Mark and James were work colleagues fed up of seeing how their employers’ companies could be better run. With a wealth of experience between them and a shared dream of going it alone, they took the plunge and opened Kingsgate Recruitment in 2007: offering ‘a bespoke service with a fresh approach’ to the recruitment process.

1. What have been your key milestones and how have you celebrated them?
MS
The first big celebration was when we realised that within two months of opening, we’d managed to pay back all of our start up costs. The biggest celebration after that was year five, when we hit our turnover target of a million pounds and were able to pay ourselves a nice bonus. We took our partners on a short break and spent a ridiculous amount of money in a plush hotel.
JP
Getting an office was a key milestone and made us feel official – it was important that we had a place of work in order to feel like a real business. It was also necessary as we couldn’t meet potential candidates at home.
MS
We deliberately chose our office in central Kingston, close to good transport links and other recruiters, so when people were coming in to see the big recruitment agencies, they could easily see us too.

2. Have you had any setbacks or disappointments along the way and what have you learnt from them?
JP
I think getting the right staff is the biggest challenge when you start up a business. We put everything into this, and even though we now have some brilliant employees, we initially failed to realise that they are never going to be as passionate about the business as we are, and will never have the same standards. Staffing challenges have taken up quite a bit of our time; I would say 20% of my day is taken up with staff management. Life changes as soon as you start to grow and take on new people, as you have more responsibilities. We have eight full time staff now and are looking to recruit an additional one.
MS
The biggest potential setback was the fear of losing the security of a monthly salary and working for a well-known company. We counteracted that fear quite quickly however, as we made money after a couple of months and realised we could do it, but it was a fear at first.
MS
We are so much smaller than our competitors. This could have held us back, but in fact it has been a positive thing; we are able to be more flexible with our clients in terms of fees, plus they deal directly with me and James, rather than an anonymous member of a large team. We also meet absolutely everyone (unlike some of our competitors) and our service is very personal.

3. Have you taken any chances or risks that you feel have really paid off?
MS
We were supplying staff for a small business last year that suddenly shot from needing four members of temporary staff for a week, to needing 128 temporary staff over a period of over 6 months , hence they very quickly owed us over half a million pounds. This was a nerve-wracking time and I had many sleepless nights. So that was a risk, a calculated risk, but a risk none the less. And it paid off, so it was worth taking.
JP
We also took a risk with our first member of staff…
MS
Indeed. We found very early on that because of the demands of the job, and the phones going constantly, we needed an extra person and quickly hired someone. Since then, we’ve realised that you need people with more than just telephone answering skills and we’re more selective with the people we hire.
JP
The people you work with are so important when starting a company. You need to have absolute confidence in their ability and trust them completely. Setting up with a friend took a lot of the fear out of that process.

4. Tell us about your work life balance?
MS
We get our weekends to ourselves more now than when I worked for a high street recruitment agency. Technology means we don’t have to be in the office as much as we used to, and it’s easier to work from home.
JP
When we very first started we worked weekends finding candidates for jobs. When you start up you have to be in the mindset that those hours that you put in for the first 12 months will increase quite dramatically. As time goes by, your confidence in the business increases, so you don’t feel you have to be constantly switched on.

5. Where have you taken inspiration from?
JP
For me, being quite candid, my inspiration was financial. I was driven by having more flexibility and more financial stability.
MS
I worked for independent agencies when I first got into recruitment and they were succeeding, despite not being well run in my opinion. I realised that if they could do it, then we could definitely do it; and do it better.