Viewpoint: Starting up in a pandemic

Ok, so what do I do now?

Timing is everything… right? This was the slightly fragile question, or perhaps it was the nervousness in his voice, as he told me he finally achieved his dream of having his own recruitment business, which opened in a heavy shower of pride and expectation in February 2020.

Then came the $64k question, which I sort of knew was coming my way. “Ok Alan, we find ourselves in a pandemic, and my clients are pretty much closed for business, so what do I do now?”

Well, although this crisis has seen the word ‘unprecedented’ used more than ever, I still tend to go back to basics, and that was my guidance while in the eye of the storm at least.

When I said ‘go back to basics’, I meant communicating with clients, and those in his prospect client network, together of course with candidates. No selling during the closures; rather, take the opportunity to talk/chat to them all. Get to know them better, their challenges and opportunities pre-Covid, and their opinions of what life could be like post-pandemic. Their fears and aspirations.

I’m pleased to report he did this, and it was appreciated by many candidates and clients.

He called me again last week. “Some of my clients are starting to return to a more positive pipeline of work, so what advice can you give me now as I feel I’m now in proper start-up mode?” Where do I start with advice?

  • Sheer hard graft.
  • Work smart.
  • Don’t be tempted to ‘buy’ business.
  • Maintain margins.
  • Protect whatever cash you have.
  • Don’t overtrade.
  • Don’t over promise/under deliver. Do the opposite.

The list goes on, doesn’t it. However, I wanted him to take this opportunity, while things are still quiet, to really think about what he wants from the business, short, medium and long term. 

And to be as self-aware as possible.

  • What am I good at? 
  • Where do my strengths really sit? 
  • What do I love about what I do? 
  • Where do I struggle, and what might I not know, or have thought of? 

In most cases, it can take many years to build a recruitment business of real value. The vast majority never achieve it, so if you have the time, use it wisely. If you’re younger than me (that’s everyone!) there is really no hurry (doesn’t mean procrastinating should be entertained). You may discover as time passes that your original goals have changed – that’s ok, but think hard about what you want and when you want it.

Leave any ego and pride at the door. Hopefully, you can start at home, with minimal costs. Forget, at least temporarily, any notion of committing yourself to an office. 

No fancy job titles – focus on making placements, filling bookings and treating candidates with respect. Build cash when possible and minimise financial commitment. 

Get the right and proper external support for you – I know, I would say that! – but emotions run high when it’s your baby, and that muddies the clear waters of the brain way too often. Get someone who has been through what you’re going through and will provide objective advice and support through your journey. 

The industry has produced countless thousands of people with a good or great life, and if you have been brave enough to take the plunge, make sure you develop the business you really want, and believe in. Everyone connected to you will see this is you being you. Can we ask for anymore?

Alan Crockert is owner of Alan Crockert Consulting.

Image Credit: iStock

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