Floyd Nangreave reaped the benefits of conducting business the old-fashioned way. After moving to Melbourne from Brisbane in 1997 to further his career, a key networking contact gave him a head start with around 50 business cards.
“I think I wore out about 15 pairs of shoes in the first few years – literally,” Nangreave recalls. “Nothing will replace carrying your compendium, getting out into the middle of Collins Street and meeting the people that you need to meet,” he says.
This approach paid off, as the original list soon turned into a network of nearly 500 people. He also secured a national business development manager role for two years. During this time he was head hunted to global recruiter, Adecco, as general manager for its recruitment business unit. The significant revenue achieved in a short period of time at the company proved to be a major catalyst for Nangreave.
“I though, gee if I can do this for an organisation that doesn’t have a reputation in executive recruitment and more in blue and white collar, then I can clearly do this myself,” he explains.
Nangreave made the leap into self-employment with his own business, Cherry Solutions, a recruitment agency specialising in the financial services sector, which he describes as diverse and fast-paced, with significant opportunities for growth.
In transitioning to a business owner, Nangreave reveals one of the key issues – that being a good practitioner of your chosen endeavour is inherently different to that of being a small business owner.
“I can be a great recruiter but I’m not necessarily a great small business owner, the two are fundamentally different,” he says. “There’s a whole raft of skills that are required – you have to be the HR manager, the finance manager, the IT manager, the operations manager, the strategist, the boss, and all of those things require a different set of skills.”
Nangreave believes it is vital for anybody entering a new business to seek professional help in the form of an ‘unreasonable friend’ – a mentor, a coach, a sounding board, or a ‘spiritual shareholder’ in your business.
“It’s very easy for young or new business owners to get carried away with early gratification – an unreasonable friend can measure you as a business owner.”
For small businesses aiming to fuel their growth, Nangreave advises being vigilant with the management of expenses from the outset, and to factor in unsubstantiated costs.
“Always be conservative in relation to the expenses associated with the engagement of any outside help whatsoever whether it be an accountant, lawyer or a marketer.”
And is there anything he would have done differently? Recruitment is Nangreave’s bread and butter, and looking back, he would have hired more talented people earlier.
“You’re faced with the quandary – do I grow [my business] and invest from a capital viewpoint and hope the revenue comes, or I have a revenue and opportunity issue and need to find people?”
He sees the acquisition of high quality people increasingly difficult, but advises to “hire for attitude, train for skill”. Particularly in the transactional nature of recruiting, the right attitude is paramount.
“I can teach someone how to recruit and how to match a client or a database for candidate suitability, but I can’t teach people to make that eleventh phone call which may well yield the result that we’re looking for. Recruiting for attitude is critical.”
Nangreave notes the importance of skills training: “I have to reinvest my time back in employees by investing in the upgrading of their skills – not necessarily once a week by an outsourced provider because not everybody can afford that – but on the job [in] real life situations.”
Staff performance is assessed on a daily basis, and he recommends weekly reviews, where the promised deliverables are established each week, enabling problems to be identified earlier.
Business development strategies now play a vital role in Cherry’s growth. After a back operation in 2005 forced him out of the business for eight weeks, it suffered the worse two months in seven years of operation.
This prompted the development of a program for all processes and operational guidelines in the business to be clearly documented.
“If anything was ever to happen to me again, this business would still run effectively – the processes are all now documented on an intranet site which clearly outlines every single component of the recruitment process and client management aspect.”
Looking forward, Nangreave’s focus is to grow his business in a sustained and accountable way, with some conservatism.
“Geographical expansion is less important than that of expansion within our current infrastructure which means identifying, keeping and growing great people to work in a business that is very profitable with sustained growth strategies,” he says.
Nangreave backs those who are prepared to risk the world of a PAYG environment and transition to self-employment.
“I admire anybody who’s willing to put all that they have the line, including reputation and credibility and have a go. At least when I leave this earth I know that I would have left trying than never having tried at all.”