Darren Nuttall, Jez Cartwright & Andy Pierson
Ahead of their 20th birthday celebrations this October, networx Directors Andy, Jez and Darren share their story and key lessons for success and how innovation and team culture have fostered their foundations for growth.
Since 2001, we have supported clients nationwide to reduce agency recruitment costs, improve time-to-hire and increase overall operational efficiency through securing the very best talent. As recruiters at the heart of the business, we know first hand the importance of having the best possible team, as without the right people businesses rarely succeed.
Today we are recognised as market leaders in providing the latest recruitment software (ATS) and an agency style recruitment service that supports over 450 companies across the UK to achieve their recruitment ambitions. However, we started from very humble beginnings in Andy’s front room, with a core ambition to close the gap in the market between job boards and agencies.
Running with an idea
With combined recruitment and sales experience between all three of us, Andy, Darren and Jez, we had a good oversight of the recruitment landscape. Speaking with talent professionals and hiring managers, we knew there was a huge disparity between the support received from job boards, vs the cost implications of working directly with agencies for all roles. Those keen to secure the very best talent for their organisation were limited by time and budgets and we wanted to find a way to fill the gap.
Running with our idea we set up business in Andy’s front room and before long were in a position to move to permanent offices in Ilkley, moving to Otley at our current base in 2003. It was only after the first 2 years we were able to recruit a sales person to join the team and since then we have evolved over the years to now collaborating with over 50 talented individuals across a number of teams from Account Management, through to Marketing, Implementations, Design and Software Development.
Expanding our solution
We have come a long way from our initial value proposition, but the benefits still remain key to our service offering and success. We support our clients to reduce recruitment costs, improve time-to-hire, maximise efficiencies in their processes, attract and onboard the very best talent. Back in 2001 this was a lot more manual, managing applications for clients in folders and back-and-forth via email, until we built the first iteration of our Applicant Tracking System. This provided clients with much richer functionality and improved the candidate experience, enabling them to apply via a simple and intuitive system interface.
Naturally as time passed our team grew and our internal capabilities became richer and more diverse, alongside our clients’ ambitions and expectations. We started to hire into new teams, such as Design and Development and took live client feedback and turned it into tangible and configurable software solutions.
In 2008, the market crash had a huge impact on recruitment and the mass recession meant less organisations were looking to spend on recruitment campaigns and agency-style support. However, even in times of crisis you need to keep your systems in great operation and by diversifying the business ahead of 2008 we were able to manage the challenges and ride the storm. We took data and insight to pioneer specialist solutions for clear verticals, including housing, and invested in our software solution that combines the best of the in-house knowledge on recruitment. Due to this move, the business model developed to create a more sustainable, resilient business.
The importance of developing a strong team
Growing a team able to collaborate across the business like one large family has been essential over the last 20 years. Developing a long-standing, loyal team of happy and capable employees is what has pushed us through challenges and enabled the business to go from strength-to-strength.
Every voice and opinion in the organisation is just as important as any other. From the start and especially over the last 12 months the transparency and communication across the business has been vital, keeping the entire team connected.
Over the last 12-18 months in particular, we have also led team growth within some of the smaller departments such as Marketing and Implementations. We recognise that even in tough times, like the Coronavirus, there is still a need for organisations to innovate their recruitment and we need more support to help clients through this tough time. To further enhance the customer experience and deliver a modern, digital brand that evokes trust in our technical software abilities, we need bigger teams to deliver the exceptional service. In addition we sought to expand our leadership team, and despite the climate it has enabled the business to position itself in a place of strength and whilst maintaining the best internal culture for our teams to thrive.
Cultivating a culture
Our working environment works because it fosters positive, professional working relationships allowing for transparent and open communication. Creating a relaxed environment set from our informal clothing and banterous nature, employees feel part of the team from day one, ensuring they are able to thrive in their new role going forward.
We take pride in truly building one large collaborative family. Over the years this has included leading a team of employees to tackle challenges such as Tough Mudder and The 3 Peaks challenge, and over the last 12 months we have diversified introducing morning personal training sessions, team quiz events, networx has got talent and monthly update meetings with the leadership team, right through to all levels of the business.
Understanding the pressure everyone is against during the last year, we have further partnered with Leeds MIND to offer the team greater support beyond the workplace and sent our personalised Yorkshire hampers to the entire team at Christmas to share with their family over the festive period.
Having been around for 20 years, this last year was not the first time we have had to steer a challenging course, but this last year has definitely been one of the most unpredictable and unprecedented periods for us as a business.
The Covid-19 pandemic brought great uncertainty to the business, as recruitment is one area which is heavily impacted by economic downturn. Thankfully the structure of the business with a license model and retainer contracts in place gave everyone at the business the peace of mind that they would keep their role and the business would survive the storm.
Our first priority was supporting the wellbeing of the employees and the leadership team at networx. Moving to working from home, introducing greater flexible operating measures and creating a collaborative, supportive culture through the workouts and team quiz sessions, This could’ve been a catastrophic period in time for the business, however with perseverance and a great team it has led to some of the most successful months we have achieved.
Looking forward to the future
We are incredibly proud of where we have come from and what we and the team have built over the last 20 years in business, supporting over 450 clients nationwide to attract, engage, manage and onboard the very best talent. It is exciting to be looking forward to the future for networx and to see the innovations in the pipeline that will further enhance the candidate experience, client efficiencies and talent acquisition performance of UK organisations.
Key lessons from our 20 years in leadership
It has been a tremendous 20 years in business, with loads of great achievements and milestones, from continuing to grow our talented team and being officially recognised as the 23rd best small company to work for in the Sunday Times Top 100 and 9th on the list of best companies to work for in Yorkshire and Humber, having won the best companies award since 2012, through to securing some of the biggest employers in the UK and supporting them to grow their brilliant teams too!
Getting the right team on board is paramount to your success, as they drive the ideas, development and operational decisions of your business. Recruitment does impact your bottom line, so it needs the time, respect and effort required to obtain the very best talent.
The client should always be given a voice. We have a great process in place for capturing ideas, feedback and challenges and a team dedicated to managing this to feed back into our development pipeline. The users of your service are critical to delivering a cutting-edge solution and getting them involved from the outset not only aids buy-in, but can ensure you don’t waste any time on development you ‘think’ people want.
Time spent planning is never wasted. A few years ago we launched a new Implementation team to ensure the project management of system launch and training was in place for a smooth transition and this is incredibly important for our clients and our service delivery team. It requires time and investment from both clients and our team of project managers and consultants, but when working in true partnership, the process is not only efficient but effective.
Innovation is not always about the big ticket items. Some of the smallest changes to a process or additions to functionality can have a profound impact on the effectiveness of software application for a client.
Communication is king. Whether it is liaising with clients about recent updates or sharing company performance with your internal team, transparency, honesty and authenticity are really important in building that trust and culture for growth and success.
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