Mike Beesley is one of the UK’s leading recruitment entrepreneurs. He and his long-term business partner Keith Dawe recently set up TIMESTWO Investments – a business aimed at supporting recruitment and people-focused startups accelerate their growth and make an impact in industry.
As one of the founders and CEO of recruitment giant RSG, which recorded a turnover of more than £420m in 2018, and a private investor in other businesses, BLM spoke with him about the potential pitfalls facing startups on their road to success – and how the right investment can make all the difference.
Mike, you’ve been on the front line of the recruitment industry since the 70s – how and why is the sector changing?
From the early days of having to overcome the fact that the use of recruitment agencies was very limited due to organisations not even knowing they exist, through to today where we are looking at technology playing a major part in the everyday day life of a recruiter, the sector has and is always changing, It’s this that makes it so interesting. There has also been a huge move toward higher standards of professionalism and innovation.
What inspired you and your business partner Keith Dawe to set up TIMESTWO Investments now?
Put simply, there is no better time than now. Technology has made it so much easier for ambitious recruiters to set up independently. Stats from Companies House show nearly 40,000 rec agencies have been formed since 1980 and about 8,500 of these were in 2018 alone, with 84% registrations occurring in the past decade. The UK recruitment industry has grown 11% since 2017 and is now valued at nearly £36bn. So, we know there is talent out there and want to use our knowledge and expertise in supporting those who want to make a positive impact both in their own business and the industry as a whole.
What do you look for in an investment?
You’re looking for qualities in the person or people. On a personal level these can be energy, enthusiasm, drive, a desire to succeed, self-belief and, I always feel, a big dollop of humility and emotional intelligence goes a long way. You’re also looking for a can-do mentality, strong customer focus and belief with the obvious elements of being able to demonstrate business and financially savvy as well as being a clear communicator. There is also an element of the unknown, a sparkle in the eye, that makes you want to go on a journey with them.
What kind of investment are you offering and why?
Our business has been established to provide financial and technical investment which is formed on a case-by-case basis. Having done this ourselves a few times we know it’s important to minimise risks and distractions during the set up period such as setting up IT, finance and legal services, getting the website done and creating a CRM. Taking these elements out of the ‘to do’ list enables virtually 100% concentration on developing a customer base. We also provide access to an unrivalled mentoring pool of industry experts.
What are the defining principles needed for entrepreneurs to make a difference in their chosen area?
My experience shows that successful entrepreneurs tend to be highly driven individuals whose life and work are aligned. This is because purpose is a big factor in an entrepreneur’s mindset. It’s less about just making money than making a difference in some way, having an impact on the world around them and improving people’s experience of something. Most entrepreneurs take their work incredibly seriously, which is often why they have an ‘open-all-hours’ mentality. Running a business is stressful, so you have to develop a certain resilience too.
From a professional and personal basis, what are the main challenges they face in making this a success?
This is really at the heart of TIMESTWO because one of the major challenges is being distracted by irrelevant and time-consuming tasks. Delegate specialist tasks to the experts, even if it costs you money – its false economy to try and do it all yourself.
And the main priority should be finding customers and winning their loyalty. I often say that if you can’t sell hacksaws in prison then you shouldn’t be in business.
The pressures of starting a new business both mentally and emotionally are well documented. What are the top pieces of advice you’d give for managing a work/life balance?
There are many benefits to running your own show, but you have to accept that if you plan on starting your own business then your world is going to change and some elements of your personal time will suffer, certainly in the early years. Hours are long and holidays short so you must always remind yourself that the positives in the medium to long term can be huge. One of the things we want to do at TIMESTWO is reduce this stress in the initial stages. A healthy person has more focus and energy to deal with challenges as and when they arise – which makes for a better business in the long-run.