In 2008, Proco was a single office based in Brighton solely focused on executive search across procurement. After ten years of steady and consistent growth, we now operate through three brands – Proco Commodities, Proco Associates and Proco Global and have a global network of 12 offices, with more than 120 consultants.
It has been a decade of hard work, and Proco is now bigger than I had ever imagined it would be. We have been on a crazy rollercoaster of high highs and low lows, learning some important lessons along the way.
As we officially celebrate our tenth year, I can’t help but reflect on the most important I have learnt on this journey – the idea of keeping it simple.
Keeping it simple tends to work pretty well in most aspects of our lives, so it never ceases to amaze me how we in the recruitment industry have a habit of making everything rather complex when it really needn’t be.
We don’t deal with a product, we deal with people, both internally and externally, each one of whom has different motivations, aspirations and sensitivities. Trying to second-guess those people is the equivalent of trying to herd cats. There are days when I wish that I had set up a business that sold a product rather than a service, but on most days the enjoyment of dealing with something unpredictable is a whole lot of fun!
However, in order to preserve some degree of sanity, we in the management team at Proco have concluded that we need to try and keep everything that we do as simple as we can. We aim to control the controllable by focusing on three distinct pillars: recruiting and retaining the best people; continuously building our candidate networks, and strengthening our client relationships.
We didn’t come to these three pillars by chance, and in fact, we got it wrong and over-complicated things many times along the way. But I’ve learned that if I’m not 100% clear on what I’m asking people to do, that’s when I’m asking for trouble. There are a handful of people that are practically mind readers, and no matter how you ask them to do something they figure it out, but for the rest of us mere mortals, simplicity is key to understanding the direction in which the business needs to travel.
Once we figured out the need to keep it simple, we changed the way we train, develop and coach our people. We now have a much bigger focus on empowering our management community to own and deliver the message. We have also started to develop more analytical skills across the business as a whole, to enable everyone to use data effectively. It’s not about crunching numbers, it’s about understanding what impacts our business and developing the skills to spot the opportunities. If everyone fully grasps the end-game, they have no trouble pulling the correct levers to drive us there.
In a business like ours, specialisation is king, but you have to be able to back it up with results. If we hire the best people, and clients love us, but we don’t have extensive networks in our field, then very quickly we won’t have the best people or the clients. We have to know more candidates than anyone else, deliver a better service to our clients than anyone else, and hire and develop the best possible people in the market if we are to stay relevant.
And the same applies everywhere we operate – relationships, networks and engagement are as critical in Hong Kong as they are in New York. By keeping it simple, we can far better communicate our strategy across borders, and deliver it through all our offices.
The USP of a recruitment business is increasingly how it engages with the candidate pool. In a world where there that pool is ever-more visible to our competitors, we have to become a trusted advisor to our candidates, because we need to be the people that they trust to run their careers.
By focusing on the above, and being realistic and managing expectations, we are able to keep both our internal and external stakeholders happy and deliver the high level of service that earned us our reputation. That reputation has allowed us to grow at a rapid rate, which provides opportunities for people within our business, and continues the virtuous circle. Long may it last.
For those of you that know me, you know that the work doesn’t stop; and it wouldn’t surprise you to know that I am already planning for the next ten years. But before I get back to it, I didn’t want this important milestone to pass by without thanking our clients, candidates the people that work for us for being part of this journey. I know we wouldn’t have made it here without you!
On to the next ten years!