Behind the Business with BMC Recruitment Group
Bdaily goes behind the business with David Blair, Managing Director of Newcastle-based Recruitment group, BMC Recruitment Group
What does your organisation do?
BMC Recruitment Group is a pioneering search consultancy based in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. The team consists of experienced consultants and utilises innovative search techniques to provide an affordable, transparent search service across a range of professional disciplines.
What key challenges has your company recently faced?
Competition – We entered a crowded North East Recruitment market with a number of established operators and a host of smaller businesses seeking to undercut them. We wanted to compete on service, not price and to scale the business at pace so that we could support our clients with recruitment across Executive, Finance, Technology, HR, Engineering and Sales and Marketing positions. The pressure to deliver on every project, with a limited candidate pool whilst simultaneously growing the client base in the face of such strong competition was huge. The first 12 months, whilst we established the brand, the phone didn’t ring with inbound work. That was tough but also a lot of fun where we celebrated every new project, never mind every placement, and the team worked incredibly hard to get us to the position we’re in now, where we have 15 consultants and an established bank of clients. Having just completed our second year, we’re a lot busier now but I like to think we’ve retained the same energetic approach to each role.
Perception – The unethical behaviour, corner cutting and aimless phone bashing of a minority of fly-by-night recruitment firms has done untold damage to the industry’s perception and resulted in outright hostility from some clients. Overcoming those perceptions as a new businesses was difficult, particularly when we were only three people crammed in a tiny office and had no client list or brand that we could rely upon to establish our credentials. We overcame those negative perceptions through an obsessive dedication to communication and project transparency to earn our client’s trust and by operating with integrity and honesty even when it ran contrary to our own interests. Most importantly we hired methodical consultants who shared our approach and were not looking for corners to cut.
Cash collection – As with most small or early stage businesses, successful and timely collection of cash from larger customers is a constant challenge. We’re very fortunate to be well funded and supported by our investor base but it still takes up more time and resource than I would like. I’m writing this having spent an afternoon on the phone collecting overdue debts so it’s very much at the front of my mind.
What is your biggest achievement over the past 12 months?
It’s difficult to pick just one. We’re working with five of the region’s largest 7 businesses and had you told me that would be the case when we set out 2 years ago I’m not sure I’d have believed you. Many of our SME client relationships are equally as rewarding and we’ve helped PE backed businesses nationally to build their board room teams. Our energy team have also helped to deliver two large international expansion projects.
If I had to pick one it would be growing the team from 2 to 15 consultants with minimal staff attrition and maintaining the same energy and culture that we set out with.
What is your most important focus for the coming year, and what do you hope to achieve?
Firstly, consolidating what we’ve achieved to date. Clients in recruitment don’t tend to be sticky and you’re only as good as the last project you worked so ensuring we continue to deliver for our existing clients is paramount.
Some of our sector specialisms are less established than others and I’ll be focusing my energy on addressing that over the next 12 months. We’ve recently recruited senior, experienced consultants to lead our HR and Engineering offers and over the next 12 months will be looking to repeat our success from Finance, Technology and Sales and Marketing. Nationally we’ll be seeking to expand the number of Private Equity houses we support with their board appointments and internationally our Energy team will be looking to expand within the Scandinavian and Middle Eastern markets where they’re already active.
We’ve also recently recruited a first class marketing director and will be seeking to grow the brand and through means other than word of mouth which we’ve relied on thus far. I’d like to double turnover again in the next 12 months and to push past 20 consultants.
What excites you most about your industry and business?
Although life in the recruitment industry has its fair share of lows it also has tremendous highs and is generally a very fun environment in which to operate. Contrary to much popular opinion, recruitment consultants work incredibly hard and I can only speak for our consultants, but to a person, they are heavily invested in the challenges and fortunes of their client and candidates alike. Cheesy as it sounds, helping a candidate land their dream job is a nice way to make a living and typically makes up for other near misses. On a more macro level the market continues to outperform the wider UK in terms of growth rate and we’ve found the North East to be very buoyant and receptive to our offer.
In terms of our business I believe we’ve found a model that works and I’m excited to see where we can take that. Our model is based upon experienced consultants (they average more than 10 years) delivering the consistent search services which are underwritten by service guarantees and a 12 month free replacement. We tackle every assignment with gusto and are fanatical about transparency so our clients have complete visibility over how the project is progressing. That combination has worked to date but there are so many businesses in the North East that we don’t know yet. We take a network based approach to business development, which takes time, but having invested in our marketing team I look forward to seeing how we can accelerate our growth over the coming 12 months.
What do you wish you’d known when starting out?
I was a new comer to the recruitment industry so there was an awful lot that I wish I’d known. Doing it again and cutting out some of the early mistakes I’m sure we could have got where we are quicker. With the benefit of hindsight some early appointments who perhaps rushed and the bar for joining BMC has definitely gone up over time. I also think we tried to do too much too soon in terms of sector spread and expanding within our offer within an existing client base I certainly proving a lot easier.
Finally, every time I have invested in greater back office support, whether it be marketing, finance or administration it is an investment I wish I’d made 6 months earlier as the impact has been significant.
What will be the “next big thing“ in your industry, and how do you plan to handle it?
Recruitment is consistently coming under threat from new technologies which promise to make it redundant and replace it with an app. The industry carries on regardless because the decision to recruit or to move is both significant and relies on layers of subjectivity and human emotion. Whilst I don’t therefore pay doom mongering social media posts much heed, the proliferation of on-line data and advances in technology and social media are undoubtedly going to threaten transactional recruitment. Any agencies relying solely on asymmetry of information to generate fees should be thinking about a change in direction. What will survive and thrive, is truly consultative, added value recruitment that harnesses those technologies but also utilises networks and old fashioned face-to-face to interact with candidates, form opinions and consult. Our model was designed for that from the outset so hopefully we’re well placed.