m sure other companies that are founded by husband and wives must have that same issue where they’ll go and ask Theresa then they’ll come and ask me. Or they go and ask me then go and ask Theresa. So it’s always… My default is, “What did Theresa say?” Because you want to make sure they’re not trying to play you off against each other. But like Theresa said, eventually we worked through that and just defined our roles so that it was nothing to do with recruitment and I would just defer to Theresa. And the other way around really. The other thing, am I allowed to swear Sharon? Or is that not appropriate?
Sharon: Depends on what words you’re going to be using.
Lee: It’s nothing that bad. We have this saying, in terms of being a married couple that driving to work together we make sure we shake our shit off at the door when we get to work so that if we’re having a barney about something in the car and at home, the minute you walk into the office it’s forgotten about.
Lee: Me being a man, it’s forgotten about forever. Theresa is a woman with a very good memory. She remembers the minute we leave, and we go back home and then we’re arguing about it again. But that’s quite, something we got very good at over the years I think. Practising that; the minute we’re at work, we are work people. And it’s not easy to do that, but we’ve managed to do that. I don’t know if you’ve got any thoughts on that?
Theresa: No, no. I mean, it’s probably been a good thing for our marriage because if we had niggles, you forget about it as the day moves on. You get into your daily routine, and that’s the end of it. I would say one of the other challenges over the years, and things went as before. So as Lee nicely put, you leave your poop at the door. When you leave work you equally have to learn to switch off, and I think that’s difficult to do. Any issues or problems because you’re getting on with your day job at work. I suppose most couples when they come in it’s like, “How’s your day, dear?” Well, we know because we were both there. So your conversations play out a little bit differently. I suppose to most relationships where you’re not working together.
And when you go on holiday, there’s the danger of taking work with you on holiday. So I think for one of the things we did quite early on was to say, “Well, we have to have some boundaries.” Now it’s impossible to switch off from work completely when you own a business.
Sharon: I agree.
Theresa: That’s just life. But we have what we call golden hours when we’re away on holiday, for example; it’s okay to be online but then after a certain time during the day you have to switch off. Go back to your emails the following day. You can pick up with stuff. But once you get to the afternoon it’s all about personal. Because you need to keep connecting as husband and wife. You don’t want to get to six, seven years down the line and you’re just feeling like colleagues. You have to remember why you’re together in the first place. So it is important to have those golden times where you say, “No. It’s all about us now; it’s not about the business. It’s not about the people in the business.”
Lee: And then you’re defined the couple by what you do as well so that… and that’s difficult to shake off as well sometimes. It’s… “Oh, you know him, Lee and Theresa. Oh you know Lee and Theresa, that workaholic couple that own that business” and that’s it. That’s all you’re known as. So it’s trying to remember that you have an outside life as well. Especially for us two because we don’t have kids or anything so it can become very, it’s the one thing that consumes you.
Sharon: Yeah, I know. I can completely relate to that. I think you definitely… and even if it’s business partners who’ve been close friends and business partners for a number of years who do socialise together. I think the danger in those relationships that work encroaches on that social time as well. So boundaries are really good for everybody to consider and have in place.
So just going back to… You talked about I guess the ethos and the philosophy that you recognise that Salesforce had and that you wanted to bring that into your business as a way of differentiating Resource on Demand and the kind of service and business that it was. So maybe share with us a little bit more about the culture that you’ve built and perhaps a couple of key points that have helped you shape that culture that perhaps people can take away as good bits of advice.
Lee: So the… it sounds like a negative way of putting it, but when we first started I knew what I didn’t want us to be like. Having grown up in a rather cut-throat recruitment company where your… the guy sitting next to you who is your work colleague was also really, basically, your competitor. And there was no sharing of information. So you may as well have just been on your own. So I thought whilst I did all right in that environment, I didn’t want us to be like that.
And trying to make everything very collaborative is great… the sentiment is right. But sometimes when you’re recruiting for salespeople that it sometimes doesn’t work. So we’ve been through a few variations of how do we do that? How do you share information in an environment where to this day recruitment is very much about making placements and the salespeople getting their bonuses and commissions of the back of that?
So that’s something we’ve worked out over the years with the help of external coaches as well as just thrashing it out between us. We then decided as I said earlier on, to… while we accidentally went down the road or trying to build this Wolf of Wall Street culture we decided that actually no, that’s not for us. Recruitment has become such an online thing as well these days. I had this, used to have this issue where “Why aren’t people on the phone? Why isn’t there everyone standing up on the phone, being buzzy, doing deals?” Kind of environment. I think there’s an awful lot of recruitment now where it is just engaging with people online, engaging with them on whatever platform your niche market exists on. Or hangs out in, or whatever the term is.
It’s okay if the office isn’t a buzz with people on the phone, as long as they’re getting on with stuff. I’ve gotten over that. As I say, I’ve grown up in the environment where it was all, “Get on the phone” and I think I’ve overcome that a little bit.
Theresa: Yeah, and we did an exercise going a few years back now. Was about looking at the values that were important to us. But also within the team. And we did it as quite a fun team exercise, and at one point we had people running all over the office, putting Post-it Notes everywhere. But we just wanted to understand what the values were? What were the shared values that were inside the company? Because half the chance are if those values exist within our company, they’ll also exist within our candidates and the clients that we’re talking to. And it was really in a way getting into the psyche of what we were all about.
And it’s become apparent that people enjoyed working with us because of, I suppose the family, which let’s face it we’re husband and wife. So automatically you have that family feel. But it was about taking care of people. It was about having integrity, loyalty. It was about respect. More than anything else about respecting the people that you’re dealing with, respecting one another and so on.
That exercise alone actually started to highlight the kind of culture that we wanted to be. So in some respects, that’s helped us to identify the right kind of people. All about adverts when we’re advertising for new members of staff. Those adverts include the words that we would consider to be our core values. And of course that will then entice the right kind of people because they’re reading it thinking, “Actually, that feels good to me because that feels like the kind of company I’d want to work for.”
So over time, actually recruiting for people that have similar values around a culture has been easy because we know what our culture is. We hire people that have a similar set of values to us and the culture just in a way builds itself. So we’ve got a great team out there now and we actually, funny enough, I think the beginning of this last week we’ve just taken a couple of new employees on and we just said, “It feels amazing out there.” Out on the sales floor the way people are working together, the way they’re interacting together, and the culture’s in a way just taken care of itself, and it just feels amazing. It feels like such a great team out there. So yeah. It’s been a bit of a journey, but we now feel that we are definitely on the right track and it feels like the company that when we first sat down and thought about setting up, it feels like that company.
Sharon: Maybe that’s what you’ve just described there with two new employees coming in, that is proof of the pudding I think. That those people have slotted in and everybody is working with them.
Theresa: Yeah, yeah.
I haven’t seen them almost; it’s brilliant.
Lee: The industry we recruit for, the tech world, when you’re speaking to candidates, and they’ll say things like, “Oh, what’s the culture at this business?” I used to say things like, “Oh, it’s brilliant because they’ve got a Fussball table, because they’ve got beanbags.” And actually when I think about our culture, it’s not about the furniture you’ve got. It’s just about the people that are there and how you deal with those people, how you interact with those people and also that is internally with your employees but also externally with your customers.
So that’s now a harder question to answer when a candidate asks me that about a client. Unless I’ve been there and I’ve seen how they do that, the answer’s quite difficult now. But yeah, I used to think that, and we went through, well we didn’t, thinking about it. But we had a phase of thinking that had to be like that. We had to copy that tech. “Don’t worry about looking smart, come in dressed in whatever you want. Yeah let’s play ping pong. Let’s go to the pub every day”, you know? And those things can be nice but if that ends up being just a day-to-day thing I don’t think that’s culture any more.
Sharon: I think they’re often hygiene factors aren’t they? They’re that comfort factors and yet a building and a pool table and a table tennis table, they don’t make a business and a culture. It’s the people in it and as you say, Theresa, the kind of values of what’s important to those people, how those people gel together with those common values and what’s important to them. That’s what makes a culture. That’s what I think you described, Theresa, with having two new people come in and seeing how that’s worked. That’s your litmus test. I guess that what you’ve created is absolutely… The team are almost living and breathing that culture, and so I imagine you and Lee can sit on the sidelines. And you can see it’s just working now without you…
Theresa: Yeah. Absolutely. And I think… We make our core team. Everybody is the core team, but there are a few people within the business that have been with us a long time who have gone with us on that journey and are absolutely on the same page. So when we’re interviewing people, for us it’s really important those people are part of the interview process. And if one of us has a feeling about, in a good way or sometimes in a bad way, we don’t think that person quite fit in. We want to make sure we’re giving them that voice, that platform to be able to turn around and say, “I like the person but here’s why I think they might not be able to gel with the team.”
Because what we want to do is we want to make the onboarding to be a really pleasant experience. It’s bad enough coming into a new job and thinking, “I know nothing.” And you’re in that scary zone of, “Oh my God, I do not know anything.” They don’t have to; you don’t have to make it harder for them by then having to make it really difficult to make friends and fit in with your work colleagues. So if you’ve got the culture right, you know that and the values are there. We can teach them how to do the job.
But you can’t teach somebody how to interact with work colleagues. You can’t teach somebody necessarily how to interact with the clients. We have made mistakes in the past, put your hands up; you had to learn from those mistakes. But I think now that for us it’s all about the values. We know that we can teach the other stuff, but they can come in, they can feel comfortable from day one, and that’s important to us.
Sharon: That’s it. Yeah. Brilliant. Now you’ve mentioned a little bit about the challenges of growing the business as it’s grown organically. But if you were to sort of perhaps just put a spotlight on how you have got the Resource on Demand name out into the markets. So I guess just transitioning into some marketing conversation, what perhaps were some of the challenges that you faced over time getting the business known in the market?
Lee: So when we started it was just old school, get on the phone, this is me more than Theresa doing the behind the scenes stuff. And network with very senior people within the space you’re niching in and making sure that you under promise and over deliver with the way that you deal with them and knowing that, from my point of view at least, knowing that I’m going to be around a long time in this world. Not this world, sorry, in the recruitment space, in the Salesforce space. And understanding that that will come back one day whether you do a deal with that person straight away or not, that they’ll go out there and think nice thoughts about you and hopefully that will come back.
So that’s the obvious way of doing it but eventually you get to the point of thinking, “We also need to spend some money on advertising”, and I think recruitment agencies and us included can fall into the trap of everything you post out there is job, job, job, job, job. And after 97% let’s say, I’ve just made the number up, but a big percentage of the people in your niche aren’t looking. They’ll switch off to that, so we’ve got to the point where I think Theresa was learning with I think someone we outsourced and how to write stuff. Content for your marketplace that isn’t, “Oh I’ve got this job, I’ve got this job, I’ve got this job.” Over to you.
Theresa: Yeah. We started off with a newsletter. That’s all we had at one point and a website which again didn’t reflect us at the beginning because it was just quickly, get a website put together. And we took on a guy, and he was amazing at just getting us to realise what our potential was and it was a case of, he then decided to go on a different career path. And I ended up being the person that was doing the marketing. And let’s face it; my background is not marketing. I barely knew about Facebook. In fact, it was probably setting up a business that got me onto Facebook in the first place.
Everything I was learning was just by looking at other people’s Facebook pages and websites and in a way trying to take what I could get from those and do it myself. And it quickly became apparent that I was naff at my job at that point. So you suddenly have to realise, do you know what? This is just going to go nowhere if I continue to try and do it myself.
We tried a few companies. We tried to work with a few people. We tried to take on people internally but because I didn’t know what I was doing I didn’t even know how even to interview someone to be able to pull out the questions that I would need to know to find out if they knew what they were doing. So it’s again, it’s been a sort of kiss a lot of frogs. But I suppose one of the lessons I learnt early was to try and find recommendations, try and find referrals. And thankfully I did go on a coaching course and somebody recommended you guys and that for us, that’s been I suppose the biggest turning point when it comes to marketing because you actually opened our eyes to a lot of things that we weren’t doing and probably a lot of things we were doing that we just didn’t need to bother with any more.
I think newsletters, yeah they’re fine but there’s a lot of effort goes into them and probably very few people reading them whereas we could get a wider audience if we went a bit more online and used social media. So it’s finding the right partner I would say has probably been the best thing that we could have ever done, who we could trust that whatever advice they’re giving us is the best course of action and as a result of that we’ve then been able to go out and source other things that can complement those services.
So we’ve got other companies that do slightly different marketing to us that we had that sits alongside what you guys do. But for us, you have to make sure that the message that you’re conveying to those different partners is that the brand has to be protected. It needs to be consistent, and you need to know who your customer… I suppose your customer base is so that you’re sending the right messages out there. But once that’s been put into place all of the services complement one another.
But I’m sure you’ll be pleased to hear this, but it was you guys that turned that all around for us because we just knew there was a company there that could help us put the strategy in place. Because to be honest, we didn’t have one. I can’t deny that.
Lee: Also, thanks to you guys, you help us to change ourselves a little bit and work outside of our comfort zone. Because the comfort zone for me in recruitment is kind of what I just said, it’s approach people looking for a job. That’s direct marketing if you like. You’re making us do podcasts and making us do little videos and occasionally write a blog of our own and things like that which makes you feel like, “Oh, I don’t know how to do this.” And I think in the early days of having your own recruitment business; specifically if you haven’t gone for external investment, it’s all your own money. The return on investment for marketing can sometimes be hard to define. Especially if it’s not… If you write an advert and put it on LinkedIn, pay the money for that, and you get to see that it comes back from that and you make a placement, nice and easy. You can track that. But I think having someone write blogs for you, having someone do podcasts with and for you – you don’t necessarily see an immediate return on that so you sometimes, that could be the thing that you might drop. But I think that’s something you have to do continually. Drip feed it so that the… if I was correct earlier on, the 97% of people in your niche space that isn’t actively looking are still engaging with what you’re putting out there. So that’s something that I would say I’ve learnt from working with you guys, is to do things that are outside the comfort zone. Don’t be scared to try something different.
Theresa, it’s a passion that, isn’t it?
Sharon: Now that we’ve, I guess as we’ve worked with you, we know over the last few years. It’s been a journey together. And we’ve evolved the strategies that we’ve encouraged you to take up. But what would you say from a marketing point of view has made a real difference for you? Certain strategies work quicker than others, but what would you say has made the biggest impact recently?
Theresa: I would say it’s probably again, thanks to you guys for giving us a bit of a kick up the bum, but it’s following the journey of the social media platforms. So it’s understanding what’s fashionable right now because going back a few years it was all about the newsletters. Fast forward a little bit and suddenly it’s about Facebook. Then it becomes Twitter. Then it becomes Instagram and so on. And I think the biggest thing it’s understanding what is hip right now. And that makes me feel old to say those words, but it is that.
And I think when you’re stuck in the business, and you’re doing the day job you don’t necessarily have your finger on the pulse of what people find fashionable. Whereas as marketing specialists you’re always looking at what’s the latest platform? Where are people flocking to to get their news, get their information? So it is as basic as that. It’s knowing what is fashionable right now and for us the podcasts, videos, totally outside our comfort zone but that’s probably been the thing that’s had the biggest impact.
We’ve had lovely stories that have come back where a two-minute video that Lee put out there, we’ve got people messaging us going, “I loved your video, can we talk?” That’s the words that you want to hear is, “Can we talk?” Because it’s really hard to get people to want to talk or engage with a recruiter. So anything that makes people go, “I wanted to talk to you guys because I just loved what you put out there” that’s when you know you’re on the right track.
Sharon: Yeah. Well, that’s… I mean that is excellent because I think one of the things people talk about is, there is so much social media today. And there are lots of different platforms that we engage with, and everybody wants engagement so to hear that that is what you’re getting is exactly what we’re looking for. So that’s great to hear you say that.
Sharon: And so in terms of I guess how you now see marketing as a pillar of how you continue to grow Resource on Demand, what perhaps might you say to other business owners perhaps in a similar position who are thinking, “Well, I’m not sure about marketing. Do we go the internal route? Do we go outsourcing?” What words of wisdom might you have to share having gone through some of those experiences yourself?
Theresa: Yeah. Every business is completely different, so it’s hard to answer that as a straight direct answer because what’s right for our business isn’t always going to be right for someone else’s. So you do have to do a little bit of self-searching and think, “Do we want to have that internally? Do we want to have that externally?” For us I think we did try the internal route. But that didn’t work out for us because as I said, I’m not a marketing person. So it would have been like the blind leading the blind. So in that respect it became like a bit of a no brainer to say, “Do you know what? We’re going to invest that money into a company, a partner that we can work with very closely so that they can understand where we’re going with the company. They can understand who our client base is. They can understand us and our values and what was important to us.”
And I sometimes think the cost of getting it wrong, so if you do go down the internal route and you’re a bit clueless, actually that can cost you a lot more money than what it would do to outsource in the first place. So you have to have a way of I suppose in some respects, being able to mark or to track success. So whichever method you go down you need to be able to have some way of tracking success there because those lessons, if they go on far too long, could be the difference between the business surviving or not.
We’re not shy about investing money, and we’ve… I think marketing for us is like one of the biggest investments in our company when we look at all of our total running costs. It’s a huge proportion of our costs. But it’s worth it because if we didn’t investment that money, we would’ve just been bumbling along on our own trying to do it and then probably spending a huge amount of money to get that wrong. I would say to a company, figure out what you need. If you’ve got enough know-how internally then try the internal route. But if you don’t, then find a really good partner that you can work with.
Sharon: Yeah. Fantastic.
Theresa: I think that’s it really.
Lee: I think so. I think you’re spot on.
Sharon: Is there anything that perhaps I haven’t asked around business growth or around taking that marketing journey it encompasses that maybe you would like to add something?
Theresa: The only thing I can think of, it’s probably not marketing-specific. Although I suppose it could fit into this category is I think when we first went to our business coach one of the things they kept saying to us and we’ve touched on it a little bit about the vision that we had for the company. But it’s taken us a few iterations to get the vision absolutely how we want it to be and the warm fuzzy feeling that we had at the beginning of this week, that hasn’t happened in every instance. So I think if you’re going to step into it you have to have a clear vision of what you want your company to look like and it’s got to be aligned with you.
You’re the leader of the business; you’re the one that people are looking to for guidance. So you have to find a vision that’s congruent with yourself, with your values, with your own beliefs and then make sure that when you’re hiring people that you’re hiring people that fit into that strategy. And not taking people on board and then trying to fit those people into the strategy, that you’re hiring into your strategy. And just make sure that you find people that actually can do the job a hell of a lot better than you.
Lee: Also would be on the marketing side of things I think one of the important things we went through with you guys, I think it might have been one of the first times we ever met you, was to understand and do a real, almost like a case study, which you’ve done for us which was great. Understand who your avatar customers are. So in recruitment, everyone talks about clients and candidates. In our industry and probably most industries, they can be the same person. So it’s understanding who that avatar is. Understanding if they’re not actively recruiting or not actively looking for work themselves, what is it that they think about? What are their problems? And what are they reading online? What sort of content do they want to be seeing and digesting?
And then just writing all your social media content for that person, constantly. And that’s where you guys helped us to understand that. Because I think as a business, once you understand who your avatar is then everything you do, everything you put out there is for that person. That was a good one for me I think, learning that.
Lee: Took a while to understand who it was, though, didn’t it?
Theresa: Yeah. And also I suppose with respect to marketing to find a company that’s prepared to challenge you. Push us outside your comfort zone. You can’t just sit there and do things the old way. You’ve got to move with the times.
Sharon: I shall remember that when we’re together in a few weeks, Theresa, as well.
Theresa: Yeah. Well, I might try and make you forget that but yes. No, you need someone who’s going to challenge you and push you.
Sharon: Yeah. No absolutely. I think that’s if you’re investing in external expertise then you want that expertise to be pushing a few buttons and encouraging you to go outside your comfort zone. Like I remember the first time you did a quick video, and I know it was uncomfortable. It was uncomfortable when I went in front of the camera many years ago, but you’re now seeing some real benefits in response to that which excites me for you. And so my last little question is, this year is a big year for you, you’re celebrating 10 years of Resource on Demand. So how have you been celebrating that then with the team and for yourselves as well?
Lee: It was that good I’ve forgotten.
Theresa: Oh no, we had a cake made up in the shape of ROD, and we had quite a number of celebrations. It coincided with winning a few business awards so you could imagine the champers flowed quite easily amongst the team.
Lee: I think that was another idea of yours though wasn’t it? As a business, how often do people put themselves out there to try and win awards? So that was a great tip of yours, wasn’t it?
And then, well winning an award you can then say you’re an award-winning business and it’s great. So yeah, that was a nice way of celebrating.
Theresa: But we’ve also been doing podcasts. These are aimed at people that have been in the business as long as us, so these are the candidates and clients that we would have been speaking to when we first set up the business. And we’ve been doing podcasts with them to understand what their journey’s been like. What they’re experiencing has been like within the ecosystem, and that seems to be going down an absolute storm because we got people that are going, “Do you know what? I’m just starting out my career, and these podcasts are amazing because I’m just picking up real good soundbites on the things that I need to be doing to be successful.” So that’s like a big celebration because that’s bringing our clients and our customers into enjoying that celebration with us.
We wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for them, so there’s an opportunity to be able to thank them and give them that platform to be able to talk about what it’s been like for them. So we’ve done things like that, and of course you do cups and things…
Lee: You say, look I’ve got the merch again thanks to you guys. You put us in touch with the right organisation that gets some nice, get your logo on anything. So we’ve been sending that out to people that we’ve known for ten years as almost like a “Thanks for being there at the beginning” kind of thing. So that’s quite nice.
Sharon: Thanks for being part of the journey.
Lee: Oh, and also because we did, something we haven’t mentioned and something that probably we should have answered when you asked us about the culture question. One of the things we kind of took from Salesforce, their ethos is about putting back into the community and all that sort of stuff. So the company has its own foundation where we every year we do at least one thing every year that raises money for one of the charities that we’ve all agreed will be in the ROD foundation and one of the things we did this year, it didn’t end well to be fair, but because it was ten years we thought we’d do ten physical challenges over ten days.
That was all for charity as well so there’s stuff like, I think we’ve got ROD bake-off coming out. We’re doing a lot more charity things this year just as a way of celebrating. It’s not been one day anniversary; it’s the whole year really which is…
Sharon: It sounds like it’s come across the whole year and I know it’s sort of seen certain things. That was a pretty massive thing the tech challenge that you did.
Lee: Yeah. I was a bit brutal.
Theresa: Sore subject.
I’m still suffering from that. But worth it.
Lee: No. It was good. Yeah and we did something else, didn’t we? I can’t remember.
Theresa: We’ve had people out volunteering. There’s a wonderful local charity. Another important thing is taking care of the community that you’re working in. So other than volunteering, we’ve been to shelters for the homeless. We’ve had girls out from the office that has gone out and volunteered at We Are Beams which is a charity for children with disabilities. And an opportunity for their families to come along and have some fun time.
We’ve also sponsored a child. Education is, at the end of the day, probably more underfunded than it should be. And when you hear about your local school who can’t afford exercise books for all of the children, that makes you feel really sad that children are growing up in this country with the amount of wealth that goes around and you’ve got a school that can’t afford books for their children. So we’ve gone ahead, and even though we don’t have children, contacted the local schools and sponsored a child to provide their books for the year.
So it’s just little things like that. And it’s probably the biggest thing that gets people coming to us saying they want to work for us because of that other side of the business which is all about putting back into the community.
Sharon: Yeah. And I think it’s a real testament to the kind of business and the culture that you guys have built really. I’m mindful of time. I appreciate you taking time to share your story, to talk about ROD and some of the amazing things that you are doing today and the journey that you’ve been on. And also to share some of your experiences as well about how marketing has played a part of that journey for you.
So thank you both so much. Really appreciate your time. Looking forward to seeing you in the next few weeks, I think. It’s not long. It’s amazing how it’s come around. And have a great rest of the day.
Theresa: Thank you.
Lee: Thanks, Sharon.
Sharon: Thank you so much.