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Working it out

Business Edge - January 2010

Nigel Jeyes and Alex Gregory

Accountancy recruitment business Grafton Banks Finance has bucked the downward economic trend with a successful first year in business. At a time when the recruitment industry is struggling, the new business has established a loyal client base placing senior level accountants into businesses across Sussex. We spoke to the founding director Nigel Jeyes.

You started a recruitment business just as the jobs market went into freefall. Finance jobs and the accountancy profession have been hit badly. It sounds like commercial suicide...

A lot of people have said this, but hopefully there was some method in our madness. Our thinking was that in a downturn, clients and candidates would want to be represented in the right way - the focus being on quality, rather than quantity. Although we knew it would be incredibly challenging , we felt if we could establish a good reputation in the difficult times, it would serve us well when the market picks up. We have been encouraged by how well our different approach to accountancy recruitment has been received...

So what is this different approach?

It's about being professional and consultative rather than salesy, empathetic rather than aggressive and client focussed rather than target focussed. We believe recruitment is a people business not a numbers business. We have many years experience in the recruitment industry and being slightly older helps us understand business not just the business of recruitment. Lots of businesses talk about offering clients a tailored and flexible service, but I really think we are well placed to deliver. Of course we are ambitious and keen to make profits, but we believe we can do this through long-term relationships based on outstanding client service.

Still, conditions are very tough, how else have you won and retained clients and why do people recommend you?

We operate in a relatively small geographic area and only place senior level accountants. That gives us great market insight that makes a big difference in the recruitment process for clients and candidates alike. Because we work locally, we meet every client we deal with and get a great feel from the business, the role and the culture. That means less time wasting, no endless mountains of irrelevant CVs and ultimately, the right person doing the right job.

Are there any advantages to starting a business in a recession?

If you can do well in the hardest of markets you should be able to capitalise when things improve. In the buoyant times, good customer service seems to get lost. That is particularly true in recruitment. By focusing on developing professional relationships with the clients you are able to make a greater impact.

Do you have any tips for anyone contemplating going into business in these difficult times?

Have a clear idea about your goals and how you want to achieve them. There is a lot to be said for not overcomplicating things and not spreading yourself to thinly. So focus on your core service and it's vital to build long term relationships and to offer outstanding customer service.

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