Catching up with Rob Woolcock and Jon Taylor of Sarto Thomas to discuss their journey from successful recruiters employed in a large firm to business owners.
Being held back by the internal pressures of working in a large recruitment firm, 3R's start-up, funding, and back-office services supported Rob and Jon in launching their own recruitment agency and getting back autonomy over their own decisions and earnings. From the initial brainstorming sessions to the meticulous planning and implementation, it has been an incredible journey for them.
In 2022, their first full year of trading...
Contract Recruitment Revenue
Employees building a great culture
Contractors submitted timsheets
In 2023, Sarto Thomas have already surpassed their 2022 revenue figures in first half of the year, hired more people and are starting to place contractors in Europe.
What were your key drivers for wanting to start-up a recruitment business?
“We found ourselves in a position within the company we worked, where we had increasing managerial and business performance responsibilities, but they came with a false sense of autonomy, and it quickly became apparent, we weren’t in control of anything.
There was greater risk involved as decisions were being made that we had no say in or control over but were directly impacting our personal earnings through the budgets being set. Personally, what made me [Rob] really check out of that environment was realising my earnings were being substantially capped despite having a great year because they felt I would be ‘earning too much money this year’.
In the end, there were lots and lots of things mounting up within the company that made our jobs harder and pushed us to leave.”
What made you partner with 3R?
I think the personal approach you took; it was really reassuring for us. - Rob Woolcock
"Both John and I like to have genuine relationships and those relationships should, in our opinion, extend beyond the phone or Teams calls, so the fact that 3R is local to us was a massive driver.
Especially in the early stages, you’re taking a massive risk, it’s all new and everything feels like a gamble. That feeling of reassurance and support was absolutely key for us since with so many things we felt like ‘How on earth do we do this? How on earth do we do that? – oh right, it’s really simple you just do that’."
How has 3R’s Back-Office platform supported your business so far?
The back-office functionality is amazing; it felt familiar to us and gave us what we were looking for. We have a clear view of everything in a manner we want to see it – very straightforward and easy to use.
And that’s what you want, you don’t want anything overly complicated.
"The clarity of knowing where you are with every timesheet and every contractor is absolutely fantastic. Not only do you have visibility on whether a timesheet has been drafted, submitted, approved, and invoiced, but you also have insight into your payment status with the end clients."
What have been the highs and lows of starting your own business so far?
"I think a massive high has been finally feeling settled in and becoming business owners quite quickly.
Another amazing high for us has been the positive feedback we’ve received from both our clients and candidates. I think one of the biggest fears when you set up on your own is if we’re going to be able to trade with these clients and then all of a sudden, they were coming to us for help and that was amazing.
We also brought on our first employee within our first year, that was brilliant, and we’re bringing on more. Scaling our business with the right people is key for us at the moment. However, as is the case in any industry, the challenge is finding and hiring the right talent to fit into our team.
In general, I don’t think we’ve had any major challenges. There might have been minor bumps in the road but nothing that sticks out."
How has 3R been able to support your journey so far?
"The communication from 3R has always been really good. For instance, in recruitment you always get an odd question from your candidate or end-client, and I [Jon] think being able to just have a simple call with Debbie and have it all explained is really valuable."
I can compare it to my previous role in an agency, you know you've got an in-house Back-office team or an in-house credit control team that you could just walk to their desk and have a chat with someone. - Jon Taylor
"The credit control, in particular, has been quite seamless and smooth with 3R. In my [Jon] previous role within an agency, the credit control function was an area we were quite ignorant of. It was all about ensuring our contractors are paid and receiving commission but you forget that's all dependent on prompt payments from the end client.
Now as a business owner, I'm well aware that some of our clients take their time to make payments, which can cost everyone in the recruitment chain money, but 3R is always on it. There's automation to send timely reminders for overdue payments, so there are steps in place to make sure nothing slips through the cracks, which is really helpful.
Overall, I think we're lucky to be a 5-minute drive from 3R but it's a testament to your level of service that we've never had to come to see you for any issues. So, it's been a really good journey and we're really happy with how it's gone so far."
What else has supported you in your journey so far?
Actually, a great piece of advice you gave was – ‘Get yourself an office’, which helped us more than we thought.
"Our office is in a building shared with many other SME businesses and the support from the other businesses that are outside of recruitment has been wonderful.
I remember within our first three months things were overwhelming and at Christmas they brought us hampers because they knew how hard it was to set up your own business.
So, the support that other recruitment businesses give you is brilliant but also, other businesses in general are also really supportive.”
And, your future plans?
“Growing the team is the plan and with that is moving office to accommodate for the growing team. If the right place comes up, we will do that.
But ultimately, it’s really about adding heads and forming our culture. You set that out when you start but you don’t realise until your first employee starts, how important your culture is.
John and I believe in the same things but how we impart that on other people and make sure that they’re right for what we want to do, that’s a challenge, I think.”