Scaling a small business: Recruitment edition
Updated: Apr 9, 2021
how he scaled his recruitment business
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And we're live. So everyone that is watching, welcome back to the Get Your Shit Together Live Show. And today I am speaking to one of my favorite people that I do speak to, which is Daniel Pope who is the CEO and founder of Toro recruitment. So how are you, Daniel?
I'm good. Thank you. I'm excited to be on this as well. You've known me for quite a while so. And you've helped me get to where we've got to as well. So I'm excited to answer some of your questions.
Oh, thank you, I'm doing, honestly, I know, you're super busy off camera, you're telling me that you've got quite a bit going on. So I have to say, I'm super grateful that you're taking me a bit of time to have a bit of a chat, because I have to say your story is pretty amazing. For the last year, I mean, it's been a year of lockdown, as everyone knows, you know, it was I think was a set, we celebrated the anniversary or celebrated. I don't think that's the right word. But we, we, you know, we celebrated the anniversary of lockdown on Tuesday, and so much has changed within your world and within Toro as well, and how you've just been able to function as a business. So as everyone can see, on knows, we're actually going to be talking about how you scaled your business in during a pandemic in 12 months, which is an amazing story. But before we jump into that, I think we have to get a bit of a better understanding about who you are, how you even got into recruitment and how Toro even came to existence.
So I think a number of people have said this on podcast for, especially ones I listen to, but I fell into recruitment. You know, a lot of people do fall into recruitment. I remember I was in university and I was actually in the gym when I got the offer to go and join a big company on the south coast. And I decided to join their like utilities team. I had really get to it a couple of years there. And I'd really good fun trying to learn industries understanding what recruitment is all about. But it got to a point where it was very corporate, you know, lots of red tape, meetings for meetings. And I looked around and I thought maybe there's something a bit more niche, maybe there's something that charges a premium, you know, better quality. So I looked around and I was fortunate enough to be held on by about six or seven companies. And I moved to a smaller boutique firm.
And I had a couple of years there, I managed to break their permanent contract records for billing complete. And I got to a point where I was thinking, I could probably do this myself and make a really good job of doing it as well. So about five and a half years ago, I incepted Toro on the south coast, and we were just facing that time just mainly on utilities. But since then we've kind of expanded. But I think that you know, just going back to the initial origins of recruitment, I'd been in sales a lot. So I'd always done sales done like door to door knocking I'd done telephone sales as well tele sales. So I think recruitment I felt like was a soft touch into sales, but quite complex as well, you know, loads of a multifaceted role with loads of different things happening all at the same time. And I thought I could bring like my academic experience somehow into the frame and my sales experience. And together hopefully I'd be you know, decent consulatant and it seems to done all right and the company seems to be doing right as well.
To say a company's doing pretty good. I love the stories I would love to know for anyone that is out there that is watching this who is a recruiter who didn't fall into recruitment because I think everyone's got the same story like I I fell into recruit when I was looking for a job after my first business and I fell into recruitment somehow it thought it was a great idea so I think I would love to know anyone--
I got a funny feeling though schools they're probably not gonna give you a career task and put recruitment consultant on one of the possible answers those
I'd love to see that though. What does that person look like?
Or exactly yeah.
Yeah, so your story is actually really similar to mine. I actually started my sales career and door to door sales and that is intense. That is that is like I think I was 17 when I first I think I did my first door to door sales job. And I just remember it was just like, jumped off the street and just go knock on some doors and sell I think I was selling like telecommunications or something like that. I can't remember exactly. But I don't know if I liked it all that long. But I gave it a red hot go. It's definitely a different a different experience.
Yeah, I mean, so I started doing and like sales world and got quickly promoted into like a management role for that when I was 18 years old University, but I think what I really liked about, Katie, was the fact there was so much sales psychology inside the actual job. You know, you had to rather than making a deal at a door, which is, you know, where a lot of double glazing sales people would, you know, try and make a deal or, you know, some random canvassers or whatever, you actually try and actually get inside the front room. And then once you're in the front room, those individuals who would see you as like a friend, you know, or a family member, because who sits on the sofa, not a stranger really do they? So it was easy to break down paradigms of normality once you were inside the front room, and you're able to then translate the service that you're actually provided. And I found that understanding that and getting a grasp of of that is been able, I've been able to transfer those skills into different roles. So then when I went into you know, do some telesales staff, and we obviously went into recruitment, too, it's just about understanding the person you've got and how you're going to sell your service or product to them.
I think that's a really good point, I think a lot of people in recruitment, you know, it's a, it is a tough gig, I will say that recruitment is, is a tough sales gig, it's very complex, because you've got, you're selling to individuals, and you're selling to companies as well. So it's very, it is very confused, it can be really quite challenging. But being able to actually understand that human relationship for us like one of my biggest lessons, like it's human first business second, because it makes life a little bit easier. Of course, everyone knows you're there to sell service, like they know what you're doing. So just be good human about it. And I think that you being able to transition that over is probably going to make it has been one of the biggest reasons why you've been successful other than your brain probably works faster than I've ever met anybody, your brain works so much faster.
I'm not sure it's a good thing, though.
Sometimes, you know, sometimes it is a good thing. And I think sometimes it's being able to slow it down to see things a bit differently and put context behind those thoughts. But you definitely think a lot quicker than a lot of people I've met, which is, which is awesome.
Absolutely. And just on your point there as well. I believe that a lot of the stuff that we do at Toro, and we're going to speak later on, I try and accentuate the human interaction point. So the more we talk to our customers, you know, our clients and our candidates, that the better service is going to be, you know, they're the real touch points that need to gather them into them. It's not so much the automation, or the internal processes, we should accentuate the human interaction.
No, I agree with that. Absolutely agree. Like I think being able to be a good human in sales job is gonna make you just stop better of, of a of a person. And I think one of the biggest things a lot of people forget about sales, about sales, is that there is a lot of science behind that sales call and those sales processes. And I think that that kind of gets lost. And I think a lot of people if they understood the psychology behind it, they would do a bit better at sales, and they wouldn't be such a revolving door around sales industries. And that's just not recruitment, right? That sales industries in general. So, alright, so you went to recruitment for four years, you were not worked up the ladder, you know, became, you know, top biller, all that kind of jazz, which is awesome. And then you're like, you know what I can do? I could do this better. I'm gonna I'm gonna set up Toro. So, five and a half years ago, I knew I knew that this was your sixth year in to Toro, and I couldn't didn't know if it was this half of the second half of the second half. So you set up a tour five and a half years ago as what were you like? 25?
Yeah, exactly. Yeah, nail on the head. I was 25 years old. Yep. You know, me too well,
For 25 years, I'm like, you know, I'm just gonna set up a business and I'm gonna create this. How did you? How did the last five and a half years guard? Well, actually, let's go for the first four and a half, because obviously, the last year is dramatic change that happened. So what happens then?
So, I guess, look first of all, there's touch upon the character that makes you probably a really good like, Principal consultant or team leader. And I think a lot of the times in recruitment, we find 360 consultants that do the resourcing daily account management due to new business development, quite like lone wolf characters, you know, like you, you really have to display like, high intrinsic motivators in terms of resilience, you know, hard work, you know, real strong work ethic. And I think transferring those skills over to Toro, actually was a bit of an issue. Because when you become a leader, you need to be more emotionally intelligent need to be empathetic towards things you need to understand other points of view, you're not no longer principal consultant or Team Leader where you can just like go headfirst and just smash down doors, as many as you can, as quickly as possible. It doesn't work like that. So I think from a character point of view, when I created Toro had to grow up quite quickly had to evolve, had to realize that, you know, the world of business is pretty hard. It's harsh. And, you know, probably, you know, the statistics out there at the moment, in terms of the amount of agencies get created in the UK, the amount of agencies that unfortunately go under within the first year or so, it's a really really difficult market it's very easy market to enter. But at the same time, easy markets to enter normally easy market is to exit as well, aren't they? not as difficult to had? So when I started, I think I'd, I'd hide in my previous role. Now, when I was building quite good numbers. I felt like I was probably unused like 10% of my brain I thought like 90% was just you switching off completely so it meant in my personal life, had quite a few vices. And they were really like coming out. And I was struggling to get a handle of them. And what I realized is that although I could work, you know, 12 hours a day, 14 hours a day, you know, every Saturday, full stop, I signed up to pretty much. It just wasn't enough. It wasn't enough, like there was this whole portion of my brain that felt like it was just in the hibernation mode. And as soon as I created Toro, I began to like, open that portion of the brain. That's how I felt anyway. But look, with that new stresses came, unfortunately, you know, the old stress is dissipated, and I weren't worried about having a director or a managing director and getting told what to do, or this, that and the other, but then, you know, the company relies on us, you have to make the right decisions, you've got to make time to make the right processes, you've got to do the right training, the right inductions, etc. So the first couple of years, I think that I had to quickly find out the good people do not make good recruiters. And let me just clarify this point. Because there were a lot of recruiters out there that are really good people. But what I mean is that a good person alone doesn't make a good recruiter, so that good person needs to have the right behaviors, you know, they haven't got any resilience at all, but they're a lovely person, you know, great person, they're probably not going to make a good recruiter. And I had to learn that quite quickly, because I hired some amazing people, some great people that you'd love to go to a pub we've never drink with, or go for a meal with whatever, but they couldn't recruit at all. They literally couldn't recruit for toffee. So I had to quickly evolve myself and understand what were the behaviors driving good recruiters, you know, resilience, for instance, you know, hard work, creativity, you know, coming up with solutions, not, you know, just giving your clients problems. And I had to really evolve myself as well to to understand that.
The first three years were really quite difficult, you know, I'm, I did start the business with a really good friend of mine initially. And after a couple of years, things have changed, and his path went slightly different, we're still very, very good friends, we still keep in contact a lot, but he went on a separate path. So I ended up buying that business in the first couple of years. And then, and then we hit some really hard times, as a company, we had a string of really bad debts. And I thought we did enough to, you know, really mitigate the risk factor of it. But we didn't. And I ended up going down pretty hard and had some really hard times in the first three years. But I think my mindset, I always used to drive to work. And this is definitely the 25 year old Dan's, you know, point of view, not my point of view. Now, I used to drive to work and imagine I was in some kind of sports car, like an RA or a Ferrari or something, and not, and I wasn't driving thing I was because what was spurring me on then was just like money, like to get as much as possible, just drive us forward as possible as well. And the first three years, the reason why was because we didn't have that. So for me, I wanted to make Toro much money as possible. And that was, that was, you know, that was the only route that I kind of saw. And I would say that's the first three or four years towards, you know, towards the third and fourth year, I began, really assimilating everything and reflecting everything that had occurred. And I began understanding that like, this is a team, a team thing, you know, you can't be a single person leading a company. It was wonderful that I could use spreadsheets or accounting, and it was great, I answered, learn legislation. And I could also do BD and resourcing, but this ain't a one man show. You know, that's not how a company runs. And I think that was so difficult to understand. Any any person, you know, especially running a small company, you kind of gotta wear all the different hats, but you kind of also have to know when you've got to take those hats off and give them someone else is better than you. And that was a really hard lesson to learn.
I can I understand that running a small business is not easy. When you first start out, you're wearing every hat, every hat possible. And then as you grow, you have to be able to be able to, like you said, give them over to other people. But if you're a lone wolf, and I understand that quite well, myself, like I have, I've always struggled to allow people into business and things like that, and I'm sure my finace can attest to that as well that he's now in the business and helping me out of it. But he like, like it's hard, it's really hard to be able to let go of some of that control and, and being able to go in that actually is a big pain point for a lot of leaders, right? They've especially good recruiters can go sort of good companies, but that doesn't necessarily mean they're going to be a good leader. And being able to admit you and be accountable to go, You know what, I might not be the best at this but try wanting to do a bit better is always the way forward right? And sometimes That's really interesting. You're talking about behaviors. And I think behaviors is something that a lot of people don't pay enough attention to, in regards to when they're recruiting, let's looking at the like the resilience piece, motivators, their drivers and things like that. So how does that how does that actually, how does that actually work? And how does that person going to grow within the company as well, nice people can be nice people, you can be a nice recruiter and have the good attributes, like you said, but it doesn't mean necessarily that they can, that's always going to be transitioned over into being a good, a g ood recruiter. So I think that's really important to understand the behavioral part. Now, resilience gets talked a lot about in recruitment, and you have to be resilient, and you have to be able to manage stress, you have to be able to work under pressure, right? And that's a big part of being resilient is being able to understand, you know, what, I'm feeling a bit, I'm feeling really pressured, how can I actually shift my mindset and be able to focus on driving forward, rather than letting it overcome, you know, that's something that you actually said, you know, you you woke up and you had all these debts really quickly, you thought you're going to be okay. And then you know, you're in your car driving to work going, like, I want to be in a Ferrari and you just focusing on money. So it took me about three years to kind of transition over and said, you know, what, I need a bit more support with my team. And so, you know, we're kind of getting up to the point where it was about a year ago, where you're like, Alright, like, I need, I've been able to delegate a bit better create a better structure of my company. So how was how painful was it to really take those hats off? Like, I know, you said it was painful, but how painful was it?
Well, first of all, I'm still taking some of that off. Now, to be honest, so I'm not wearing any right now. But I am still slowly taking some hats off of this current point, I think it really changed for me, you know, probably about a year and a half ago, give or take. So, you know, I got actually listened to a podcast, I found one on the executive director Toni Cocozza, and I'm, you know, listening to her journey and her story and how things were going, it really gave me like some inspiration to say look, I'd been through so much, so much in terms of hard times, you know, complexities. And I had to show so much resilience in the original first three years, when the debt was almost insurmountable, you know, it was ridiculous. But I had to come in with a smiley face, you know, get on the phone lead for lead by example, as well. And I'm sure that most business owners have been there, I'm not unique in any way, shape, or form, when it comes to that, too. But after me and Toni, we began to first of all, like work on myself and I began to work on what I should be doing. And focusing now I'm sure we'll probably talk about this bit later on. But anyone with ADHD will know that, you know, it's just like, there's like a trillion things going on inside your brain all at the same time. And when you're going to sit down, you either really like doing something, which is hyper focus, and you just do it for hours on end, and no one can get you away from that task. We just don't really do a lot you just like, you know, do a bit of this task a bit that task a bit less task, you don't really get too much done. So we began like putting structures in place and began looking at the business as a whole, all the different processes, etc. And I think we got to a really, really good level, actually, in March 2020. Just before, like, we went into, we went into full lockdown in March or April was
The end of March, end of March, we went into a full lockdown.
Okay, so March was our best month on record at the time, actually, in 2020. So, I mentally I've managed to get to a point where I was thinking, Wow, I've actually done this, you know, I'm actually starting to get here, you know, the seeing some positive sense of forward momentum. The company has been built in the right way organically, and we're going to go places. And then we all know what happened in April, it was the best month on record, followed by the worst month on record. So you know, talk about cataclysmic high or low. It was just so so painful, but I you know, same as most people I think I gave themself 24 hours to truck all my dollies out of the pram and feel sorry for myself.
We have to honor our feelings. Now you want to do that is what you want to do. So then your toys out the pram, kick and scream. I'm sure there's a lot of people that can resonate with that.
Oh, absolutely. You know, you had to like really digest what had happened. And they are just I was sat there for a few months in disbelief thinking there's just no way we're going to go into a lockdown that doesn't, you know, like the economy can handle that. And then it happened. And we're Oh my word. And I remember, there was a massive shortage of laptops at the time. And
I remember this as well. I remember that, like a lot of my other clients were suffering like Katie how do I get laptops, and they went, and then the price of them just like skyrocketed as well. I remember that.
Absolutely. So I ended up phoning around a few local companies and seeing if they had like spare laptops or whatever and I actually bought them off. The local companies spoke because we just couldn't find any way to come up with a solution quickly to get some laptops and were most of us were based on PCs at the time. I scrambled around I was scouring this, that and the other and we managed to get everyone on laptops Don't get me wrong, there were probably the anywhere near the specs that we've got in the office. Now at the point, they did the job for the time and, and around that time, I think we actually got to speaking around March April time, because, you know, I thought that I definitely still needed to work on myself quite a bit and evolve by also needed some help and support about how to drive the you know how to drive the business forward, but with me, at the heart of it be right at the heart of it. So, around that time, I decided to follow up on like an ADHD diagnosis. So a friend of mine owns a recruitment company. It mentioned that he had been medicated for his ADHD, and it kind of changed his life, you know, it gave him a platform to build on. And then, strangely enough, the same week, another friend of mine said that one of his clients, because he's a personal trainer had lost quite a lot of weight. Once he'd gone on to the medication at the time, I was definitely eating well, too many Domino's pizzas. So as you can imagine, my brain lit up--
I think it was like, Dominos and a bit of ice cream, you were like, that's my diet; Dominos and ice cream.
Oh, absolutely, absolutely. But um, you know, prior to that point, in my early 20s, I, if anyone knows me, or has listened to us, or would would clearly know that I have ADHD and had it from very young age. And I went to a doctor's when I was in my early 20s. And they gave me I think, just like a antidepressant. And it really changed, like, my whole personality change my mood completely. So I took it for a couple of weeks, just I felt like I'd lost half my personality, and I was just deadpan, you know, lifeless, almost for a few weeks, I decided that was a I'm not going to do anything about that. I came off the medication and like buried it and said, Look, I'll just deal with it myself. But after hearing these, you know, stories from a couple of really good friends, I thought it's probably best I have a look into this. So at the same time, we started working together, I got a psychology, psychiatry just went for a test. And it transpired that I have really severe ADHD, in fact. And she was quite surprised, I'd managed to get to this point anyway, without doing too much harm to myself psychologically. But it gave me a foundation, first of all, to understand what it was all about who I was, but it also gave me like a story as well, it, I began understanding why in certain points of my life, I did certain things. And it really gave me a strong foundation to work with you, and others to begin, like creating routines, like good solid routines. Those kind of newly found confidences, and I guess, that journey almost began that month, in March and April, a new journey completely. And I went to, you know, fortunately, obviously in UK will give us the credit business interruption loans. So, you know, I went through the current business interruption line, and I saw in April, the chance to just completely remodel the whole company, from you know, really bottom to top, then all the way back down again, then round to make it what it needs to be. So I began like a monumental task of just redoing all the processes, all the systems, all the technology, all the hiring, and unfortunately, due to the markets, we were in the fact only call workers were allowed to work in the first lockdown. I, we contracted quite significantly, and we ended up going all the way down to about four members of staff.
Yeah, I remember I remember when we first like you went down to you for down to four members, you'd built it up, you'd had your best month and then you had to, I think you put a few on furlough from memory. And then you had four co workers and I was using the full code for coworkers.
Absolutely. And you know, those, those four people have been absolutely fantastic during the pandemic. And I think it's just such a shame because when obviously we get into these really tight situations with the economy, recessions, etc. is so difficult for new recruiters to come into a market that's been, you know, absolutely decimated by a number of other recruitment companies. (Yeah.) And to learn the job whilst in a very challenging, economical environment. It's like Mission Impossible. It really is difficult.
Yeah, it'd be really interesting to hear how many people decided to go into recruitment during the pandemic because it would have been the top it would have been literally like baptism by fire like it would have you would have been so challenging. That's how I went into recruitment I was, when I was in recruitment, I got put into an office and it was remote from everyone else. Everyone was in Sydney and I was in Melbourne. And so it was baptism by fire for me and you either; sink or swim. But that's recruitment. Right? But then, Chuck in a recession, she's like, I would love to hear from recruiters that actually started and how they actually how they went and how they're doing. My gosh.
Absolutely, very difficult. So we, we managed to, you know, keep a four--four people. And at that same time, I quickly, quickly pivoted, we looked into certain niches within our sector space. And we had we had energy and utilities at that time, I managed to headhunt or get a number of people have been made redundant from local companies. And these were absolutely exceptional people. You know, I quickly realized that there were people that had been billing 300 to 450 to 800k, a year, on the way in markets, you know, aviation, hospitality, marine that were just hit so badly that they had a really big contract plan, that they never want to leave that suddenly, overnight, everything changed.
Yeah, because so many people got made redundant from recruitment. Recruitment was one of those industries, that I mean, a lot of industries got hit hard, but there were certain obviously industries that completely got wiped out. And it's, it's definitely been challenged. So these poor people who just you know, a really good billers like, Okay, what am I gonna do now.
And on that point, you know, recessions, continuous contractions of an economy. So like, you almost see it coming, you know, you wish you could either, of course, but you see, so at some point in coming in, you can see clearly evidence of what's occurring. But this was instant lead. So it was almost like, overnight, everything changed. (Yeah.) And normally, you know, when you're recruiting as, you know, an owner of recruitment company, it's really difficult to get amazing stuff from other companies that have strong contract plans, or, you know, really good, well developed clients, it's-- it's really difficult to get someone to leave that market when they're in a very comfortable position. So I thought, right, then, there. This is a very unique time, a very unique time where I need to go and get some amazing people and quickly, so that's what I focused all my efforts on. At the same time, I began like mapping all our different processes, understanding them, streamlining them to like the nth degree. And then I began adding a lot of new technologies. These technologies were integration, so they all the technology will talk to each other. I started looking into AI and we're using it on a couple of things at the moment. And I joined TRN about that time as well, the recruitment network Yeah. Absolutely, absolutely. Yeah. Well, they had like 6 million different suppliers so you know, just a random browsing through him and seeing you know, what I could use and how I could use it. But we got to a point I think probably June or July where I'd added about five or six and we were we were around eight to ten people and we started to really start motor forward like we were getting you know vacancies out of absolutely nowhere. And then I think we had an another lockdown as well, didn't we?
Yeah, so what it was it was we had locked down one that went for four months or something like that, I believe. And then we had we went back everything was kind of back to normal. And then there was like, a one month lock down, which was the way to lock there was a weird lockdown. And then we went into again, lockdown. I depend on where you live. I was in lockdown from mid December because I'm in Kent. And then everyone else I think when I'm in January, so yeah, it's definitely Yeah, it was definitely got hit. So you so when you pretty much you mean it locked down here through to you three jollies out of the pram and then you started. That's it, I'm going to get some structure into place. I'm going to actually use this time to actually grow my business, I'm actually going to invest in it. So you got the loan and just completely invested in your business and decided you know what, I'm going to grow it that's what you were going to do.
Absolutely. And just to you know, just to really hone the point in what I had to understand very quickly about ADHD is what I was good at while I wasn't good at and I begin focusing on the things that I was good at. You know if I created myself F in something I wasn't going to spend time to get myself up to a C grade doesn't make any sense or just so I hired a PA I won't say her name because I don't want anyone else using her she's that good--oh, I hired a BA which took a lot of like more admin burden stuff away from me, immediately gave me so much spare time and stuff that I can actually focus on, you know, tangible outputs on which I began concentrating on and towards what may be August time I think we started to break sales records. So, in my own mind, I think March so what March August, what we're talking five months or so we've managed to go from, you know, close to 10 people, down four, and then all the way back up again and then break the record as well at the same time. But then it started getting really interesting, really interesting where we were starting to add some amazing people into the sectors and starting to map it out, starting to disband it. But my wife at the time, I had a conversation me and I've always wanted to go back to academia and do some work in psychology, but do a doctorate or something on side. So I ended up signing up for a Master's, like in Business Administration. So a couple of the projects that I've got are basically all to do with Toro, that works. So again, like utilizing the power of academia and the information that I was learning from my professors, you know, from the work and from the readings that I was doing, to bring directly back into Toro. And each each each book that I read, and each audible that I listened to, and each scientific paper or journal that I read too, I began just creating new ideas and began putting them into practice into play. But because I understood my ADHD in the fact that I see like a shiny item, and I want to buy it in a matter of seconds. I knew that I had to kind of test it, I couldn't just, you know, immediately walk into the company one day and say, Look, all of the processes completely overhauled, sorry, guys, but I've had these wonderful, wacky ideas, I had to begin, I had to create like a map of testing it and understanding it, and making sure it was logical and worked. But at that time, I was the only one kind of in senior management. Yeah, apart from Toni, who, you know, speak to regularly each week, or once a month. There wasn't any one stopping me, my ludicrous ideas prior to that point.
No one, no one was reining you in going, hang on, slow down.
Absolutely. But don't get me wrong, one out of three of them were pretty good. But the other two were just a complete waste of money as you can imagine. (Yeah.) But that's that's the wonderful thing about ADHD, you've got a home the right, you got a home, the benefits of it, and understand what the good ideas and what are the bad ideas and what actually needs to be tested and what needs to just be chucked in the bin almost. So August, we started adding some new people into the mix. And we we began formulating an 18 month project, which kicks off a couple of months ago, I worked with an external consultant for it. And I won't say exactly what we're doing. But fundamentally, it's all to do with the quality and the speed in which our service, which our service can go from, from all the way from the candidate basically, all the way to the candidates being placed. And the quality aspect would be the candidate staying in the contract, or 12 months afterwards, I began creating a project with a pair of academia, an external consultant, and managed to get Senior Manager on actually, three or four weeks ago, his sole job, he saw role is to deliver that project over the next 18 months. But it's not been done at all in recruitment in the world of academia on the whole planet. So this is actually like trailblazing stuff that we're doing. And it's all to become more efficient, higher levels of quality faster and more customer centric. So looking at customers, and designing bespoke kind of ways of working with them. So we can really get to the crux of what they want, you know, and back to your point, you know, about behaviors, you know, that needs to be considered. All of that needs to be considered and put into a process around this big lockdown. I think it was November time, wasn't it? We went into like a--
We went into a month lockdown in November, and then December we got let out and then it was locked down again. So like yeah.
Yeah. So we broke our record again in November, on our sales record again in November, and December dropped off, but I think it does for a lot of recruitment companies.
It's a recruitment industry, right like you're the busiest throughout the year. And then December can be a little bit touch and go, depending on what industry you work in. Because it comes up to Christmas. People are thinking about holidays. They're not thinking about leaving. It's it's pretty common.
Absolutely. And so so when we got into January, I think it was a bit of a slow burner for first couple of weeks. But then we really started motoring forward very quickly. So February, we broke the record. Again, for total sales and Britain. March game, we broke the record and April Bridger, we're going to break records as well by looks at it. And I think we are now adding and we're now scaling quite quickly. No, we're not scaling in terms of what a tech company does, like you know, go from 10 to like 700 in like 12 months. crazy like that. When not within a much smaller, steadier organic scale is the way I'd look at it, but you're from the point of four We should be at 21 within the next couple of months.
And you've got to put into context, right? Like if you're a small business, and you've got four employees at that time, like, yes, you went from 10, you went down to four. But you've got to be able to go from four to 21, in the span of 12 months without, with a lockdown with, you know, all you know, with a lockdown with all the recession, and all that kind of stuff happening and all the uncertainty and to be then to be diagnosed with ADHD, which was actually ended up being a very big positive for you, because you were able to actually understand it. And I think I just want to touch on this point, just for a second, I think with ADHD, it's really misunderstood, that you can't focus, it's actually you can focus, it's just, you focus on what you want to focus on a lot of the times really weird story, I actually wrote three books about ADHD when I was in my 20s really weird story. But I did do that. And it's definitely being able to I always say ADHD and ADD, you got to find what works for you. And you've got to find like, and you've got to compensate with what you can't do, right. And being able to understand that and putting things in place is really important. But back into context, going from four to 21 people is a pretty big feat for any type of small business with, you know, especially the year that we've had.
Yeah, absolutely. And I think I think how we're able to do that, and how we're going to scale to at least for I think we're going to be at least 50, before the end of the year, is because we develop the systems, we develop the processes, we developed inductions, we developed training, and this is you know, I'm a perfectionist, so none of this is ever going to be done. And we always, unfortunately, chasing mortal targets, and we're never going to achieve, but the benefit is that we sign up for continuous improvement, like we will always improve, will never ever say, again, look, this is a job done. Because it's not just that, we will get better and better and better. So I think the mentality of redesign of the whole company in terms of processes, then how the systems now the it worked, how the tech work, and how they spoke to each other as well, you know, like, I think that was so important because that, that the solid foundation we were able to go with, then on top of that, you know, we can't take anything away from how good the staff are at Toro. But the consultants are unbelievable, like, they've come from different sectors and different backgrounds. And they're smashing the records out of the park at the moment. So I think once we managed to get the processes, right, we managed to strategically go off to the right sectors. And we were very quick in pivoting and moving.
Yeah, I was gonna I was about to ask that because you, you were able to, like you said you had 24 hours where you will like practice sheets, you did your anything you like, you know, I think everyone had that moment. But some people didn't get out of that they didn't get out of that funk for quite some time. And they could only see what they couldn't control on you were able to sort of do it for 24 hours, and then actually go you know what I need to refocus, I need to refocus. And I need to make sure that this business survives. And I need to make sure that we get through this. And by doing that you ended up thriving as well, which is which is actually something that's really important. I know, we talked about pivot last last year and in copious amounts, but being able to do it quickly was really important.
I think it's in regards to businesses and, and the markets up and down and round around. There are so many complexities, so many things that we just we don't know that will happen happen, that you have to be able to absorb, like a load of variation all at once. And I think if you can't, what we've seen is that the companies that weren't able to move quickly change, you know, adapt, they've just gone under, you know, there, we all know the story of Woolworths certainly, we all know the story of Blockbuster, we know that we're nowhere near quick enough to change it, you know, businesses old, you know, Simon Sinek would say is an infinite game, you know, like, it just continues on forever in a day. So the only thing that you should be signing up to in business is a permanent evolution. That's it. As soon as you stand still, you've stopped. And quite simply that you something will hit you from behind, and you will not be able to recover from it. So for me, it was just, even even when I started the business a very long time ago, I'd signed up to change as a permanent fixture in my life. And I never wanted to necessarily keep things the same because I knew that I'd have to learn I'd have to understand that have to reflect on my experiences and get better. And if you have that mindset, I think you're able to overcome these obstacles. You're able to do some research, right? (Yeah)
I was gonna say be able to perceive it differently. Like if you're constantly looking at change, and because I think the biggest thing is people fear change. But if you kind of embrace that change and challenges, you're able to sort of take uncertainty and things that do sort of happen externally, too, that you can't control a little bit easier. You're actually able to find what you can do rather than what you can't do. A lot of people get stuck in it. This is the way things are right now, this is all I've ever known. So those people would have really struggled when locked down here, because we've never experienced anything like this. If you're a business owner, your business manager or you're doing anything in business, and that was your mindset, it would be really interesting to see where those businesses are at right now, if they stick around. Because, (absolutely) if you're constantly embracing the fact that things have to change, you're going to lean into that discomfort. You know, one of the biggest things that why people go away from change is because it's uncomfortable. And normally, if we go back to hunter gatherer times when we felt uncomfortable it was because we're probably in a situation we're getting attacked by a saber toothed tiger, which is not, which is not our reality right now. So we've got to kind of be able to take a step back and go, actually, what is reality right now? Like, how am I actually like, what is really going on? And kind of looking at yourself going, Well, what can I do in this moment to change the situation, and actually focusing on that, rather than anything else, rather than, you know, the noise, the white noise that we know, that we can talk about, is really, really important. And so I think that you actually signing up when you first signed your business, is the reason why I like to change is the reason why you're still standing today and scaling out. Awesome, right? Especially looking at recruitment companies.
You know, and you just mentioned something about the you know, hunter gatherer that obviously, in ADHD brain, the executive functioning is gone slightly amiss, you know, your, your, the uptake of the, the uptake of dopamine just doesn't work in the same way. So you need like, huge spikes of dopamine, in an ADHD brain, which you don't, you know, necessarily need a normal brain. And on the point of ADHD, we can say, like, you know, distraction, everyone gets distracted. And we can say, you know, like, loads of different things happening all your mind at the same time. Well, everyone gets that as well. But the difference is in ADHD, you just have it all the time. So everyone would look at a list of ADHD and go, Well, yeah, I've got that, you know, definitely got that. But this we can't switch off, you know, just is like that all the time, unfortunately. But back to the point of the the hunter gatherer, while the executive function of the brain is normally is null and void in ADHD men, but the benefits that is that you have these huge creative urges, you know, that these impulses, and that that was where I started, you know, dreaming of crazy stuff in the middle of summer. And those ideas worked, those ideas worked, you know, I, I was sat there thinking in a very different way, and looking at things in a very, very different way, very atypical, which enabled me to quickly move, adapt, and then go with a couple of ideas, and they worked wonders. So I think it was, first of all, seeing things in a different way to how some people were seeing. And the second was actually having the one of a better word--to move forward with my ideas, and actually go for it because I could have been very risk averse. But--
We're naturally risk averse, right? Like, as human beings, we're actually naturally risk averse. Like, if you, if I said to you, hey, you could win 50 pounds, or you could lose 50 pounds, the 50 pounds that you won would mean less to you than the 50 pounds that you lost. Just the way it that's the way our brain works. It's just how we are as human beings is the way that we are wired. So you have to overcome that, especially when you're needing to take risks in business.
I mean, there's a lot of literature out there on top of ADD and ADHD, and a lot of it says, you know, when we go back a good 300-400 years people with with the, you know, issues with the executive function, and the ones probably running after a lion with a spear, kind of crazy people that aren't backing away and going for it. So we need those people in society as well as we need the rest of the people that are quite risk averse, you know, but the benefit of understanding that is there. I know that if I'm left on my own accord, I'll probably you know, burn a hole through everyone's wallet because I love 60 million ideas, and it's not a good idea. So I understand that now. It's worth people in the business where we can sit down and discuss it logically, and understand exactly, you know, what it is we're trying to achieve, and whether you know, some of the creative sparks that I have, and then move into it as well. And on that point, I think, you know, one of the major changes that occurred during that time, especially working here is coming up with like routines, so you know, like routines and evening routines in the morning, too. A lot of the time I would just jump straight into work. And I did the first task I possibly could then the next then next and next. And those tasks might not directly be correlated with the growth of the business that I'd aim for or strategically planned. So I had to take a step back and begin like properly planning my months and my weeks and my days and looking after myself because I'm sure you remember that I don't really get stressed like not inside my head you know, not nothing going on. But it manifests itself in a different way. I tend to have like stomach cramps, ya know stomach pains. We He quickly noted that if I was doing too much and working seven days a week and 12 hours a day, the likelihood is that on the following Monday, the lagging indicator would be like some stomach pain, you know, some issues there. So those routines massively helped me. Because I could take a step back and kind of look after myself, you know, mentally, spiritually and physically as well, you know?
Yeah, I think that's a, that's a really big point. And I think something that I want to tell everyone about this is, when we say when we perceive stress, we always say, as somebody sort of in the corner, like, all kind of like hiding and shying away from everything, and just sort of, you know, not not really being brave and going after things, and that's, that is one element of stress. That's like the very overwhelmed stress. That's the very like the very negative stress in regards to how we perceive it mentally. However, there is another side to stress, which I talked to a lot of people about, like, you know, especially with the Type A professionals which you are my friend, you're absolutely a Type A professional. It's all about understanding that stress, it doesn't necessarily mean if we're perceiving it good or bad, is this something still happening to the body, we're still putting our body under pressure, and it's still something happening physiologically to happen to us, I got health as a massive one and stomach cramps and things like that. So that is definitely something we need to talk about. Because I just, I had to just mention just that, because you're absolutely right. Like you didn't get stressed. Like you didn't really have the, the mindset piece of the stress, but you had the physical, the physical flare ups, which was (absolutely) kind of like, Hang on a second, that's your body worn and going, Hey, hey, slow down just a little bit, I need a bit more sleep and a little bit more downtime. So--
Yeah, no, absolutely. I mean, I'm sure you remember that Fitbit created an EMDR thing, which is like a stress monitor. So it does your you know, your your body temperature, your heart rate. And that also acted as like, an indicator to how I was feeling what I was doing, and how I could rein it back in. And I began meditation as well, in the last six months, which, if you if you ever told me that I would possibly meditate--
Oh, I remember telling you like, Mmm not sure how I feel about that I might just try for five minutes.
Yeah, it doesn't. It was very, it was really difficult to get into. But now I swear by it, I do it every evening. And if I, if I wake up and I do have a slight reaction, I know that I'm doing meditation, it's like the easy medication you can take to get back on track and to get focused again, as well. But yeah, I think the routines, which is so important, I really want to harp on about not having that, like, you know, really destroys my day, you know. So it makes me focus on the things that I should be focusing on. And I'm able then to move forward with the plan of action that we've got as an organization, and me as an individual my personal goals, too.
Yeah, well, routines or habits, right. And if you think about what habits, the reason why we have habits is, it's typically like the automatic responses, right? They're automatic. So we don't have to think about doing things and routines can kind of break us free from that. So it actually just helps us set us several days out like one of the biggest mistakes I see people make is they wake up and the first thing they do is check their phone and they check their messages, they check their emails, they go on social media, and all that kind of stuff. And they do that before they go to bed. So they're really essentially just waking up paying attention to what other people's wants, needs and desires are of them rather than actually taking a step back and processing their own thoughts and actually going, what do I want to succeed today? What do I actually need to do? Because, you know, you know, not everyone has ADHD, but everyone does have that ability to focus on the wrong things and execute the wrong things that aren't right for in that moment. And there's a lot of people that do that. And you know, obviously having ADHD, you can kind of latch on to things and do that a little bit more and get distracted a little bit more. But the routines piece is super important, not just for people with ADHD for everyone, because it helps you, you know what you're doing with your day and you kind of create those habits that are going to be beneficial to you rather than kind of hinder you, which a lot of people probably pick up bad habits in the last 12 months.
No, absolutely. I think one of the biggest tricks that I did was just turn all the notifications off on my iPhone. So I don't actually know why I wear an Apple Watch these days if no notifications can come through, but I'm used to ways the habit is what you said anyway, but no, no notifications means you can't get distracted. I remember reading some research a few years ago saying that if you were deeply ingrained into a task, you know what cheats in my higher classes as flow? If you're if you're properly ingrained into that task, and something distracts you, someone distracts you, it takes you about I think it's 20 to 31 minutes or so to get back into it. I mean, if you think about that, and I mean, there's I think you have the capability of looking at how many notifications you have each day on the iPhone or an Android device. How many how many times is that thing distracted you in a single day. So how much more work could you get done without those distractions and especially for me that if I see a fly half a mile away, you know that distracts me anyway, let alone having three devices, you know, two watches and the phone constantly, bleeping all the time. So I think it's a really, really good tack to use.
Yeah, I turned off all my notifications years ago. So I, I just don't i don't get any notifications, it's kind of annoying of people really trying to get ahold of me, but I'll get a hold of me because my notifications are off. And, but that's actually really good one another really good one is to be able to put downtime on your phone. So being able to actually schedule time where your phone doesn't go off at all. And actually just, you know, you kind of think about it, your phone just automatically does it. So I think that that's somebody thought. Yeah, I think that that's really, that's really important as well. But yeah.
In terms of where we're going now, which, you know, because I feel like I kind of give you a part answer, I guess, to how to scale what to do. Now, we've begun building all the systems, but we kind of were on the way to a very good strong platform in terms of processes tech automation, I quickly realized that I was actually now the roadblock, I was the hindrance. So there was still a lot that just came directly to me. And that wasn't really what I needed at the organization to grow to the next level. So I began, like really mapping out my skill sets, what I like doing, and I think there's a really important lesson to learn that I've learned in the last six months is that you might be really good at doing something, okay, like, I'm really, I can do an invoice, if when it's writting an invoice or pro forma or something, I can do that. But if you don't want to do it, and your natural energies don't flow into that task, there is a hell of a lot of friction. And it might be a better idea just to completely outsource it or give it to someone else. So in the last three or four months, I realized the amount of time that I was spending, trying to solve accounting issues out, you know, spreadsheet issues, issues with this, that and the other. So I made a business decision to outsource quite a lot of our back office. But in fact, all of our back office, which made me concentrate just on the sales aspect, which is what I'm good at the you know, that's exactly what I, you know, create a company to do to concentrate on the sales side, I had no intention to become the CFO of my company. So I wanted to drive it, you know, from a creative point of view, and make sure that the sales were driving upwards as well. So create it, creating a discipline, not distance. But creating a back office outsource function enabled us to scale very, very quickly, you haven't got to worry about you know, hiring credit controller, hiring someone that's, you know, an FD hiring a financial manager, hiring someone that does your marketing, hire someone who does this, I managed to outsource all of that. And therefore, you know, if I, if I scale to 100 people the next year in a bit, then it's not my issue to worry about whether our outsourced finance company can scale or not. That's their problem, they take care of it, they take care of the appraisals. And that's my massive positive because you don't have to worry about that. And if I could do, if I could do you know, Toro again and went back to day one, I would have outsourced it from day one, that would have been something that I would have concentrated on, look, because I would have been able to hone my talents at the sales side and be able to train more people to move people forward. On that same notion there, I realized that my skill sets were to, you know, to come up with the ideas and to make sure that we were delivering very high standards to ensure that all our processes made sense. And all of our human interactions were the highest quality. So I've hired a couple of people lately that do things that I just can't do. And I could do him but you probably again, talking about F grades or C grades, when they can do naturally A stars and their natural energies flow to those levels too. And I think that's so important for an organization. You need people around you that not only compliment you but can do things that you just cannot do. And that's that's how you grow. And that's how you can scale quickly. Because I've always I was the roadblock. So I think all of those things together have put us in quite quite a unique position right now where the economy is coming back in and we're hopefully going to see an increase in sales naturally anyway, because everyone's gonna be back at work, aren't they?
Yeah, absolutely and I think one of the biggest things that you said there is outsourcing to sort of remove the remove the roadblocks and a lot of people don't do that. They just keep them internal, and it becomes more of a hassle for them. So if you just remove all of that you're actually removing roadblocks so you can execute on what you're good at. And that's scaling and building and I think that that's something that a lot of people who would really like you know, would really like to know how what that's a really good bit of advice from you. To be able to scale--efficiently and effectively as well. So I think that that's really, I feel that's really good.
Yeah, I know, just on that point as well, that when when I was first given that idea, which was from one non exec my ego turned around said, No, not not doing that, you know, like you, you--down, you'd always envisage having an HR manager and an accounts team and, you know, like our, like, our whole company with all these different departments. And I really had to put myself back in check and say, like, What are you trying to achieve here? You know, what is? what's the what's the end goal of this? Because it's to deliver, you know, uncompromisable, ridiculously high levels of quality? And are you going to achieve that if you're concentrating on hiring an HR manager or doing appraisals for finance managers and FD's? It doesn't make any sense. It's not, it's not where I wanted to the direction of the company to go. So I had to keep my ego back in check and say that? (well that's helpful, isn't it?) Yeah, definitely. Absolutely. It was, it was a great, it was a really, really good decision. And I've never looked back, once I did begin outsourcing the things that I can do and begin getting the people inside the organization that I can do as well. And it's very exciting to grow an organization with such talented people. And I feel like in this journey, you mentioned, it's been five and a half years, I feel that only started a year ago, I feel like I actually only started a year ago, I've got so much energy and so much excitement that I will literally leap out the bed at half five in the morning, pretty much every day. And I can't wait to get to work. You know, and I've lately, I think I told you that I managed to start earlier with the premise of finishing early. But I've actually just started earlier and continuously worked to seven o'clock anyway. So as I said, as well, that I'm an evolution, the company's evolving as well. So I constantly challenged myself to get better and make sure that I keep myself in check by keeping the morning routines, evening routines, as well. But there's still a long way to go and awful long way to go.