“Work on the things that you are exceptional at to become completely dominant at them. Why waste time focusing on becoming mediocre? Which is essentially working on your weaknesses.”
This week on Strivin & Thrivin I sat down with Steve Grace, Founder of The Nudge Group and recruitment expert. The Nudge Group offers a holistic People Partner Model for early stage and established businesses going through rapid growth.
Steve has been in recruitment most of his life (except one brief and unsuccessful attempt at a pro tennis career). Not only is he a recruitment expert, but his experience in both starting his own business and investing in the business of others gives him unique insights into what both candidates and clients are looking for from the recruitment experience.
Steve explains how he, like many, stumbled into a recruitment job and it ended up becoming his career.
“I wandered into a recruitment company called Computer People and said, “Can you get me a job? I like computers.” And they said, “No. But how about you come and work for us? You’ve got no skills in terms of computers, so we can’t find you a job there. But how about you come work for us?” And I was like, “Sure.”
Following a short stint at an unsuitable role In London, Steve decided to move to Australia as a means to excuse the short-held position to future employees- as good a reason as I’ve ever heard for relocating. The term “all’s well that ends well” springs to mind as Steve never moved back.
This was only the beginning of his story. There were a lot of twists and turns, from joining a startup called Junk Food that aimed to put cereal in every office in the city, to a Chinese tourism business. Steve’s experience is varied and valuable and inevitably gave him the foundations to take the plunge and become the sole founder of his own successful the recruitment group, The Nudge Group.
Tune into this episode of Strivin & Thrivin to hear Steve’s biggest learnings.
Laura: I’m your host Laura Johnson. And this mini series of Strivin & Thrivin is sponsored by The Nudge Group. Steve Grace, founder of The Nudge Group, is going to be our first guest.
Okay Steve. To get us started, can you tell us about your career background and your current role?
Steve: My career background, sure. Going right back to the beginning, all the way?
Laura: Right back to the beginning.
Steve: Okay. I started my career as a hugely unsuccessful tennis player. Which to be fair, it was probably one of the most influential parts of my life in that it changed me drastically. I didn’t succeed particularly well but I was a very shy person before I played tennis. And I didn’t take tennis up until I was 16 either. I started playing at 18 after two years, everyone thought I was amazing. I think what happened was that I improved very quickly over the first two years and then plateaued straight away, unfortunately.
But it really created my personality and my ability to go out and speak to people and just be more confident. So, it changed me massively. I then went, as all good private school boys do into finance and started working for NatWest bank in a subsidiary of them and I hated that. I found out after about a year that you had to do exams every year and this was not going to be for me. I wandered out of there, walking through London thinking, what the hell am I going to do? And I wandered into a recruitment company called Computer People and said, “Can you get me a job? I like computers”, and they said, “No. But how about you come and work for us? You’ve got no skills in terms of computers, so we can’t find you a job there. But how about you come work for us?”, and I was like, “Sure.”
That’s pretty much how recruitment career started. And that was 20… Let’s just go 20 plus years ago. I worked there. Had had a ball there, it was very much the old school days of recruitment. We had 80 consultants in a desk, you didn’t get your chair until you made your first sale, you had a yellow pages, there was an AS 400 computer in front of you, the green and black screens. You had cards with your little contacts on in a box and the resumes would be posted in once you advertised in the paper. It was really efficient. It was a brutal environment and it was a hell of a school in terms of how to perform. If you didn’t do a deal that week, you basically got fired. It was that simple.
Steve: I stayed there for quite some time. I had a really good time and then decided it was time to move to a more professional environment and went to Michael Page, who I’m sure everyone is aware of. And no offense to Michael Page, but I hated it. It was way too structured for me. I was doing investment banking IT recruitment. I liked being in the square mile, but I hated it. But as all 25-year-olds do, had some great logic I thought, “well, can’t leave here too quickly because it looked really bad on the resume. So, I’ll move to Australia because then there’s a reason for me leaving too quickly’.
Laura: That makes sense.
Steve: That’s Where I came up with the idea.
Steve: I applied for a couple of jobs, got one, came over to Australia and started working for Candle. Which was very much like Computer People again and you can see some repeatable things happened in my life. And enjoyed that greatly. Then again decided I wanted to learn how to be a manager, so I went to Hays. Hays was very similar to Michael Page, and I hated it. The day after I got my residency, I left Hays and set up my first business.
Look, Hays was not an enjoyable place for me because of the structure, but the training and the management skills that I learned there were outstanding. It just wasn’t a good environment. So then went and set up my first company, Fingerprint, which you’re aware of. And did that seven years. Only really sold that because we got approached by a very large listed business by the name of Datathree, who had a recruitment company in Brisbane. They wanted to expand it into Sydney but had not been able to achieve that. So, they thought just buy us, we were about 30 people then.
They bought us and we got a really good price, but we took the risk and gambled the higher multiple on the earn-out. And then about maybe six weeks after that the crisis hit, the dot-com boom or the dot-com crash. Wasn’t the boom, it was definitely the crash. We had to make people redundant and the earn out was a total disaster. We got a small amount of money out of that. But I learned more because I learned how to… I don’t ever really been in companies that have grown and been successful and it was horrific. I had to sit people down and I had to choose out of the 30 which 10 I had to make redundant. And they were all performing, so it wasn’t easy. But we’d gone from 500 live roles down to 20, over a week.
Steve: Worked through that. Left that, managed to get out early by basically begging the CEO and telling him, I just really hated working there and I just couldn’t stand it again. It was that structure that I’m just not good in and off I went. I had to have a year off then, I wasn’t allowed to work in recruitment in Australia for a year. This is actually.. isn’t really on my resume or LinkedIn because it was such a short period of time. But I started another company called Human Consulting. You can see I’m very strategic in my thinking.
Human Consulting was purely a way of me working in Singapore and Hong Kong. I wanted to go to Singapore and Hong Kong, it seemed like a great idea. So, I started recruiting recruiters from London and moving them to Singapore and Hong Kong to people I knew there. That meant that I could go to Singapore and Hong Kong. That actually was quite successful, and I ended up selling that to, well I really gave it actually, to a friend of mine in the UK. Because an opportunity arose for me in Sydney to purchase half of another business.
That arose during a Sydney Swans game, believe it or not, I was chatting to the owner and he was having struggles and I said, “Why don’t I just buy half?” And he said, “Sure”. Anyway, we sat down the next day, a bit more sober, and talked about it in a bit more depth and decided it would be a good idea. We have very different strengths. That was Ashdown and I stayed there another seven years. At the end of the day, it was always his company, it was never mine. At the end of the seven years, we had very different views on where the business should go.
I’m always wanting to push for growth, he was pretty happy with where it was sitting, and it just became untenable to continue. So, he bought me out of that business and then I took another nine months off and created Nudge, which is where we are today. There’s the story. Gosh! It’s longer than you think when you… I haven’t spoken that out for quite some time.
Laura: I like the tennis beginnings.
Steve: Look, you know what, it was a lot of fun.
Steve: But yeah. Disastrous.
Laura: But I guess even along the way of recruitment, it feels like it’s been pretty up and down. What is it about it that you love or has made you stick with it?
Steve: That’s a really good question. I think when I left Ashdown, I really did consider leaving recruitment because I’d been doing it for such a long time. I think what it was, was that I just hadn’t been enjoying Ashdown. I think I hadn’t been enjoying it more than I had realised until I left. And that was no one’s fault, it was just a case of two co-founders, two co-founders are difficult to get to work. That Ashdown business got big, and it becomes difficult to necessarily agree on the direction of the business.
Nudge is a sole founder, just to make that clear, I have no co-founders. But having had time off, I really missed it. I’ve always loved recruitment. I like to talk, which is why you’ve asked me on this show. I like people, I’m generally fascinated by people. If we’re in a group and someone new turns up, I’m literally attracted to that group. Whereas other people might not and they might not be as well. That’s all I want to do, I want to find out about that person. I think that was part of it.
I think I have this huge network of recruiters that I knew I’d be able to employ, that was a really attractive thing for me. This business is a lot more than just about building a business and we can talk about that later if you like. But I think it was just a case of having six months out of it. I actually suddenly came to the conclusion that it was something that I really enjoyed. During that six months I came up with a all manner of harebrained and other businesses that I was going to start. Including a Chinese tourism business, which would have gone badly, a medical business, a lifestyle business that was a… Gosh! How would you describe it? I guess it was like a cereal business. There’s a lot of complexity to that.
Steve: We were going to put cereal in everyone’s offices, but it was going to… I’m not even going to talk about it because it’s ridiculous idea. We were going to call it junk food, which was even more of a bad idea. But anyway, so there was a lot of bad ideas. Maybe I came to conclusion that I really don’t know how to do anything else.
Laura: I do. I always used to say, you have to have 10 bad ideas before you can start anything else. You’ve got to go through all the bad ones.
Steve: We definitely had a lot more than 10. And I was literally starting businesses with about 18 different people. I think I suddenly woke up to myself. Look, it’s the best decision I’ve ever made. This business I’ve enjoyed far more than all the others. And I think that’s just having had experiences. You make different mistakes, but they seem to be a little less than before.
Laura: Yeah. I think it’s one of those we were talking about it yesterday. I think just as you get a bit further on in your career, I think you just start looking at things a bit differently.
Steve: You do.
Laura: It’s just a different, I don’t know the right way to talk about it, but it’s not like you’re less attached. But it feels a bit less emotional, you can be a bit more kind of it’s business, like this isn’t all personal. I don’t need to worry about it in the same way. And I think therefore you make better decisions as you get older?
Steve: I’d almost say it’s the opposite.
Steve: I almost care more about it now, it’s almost become more part of me. Maybe that’s because I’m a founder, whereas before it’s always been two people. I’m not sure but I think you’re more comfortable with it.
Steve: It’s like anything. It’s like when you do your first talk before you do your first podcast, right. And nervous as hell. Once you’ve done a few, it’s no different. It’s when you stand up and talk on stage. I think that’s what it is. I think it’s just a familiarity that probably makes you make better decisions rather than constantly going, “I have no idea what I’m doing.”
Laura: You don’t do that on a daily basis, just me?
Steve: I used to do it on a minute by minute. I think it’s now just every other hour, something like that.
Laura: Okay. All right.
Steve: It’s definitely lessened.
Laura: Yeah. Maybe that’s the right way to put it. Maybe it’s confidence and probably a little more like self-belief, as you get older, you realise that actually there are some things you know how to do. And it-
Steve: That’s an interesting topic, the imposter syndrome thing.
Steve: Because, that actually I think it gets worse.
Steve: I don’t know, I struggle with that daily, I always have. In fact, I probably struggled with it less when I was younger.
Steve: I think when I started my first business, what was I? 28 maybe. I had no doubt it was going to work. I completely 100% believed every day it was going to work, for years. Bizarrely, I didn’t have it at the beginning, it’s coming later. Which makes no sense. But then running businesses and being a founder makes no sense either.
Laura: No there is that.
Steve: As of now-
Laura: We still do it anyway.
Steve: As well you know now, as well you know.
Laura: Yeah. I do think it’s the best decision I’ve ever made and I’m sure you feel the same way.
Steve: 100%. It’s been, I think I worked it out the other day, 17 or 18 years since I’ve worked for someone. I can’t possibly imagine having a job or a wage or anything like that, it’s so alien to me now. Even prior to that when I was a recruiter, I was still probably 80% commission, so I’d never had a salary. Prior to that as a tennis player, well, that was just ridiculous sponsorship and prize money.
I’ve never had a job where I got paid the same amount of money every month, regardless of what I did. I have dreams about it, can’t deny it. But I also can’t possibly imagine what it’s like. I think it would frustrate me to not have control over how much money I was earning.
Laura: Yeah. I don’t know. There are certain months I really miss someone else paying me money into my bank every month. I don’t think I’d ever looked at it that way.
Steve: Well, maybe, it’s good that I’ve never had it then.
Laura: Yeah, I think probably.
Steve: Maybe I would have been addicted to that. I don’t know.
Laura: Can’t miss what you didn’t have.
Steve: I had dreamed about it though, I’ve had lots of dreams about what that might be like.
Laura: That stability.
Steve: And they are not fun dreams, I’d say they are really dull. I need to do some more interesting things in my life.
Laura: It’s probably why you don’t sleep very much?
Steve: It could well be, yeah. That’s what I’m dreaming about. Who wants to sleep? My goodness.
Laura: I guess, going back to the journey, what do you think is the biggest lesson that you’ve learned along the way?
Steve: That’s such a massive question. I think it almost comes back to the belief that, maybe it’s the understanding, the understanding that you have got to make yourself permanently uncomfortable and that’s okay. No one enjoys being uncomfortable as much as they say they do, no one really does. I think the more you understand that when you are having a slight panic attack, driving to wherever it is you’re driving, because you made a decision yesterday that you now think it’s the worst decision that anyone could have ever made in the history of business.
When you’re at that moment, it was actually probably a really good decision, and you have to try and learn how to make yourself comfortable with it and you’re forced to make it work. That’s what proves the growth. It’s much like going to a gym, right. If you want to grow your muscles, if you want to grow your fitness or anything like that, your flexibility. You have to push yourself into a painful place and then you recover. I think it’s the same thing in growing businesses. You have to really make yourself feel uncomfortable, and panicked, and like an idiot, and then you can grow from that. I think it’s just the way humans are made.
Laura: I think that’s a really nice way of putting it. It makes it feel a bit more logical when you put it in the way of a gym. All these people do like 45 day challenges or 80 or… That’s okay. But maybe if you just looked at business the same way?
Steve: If you look at fitness, and I actually have just thought of that, which is bizarre because I’ve never put it that way before. I like the way I put it as well, actually. I’m going to use that again. But I think if you look at fitness, fitness results are not achieved by 45 days of drastic change. They’re achieved by years and years and years of incremental improvement, which is how businesses are grown and it’s exactly the same.
Now, nothing wrong with those changes because they can change patterns and behaviours. And I think they can work really well in both fitness and business. But they’re not what builds a big sustainable business or a fitter body or whatever it is you’re trying to do. It’s consistency that really matters there.
Laura: Yeah, totally. Or is it having that rant at someone the other day about brand. They were talking about how do you build a brand. I was like, “It’s just consistency. Just consistently show up and consistently say the same thing”.
Steve: I think you’re right. I think brand grows itself if you do the right things as opposed to totally focusing on brand.
Steve: I’ve learned a lot actually. But I’ve learned a lot about marketing and brand, which I never really did in the other business. We focused on it to sort of evolve but we’ve made quite a conscious decision as you know. To, rather than do sales per se, we’ve really just done creation of content and marketing and brand. It’s actually a far better way to grow a business. That’s probably one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in the last two years. I wish I’d learned it a long time ago. Is that building a brand, creating content, gives you far more sustainable growth than getting on the phone and calling people you don’t know and asking if they’re interested in your services.
I think people should really look at that as a more effective way of growing their businesses across all areas. There were certain areas such as consumer goods where that’s always been the way. But professional services and services traditionally have not done that. And I think it’s been the biggest eye-opener for me.
Laura: I think it goes back to what you’re saying there about that long-term view. I think content and brand is a long play. You don’t suddenly start writing a blog and people read it and then like, “Oh! Steve, we’d love to do business with you”.
Laura: It doesn’t happen like that. You’ve got to have a long term view in it. If you’ve got a long-term view of business and you know that you’re in it for the right reasons. I think it does, but I think that’s why a lot of professional services businesses don’t. Because, it’s like, “Oh, we need some money, we need to get through the door”.
Steve: I think you’re right. I think my advice to anyone in professional services businesses, I didn’t do it for 20 years because; I didn’t think I understood it, and I didn’t think I’d be good at it, and it didn’t interest me, and I just thought it’s waste of time. I think with this business, because I had more time, we had COVID, all those kinds of things. There’s a lot of things that changed people in that way. And I started to look into it because there wasn’t that much else to do and I really enjoyed it.
Then I saw it begin to work and then I started to enjoy it even more. Then now it’s something that I really love doing, it’s a part of my role I don’t want to let go. As you grow a business, there are parts that you have to let go and that probably I will have to let go of that. But I’ll always want to keep a hand in because it’s a new skill for me for a start, but I’ve just enjoyed it just so much more.
As you know, I’m massively dyslexic, so running a blog is not ideal for me. Reading is not ideal for me. In fact, anything content created. I’m not particularly creative, in terms of I can’t draw, so I don’t think you need those skills that people think you do to create content. That’s the interesting part that I thought.
Laura: Even like this, this is a great example. There’s so much we can talk about in half an hour that neither of us could sit and write in half an hour.
Laura: It’s just like, there’s so many different ways now to create content. But I think, going back to it, there’s so much around a founder having a brand that does so much for the business. It’s like, as much as you might step away from marketing, I think you’re always going to have a huge role to play in that bigger picture.
Steve: I hope so. I think I’ve said this to you before, I think people have asked me, do I want to sell this business? It’s a question, “How are you going to exit?”. I’m not building this business to sell, the others I think I probably was, whether it was consciously or subconsciously. I’m building this business so that I can eventually become, and this is my dream, I can eventually become like an ambassador. And I’m just out there all over the world talking about what we do and letting people understand what we do and just getting the message out. That’s I think where I would love to get to.
Then all the rest of the people within the business can do the things that they want to do and everyone’s doing the part that they love. I think that’s where I want to get to. And then my role will hopefully decrease as I get older. I don’t know what I’m going to do because I can’t play golf, I find golf incredibly tedious, it takes so long. If golf was five holes, I would be absolutely game for it. But at 18 holes, just ridiculous.
Laura: Maybe you need to just go and do five, just give up after five. You don’t have to do more, do you?
Steve: It’s hard to find people to do five with. Golf people are very passionate about their golf.
Laura: Yeah, that’s true.
Steve: Which is great and I love that, but I’m not there with them. As I get older, I don’t know. As you know I’ve tried kite surfing this year, that’s been awesome. Have a feeling as I get older that’s going to become a bit more difficult. I’m pretty bad at it now, so I cannot see myself really improving that much. I don’t know, reading is really not what I want to spend all my time doing. I’d like to spend more time reading-
Steve: But I don’t want to read all day. Who knows what I’m going to do when I’m this ambassador? Hopefully, we’ll be traveling again. Wouldn’t that be nice?
Laura: You are going to have a bit of a job being an ambassador if you’re not traveling, probably. Actually, just going to hop between Melbourne, and Sydney, and Brisbane.
Steve: Don’t forget Perth, we have plans in Perth. We might have virtual reality, we might have holograms.
Steve: I could be a hologram, I’m down with that. If it’s a really cool studio, I am very much down with that. I don’t know, who knows what… Technology is going so fast. I can be an ambassador in all sorts of ways we don’t know. I might just go straight into people’s heads without them even knowing.
Laura: That’s very scary though.
Steve: That is scary though, let’s stop that there.
Laura: Okay. Lessons learned, what about best advice that you’ve had along the way?
Steve: Best advice. I’ve never had a mentor, and which makes me very sad. I’ve never been able to find one. I would love a mentor. I’ve had people that have helped me with that question, I have people that I ask. But I don’t have someone that I can go to for almost anything. I have different people. I go to for very much different things. The best advice is a really tricky question because you get so much advice along the way and it’s often the small things.
I think probably the best advice and probably why I ended up staying in recruitment. And this wasn’t specific to work, it was just specific to life. I read it and I cannot remember where I read it. But it was that, why are people always working on the things that they’re weak at, to try and get them up to where your things you’re good at? That seems absolutely ludicrous. You’re obviously naturally good at some things and not others. Everyone is the same.
Why waste time focusing on becoming mediocre? Which is essentially working on your weaknesses. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t work on them at all, but people will almost become obsessive about it. What you should be doing is working on the things that you are exceptional at to become completely, completely dominant at. And I think that’s the best advice and I think that’s probably what kept me in recruitment, is that I am good at it, and I enjoy it. I should focus on doing that and not try and focus on something I’ve got no idea what to do.
I think balance is perhaps looked at the wrong way. You need balance in your life, but I don’t necessarily need balance in your skills. The best sprinter in the world cannot do cross-country, he’s probably also not a regular… He might be a golfer, who knows. All athletes need to be good golfers. But I think playing to your strengths and focus on what you’re really, really good at is probably the best advice I’ve had.
Laura: I would agree with that. We actually talked about that in the last podcast, I think it was my coach. At some point we went through a strength exercise, and it was all about, basically, if you double down on your strengths people almost forget your weaknesses.
Laura: But we’re so told early on in life and careers and stuff, it’s like, “What are your weaknesses? You need to improve those.” But you’re just never going to get the same results by trying to be good at stuff that you’re technically bad at.
Steve: You’re not.
Laura: It’s not to say you should ignore it. But if you spend that same amount of time doubling down on what you’re good at, you’re going to have much better results long term.
Steve: 100%. Look, success is not a solo journey at all, it is a team journey. Just find people that are good at what you’re bad at-
Steve: And all go out together being doubly good at it. I think that’s definitely the way forward. And I think that’s probably the other piece of advice. As much as I want to be a solo founder now for a variety of reasons, it’s not my journey alone by any means. It’s very much a team journey and it’s the people that you work with, it’s the family that’s behind you, it’s the friends that you talk to, it’s all of those things. I think that’s very important.
Laura: Totally. Bit like what we were just saying before, now Josh does the spreadsheets for me, I don’t have to worry about that.
Steve: Yes. I’m the same.
Laura: They’re infinitely better. And it takes him about 10 minutes where it’d take me in two days.
Steve: Let me tell you a very quick story about that. This might make you laugh. I’ve just outsourced the financial side of Nudge, I’ve been holding onto. I don’t know why. I’ve never done it in any of my other businesses, I’m terrible at it. Within three weeks we just have so much more money in the account and I do not understand why. Now I have nothing to do apart from approving a thing here and there.
Steve: I look at the bank I’m like, “Where’s all this money come from, I don’t understand?”. Absolutely, find the people that are good at what you’re not. That’s on every person’s people advice in the world, I think.
Laura: Yeah. It’s just tough, isn’t it, when it’s your business? Because, you’re so used to doing everything, it’s tough and you have to start giving stuff away but-
Steve: It is tough.
Laura: Yeah. It’s the right thing to do. Going back, you just mentioned you’ve never had a mentor, but you mentor people, don’t you?
Steve: I do, if they ask me. That doesn’t mean I don’t want to, because I get a huge amount from it. I think the first time I did it was, there’s a recruitment association in Australia called the RCSA. And they had a mentor program and I volunteered to go on it. I got so much from it. It blew me away. Now if people ask me, absolutely. Someone who’s surprised me asked me the other week, I was not expecting to have asked me to be their mentor. But I really, really enjoy doing that and you get a huge amount from it.
Because I’ve never found the right person to ask, when people ask me I feel that I almost… Not obliged, because I do enjoy it. But I almost feel like you have to say yes because it’s a hard thing to find. If someone feels that you’re their mentor, I think you’re almost obliged to say yes.
Steve: As long as you haven’t got 20 of them.
Laura: I guess, just in terms of anybody now starting out their career in recruitment, what advice would you give them?
Steve: Wow! That’s a massive question. The advice I would give them is to make sure that they treat every single individual in the right way. Recruiters have always been criticised for this, particularly from a candidate’s side. But more so, and this astounds me, in the last five years I have had so many clients tell me stories. We’ve gone out for lunch or whatever, in a more of a social environment, we’re not necessarily working, and they said, “Look…”
They had recruiters who had cold called them or approached them on LinkedIn or whatever it was. They’d rebuff them for whatever reason, they have a preferred supplier list, they don’t need any more suppliers, they’re not allowed to use recruiters because of budget constraints. Whatever the reason. The amount of recruiters who they’ve had like a really aggressive go at this potential client, either on the phone or over email. I find it insane.
Steve: I would never have done that as a young recruiter, just from a respect point of view. But it’s also completely counterproductive because those people… Australia is a very small place and it’s a very small population, and they know all the people in that space, and they will move to other companies. But why do that to anyone anyway? That’s a new thing. But I think the oldest story is that way candidates have been taught.
There’s a movement at the moment going around, and I forget the gentleman’s name and I really wish I could have credit him for it because I think it’s amazing, of signing up to getting back to every candidate.
Laura: Is it Steve Gard with Circle Back?
Steve: Yes, Circle Back. Also, Justin Hillier from Recruiter Insider, which is like a continuous improvement survey that goes out once you’re doing the recruitment process. The candidates are also talking about this. And committing to getting back to every candidate, that doesn’t mean ringing everyone because that’s just not feasible. 200 people apply for a job, if you ring all 200, well you’re not going to make any money.
But via email or via some way and just letting them know rather than leaving them hanging. I think recruiters still don’t do that well. If you have 10 people that you interview and you send straight forward for the job. I know that those seven often never get told whether they were sent forward and not sent forward or anything and I think that’s bad.
Steve: The interesting thing I’ve noticed about the start-up space particularly, is that we have bought on, I think it’s now 72 new clients in the first 18 months. Which is astounding. And we haven’t really done any business development. We’ve done content creation as we spoke about earlier. But I would say probably 25% of those clients have come from candidates who we didn’t get the job for.
They’ve come to us, we’ve interviewed them, they’ve gone for a C-level job, potentially CMO, CRO, CFO, whatever it is. They didn’t get the job and obviously we dealt with them, or we let them know and we gave them feedback and off they went on their merry way. They have gone and got another job in another start-up, and they have come back and said, “I know you didn’t get me that job but we had such a good experience with you as a candidate. That’s what I want people coming to my business and we want to use you”. No questions, happy with the terms, just straight out.
25% of our business in the first 18 months has come from not getting people jobs. Which is quite ironic when you think about what we’re supposed to do. The power of that there is massive because we’ve been clients. But even when I was younger, the amount of candidates… I’ve been in Australia since I was 25 so I’m now 47, so it’s 22 years. As we talked about, there’s not a huge population. Those candidates have come back time after time, after time, after time, across my desk in variety of ways, in a number of different companies. That matters how you treat them. It creates a long-lasting impression for years to come.
Particularly in industry that typically does it not very well. The circles thing is great, I think that’s really well. I don’t know how well it’s going but I think it’s a great movement and I’m a big believer. I’ve always pushed my staff to make sure that they go back to people and get quite angry if they don’t. But it’s always going to slip through the net, no one’s perfect.
But I think at least if you’re trying and you’re genuinely trying to help people, people are coming to us for a service. And I think too many recruiters just see clients as our clients and not the candidates as our clients. It’s an old age thing and everyone talks about it. But my advice is, actually do it. Because even though people talk about it, very few people do. It will make you stand out from the crowd within three or four years. And within 10 you’ll be streets ahead.
Laura: Yeah. That’s really good advice. Maybe we need to get Steve on to talk to him about Circle Back as well.
Steve: You should do. I’d actually like to meet him. I haven’t met him, I should contact him.
Laura: I’m about to get him on that. Who else would you like to hear from on the podcast?
Steve: On your podcast?
Steve: Are we thinking of founders or are you thinking of particular people from a Human Resources point of view or a Talent point of view or?
Laura: Anyone whose career story you’d like to hear?
Steve: You know who I’d really like to hear? I would like to hear someone from Canva who has never had a voice. We hear from the founders and it’s great, and I think they’re amazing. I think the story’s outstanding. But you don’t hear from people who’ve maybe been there from the early years about how they’ve seen it. It doesn’t have to be Canva, that’s just the one that popped in my head. But some of those really successful companies that have gone from zero to unicorn. People who’ve been there maybe the whole journey or at least a big portion of it.
What it’s like to be in that, from their point of view, where they maybe didn’t have as much influence or impact as obviously the founders. I think that would be interesting because one of the biggest problems we have in recruiting for start-ups is everybody wants to work for a start-up. But no one has any idea of what it’s like and it’s not just playing tennis table unfortunately.
I think start-ups are very different when they’re at seed to when they’re at series A, B, C, D, to before they IPO or before… All those different stages of the business cycle. If you’ve got someone who’s seen that who isn’t a founder… We hear founders talk about their journeys, that’s great, but you don’t hear about employees talk about their journeys. And everyone wants to go and join one of these companies, but they’ve got no idea what to expect. I think it would be great for people out there, and there’s more employees and founders, right?
Steve: Could actually find out what it’s like to join a relatively early stage company and be on that ride because, it will be very different than founders’ experience. And I don’t think everyone-
Laura: I think that’s a really great shout – I want to do that podcast now. Thanks!
Steve: I don’t know how you find that person though!