Jamie Woods, JCW
Always putting our employees first has been the secret to our success, says Jamie Woods, Founder and CEO of recruitment company JCW, which was crowned Employer of the Year in the 2021 Growing Business Awards.
- What does your business do?
We are a recruitment company. We place people into a range of different industries but mainly in financial services, life sciences and technology. We have a turnover of £50 million.
- Why did you decide to start your business?
I spent a couple of years working for another recruitment company after university and had a very clear vision of how to build an effective recruitment business based on having a strategy that was employee focused rather than client focused. My belief both then and now was that if I looked after the people that work here and made sure they were as happy and fulfilled as possible, then they in turn would look after the clients and the candidates and provide a great service. I could see that recruitment was largely a retention game, and that if you wanted to scale a successful recruitment business you had to be particularly good at not just attracting the best people but keeping them in your business as well.
- How did you finance the growth of your business?
I self-financed it with savings of £10,000 plus an £10,000 overdraft which I never needed. Since then it has been entirely financed from our own profits.
- What has been the most difficult or challenging part of growing your business?
The most challenging part of growing a business is once you get to more than 30 employees because at that point as founder you can’t rely your own style and force of personality to solely drive the culture yourself. You need to create an environment where all the individual teams have their own cultures that are keeping people engaged and excited. That requires a much more systemised approach and it took a long time to get it right.
- What key lesson have you learnt about setting up and growing a business?
The key lesson I have learnt, and it took me a while to learn, is that you have to be adaptable to the changing attitudes and expectations of the people you employ. We generally hire young people fresh out of university and the things that they expect and care about are drastically different to the type of things that people expected or cared about when I graduated in 2004. Back then no-one would have dreamt about talking about mental health in the workplace, for example, whereas now I think to really differentiate yourself as an employer to need to show that you prioritise the mental health and wellbeing of the people that work for you.
- What has been the impact of the pandemic on your business and how have you dealt with this?
Once we got past the fairly apocalyptic first six months or so, the hiring market rebounded and is substantially busier that it was before. Talent shortages are always very good for our business because if people are hard to find then clients need our help to find them. So last year was an incredibly good year and this year is looking good as well.
- What has been your biggest mistake?
One of the reasons why we are a good employer is we give people a lot of trust and autonomy and off the back of that we have had some really great leaders come through because of that freedom and flexibility. But the flip side is the mistakes that come with that; sometimes we have given the wrong people too much freedom and they have ended up failing because of that.
- What has been the secret of your success so far?
Humility is key and never getting to the point where we think we know it all.
- What advice would you give an entrepreneur just starting out about how to grow their business?
When people say work smart not hard, don’t believe them – you need to work both smart and hard.
- What personal quality or characteristic has been most useful to you as an entrepreneur as you grow your business?