Finding the right people for your business can be the hardest part of starting your own company and making mistakes can be costly in time and money – neither of which you will have a great deal of at the start.
Here’s how to get it right…

You have been in the recruitment industry for over 20 years. How has recruitment changed?
The advent of technology: LinkedIn, social media and CRM (customer relationship management) systems have all transformed how clients and agencies source candidates. Twenty years ago none of these things existed, I had a card box on my desk with 50 candidates filed in alphabetical order. Compare that with LinkedIn with 450 million people who you can access quicker than I could via my card box system.
For the recruitment industry on the one hand those changes have been amazing, but it has made us really lazy. Before we would rely on our own skills and techniques when interviewing people but now we rely on LinkedIn and Facebook.
People in the recruitment industry are no longer devoting quality time interviewing, assessing and interacting with candidates and the quality of interviewing techniques and skills are 70% down on what they were 20 years ago.
When you were looking for a copywriter before, for example, you’d use an agency who would have interviewed, vetted, assessed and would therefore have a real taste and flavour of that person. Now they make a 20-minute call to discuss their CV and send a LinkedIn profile. What value are they providing rather than a CV service?
If they do meet them their interpersonal skills are not very advanced because they are too reliant on social media.
One of the things that frustrates me in this technological world is how we as a society are diluting our skill of communication. Today we send more text messages than we make calls and it has changed our skills – young people today write like they text. When I look at written communication I am appalled at the grammar. And that’s because most of their writing experience is just sending text messages.
What’s inspired me to launch, an online training tool for the recruitment industry, is because I want to bring back old-fashioned techniques of communication, evaluating and assessing people face to face.
We have become too reliant on technology and we feel we don’t need interpersonal skills any more but I want to put back the quality of the service that the industry needs to provide. I’m not saying don’t use technology; you can look at applicants on social media but you still need to assess and interact because communication skills when you are interviewing a candidate are key.
You can send me the best CV but if the candidate walks in and he’s wet, got no personality, has a limp handshake, doesn’t make eye contact and wears a brown suit, I’m just not going to be impressed.
We are diluting what we should be doing. Of course nowadays you can’t always access all the candidates, they might live too far away, but you can make video calls. I strongly recommend you meet people face to face – don’t just rely on a telephone call. I live in Monaco now and I probably chair eight to 10 meetings per day but I still want to see people.
For me a telephone call is 20% satisfactory, Skype 75% and face to face 100%. There is much more chance of making a mistake if you don’t have a face-to-face with someone because so often you meet people who leave an organisation and they’d say I didn’t like the culture,
I didn’t fit in, it wasn’t for me. It’s not about their skill set or CV, it’s about them as individuals and part of the interview process has to be an understanding of the client’s culture.
If you hire someone and it doesn’t work out, you cost the client a fortune as you have to pay the new employee’s salary and induct him. If he then says it didn’t work out, that’s a disaster. It’s not good for morale when people leave and high staff turnover is very disruptive.


How should people who are starting their own business be looking at recruitment?
You can’t afford to make mistakes, you as an owner will spend a huge amount of time getting that person up and running. You will have the cost of your time and in three months you will spend 30% of your time bringing that person up to speed, so if that doesn’t work out then you’ve got problems.
The more time you spend with that individual before you hire them the better. Ask them to take a day’s holiday to spend the day with you, that way will have far greater impact as you’ll know if you like them or you’ll realise that you don’t click.

What are your tips on getting the best person for the job?
Of course you need the person with the right skills and background, but you need people who show hunger, ambition, drive, determination, accountability and can think outside the box. In a large organisation most people work in functional roles but in small places you have to multi-task. You don’t have reception, HR, sales and marketing, accounting and finance, so all those functions are carried out by a few people. Unless someone is able to multi-task they will struggle – you are far more accountable than you would be in a larger business.
Look for someone who is as passionate about your business as you because if they aren’t you are taking a massive risk. You need to let them understand what they are getting into. When there are only three people it is likely you are sitting next to the owner who makes the tea and opens the post – there is nothing he won’t do and he needs people like that. If he hires someone who says such-and-such isn’t in the job description, that’s not going to work – adapability is the key quality.

How do you retain people once you’ve found the best candidate?
Training is accessible online in every industry in every field. You as a owner need to recognise that to retain people you need to coach, train and mentor them to be the best they can be. I would say it’s the biggest challenge businesses face as they don’t spend the time doing that and you only get out of someone what you put in. Just because you are small is not an excuse. My new website is not just handouts, we’ve got videos, step-by step guides and it’s interactive. It’s everything you need so that even a small business can train their people like a multinational. That’s how the market has changed: £20 a month and they can have access directly to me.
My focus is talent acquisition but there are similar products available in every sector.

Would you say that finding the right people is the key to a successful business?
One hundred per cent, yes.
A business is a collection of people, it’s not about your lease, your desk, your premises. You have no product until it is created by the people and if you have the right people it has an incredible chance of success. If you have mediocre people the business will be mediocre, if you have outstanding people they can transform your business.
For example, Tabasco, the table sauce, has been going for 100 years and has always been very steady, supplying mainly to restaurants. A few years ago they hired a new CEO. This man had been in a restaurant watching a customer shaking and shaking the bottle but the sauce wouldn’t come out because it was quite thick. He said, ‘why don’t we dilute it, why does it have to be so thick? We can double the volume, it will be easier for the customer.’
No one had asked that question before and by diluting the sauce they got double the volume and the following year had a 100% increase in profitability. The moral is that people can transform an organisation. I have experienced that too, by finding exceptional talent and I have made talent acquisition the highest priority.
A lot of CEOs spend time on administration, some on customers, a lot on product development but I spend time on talent acquisition as that is the one ingredient that will make the biggest impact.
And it’s the same for small businesses. What you should be focusing on is the one thing that will have the biggest impact on your business – and that’s people.

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