An Interview with TEAM Founder, Simon Garbett
What made you move into the Recruitment Sector from Estate Agency back in 1990?
My wife, Janice, started in recruitment in 1984 and explained to me how recruitment worked. At that time the average placement fee turned out higher than the average sale fee for a house and the average time for a house sale to go through was three and a half months; in recruitment a placement could be made and started within a week. The marketing costs in recruitment were then lower than those in estate agency and, off the back of this, I had drafted a plan which I put forward to my then bosses to start a new recruitment agency. However, the estate agents were in the process of going public and the advice from the banks to my bosses was that it would be crazy to interfere with the estate agency offering by adding an unknown brand new business, as at that time an estate agency flotation was a slightly unknown factor.
Sometime later, once the flotation had gone through and my previous bosses had retired, they decided to make an investment in acquiring a recruitment agency. Within a year or so of buying it, they were concerned with its performance and that coincided with me leaving the PLC environment and I decided to accept their offer to invest and run their recruitment agency.
How was the idea of TEAM dreamt up and what were you hoping to achieve?
Within three to four years of running the agency it became clear that, in order to secure more contracts and win more tenders, we needed to present a larger and more comprehensive profile of services to clients. At that time there was only one trade body called FRES (which later became the REC, but its then membership was not entirely compatible with independent SMEs).
So as there appeared to be no alternative I created one. Initially, my idea was to create a working group of similar like-minded SMEs who could amalgamate their services into one offering across the UK and different sectors. The original plan was to ideally have approximately 15–20 different firms operating out of 30/40 locations; the rest I guess is history!
To start with most recruiters didn’t believe you could trust other recruiters to co-operate but, once we gained some traction and the numbers of Members started to increase and the results and benefits became evident, things started to snowball.
Any key milestones along the way?
A significant milestone was the understanding that there was an opportunity to create a range of services and products that all recruiters used and that, collectively, TEAM were able to access discounts by aggregating Members' requirements, allowing them the opportunity to access discounts on products and services they would never be able to achieve on their own.
In general TEAM over the years has listened to the Members and attempted to add services and review processes to reflect the needs of the membership and changing market conditions.
How do you see the recruitment industry today particularly with COVID and what is your advice to Recruiters?
Independent SMEs often have the ability to react more swiftly to market trends than some of the larger international PLCs and, in general, are not necessarily saddled by the fixed overheads that the larger companies have. It’s fair to say that the more personalised client service is perhaps now more important than it ever has been and I would personally maintain that sometimes less is more and it is better to concentrate on quality clients, fees and delivering the service, as opposed to taking any old job at any old fee. It is important for people to concentrate on their specialised services and focus rather than make out they can cover all vacancies that come their way. I think a lot of recruiters have also found that this has been a wake-up call in terms of looking at their operating procedures, overheads; basically everything they used to do and to re-examine best practice in light of changing circumstances, rather than thinking they can somehow carry on until it all returns to normal ….. it won’t.
How do you see TEAM developing and/or the recruitment industry as a whole?
I personally still believe there will be a continuing and potentially growing requirement to use good quality professional recruiters. Evolving IT should be used to complement recruiters’ skills, not necessarily replace it.
I can recall the last time sending a survey to Members asking them what they wanted from TEAM and one of the stand out suggestions was that TEAM should go out there and bid for tenders in their own right on behalf of the membership. To have a separate team to do that across the country would be a significant investment and the concern would be that TEAM would be potentially chasing its tail going after business that was generally at low margin and many Members would not be interested in being involved. TEAM could also find themselves bidding against existing TEAM Members and that would be indefensible. I personally think the structure TEAM currently has is correct; in supporting TEAM Members in their bids with the consortia able to help to fulfil them. However, I still maintain that one Member agency has to be the main lead. TEAM is good at running a great network and I don’t personally believe it should seek to be a competing recruitment agency …… as I said earlier, focus on what you do best.
TEAM’s original concept was to provide a platform enabling independent recruiters to share and cooperate and, in turn, use that combined talent to help Members improve their businesses …… and that still holds good 25 years later!