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Melber Flinn’s 1st Birthday

August 7th marks exactly one year since Melber Flinn was incorporated. To commemorate the occasion, I thought I would write a blog, but in a mock interview style. So below are some questions to which I thought people might like to know the answers. I’ve also included answers to some suggested questions from Kathryn and Rachel. They suggested a few others, some were unprintable. One from Kathryn was “do you find it difficult to go on holiday?” which I suppose I deserved as I asked for their contributions whilst emailing from a sun lounger in Kos. Im happy to do a two parter, if any readers have other questions that are not posed below.

Why did you decide to set up Melber Flinn?

I’d spent 15 years in recruitment, which is a long time in the industry without a: reaching a Director / or regional man management role, or b: setting up yourself. But I’d never really felt in those 15 years that the timing was right personally, or that I was positioned strongly enough in a market to make a good go of going it alone. But 2014 was most successful year in recruitment and I realised it was going to be now or never, and I didn’t want to reach a late stage in my career and have regrets, thinking “I wish I had gone for it back in 2014”. But as I’d learned from other work environments, bravery and courage are vital qualities to possess in order to advance, and it was time to take the plunge.

What are your memories of 7th August 2015?

Nothing specific really. I agonized over the name (which you can read about here: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/naming-recruitment-business-steve-melber?trk=mp-reader-card ) but felt a real sense of relief when it was finally chosen, and of course that meant I could get on with the practical steps, i.e. instructing the accountant to register the company name, but at the same time reserving the urls on the website permutations. My web and marketing designer confirmed my Melber Flinn email was set up when I was on a train heading back to Yorkshire from meetings in London. The first Melber Flinn email ever sent was to my wife with the subject “test”, asking her to respond if it had come through!

What was the first piece of business you did?

Without giving too much away, it was a fairly opportunistic. I met a client in London one lunchtime, and a couple of hours later I met a candidate whose activities were broadly similar to what the client was doing. I sent a thanks for meeting note to the client, and attached that candidate’s CV. The client picked up on it straight away and the first placement resulted soon after.

Launching any start up business is risky, how anxious were you during the planning stages and initial weeks?

The early months were filled with anxiety, I remember initially working in my home office with no website, no system, a set of restrictions and I’d often be wondering have I done the right thing? And have I put me and my family at unnecessary risk? My wife used to work in recruitment and I would come down from my office each day and she would nervously ask how it had gone, and I knew what she really wanted to know was whether I’d had any meaningful activity, any meetings arranged, any new requirements? Anything that might be the beginnings of a pipeline!? For a good few weeks I had nothing to report, but then it slowly started to pick up. I remember asking a friend Rob McCargow (who set up Cadence Partners) how long it took before he started sleeping properly at night, and I think he said a good few months. I got lucky, placements 2,3 and 4 came all at once with the same client and suddenly I got a big jump on my growth trajectory, and I realised that it was going to work. January 2016 was as busy a month as I have ever had in recruitment. The swift growth has also allowed me to bring forward investment decisions, the key ones being the appointment of Kathryn, and bringing aboard Rachel to also support me on part time basis.

How have you found being your own boss?

Ive loved it. One of the big benefits I didn’t fully anticipate, but quickly learned to appreciate was the sense of professional liberation. Not having to answer to anyone meant I didn’t have justify decisions, submit reports, or be in a certain place at a certain time. I could set my own schedule and define the service model exactly how I wanted, and when it comes to contracts, negotiation, relationship management, it’s down to you. But I’ve really enjoyed that level of accountability. Professionally it has helped me grow, you can’t go it alone and expect to pass the buck.

What has been the feedback from clients and candidates on your business model?

Really positive. Im a firm believer in recruitment is recruitment, you can dress it up into “tactical resource solutions” or “human capital management”, but at the end of the day its still sourcing and placing people. Ive kept the messaging straightforward, honest and transparent. Ive standardised margins at 15% which makes me good value for the service on offer and aligned to margin pricing from framework suppliers. But the transparency on margins, and full disclosure of candidate rates to clients and vice versa engenders trust and deepens relationship development.

Can you summarise your performance in year 1 against your original expectations?

Its exceeded all expectations. I had a business plan with projections covering August 2015 to December 2016. It anticipated a slow start in 2015 and then in 2016 that I would only be making about half as many placements a month compared to my best year in 2014. By the end of 2015 after 5 months of trading the number of interims I had working through Melber Flinn was the number I expected to be on in March 2016, and by March 2016 I hit the number I thought I wouldn’t get to until December 2016. The swift growth has meant Ive been able to draw an income from the business much faster than I anticipated, I’d said to my wife we faced a tough 12-18 months of financial prudence, then we should reach and surpass our previous income and living standards. That switch over point actually happened after about 8-9 months and it felt fantastically rewarding when it came.

What has been the most valuable lesson you have learned?

People buy from people. I knew it anyway but the message has been strongly re affirmed. I worried in the early stages that people who might have previously done business with me would be worried about continuing that relationship because Id be a start up, and might represent more business risk – would they be able to set me up as a supplier, would I be doing sufficient due diligence or paying candidates on time. Overwhelmingly people have been supportive and repeatedly in the early days candidates and clients were telling me they felt their relationship was a person to person one and not a business to business one, so the name over the door didn’t really matter. Ill need to bear this in mind if I continue to grow, Id like to hire consultants, but like with any recruitment business, you have to bear in mind certain contacts and clients will want to deal with you and not necessarily be passed to a new hire. I’ll hopefully grapple with that conundrum over the next year or two.

What is planned for year two?

Consolidation and growth. I want to build the financial strength of the business, and continue to build the brand and hopefully generate stronger referrals and recommendation activity. I will also need to hire a fee earner, someone who can win and transact business. Im happy being front and centre for the time being, but I will at some point reach a personal billing capacity limit, and as one of my favourite sayings go “you can’t boil the ocean”. Ill need someone to come in and support me in building the client base and covering more ground.

What is your favourite cheese?

Probably emmental.