Neil Martin talks to entrepreneur Steve Preston about the impact of Brexit and whether having a new website has made a difference to his financial services recruitment business.
A couple of months on from the momentous decision by the UK public to leave the European Union, it’s clear that when you talk to any business owner these days the first question has to be, so did the earth move for you, post Brexit?
Steve Preston, who founded specialist recruitment agency Heat Recruitment which operates in the financial services sector, appears to be reflecting a general mood at the moment which suggests that whilst Brexit may have upset the apple cart, none of the fruit has yet been ruined.
Indeed, none other than Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England, stressed in July that it was very much business as usual at the moment and that the four riders of the apocalypse have, for now, dismounted (I’m paraphrasing a bit there).
Preston agrees. His own advice has a certain resonance: “Stay calm and carry on. Don’t start talking yourself into something daft.”
He cites his own experience, shortly after the Brexit vote, when sitting in a top meeting in the City of London and hearing one other recruitment executive lamenting that they were for sure going to lose business from one client who’d given up on recruiting executives for the European operation . As soon as these words were uttered, their phone rang and another client said it was ready to start a major recruitment drive to get staff for its UK operations.
Perhaps the old adage of when one door shuts, another opens, might well become a popular rallying call for the remainder of the decade.
Preston, who founded Heat Recruitment in Nov 2005from his bedroom, has quickly grown his company into a major player from its bases in Bristol and London. It operates within the accountancy, finance, IT, financial services, legal and general insurance sectors and plays a particular role in helping advisers, paraplanners and administration staff to find suitable new career opportunities.
Awards have stacked up since its beginning, which include the firm being finalists in the National Online Recruitments Awards in 2008 and 2011. Preston is determined to win the award in the coming years. In 2015, Heat Recruitment won the Project of the Year (Private Sector – 0/50 staff) category at the 2015 Employee Engagement Awards. These awards recognise and celebrate the people and companies which remake the way organisations think about and engage people to achieve their purpose.
Doubled in Size
Heat Recruitment has doubled in size since November 2015 and continues to recruit staff for its expansion, Brexit, or no Brexit. Said Preston: “We took on four new people just this week and we’re about to take on two more people next week. This was decided before Brexit and I see no reason to change our minds.”
Preston does admit that the real damage caused by Brexit, in his sector, might be with the very big players, who work with the huge national corporate accounts. But, he argues, that the specialist firms like his are sitting quite comfortably at the moment.
He also makes the point that when the referendum campaigning began, he was very much in the remain camp. However, over the course of the run-in to the vote, he became what he called a ‘middle-grounder’, one of millions of undecided who were not really convinced by the argument of either side.
The big difference for Preston and his team at Heat Recruitment, is that macro-economic considerations aside, the jobs market has changed and that a job for life, the realistic ambition of many of the previous generation, no longer exists. People think nothing of moving jobs every two to seven years and throughout their career might work for several companies says Preston. And they look to recruitment companies like his to guide them through the experience.
Preston has not taken his eye off the business whilst navigating these recent politically trying times. Heat Recruitment has just launched a wholly new website, created by another Bristol-based firm, Fanatic Design. He says that the site not only looks good and is easy for people to find what opportunities are available, but it also has the in-built functionality needed to generate increased business from the company’s existing database. Now, for example, when someone looks at a certain job, they are offered similar positions at the same time.
The site’s level of technology is a huge bonus for a company like his says Preston, who believes this is the way the business is heading, as long as there is a human voice at some part of the process. For Preston, his team of advisers still play a crucial role in helping people find their ideal job. It’s the perfect blend of technology and human advice that works best.
As Preston himself says: “Our company vision is to provide specialist recruitment solutions to every business, and every person, everywhere. We want to be seen as the go-to place for Professional Services and IT recruitment. We have our own unique approach to recruitment, which we call The Art of Recruitment.
“We have invested heavily into our Brand to ensure all our key stakeholders (candidates, clients and consultants) are able to easily identify with our brand values – exploration, nurturing talent and excellence.
He added: “Our philosophy is to nurture talent, and so we invest heavily into our own training and development program. Through this we have been able to recruit large numbers of relatively inexperienced people who are determined and ambitious, and we can develop their consultancy skills. This approach also supports our continued growth strategy.
“We search for and support quality individuals who will make a positive impact on our client’s business.”
We’ll come back to Preston and Heat Recruitment over the coming months, to see how things are going there as the implications of Brexit become clearer. However, it’s a fair bet that whatever they throw at Heat Recruitment and its ambitious owner, things won’t be slowing down in the future.