Back in January we put out an advice piece explaining why non-recruiters looking to start their own agency are running a huge risk.
This was advice we thought about carefully covering a topic we’ve seen many times, but on our client list is a standout exception to that rule. Boxtree Recruitment are insurance market specialists who came to recruitment through the industry, with an incredible understanding of how insurance works who saw a space in the insurance recruitment field crying out to be filled by their specialist knowledge.
We sat down with co-founder Toni Dines to talk about Boxtree, joining the recruitment industry at director level, and her philosophies in business and life. The result is well worth the read…
TBOS: What was your experience before Boxtree?
TD: I had become Head of Practice in one of the top 15 insurance brokers in the UK. My remit was to build a market leading insurance scheme from scratch, suitable for all necessary insurance risk requirements expected by recruitment agencies, umbrella companies and contractors in the UK.
The opportunity to build one from scratch was irresistible.
TBOS: But you broke away to form your own recruitment company. What changed?
TD: Two things. The first being the simple philosophy of ‘If you don’t build your own dream, someone will hire you to build theirs’. This really hit home when, at the end of my first year, my company reneged on an agreed bonus payment following me meeting my objectives and financial targets for the year.
Secondary to this, I was responsible for the recruitment of sales staff and specialist teams within my senior positions and I was just so frustrated by the poor internal and external recruitment practice when trying to hire staff. In fact, the internal recruitment process everywhere I worked was extremely burdensome and by the time anyone managed to appoint the necessary firepower in talent, you were 3 or 4 months into the financial year.
It was frustrating to have to educate a recruitment business on the technical foundations of a role and still receive candidates that were completely unsuitable. The final catalyst for me setting up Boxtree was I simply realised I no longer wanted to work for anyone else, ever again! For years I had to battle with different individuals in the business to achieve my objectives.
I genuinely cared about business development, making my company a success and when people didn’t I found it so frustrating. I wanted to become an inspirational business owner myself and give people an amazing work life balance where they can enjoy their families, have fun, take holidays and still achieve great things in the workplace.
TBOS: So, well into year two, what’s been the secret to Boxtree’s success?
TD: I believe that the core of our success in Boxtree’s business model, has been is not just hiring ‘good recruiters’ but specifically hiring fantastic insurance market professionals who have a natural ability to network within the insurance marketplace and a fantastic sales record.
I have found my consultants are less concerned about making the most money every month and are more interested in making clients and candidates happy & content which inevitably still leads to financial success.
My technical skills within insurance have proved to be extremely valuable in directing Boxtree. I can confidently engage with clients and candidates on the technical elements of opportunities that are presented and consult given that I have been in their position and learned valuable lessons myself in building teams.
I learned very early in my career that it is also a skill to establish where your weaknesses are personally in business. Then, delegate to a stronger member of the team or outsource requirements to streamline activity and become more productive and efficient.
TBOS: Based on your experience so far, would you say anyone could start a recruitment agency?
TD: No, I wouldn’t actually. Having been insuring recruitment agencies for over 7 years I saw many different recruitment agencies start-up, rise and fall, more often than not, because the founder or MD were inadequate on the running of the business, not the recruitment processes. Many of them were top billers from large established agencies that thought they could go it alone and hit the ground running.
It was the back office, invoicing, bad debt & more the business operation sides of the business and any shortfalls here that normally saw new start-ups fail. That was why when I set up Boxtree- the low cost outsourcing of specific business functions that I wasn’t committing resource too in year one, was a must for me.