The Parliamentary Review – highlighting best practice by MRK Associates

MRK Associates provides recruitment services for jobs in finance, office support and revenue management. Managing Director Roland Seddon established the company after having worked for the largest global specialist recruiter for over 12 years. They have expanded rapidly, growing from a turnover of £800,000 to a projected £3.5 million this year. Here, Roland explains how MRK has grown and how they plan to manage Brexit, exploiting any opportunities that may arise.

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“I established the company in 2011, having previously worked as a director for a large multinational corporate recruiter. I would sit in a national operations meeting for an entire day and the word “quality” wouldn’t be mentioned once. The metrics that were monitored were old-fashioned in their approach, mainly dealing in volumes and figures, rather than the quality of the service the business was providing. When I started MRK, I spent the first two years building our client base, as I had relocated and set up in a new region. Thereafter, we secured our first office space in January 2013, working with two apprentices, who I trained. We were growing prodigiously. As a sign of our growth and improving standing, midway through 2013, we were able to attract and hire a senior consultant from one of our major competitors. Thereafter, the business grew continually, and, by October 2014, we had outgrown our existing office and moved to a larger space – further evidence that we were on our way.”

“We aim to maintain our expansion through growing revenue and our talented colleagues.”

“We offer both temporary and permanent recruitment opportunities and have separated the business into three divisions. Starting in finance recruitment, we then evolved into office support. Our third division opened because our local area contains several hotel and leisure businesses, who often asked us to assist with finding revenue management candidates for them. This has subsequently expanded internationally.”

“The announcement of the Brexit referendum led us to tread water for a period. We realised that in our rapid growth, we had taken on some employees who did not meet our high standards, and we reassessed our base. In January 2017, we began to push forward again, replacing the people we lost. By May 2018, as the initial economic shock of the Brexit vote wore off, we were achieving 20 per cent more revenue with the same headcount. This was largely due to the beneficial effect of our introspection, as we had improved the sophistication and skill of our workforce.”

“In terms of revenue, we grew from roughly £800,000 at the time of the Brexit vote to £1.4 million in 2018. This year, we are on track to increase this to £3.5 million, and we have recently invested in additional temporary consultants. We reinvest a large proportion of our profits into the business to sustain our growth, including in marketing.

A changing emphasis in recruitment.
“Since 2008, employers have been much leaner on total employee numbers, and, when recruiting, they don’t have the time to go through lots of CVs. They want recruiters to select and present only two or three suitable applicants – that’s what they’re paying for. My main motivation for establishing our company was targeting an enhanced, specialised delivery. Our consultants do not have set KPIs for how many calls they need to make or how many CVs they must send out. Instead, we focus on how many interviews are achieved from the CVs that we do send, targeting our conversion ratio, rather than gross figures. This has allowed us to focus on the quality of the candidates. Managing the interests of clients means that they are far more likely to come back, and one of our biggest successes has been client retention. The positives from this are obvious, but it also means that we don’t have to cold call companies to find work, as is the case for others.”

“There are many ways to attract candidates, and we maximise these. In a way, this is one of our USPs. We use administration staff to manage all non-recruitment tasks, freeing up the consultants to implement proactive work – interviewing candidates, headhunting and networking with passive candidates, as well as meeting clients. We use an outsourced partner overseas to review the online candidate databases, in line with our search criteria, providing us with long lists of professionals so that our consultants don’t have to look repeatedly at often out-of-date profiles. “Additionally, we have a creative writing graduate, who writes all our job adverts. When I worked in larger firms, the consultants themselves had to write these from scratch, and they were rushed, written badly or not done at all. Our adverts follow a theme that ensures that they are detailed, engaging and posted within 15 minutes of registering the job. This attracts the best people. Before a job advert is posted, the consultant will ensure that the details are correct. Our admin team also sends all temporary assignment confirmations and uploads all candidate and client records onto our system. Incidentally, we also reply to every job application we receive. Our reputation has grown as a result of this focus.”

“We are on track to increase our revenue to £3.5 million In terms of revenue, we grew from £800,000 at the time of the Brexit vote to £1.4 million in 2018.”

Anticipating the effects of Brexit and legislation.
“One of the biggest challenges that we face is the increasing regulation surrounding off-payroll employees. Introduced to the public sector in April last year, this increasing legislation has good intentions but has significantly impacted the flexibility of the workforce in the public sector. Providing cover for employees who may be taking maternity leave or any other type of extended period away from work is always a challenge, and further regulation only exacerbates these difficulties. Even if an organisation is able to transfer an employee to a vacant role internally, they are still left with gaps elsewhere, where specialist interim staff really make a difference. My worry is that ever-increasing regulation will only further limit this flexibility, which has historically made the UK a fantastic “people economy”.

“With respect to exiting the EU, we hope, however, that any deal will not impact us greatly. Brexit is likely to impact the largest firms hardest, so we hold the belief that it will not affect the ground-level firms to the same extent.”

“We have already expanded our office space to accommodate more employees, and we are confident that by sticking to our values and model, and ensuring that clients get personalised candidate recommendations, we will continue to thrive, despite any uncertainty posed by Brexit. We aim to maintain our expansion through growing revenue and our talented colleagues.”

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