A Gwent man who started his recruitment firm on a shoestring is celebrating 22 years in business.
Entrepreneur Ross Porter recalled how he sold almost all he had to raise the money to get started after working as a temporary worker for a Newport recruitment agency.
Ross, who was named Gwent Young Entrepreneur of the Year shortly after establishing Draig Personnel in 1999, reflected on the changes in the industry over the two decades.
Ross, managing director of Clear Sky Recruitment, who lives in Blackwood, Caerphilly, said:
“Having grown up on a council estate in north Wales in the 1970’s and 1980’s, luxury items, financial security and holidays were just dreams for me, as they were for many.
“But I was determined to better my situation and to make something of myself that I hoped would, one day, make my parents proud of me. From an early age, I felt that I was always destined to work for myself and to live and die by my own sword.
“I suppose I fell into the recruitment sector, almost by accident. I worked on several temporary assignments for an agency based in Newport after I’d finished studying Business and Finance at college in Newport in 1993.
“I’d go into the agency’s office on a Friday to collect my payslip and I remember thinking that I would like to be the other side of the desk one day. My pay was £3.60p/hr and I never missed a shift while working for the agency and I undertook a range of assignments ranging from a Lab Technician to an Accounts Assistant.
“I eventually gained a permanent role in a sales environment, in which I quickly progressed to management level, but the idea of running my own recruitment agency simmered away in the back of mind.
“In 1999, I’d met Claire, who later became my wife and with her encouragement and help, I decided to take the plunge and to set up my own recruitment firm.
“I decided upon Caerphilly as a location. I sold almost everything I had to raise the money to start-up and my journey in the recruitment world began, on a shoestring, on November 1, 1999 when Draig Personnel opened its doors as Caerphilly’s first recruitment agency.”
“I have always been a people person and I felt that my combination of sales skills and sheer determination to make a better life for myself would be a good fit for the industry. It almost felt like fate.”
Ross said the hours worked to establish and then run the business took its toll on his work/life balance.
“Looking back perhaps I would not have worked so many long hours when our children were so young. The irony of it was that I working all those hours to provide the best life I could for my family but as a result, I sometimes missed out on some quality time, despite my best efforts not to.
“The one thing to keep at the forefront of your mind is to remember that you can get money and material things back, but you can’t get time back. It’s all about getting the work /life balance right. It’s taken me quite a few years to realise this.”
Ross says the recruitment industry has changed immeasurably over the years in some ways but in others it has remained the same
“The world of recruitment was so different back in 1999. I remember having one PC, a landline phone, a pager and a fax machine when I first started out. The internet was a new thing, but it took a while for businesses to embrace and to fully use it, so the fax machine remained the hub of our business communications for quite some time. All of our candidate details were handwritten on index cards, it was basic, but we made it work.
“The minimum wage came into play in 1999 and it was £3.00p/hr for 18-21 yr olds and £3.60p/hr for over 21yr olds. Due to the industry being in the infancy stage of technology, it was even more of a people orientated sector. More telephone calls and face to face meetings took place and we even used to use paper timesheets for the temporary workers back in the day.
“Today, the industry is heavily regulated, which is not a bad thing and technology now plays as much of a part as do the people. Technology has been a game-changer for the recruitment sector as it has been to almost every sector of industry.
“If you’d suggested to me 22 years ago that my business would have its own App on a mobile phone that would allow candidates to be notified of job vacancies, to build a CV, watch or complete inductions and many more things, then I would have thought you were dreaming.
“Although technology has altered, almost beyond comprehension, the skills and attributes that were in demand back then haven't changed dramatically, however, even the more basic roles require the candidates to be tech savvy on occasion these days.
“As far as I am concerned, nothing much has changed as regards to candidates’ approach to work. It’s all about attitude and doing what you say you will do.”
But the market and specific skills have changed over the past 22 years.
“Being predominantly a manufacturing recruitment specialist, I have seen a substantial change in the market over the years. In the early 2000’s when the Japanese companies seemed to be setting up everywhere in the south Wales valleys and the Welsh manufacturing sector was flying.
“As time went by, lots of these companies moved their operations elsewhere and the sector declined for some time. We then saw a boom in the contact centre sector in Wales, which again has now slowed.”
How should employers treat the current ‘buyer's market'?
” They need to work closely with their HR department or trusted recruitment agency. They need to offer the most competitive salaries, provide fast feedback to the candidate / agency with regards to applications and they must look after their existing workforce more than ever.”
The role of technology will dominate the sector even more than it does today. And Ross's prediction for the future?
“The continued evolving of technology will help job seekers and recruiters to fulfil vacancies, quicker and more efficiently than in years gone by.
Ross, a graduate of Newport College of igher EducationHigher Higher Education has several business interests including a work wear factory, a craft gin distillery and a boutique candle business based in Blackwood, Caerphilly.