Day 1, Chris, David and our accountant turn up for work. In those days we had a small office just off the high street in Chesham. It wasn’t pretty but start-ups rarely are. We got to work figuring out how to identify our target Recruiters. We thought we knew what launch facilities we would need to provide. Boy oh boy, looking back we knew nothing! This is a business which is all about experience, problem-solving and personal relationships. It is not about providing a bunch of services to a few Recruiters.
We had our first real business breakthrough when we finally managed to convince some important suppliers that it was OK for SSG to buy in bulk and then give away their product to ‘our guys’. They were suspicious! What were up to? Why would be doing that? But to be fair, this was a brand new concept and Job Boards like Total Jobs & REED & Job Site all took a gamble on us – which has worked out famously well. To see how those partnerships have developed, take a good look at the ‘SSG Partners’ section of this site.
We were growing, taking on more talent to support our Clients and making a few pounds profit. It was time to move office. After weeks of agonising over the cost, we finally moved into our present building, Dower House in Berkhamsted. It was, in fact, Clare Armstrong who found the office for us when out walking with her son. She knew it was perfect for us – upmarket, spacious, friendly & with enough parking to welcome our visitors. Clare neglected to ask about the building being haunted… well, you don’t ask do you!
A massive milestone for SSG – 50 business launches. By now, we were flying and the concept of what we do was beginning to get some traction in the recruitment marketplace. We were all working like crazy men as the day to day demands of our business model became clear. This is not just about having the tools, talent & time available to support motivated Recruiters; it is more about understanding that things go wrong, that flexibility is more important than a contract and that nothing good comes easy. We needed to grow.
Everything was running along very well. Our Client numbers were growing, ‘our guys’ were making good money (which means that SSG does well too) & we managed to recruit some key staff (who remain with us still today – including Gill Miles & Vikki Buckley). We signed a number of long-term deals with the Job Boards, a training provider (Mike Walmlsey) & a couple of great Recruitment Software vendors. We knew that we needed to keep adding to our offering & we felt that it was time to invest & reinvest & learn & grow.… what could go wrong?
Lehman Brothers. Wall Street. Northern Rock. Grim pictures of worried Government staff. Meltdown on the Stock Markets. Recruitment freezes. No Hire policies. Carnage.
Amazingly, ‘our guys’ rode out this wave of financial horror. With zero fixed costs, no real overheads and a personal drive to just keep making placements, our turnover (which is just a reflection of the turnover of our Clients) continued to grow. We were all cautious, we all worked a little harder and we all took nothing for granted. But it was clear – there is more security in running your own business than there ever will be working for someone else.
This was the year of the SSG Client Exit! No, not SSG losing our clients but some of our Clients selling their fledgeling business! Great news as 3 business owners realised their dreams of financial independence, proving that it is perfectly plausible to set up in a back bedroom and make your recruitment millions. SSG continued to grow as Client numbers increased and ‘profit per client’ also grew as the world became accustomed to recession. SSG were pushing for 100 business launches by the end of 2009 but we just missed out!
Milestones all the way throughout 2010. 100 Business launches, record turnover, record profits, staff expansion. It was all go with the economy enjoying historically low-interest rates and our Clients making the most of all of the online tools available to them. Tax breaks helped many of ‘our guys’ take-home increased drawings and our accounts team worked hard to manage the process.
A fresh blast of SSG initiatives to expand our offering saw the introduction of new internal Payroll facilities, an expansion of the Launch Team (now run by Laura Mould), the introduction of our own publication (The Dark Side) and the extension of our job board portfolio (now including the big boys like Total Jobs, REED, Job Site, CV Library, Simply Jobs, but also many niche portals such as Staff Nurse, Careers in Recruitment and Aviation Job Search (to name but a few)). Exciting times, but we recognised that the only way to keep ‘our guys’ winning was to keep improving.