We talked to Aaron Davies of Managing Director of Jurupa, a provider of full service talent management and here is what he said about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Aaron Davies: It’s been a long and tough road, that’s for sure. I don’t think anybody could have honestly seen this coming in terms of the global impact, impact on daily life, the restrictions put on individual liberties, and the tragic loss of life. Fortunately, my family and I are doing fine. I think it’s about trying to remain humble and compassionate in your dealings with others and, above all, to be grateful for all the good things. Turning this bizarre period into a positive, there have been some benefits in terms of a re-evaluation of the remote working model, further innovations in technology and healthcare, and of course, being forced to slow down and get back to basics.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Jurupa.
Aaron Davies: I have been working in the recruitment industry since 2008, having entered the sector amidst the economic fallout of the “credit crunch,” which was a real baptism of fire. I was told at the time that if you can manage to be (relatively) successful during challenging times, then you can really flourish in good times. That proved to be sage advice. I came together with 2 investors – who remain close friends to this day – to found Jurupa in 2013 and was responsible for building the business from scratch, hunting for new customers, putting in place our core offering, and hiring a team. My main area of focus/expertise in my previous company was partnering closely with tech start-ups seeking to scale their operations in Europe; I wanted to take the core elements of that work and develop the offering further. We have managed to do that quite successfully, earning a strong reputation with a number of highly regarded, notable tech companies. It fills me with pride to see the impact that some of our truly critical early key hires have made on those businesses as they went on to IPO or go through an acquisition. On a personal level, I am based in the UK but love to travel (and greatly look forward once again to doing so), read widely, listen to and write about classical music and when time allows, play tennis.
How does Jurupa innovate?
Aaron Davies: We look continuously at the talent acquisition functions that exist in the market place observe what works and what doesn’t work so well. We stick close to our customers and ask for their continuous feedback, making tweaks and improvements where necessary. Separately, we try to remain creative and look at requirements that exist from difficult angles. For example, we created a service aimed at senior executives who are time-poor and don’t have much bandwidth to search for their next role – the service takes that burden off their shoulders. They effectively commission us to execute a highly personalized, targeted search on their behalf, which is designed to generate introductions and proactively open doors to their next career move. We offer interim consulting that allows cautious early-stage companies to effectively “dip a toe” in the water without first committing full resources to set up a legal entity and hire a new team. We also offer a highly effective graduate recruitment model, which saves customers a great deal of time, effort, and administration. These are all in addition to the all-inclusive, monthly RPO options we have created for fast-growing organizations.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Aaron Davies: We had some pretty tough months, but either through fortune or prior prudence, we sought to reduce our costs as much as possible and adopted a mode of caution with regard to outgoings and used that as a model with which to steer through the pandemic. At the time of writing, we in the UK have just learned of the strategy to gradually move out of lockdown, so there is a sense of sincere hope that we are finally on the path toward recovery and, with it, an increase in the proportion of positive hiring intentions across the board. At the same time, many of our clients adopted after the initial shock of lockdown to a work from a home model, and this has proved relatively smooth from the perspective of recruitment processes.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Aaron Davies: We made an unfortunate but unavoidable mistake in committing to a long-term office lease literally a matter of months prior to the impact of lockdown kicked in, resulting in an empty and, therefore, redundant office. Having to pay every month for a luxury that we could not use has been frustrating. A slightly more useful lesson learned has been making the mental adjustment as a boss from feeling concerned at having my team all working remotely without being truly cognizant of how effectively and/or productive they were going to be. After some time of reflection, I’m pleased to say that it makes sense ultimately to measure output rather than focusing too much on the details that ultimately form part of the makeup. I concluded that in the end, it’s all about trust, and if you have the right people around you, there is a certain balance to be struck in regards to letting them get on with it – it’s a two-way street.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Aaron Davies: We use a normally of communication platforms to ensure we are in regular contact with our customers; some of them appreciate the regular cadence calls, while others don’t require such close proximity – the art of customer management is learning what approach works best with each individual point of contact. Naturally, video conferencing tools have been in great demand, and we’ve increased our time with Zoom, Teams, RingCentral, to name a few. We find WhatsApp to be a solid internal platform for our needs. In terms of day-to-day client management, some clients ask us to leverage their own applicant tracking systems, while in other scenarios, we simply use our own CRM. The most important thing of all, particularly during the really tough period, i.e., the early phase of lockdown, was sticking close to our client base and rather than trying to sell to them, just to impress upon them that remained at their service and were on hand to help wherever required.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
We received a small grant from our local council, which went some way toward helping us remain viable as a business, to pay wages and rent, for example.
Your final thoughts?
Aaron Davies: That famous Chinese proverb comes to mind: “may you live in interesting times.” Although no-one would necessarily choose to endure Covid-19 out of choice, you can’t argue that it has been an interesting time to live through. The impact on daily life, how we work, how we interact with others, and in untold other ways has changed and will continue to change for some time yet to come. On a personal note, I don’t yet quite know how long it will take to get back to the freedoms we enjoyed before. Indeed how changed the future of international travel will be – although I do fully expect the rise of the ‘corporate nomad’ to continue gathering pace. Madeira has become the latest destination to offer significant enticements to those who are going to be in a position to work from such a location. Cue hundreds of companies scrambling to offer ever more attractive, flexible working arrangements, possibly in the form of subsidized work permits, travel allowances (possibly in the form of Airbnb vouchers!) I don’t think there will be quite so many planes in the air in the future, but nor do I anticipate a great reduction in face-to-face business meetings. After all, there is only so much Zoom fatigue one can endure!
Perhaps the way to think about Covid-19 is that it appeared as some kind of universal challenge for all of humanity to get together and solve, possibly only by learning to co-operate. The overwhelming compliance with global lockdowns and the speed with which various vaccines have been developed is perhaps evidence that we have collectively achieved this.
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