Business News Wales had the opportunity to speak to Rachel Bedgood, the CEO of Complete Background Screening. In our interview Rachel spoke on her career, advice for success in business and innovations she sees on the horizon.
Can you give our readers a little background into yourself and your role within Organisation?
My name is Rachel Bedgood and I’m the CEO of Complete Background Screening (CBS), Wales’ largest background screening provider. I established the company in 2005 in the heart of the South Wales Valleys after being inspired to find out more about UK screening processes by a news story about a gardener who attacked his employer.
I started out on my own and now employ a team of 12, and together we have transformed CBS into a multi-million-pound company. CBS has gone from strength to strength over the past few years, securing multiple awards including the Guardian Small Business Network Leader of the Year and Chwarae Teg Womenspire Employer of the Year (Private Sector) in the process. As a business owner, I also work hard to create a great working environment for my employees and I’m a keen advocate of flexible working.
What are your plans for the next five years, and where do you see your challenges and opportunities?
Over the next five years, I hope to grow the business extensively by doubling our turnover to around £10million. In doing so, this will allow me the opportunity to recruit more members of staff from the locality, giving back even more jobs to an area which desperately needs them.
Looking back at your career, are there things you would have done differently?
When we were trying to grow the business in the early stages, we went through fairly typical learning curves and there were various systems and processes that should have been put in place early on to build solid foundations for growth. We left ourselves open to risk and although we survived, with the benefit of experience I would have addressed the stumbling blocks much earlier so that we had better processes and systems from the beginning.
What do you think are the most important qualities for success in business?
I believe that as a business owner, you need to have confidence in your decisions. For me, it has been important to have very clear goals that are communicated to the rest of the team so that everyone knows what they are working towards. Communication with your team and your clients is a crucial quality for driving your business forward. Experience has also taught me that it’s important to shout about your successes in order to show your competition and potential clients your strengths.
What are your top three tips for success?
Don’t let your failures stop you from progressing; know your industry completely but remember that you will never stop learning; always make sure your opinions are heard.
Are there any innovations within your sector that you believe should be adopted by the wider Welsh market?
Our sector continues to grow at a rapid rate as more people are now aware of the importance of screening staff, the benefits it brings and the headaches it can avoid later down the line. We are innovative in the sense that we use smart technology and solutions to manage our processes which is continually developed to align to the changes needs of the market and our customers. Being innovative is about creative thinking and introducing new ideas which we do on a daily basis but it’s also about returning to original ideas and making them better. We continually strive to be innovative in how we communicate and assist our clients. We never underestimate the value of outstanding customer service which in return provides retention and revenue. Innovation isn’t always about the new, sometimes it’s about continually making existing things better.
Do you foresee any issues that Welsh business will be facing in the short/medium/long term?
I think there’s a feeling of uncertainty for businesses across the UK as we wait to see how Article 50 is negotiated and what impact leaving the European Union will have on trade and profits. Once this has been finalised, I think we will have more of an understanding of the issues that we will have to overcome. We have every confidence we can weather the storm and continue to grow. We excelled through the recession and have every confidence in doing it again. Our products are varied, so we may see a reduction in some services but will no doubt see increases in others. For example, Wales may see a reduction in employment which could in turn impact on the requirement for our vetting services but we also offer international screening to a global market. We have clients who recruit from the UK to work overseas and vice versa. We offer can offer our services in multiple languages and access data from across the globe. We have seen a huge increase in the demand for us to access criminal and credit data from across the world.
Do you have any predictions in regards to the impact of Brexit on your sector?
It’s hard to predict how Brexit will impact our industry especially as Article 50 has not been triggered yet. However, it may have an impact on our international checks depending on how legislation changes as we leave the European union.
Business is hard at the best of times. We will always encounter the unknown or circumstances we find challenging, particularly as much of our business is dictated by legislation. But other opportunities always arise. We have to quickly recognise such opportunities and react to ensure we as a business and Wales as a country remain at the head of the game.
What do you think Wales’ strengths and weaknesses are as a place to do business?
Wales has a wealth of talent and a rich employment pool to tap into – for me personally, being able to employ people from the local area is really important as I believe keeping business in Wales is essential. Housing our office in the Welsh Valleys also means that we have low overheads, allowing us to keep our costs down and draw on local community spirit that is reflected in our high standard of customer service. One of the major weaknesses in Wales however, is poor Internet connection, particularly in the capital. Although we don’t have any current plans to change location, we couldn’t move in to Cardiff even if we wanted to because of low broadband speeds. As a lot of what we do is delivered online, we cannot afford to lower our connection speed, as our business would suffer.
What can Wales do to attract more inward investment?
We need to ensure that we have the right talent and skills available in Wales. I think we should keep encouraging our young people into higher education or into apprenticeship roles to target more investment. Also, I believe that we need to shout about our successes as a nation – a lot of brilliant businesses come out of Wales and there is a growing entrepreneurial community being nurtured. However, we need to do more to support the businesses that want to expand.
What skills should the education system be promoting to the next generation?
I believe that the education system should be promoting more practical business skills and the importance of gaining work experience at an early age. Qualifications remain important as always and, although employment figures are steadily increasing, there is still a lot of competition for most roles. The education system should be helping students to understand what they can do differently to stand out from others and look at some ‘softer’ skills to bolster academic credentials.
How important is it for there to be a close relationship between business and higher education in Wales?
I think a close relationship is very important because it’s crucial for students to know that if they put time and effort into their education, there will be opportunities for them once they graduate. I also believe that by having a close relationship, it’s more likely that students will be more aware of what employers expect during the recruitment process and throughout their working life. Also, businesses will be able to supply experience opportunities, giving students better employability credentials and skills that are sought after in a business environment to back up the theory that they have been learning.
For three years CBS sponsored a business student in the University of South Wales. The challenge was to write an essay of 1000 words on how their studies would benefit Wales and the local area. We want students to learn in Wales and keep their skills here rather than taking them across the bridge or further afield. Skills acquired in Wales should be used to create new business and challenge current misconceptions.