Friday the 15th of April was the 20th year to the day that Prestige Recruitment Group opened for business. To celebrate this landmark year we took all our employees down to London for a VIP day which kicked off with a 4 hour cruise around the Thames, on board the beautiful MV Edwardian boat. The wine flowed, the food was sublime and then we headed off for a champagne and nibbles reception in a private pod on board the London Eye, by which time most of us were “pie eyed”!
Back In 96 - This Year in History!
In 1996 the recruiting landscape looked so different, life was different. For a start it was a leap year, John Major was PM, the US president was Bill Clinton, DVD's were Launched in Japan, Dolly the sheep was cloned and Nintendo released the Nintendo 64. In entertainment The English Patient and Independence Day were big at the cinema, and the top tracks of that year were The Spice Girls - Wannabe, Fugees -Killing Me Softly and Mark Morrison - Return Of The Mack. If you liked a good read The Green Mile by Stephen King was one of the best selling books. As for the news, Terry Venables announced he would resign as England manager, Prince Charles and Diana got divorced and Mad Cow Disease hit Britain. That then begs the question, were we mad to have an idea that we could open a recruitment company with different values to the rest of the herd!
In The Beginning
Having had nearly 10 successful years in recruitment I (Jeanette Wharrad) took a year out to travel Europe and on a sun drenched beach the idea was born for a recruitment business that would take on a fresh, honest and consultative approach, to challenge the “norm”, using recruitment techniques that nobody was using at that time. I knew I definitely wanted “a partner in crime” and approached Annejulie Webb whom I had previously worked with for 5 years. Together we pooled our money, planned our strategy and opened the doors in a humble office in Solihull, just a few desks, phones and a rolodex !! we also blew the first months’ petty cash on very expensive fresh flowers….well we wanted to create the right impression!! After 3 months we employed our first two Consultants and within 4 years had 4 offices and 42 staff! The Journey had begun in ernest with an amazing start, we found our gut instinct for a new consultative approach really resonated with our clients. In turn we were rewarded with great client retention and a plethora of new business.
We always describe our journey as a roller coaster ride, amazing thrilling highs and at times gut wrenching lows! The first 10 years were fast, invigorating and trouble free, we rode the crest of the wave peaking at 7 offices; again, always trying to look at things in a different way. We were the first agency to introduce a guaranteed speed of service: 15 minutes to fill a temp booking and 24 hours to get CV’s out for permanent roles and when the recession hit we then introduced a “unique guarantee period” to give clients an extra safety net. All these new introductions and our commitment to an ethical consulting approach really hit home. At our height we employed 75 staff, turned over £6 million and went from an agency providing office support staff to having specialist divisions focusing on niche markets. In 2005 we had to drag ourselves into the 21st century and invested in our first CRM system, goodbye rolodex, sorry to see you go! Our staff were a collection of talented, unique and colourful people, we had a great office vibe and a strong company culture…. then in 2006 we saw it coming, as we know, it was no ripple in the pond, it was more a tidal wave that hit the recruitment shores hard. We had to take drastic action to survive and keep our heads above water, we reduced our office network to 3 as we had to make very painful business decisions to ensure the survival of the company. After the highs this was one of the gut wrenching lows, but we now look back on it as an amazing learning experience in how to survive. As the saying goes “What does not kill you makes you stronger” and this period of time made ready to come back strong. We learned to be nimble, to keep open minds on new working paradigms and to keep focus on the one thing that matters, delivering the best service to our clients with that consultative approach that we were always known for. No short cuts for quick wins, just keeping to our principled approach to business knowing this would serve us well.
Where We Are Now
To say we have had to evolve as a business more than once would be an understatement, if we hadn’t the waves would have crushed us! We have learnt big lessons and whilst we are obviously older….. we are definitely much wiser and better business people for it!! After steadying the ship for a long period of time the last few years have seen us on the expansion trail again, fuelled by our success and dogged determination to create a leading client focused service. Technology now rules what we do, as well as our CRM system we have data management, multi posting & search software and an integrated website supporting social media and content marketing campaigns. We are proud to say our values never wavered though all the turmoil, we have been truly lucky to have a team of dedicated Consultants who have stayed loyal and helped us rebuild the great business that it once was. We are really looking forward to the future, we know there are more exciting times ahead and if we get the waves crashing in on our shores we will be ready! I still pine for that rolodex, the smell of tin and well used cards always brings a smile to my face (unlike when your network goes “down” and you cant do anything!) and Annejulie loves the fact she doesn't have to manually type up hundreds of time sheets any more (technology does rock!!) Let us see what we can do in the next decade, what new ideas we can bring to our industry as it changes and morphs within the fast changing environment that we all are part of.
The celebrations were a day to remember and of course the boat trip wouldn’t have been the same without those expensive fresh flowers courtesy of petty cash!!
We would like to thank all our clients, candidates and staff, past & present for a fantastic 20 years!