Starting a business with friends comes with its own unique set of challenges, but for Etienne van Wyk and Lee Quennell, Co-Founders & Directors at Meditrina Life Sciences, their journey as business partners has worked out really well and has been incredibly rewarding...
We spoke to the duo to share the story of how they started the business, the challenges of recruiting for a very niche field like the Life Sciences industry, and their advice for taking the leap and starting your own recruitment business.
Vincere: Tell us more about yourself and Lee - how did the partnership start?
Etienne van Wyk: We met whilst playing rugby 9 years ago and have been friends ever since. Lee always thought I had the right personality for recruitment - he constantly ‘pestered’ me to join him in the industry - I’m glad I gave in and never looked back.
We have a combined experience of about 16 years, but strangely only spent 2 working in the same company. I’d describe our bond more as friends than as colleagues - this makes the work experience great because we can be very frank with each other while planning and strategising.
Vincere: Tell us more about your company - what does Meditrina mean and what makes your recruitment approach different?
Etienne: We have both done a lot of work in the Life Science industry, and we felt that the clients in these sectors really made a difference. Meditrina is the Roman Goddess of health, healing and longevity. We pride ourselves in building long term relationships by truly understanding the needs of our candidates and clients as well as their culture so that we can find the right talent for them. Hence we chose a name that matched our goals.
What's the vision for the company? Any ambitious plans for the future?
Etienne: We’re looking to expand our team over the next 2 years, we‘d like to get specialists based in different countries covering different functional areas for the science and the commercial side of the industry. We’ve also got plans to set up a resourcing shared service centre in South Africa.
Vincere: Can you share with us one interesting fact about recruiting for the Life Sciences industry?
Lee Quennell: Life Sciences is one of the industries where you get the most unique roles. You have the operational side as you have in other businesses, but on top of that is the whole other side of business that is a lot more different and intricate.
For example, the lifecycle of a Trainer is pretty standard compared to the lifecycle of a life-science product like a drug or medical device, so the range of people that you need is generally wider. Also, when you’re dealing with other businesses like FMCGs or Retail, there are usually some transferable skills, but in the Life Science industry, even in operational areas, they need people who really understand the Life Science business.
Above all else, what inspires us most is that we know the businesses we work with saves lives everyday.
Vincere: What are the challenges you are facing as a recruitment entrepreneur?
Lee: It’s funny being called an entrepreneur, but it’s got a good ring to it. Luckily we have a lot of people we have known for years that helps to bridge the initial gaps in the pipeline which is growing steadily. Growing a business takes time but having people to support from old days definitely helps.
Etienne: I think one of the biggest challenges is time. Building trust takes time, but it’s something that we are happy to give our clients to show that they can trust us and we can deliver.
Vincere: What kind of advice would you give to someone wanting to start a recruitment firm ? Any pitfalls to watch out for?
Etienne: A couple of things here:
1. Stick with what you know.
2. It takes time to build relationships.
3. It’s better to focus on a specific industry or function. This gives you more control in the beginning and you can always expand into other areas in due course
4. Financial security matters.
5. Advice for the Life science industry: Life Science is a very specific area and a lot of time you have to match people with specific skillsets that isn’t in abundance. For example, being an Accountant in one company means you can be Accountant in twenty other companies, but that doesn't necessarily mean you can be a Pharma, Biotech or Medical Device Accountant.
Vincere: How important is a recruitment software in running a recruitment business?
Lee: Oh, it’s really vital. Recruiters in general aren’t the best administrators in the world. Anything that streamlines admin or makes the process simpler is great for our business.
We have both been working in recruitment for quite some time and have used quite different CRMs including Bullhorn, Jobscience, Salesforce, Jobadder and Colleague. The problem with big vendors is that I find that they tend to want to give value for money, and they try to do that by pushing out 1000 ways you can do things.
For example, let’s say there are 12 ways to add a candidate, but only 6 ways will show up in certain searches, and the other 6 ways in different searches. The thing is, with so many ways to do one thing, people will have preferences and it gets messy. It becomes annoying because you have to work on establishing company policies a lot more so that everyone in the company does it the same way.
Compared to the other systems out there, Vincere is a lot simpler to use. There are a couple of methods to do certain things but it doesn't massively affect the long running of the system, regardless of how you do the original thing. Like my previous example of adding candidates, everything is where you need it to be.
Vincere: In what way has Vincere helped you? What is one thing you couldn't do before you used Vincere?
Lee: It doesn't take long to get used to Vincere.
Vincere ticks the boxes, we’ve sampled a lot of systems. Honestly, I think what clinched it for us was the simplicity of use, and also from what we can see, Vincere was working for businesses at our size and also for multi-nationals. I was particularly taken by the fact that Randstad is also using Vincere and it makes me happy that we’ve got a product that is fit for use and works regardless of what size you are.
My favourite feature is definitely the Instant Job Board. The way it can be integrated into the website is perfect - you wouldn’t be able to tell you were from a different website as it seamlessly transitions. Massive plus point for us.
I was skeptical at first as it only took us a couple of minutes to get it up and running. For something that takes only that long, I wouldn’t expect it to be so good. For the advances that Vincere is making, the pace of innovation and things that are added on like the Candidate Portal… these are the kinds of thing not many small, growing businesses can get unless you’re spending thousands of dollars, so to be able to have that as part of the Vincere package is perfect.