We talked to Sasha Knott of Job Crystal on making a dent in unemployment during this pandemic and she had the following to say.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Sasha Knott: We are well, thank you, learning to adjust in this new world with virtual interviews, zoom meetings, schooling only alternate days, all while keeping masks on and sanitizing away.
Tell us about you, your career, how you joined Job Crystal.
Sasha Knott: I started in the IT world as a computer programmer, soon found that I enjoyed working with people more than computers, and then the start-up bug bit. I started a few start-ups for a range of shareholders, even one in South Africa for the Virgin group. While working in one of the holding companies, we received the opportunity to buy Job Crystal 5 years ago – so we did. We slowly re-branded the business. Only in the last two years did both directors join the company full time. We wanted to ensure there was enough capital to keep the business afloat before adding ourselves. We have now grown into a 20 strong mostly-female team working with SME’s in South Africa to ensure we bridge the talent gap while making a dent in unemployment.
How does Job Crystal innovate?
Sasha Knott: We have a quarterly strategy session with the board with our team’s overall annual strategy session. So we innovate internally mostly but having said we do a lot of industry scanning and keeping up with the news/information from partners, which ensures we keep our fingers on the pulse.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Sasha Knott: We were one of the lucky ones in that we survived and thrived! We started with a business coach back in 2019, and at the time, she ensured our goal was positive cash flow – which in hindsight, was perfect for what was coming in 2020. By the time Covid hit, we had a very healthy cash-flow, an extended and robust customer base, which saw us continuing to work throughout lockdown. We also saw the candidate market in recruitment change and put through a new strategy, which ensured we needed some funding, which we received just three months ago! Very grateful for the lessons learned and for having a strong base to work from.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Sasha Knott: We had to decide if we wanted to wait and self-fund our new strategy or do it there and then and get funding. We had the perfect timing, so we had to go, but it was a change as we have been business partners for five years with no need for funding. But sometimes, you need to jump into that idea and believe in yourself, and that’s where we are now.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
Sasha Knott: We learned some suitable lessons from lockdown by communicating all the time with the team through virtual meetings, emails, and one on one calls. A good idea was having a virtual lunch now and again to ensure we all got some ‘human touch’ differently. We also used some employee surveys to see how our team was doing during that time. It’s excellent being a business owner with someone else. You always have a listening ear on the other side. Running a company alone can be very isolating at times.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Sasha Knott: We do a range of recruitment services from 360 agency, online AI recruitment with Crystal, background checks, and salary benchmarking. We are the only one in South Africa that offers the full suite of recruitment in one company, but we have lots of competitors in each area. We continuously scan the environment and develop innovative ways to help our candidates, clients, and crew reach new limits. Our vision is to make a dent in unemployment, so we enjoy the fact that our competition is also making SA a better place!
Your final thoughts
Sasha Knott: Covid and lockdown have been tough, but hindsight has taught us that if you keep consistently doing the small things the right way, the big things come right. It doesn’t happen overnight, but little consistent steps each day gets you to the goal.
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