As a business owner, how honest are you about your business?
A few months ago, I went to a recruitment networking meeting. At this point I am aware that some of you have stopped reading but for those that have continued, thank you! After the introductions, there was a general question by the recruiter hosting the event and the question was asked “How is business?”. The room went silent. Everybody looked around, desperate for someone to say something which they didn’t, except little old me did, and the words “It’s really bloody tough at the moment” came out. I elaborated that processes were moving slowly, I’d had 2 candidates who were offered jobs, and both had declined them, I was up to my eyes trying to get my head around GDPR, I was coming to my year end, I’d not taken any time off in 8 months and was shattered, so yes, business was bloody tough.
But wow, if the room was silent before I spoke, it was even more so afterwards which I didn’t think was possible. It was like I had spoken words that should never have been said out loud. And instead of people acknowledging this, or having an open discussion, it was brushed under the carpet pretty quickly and we started talking about how to attract new candidates. An hour later, we stopped for coffee and that was when people started coming up to me saying “Oh I know how you feel, it’s so tough isn’t it?” For those that know me, I am not one to keep quiet (prime example of having spoken in the first place about business being tough) so when the third person came up to me and said the same my response was “Why didn’t you say anything? Why didn’t you even acknowledge what I had said?” And they just shrugged. So, I started to think, how honest are you about your business? And if you’re not honest, why aren’t you being honest? Are you worried what people will think? Do you think people will judge? Or are you putting your head in the sand?
2018 has been the toughest year of my business by far. I’m not here to share my problems but here are some of the challenges I faced.
§ GDPR got me, and in hindsight it was like Y2K (for those that remember!). I took so much time preparing for it, I even had to redesign my company website to make sure it was compliant. And that was a huge amount of work.
§ I lost one of my biggest clients. This actually hit me like a tonne of bricks. They were the first every client I picked up when I set up on my own, and I’ve recruited a lot of people for this business. We had a great relationship, everybody knew how much we enjoyed working together. But someone at their Head Office (hundreds of miles away) made the decision on who could and couldn’t recruit for the site, regardless of past relationships and past successes. I’d like to say that I bounced back quickly from this news, but I didn’t. I took it personally and it shocked the hell out of me.
§ 2 candidates were offered jobs that I’d been working on for months, both declined for various reasons. And as you know, a recruiter only gets paid when a candidate starts a new job. So that was £14,000 gone in a few days.
§ I wasn’t winning new clients. Despite so many senior candidates saying that they’d love to work with me when they become recruiting managers, this just wasn’t happening.
§ I was being overwhelmed by people contacting me on LinkedIn for free advice. I would get between 3 – 10 people a day asking me to look at their CV or wanting careers advice. And these were people I couldn’t help as I didn’t have any jobs for them. On average critiquing a CV can take 15 – 45 minutes so if you do the maths, that’s a lot of time!
And one Sunday afternoon as I sat eating a Cornetto in my garden, a friend sent me a WhatsApp telling me to keep a date free for her wedding next summer. She asked how business was and because it was really getting me down, I told her. She asked me to call her the next day which I did, 2 months later I had placed 3 candidates in her business, all 3 had never worked in food before and the business my friend worked for certainly wasn’t an FMCG business. It gave me back my confidence and since then, I am back loving my job, finding people new jobs, gaining new clients, giving minimal thought to GDPR as once you’re compliant it’s no longer a worry, and I’ve become more strict, free advice lasts a couple of minutes maximum. I have a holiday booked for a few weeks’ time and I have to think about outsourcing some of my work to keep up with it all, and to make sure I look after me, as earlier this year, I wasn’t looking after me.
And how honest should you be about your business if you’re recruiting for people to join? It will come as no surprise that I believe you should be 100% honest because what’s the point if you’re not? One of my clients is having a tough time. They are open & honest with me, I in turn am open & honest with candidates applying. If you want a challenge, then this is a perfect job for you. If you want an easy job, then don’t apply. Because you get someone in to a business and it’s not as you sold it, that person is not going to stay long. They’re going to become disillusioned, disheartened and the trust won’t be there. Tell them the truth from the word go and they arrive on Day 1 with fire in their belly, ready to work hard and make a difference.
Looking back at 2018, what have I learnt?
§ Don’t take anything for granted but don’t get complacent with your business.
§ I have learnt how to design a website which I’m actually really proud of. I am no techy, so this is progress for me!
§ I back myself, still. Because I picked myself up, dusted myself down and got on with it. Hard work really does pay off.
§ But most of all, I have learnt to be honest about my business. Because if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have won a new client outside of the world of FMCG. And that friend who is now a client, not only saved my business, but she saved my sanity and gave me back my confidence, and for that, I will be eternally grateful to her.
If you’re looking for a new recruitment partner, I’d love to help you. What you see is what you get in every aspect. I may not have the coverage of some of the larger recruitment companies, but I’m a bloody hard worker who loves their job (most days!). And when you find that perfect person for your business, you make a difference to my life. As that fee pays my mortgage, it pays for my cat insurance and my not so secret love of Pinot Grigio on a Friday night, it doesn’t get lost on corporate days out where recruiters drink until 5am, slapping each other on their backs in recognition of how awesome they are (not that I’ve been to those events in a previous life of course!)
So, is honesty the best policy? To me, absolutely. Because I rate honesty as one of the greatest qualities any one person or any one business can have. And when life is tough, wouldn’t you want to know so that you can help someone? I know I would as the thought of someone suffering in silence doesn’t sit comfortably with me. Thank goodness my friend felt the same when she text me that Sunday afternoon.