The global recruiter who navigated back home to launch his own recruitment firm.
Simon Gregory has packed a lot into his 12 year recruitment career. Starting out as a rookie recruiter with Hays in his native UK, Gregory relocated to Asia in 2005. Based first in Singapore followed by a stint in Malaysia, Gregory worked for the big boys (Michael Page, Allegis), building and growing successful teams and businesses before deciding that he had enough experience under his belt to build his own recruitment firm in line with his own values on candidate and client relationships. The result is GPS Talent Solutions, an SME focussed recruitment firm operating across the North of England.
Gregory tells us about why he finally decided to step out of corporate culture and start his own company, GPS Talent Solutions.
Vincere: Simon, you’ve worked for massive recruitment firms and are now building your own small firm from the ground up. What makes GPS Talent Solutions different?
Simon Gregory: First and foremost, I’m not building an empire or a 100 person recruitment firm here. I’ve worked at large organisations and, whilst it was an amazing experience, that’s not where we are heading with GPS Talent Solutions. My business is focussed on building partnerships based on trust, respect and understanding so that we truly understand the unique needs of each and every individual that we work with...we know that we must work hard to achieve this, if there is anything working 12 years in this game has taught me it’s that! Ultimately, our goal is to be recognised by our clients and candidates as their trusted recruitment partner- driven by their needs, not ours.”
V: How do these kinds of values translate to the bottom line?
SG: “I’d rather not make fees from placing 1 candidate into 100 different companies. I’d rather fill 10 jobs with 10 companies. By running a small but tightly focussed operation, I can do that by keeping overheads low and still delivering a white glove service. There is a freedom that comes with running your own business that allows me to be more creative with how we structure the placement process with our clients, even how we structure our fees.”
V: Different packages for your clients- care to elaborate?
SG: Sure. Let’s talk about retainers for example. Retainer has become a dirty word. 8/10 clients who have paid for a retainer have had a negative experience….yet the practicality of securing a commitment upfront from a recruiter often makes good sense for a client. We want to reframe the whole notion of a ‘retainer’ and give clients more flexibility around how a placement fee is structured. For example, we offer our clients our ‘GPS Choice’ package. This is generally structured as: 25% fee paid upfront as a commitment fee, 50% paid when the candidate starts work and the remaining 25% paid upon completion of a guarantee period. These % amounts are fluid, I can work with whatever parameters my client feels comfortable with. Yes, it might mean that I take a short term hit- we all know that recruitment is a cash flow driven business and this certainly makes that side of things more difficult to manage- but we are in this for the long game so it’s a tradeoff that I’m willing to make because it makes sense for the client. GPS Choice is something that I’ve wanted to offer to my customers for years- but, until I finally took the step into owning my own firm and had the prerogative to make these calls for myself, I wasn’t able to execute on it.
V: GPS Talent Solutions is very focussed on building long term relationships. Do you find this speeds things up or slows things down for you as a recruiter?
“Let me put it this way: the better the understanding you have of your clients and candidates the better decisions you can make. If a client calls me and says ‘I need another Dave’ or ‘I need two more managers like Susan’ then I know exactly what they’re talking about, we’re already completely in tune. If you truly understand the culture of the companies you’re partnering with, then really the rest will follow.”
V: How does recruitment compare here to in Asia? Specifically Singapore and Malaysia?
SG: The markets in Singapore and the UK are much more aligned than, say, the UK and Malaysia or even Singapore and Malaysia. Singapore is similar to the UK recruitment market in many ways, it’s much pacier and competition is fierce. Pretty much everyone you deal with, clients and candidates alike, are used to dealing with recruiters. Likewise, candidates are extremely receptive to dealing with recruiters because they understand the value of having someone in their corner who understands what their career goals are and can help them on their way. I relocated to Malaysia in 2011 and the recruitment landscape was in its infancy, with the majority of clients never having worked with a recruitment agency before. Things have matured there for sure, especially as the larger international recruitment firms opened up there- but it is still a maturing landscape”.
V: Any key differences you see between working in a large recruitment firm and a smaller one?
SG: “I’ve worked in large recruitment firms and smaller ones and whilst there are a lot of differences there is one thing that is always the same. There is always a lot of talk around ‘Great Candidate Management’ but, in my experience, this is often hot air and is rarely backed up with actions. It’s not rocket science. It’s about following up, keeping in touch regularly with candidates. Just the simple, human touch with a professional approach goes a long way in this business. If you get these basics right each and every day, the rest clicks into place. I am a big believer in giving honest feedback that is in the best interest of the candidate. Coaching them on interview technique, managing expectations, really spending the time to know whether they are making a knee jerk reaction or a sensible and considered career move. Treating every candidate as an individual with their own unique skills, career goals and aspirations”
What is your experience with recruitment tech vendors?
I’ve used quite a few of the big names recruitment vendors over the course of my career: Bullhorn (on two separate occasions, most recently 2015), Bond, plus in-house systems. So when it came to choosing which CRM to go with for my own business I knew that I had to make the right choice. I’m a small business, I lost sleep over choosing the right CRM. This decision is an important one and I took it seriously.
SG: The big thing for me is ease-of-use. Too many systems are over-engineered, it’s like they try to do too much. Vincere does everything they do but it seems to flow so much more organically.
I like the process flow of the Vincere pipelines which help keep me focussed on what I need to do to bring in new business. The CRM pipeline is genius for me. I’m starting my business from scratch so it’s critical I have an accurate heads-up display of what I need to do to bring new business in but also to get the most out of existing accounts.
SG: One feature that I love is that I can easily flip Clients into a Candidate. I firmly believe that your Clients should ultimately become your Candidates….and if they’re not, you’re doing something wrong. Vincere totally gets the Client > Recruiter > Candidate dynamic. I can easily flip a Client record into a Candidate record. You’d be surprised how many ‘recruitment CRMs’ systems get this simple workflow so wrong.
On the importance of choosing the right CRM:
SG: Having the right CRM in place is absolutely vital to getting your recruitment business right. It’s much more than just a database or a list of names, it becomes the heartbeat of your business operations and infrastructure. It’s about giving you the ability to quickly add in notes- the names of your Clients kids, or the fact that they just got married or back from holiday- it’s about making those human interactions more frictionless. Having the quick comment boxes and auto-save functionality inside Vincere makes adding in and accessing vital information so easy, totally frictionless.
If you’re spending time worrying about your CRM or getting frustrated with it...then you’re not using the right software. Simple as that.
To learn more about GPS Talent Solutions, visit http://www.gpstalent.co.uk/