Is this the toughest recruitment market I’ve seen? I’ve been asked this question a couple of times over the past month by senior candidates and my answer, is no.

It is certainly not a rewarding time to be in recruitment when we are competing with a slowing economy, stronger internal recruitment teams and larger agencies who are prepared to discount heavily to win business but it is not like the 2008-2009 GFC. During that time our list of job vacancies literally halved and our competitors laid off consultants, reduced salaries and implemented four day working weeks. Thankfully we ran (and continue to do so) off the “smell of an oily rag” with low back office costs and a small yet highly skilled administrative team and revenue generating managers. I recall the actions we took at that time included training consultants to broaden their skills, promoting a culture of business development, re-emphasising the importance of relationships (treating people as you would like to be treated), and removing any internal obstacles including the “I didn’t sign up for this” destructive mindset. It was very hard work and very stressful at the time but well worth it. The result being Optimum grew and opened new service lines which are today well established and have reduced our reliance on any one revenue stream.

The other key ingredient and the thing most pleasing to me during this time was the meshing of individual accountability with teamwork. This proved to be a powerful combination. Of course during difficult times not everyone was prepared to do what needed to be done and some moved on to other organisations and this was perfectly understandable. But the bulk of the Optimum team not only made sure they exceeded their individual performance targets, but they also helped their teammates. It was a tough time and the pressure was on but I saw some Consultants display real moxie and knuckle down and push through together with their colleagues. We shared wins, celebrated successes and we were there for our colleagues when they had a rough day. And coming out of the GFC we experienced an outstanding period of growth with a team of individuals who worked together to ensure they contributed to the companies goals.

Today I see similarities; it is certainly a slowing market and for the first time in years, we see the major miners such as BHP, Rio Tinto, Fortescue Metals and Xstrata shelving projects or at least slowing progress. This has a direct impact on the EPCMs through to mining service companies, professional service firms and yes, recruitment agencies. Furthermore we see the Queensland State Government shedding 14 000 positions. But with adversity comes opportunity!

It is a unique time to seize market share, establish new service offerings and provide superior service to existing customers and remind them why they started using Optimum in the first place. Easier said than done, of course but it is achievable and we have proven this to ourselves before. It will come down to more thought, planning, hard work and a steely determination. I am a massive believer in willpower; if you want it badly enough, you can make it happen. I for one want to continue the success of Optimum and see what we can achieve in the next decade having now completed the first.

Ben Walsh – General Manager – Qld

One Reply to “Then and Now…..”

Dane Brazenas
October 11, 2012

Interesting read Ben – I remember those times well. I hope the lessons learnt from the 08/09 GFC are still fresh in the minds of candidates, clients and consultants. Hard work goes a long way. Good luck.

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