Recruitment International Company Briefing

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Vibrant, driven and keen to make an impact, the board at Darwin Recruitment explains why developing the ideal staffing dynamic is a key part of their growing expansion.

Vibrant, driven and keen to make an impact, the board at Darwin Recruitment explains why developing the ideal staffing dynamic is a key part of their growing expansion.

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  • 1. i R RECRUITMENT INTERNATIONAL November 2013
  • 2. cover story What’s Driving Darwin? By Recruitment International Vibrant, driven and keen to make an impact, the board at Darwin Recruitment explains why developing the ideal staffing dynamic is a key part of their growing expansion. Emerging from what they admit has been a period of low exposure, Darwin are keen to focus on expansion and developing awareness of their brand, the components of which, diversity, excitement and innovation, to name three, underpin the company’s growth strategy. The Fast Track business specialises in the European IT and Telecoms sector and is performing notably well. Over the last 3 years robust growth has been achieved with 2013 net fee income growing by over 20%, client growth of 31% and employees growth at 47% against 2012. Impressive by any standard! The company’s success hasn’t gone unrecognised. They were awarded Top 250 status by Recruitment International , reached 75th position in TheJobCrowd’s 2013/14 graduate survey, ‘The Top 100 Companies To Work For’ and ranked number ten in the ‘Top 42 Best Trading Partners’ list in the Plimsoll IT Recruitment Industry Analysis 2012. Co-founders Paul Kirby and Daniel Mulholland, 36 and 37 respectively, established Darwin in 2001. Chief Executive Officer Kirby had an impressive history in sales to use as leverage for the startup, while Chief Development Officer Mulholland had previous experience in a Fast Track 100 international IT recruitment business. Most recruitment companies aspire to go global, but Darwin stand out in that they already trade in Scandinavia, DACH and the Benelux regions, and already have businesses set up and located in the Netherlands and in Switzerland. What sets them apart is that their head office in the UK, which is the only place they do not have any business! That’s set to change though, Kirby says, “We’re looking at a UK business as part of the overall strategy, which is why in the next six months the team will move to a new, vibrant and buzzing office, with increased capacity for 150 people.” Expansion strategy Kirby is naturally excited as he reveals a new strategy is in the process of being launched, stating they would like to expand The Darwin Recruitment board L-R: Chris Southgate, Alf Davis, Paul Kirby, Miles Hunt, Daniel Mulholland, Simon Lawton www.recruitment-international.co.uk RI - November 2013 25
  • 3. cover story What’s Driving Darwin? By Recruitment International recognising its potential and having faith in its growth strategy. All compelling reasons for joining the board. He says, “Focussing on the 3 core sectors of cloud, application development and telco, in very specific geographies, I can only foresee that the market’s going to be supportive of our growth.” Simon Lawton, non-executive Finance Director, also joins with a large amount of expansion experience. He is currently CFO board advisor to 5 SMEs and holds 4 non-executive director posts. Alf Davis, is the new Chief Operating Officer. He spent 13 years with Modis International, both pre and post its acquisition and integration into the Adecco Group and has been a director of European staffing companies since 2004. An office in Germany is expected to open within the next 6 months and offices in Norway, Sweden and Denmark are also on the cards. Plans to explore the viability of doing business in Eastern Europe are also underway, with the knowledge that the region offers a large supply of skilled and as yet untapped labour. Paul Kirby above and Daniel Mulholland below. threefold in the next three to five years, ideally hoping to achieve a 50% growth annually, for the next three years. Darwin aims to be a recognised European specialist in application development, cloud computing and Telco staffing. Supported by an established senior management team and six board members (including Kirby and Mulholland), Darwin is in a prime position to carry out its expansion strategy. The 110-strong workforce has recently benefited from the appointment of a new board to help guide it through its crucial growth plan. Miles Hunt, vastly experienced in global expansion and the new non-executive Chairman, has personally invested in Darwin Mulholland explains, “We want to send out a message that we’re growing, not just geographically, but in respect of but the way in which we trade. We’ve historically been a 360 degree spot business. Now we are evolving a kick out business to serve customers on a larger scale. We’ve grown 30% year on year, and we fully believe we can accelerate that now with our added expertise and investment to 50%.” A further consideration and a mouth-watering proposition to factor in is that while the company has so far grown organically it is now considering acquisitions as an option. The staffing battle The biggest challenge, Darwin’s board agrees, is sourcing and attracting quality staff. Facing a climate of plentiful work in the booming IT sector, there is a notable shortage of talent to fill these positions. Kirby says, “The nature of the challenge of growing internationally working across borders with different processes and behaviours, requires finding people who have an international mindset and are capable of growing with the business. We know there’s a very short supply of people with that capability and potential. That’s going to be our biggest challenge – no doubt about it.” Recruiting, and keeping, skilled workers is a top priority, Darwin estimate that staff attrition is approximately 20%, which is around 50% better than the average staffing company. “The
  • 4. staff pool is primarily made up of graduates, which has been a positive and conscious decision”. Kirby says, “People coming in can see that this is a lively culture and environment. We’re not promoting on length of service, we’re promoting on capability and success within the company and I think that’s very exciting.” Both Kirby and Mulholland have actively liaised with local schools and universities to run courses and work programmes and the company has successfully run internship and work experience programmes for the past two years both in the UK and Amsterdam. A unique brand Darwin wants to be more focused in its employee branding and Davis stresses that placing importance on culture and internal branding is, “Quite rare now in the recruitment sector. More commonly companies feel an overwhelming need to become overly corporate. Whilst we strongly focus on professionalism, this should only add to as opposed to detracting from the culture of an entrepreneurial company.” Supporting the entrepreneurial ethos of the company, grassroots development is welcomed and employees are encouraged to share ideas as managerial staff aim to be approachable in order to foster bottom-up development. Mulholland enthuses, “We encourage grassroots ideas, and that’s recognised across the business, we want people to feel they can approach management to discuss ideas.” The company supports individualism, but equally places much importance on teamwork. Knowing how to deliver customer service from the offset is essential, as is being proactive. The company is known internally for its fun but focussed work ethic, offering regular benefits as gym membership and an active social agenda, alongside the opportunity for travel and a range of incentives such as holidays for top performers. Kirby, Mulholland and Davis have in fact recently returned from a trip to Barcelona with a selection of sales staff. Corporate social responsibility isn’t left by the wayside either and employees follow a strict environmental policy, while staff regularly take part in and organise charity fundraising events. “We want to send out a message that we’re growing, not just geographically, but in respect of but the way in which we trade.” Alf Davis Investing in staff Alongside recruiting dynamic professionals, Darwin strives to hone the professional development of its staff throughout the duration of their service. Kirby states, “We spend an awful lot on employee development. The emphasis we place on training in the first 5 years of a sales consultant’s career is quite rare. We endeavour to avoid the regurgitating sales process. We try to make the training a bit more interesting in the sense that once they’ve got to the end of two years they go on an advanced development programme which focuses on commercial skills. Our aspiration is to make them more rounded in terms of commercial business people, as opposed to being ‘just recruiters’. We believe that after two years they will want to start to go through a programme of personal development.” Kirby believes the decision to offer long term staff investment through training is definitely one of the reasons why staff Chris Southgate
  • 5. cover story What’s Driving Darwin? By Recruitment International publisher Broadband TV News a few weeks ago. This includes providing information on the ‘movers and shakers’ in the market and events, as well as helping to increase readership in exchange for use of a job board. He believes it is the first deal of its kind for the IT recruitment industry. When posed with the question, what makes Darwin stand out from the crowd, Kirby says he believes it is the combination of the identity, culture and training of the company, adding, “The three markets that we’re in and where we’re trading make us fairly unique. There are a lot of generalist IT providers trying to cover everything across a whole range of different territories. We’ve adopted the approach that you have to be focussed; you’ve got to have a clear identity about who you are and what you’re offering and to who.” Simon Lawton retention is higher than the average recruitment company. “It was definitely an important driver, we were losing a lot of people in that window of 2-5 years and as a business that was when they were becoming profitable. We wanted to try and make sure we held on to as many people as we could. We did this by trying to eliminate our people feeling like the only thing they could do to do change their career path was to find some new wallpaper. Giving them a more advanced development programme helps.” Mulholland added, “There’s lots of ways people can experience success.” “It gives our customers ease of understanding of what we actually do. It allows us to create very defined markets in niches that really do add value to our clients. We firmly believe that with the way that recruitment is now moving, including the use of Linkedin and social media, if we just serve the general population, we will struggle to add real measureable and recognisable value.” You’ve got to be able to give clients something they can’t get on the open market and that’s something we are trying to make certain of. We believe the key word is clarity and to get clarity you need to invest in every sense. So I think that’s what’s makes us unique. I don’t think there are very many businesses doing that in our market. Given their low profile it may well be that the name Darwin Recruitment has so far slipped under your radar? The new board are hopeful that once you have seen their impressive track record and been privy to their tremendously exciting future plans that talented and ambitious recruiters will be open to the potential the company offers. “We are all incredibly motivated and enthusiastic about our journey ahead and we want to share this not only with our clients and candidates but with our current employees and new recruits”, concludes Kirby. To be a part of the exciting Darwin revolution email careers@darwinrecruitment.com or call the careers team on +44 1 277 637970 Miles Hunt Like any other recruitment company, Darwin has embraced social media. “You can’t get away from it”, Kirby jokes. In fact they were among the first companies to test-drive LinkedIn and currently provide all consultants with business subscriptions. To boost the choice of quality applicants that Darwin places, Davis explains that Darwin confirmed a deal with broadband 28 RI - November 2013 www.recruitment-international.co.uk