We talked to Simon Royston, Managing Director of The Recruitment Lab, a cutting edge independent recruitment agency providing employers with temporary and permanent talent solutions across a broad spectrum of industry and here is what he said about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Simon Royston: All things considered pretty good. I think the third lockdown has certainly been the toughest in the UK. The length of time, the weather, the lack of any light at the end of the tunnel or signs for when it was coming to an end have just meant it was a slog!
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded The Recruitment Lab.
Simon Royston: I’ve worked in recruitment for nearly 15 years. For a decade of that time, I worked on my first business before selling and exiting. Since then, I’ve quietly been building my second business – The Recruitment Lab. I sensed the business model for my first agency was slightly tired, and simply repeating it was not going to work. Customers wanted more intelligence on display, and they needed a heightened sense of trust-building that one can deliver, and they wanted to feel the risks of recruiting new staff were mitigated. That was the idea behind The Recruitment Lab. It is not necessarily rocket science, but it is about trying to understand your customers and giving them what they require.
How does The Recruitment Lab innovate?
Simon Royston: Covid certainly forced some issues on us! Moving from a permanent to temporary and remote recruitment solution for clients, paperless registrations, “soft” communications with potential customers, online and e-marketing activities and the use of sales funnels. These are things that were simply not in the business pre-covid.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Simon Royston: We saw Covid as a game-changer. We opened an additional office in Brighton, hired internal staff and basically went for it. In a sense, it was pretty crazy! However, our client portfolio was taking a huge hit with covid. We had clients linked to travel, hospitality and B2B services. Maybe I hadn’t thought it through correctly, but my gut instinct was correct – in effect, to keep the bottom line stable and the accountant happy, we needed to rapidly expand. There were bumps and setbacks, but ultimately we look to have improved our financial situation from 12 months ago.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Simon Royston: Increasing our own headcount during a pandemic felt pretty counterintuitive – even for a recruitment agency. But, when you know you are hiring real rock stars, any doubts disappear.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Simon Royston: I think it has been mixed. In many cases, we are much closer, and the understanding on both sides is stronger. In other cases, things are much more distant. I guess for some of our clients, they have literally had to hibernate the business. This is not a normal economic downturn. For some of them, they lost 98% of their business overnight. That is no reflection on them or how good the business is; It was completely out of their control. In those circumstances, dialogue is naturally going to be quieter.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Simon Royston: Yes. We took a bounce back loan in May 2020. It helped us open the second office, hire staff and change the systems we had in place.
Your final thoughts?
Simon Royston: Covid has changed how we work on so many different levels. Team spirit and camaraderie, though, are the glue that made those changes easy to implement.
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