Joining a startup is perceived to be risky for a number of reasons. The challenges that come with it are immense, such as starting a desk with no candidate or client base or working for a brand with no reputation.
The risk of failure, both as an individual recruiter and collectively as a business, can be far higher compared to joining an established consultancy. So why should you, as a recruiter, take such a leap?
Offsetting the risk is the reward that could come with joining a successful startup and there are, in fact, some convincing reasons why you should join one.
Jump forward 5 years in your career
By joining a newly formed agency, a recruiter can jump ahead by a number of years in their career. In the early years of Charterhouse, I hired an Associate Director into a Managing Director role and over a small number of months, he ended up running a team of 80 people.
Being part of a startup can mean becoming a bigger fish in a smaller pond. You will have a substantial influence on strategy and decisions from the outset. Early joiners will also have a significant impact on the culture and the eventual success of a startup. They write the story of the brand from day one.
As a founder that has seen meteoric growth, I can confidently say that the sharpest memories, and indeed the best resultant war stories, reflect the early days of the startup phase. After all, every business was once a startup. It’s simply a phase in the history of a business.
Take the opportunity to join a startup and jump ahead in your career, influence strategy and nurture a culture.
Make substantial money
Most founders understand the importance of overcoming concerns that potential joiners will have, and often this benefits a recruiter’s income when joining a new firm. There are two ways to ensure your income will grow:
- Obviously, you are in a position to negotiate a very competitive base salary. I can only speak for myself, but I can confidently say that I was always prepared to offer a competitive increase on base salary. After all, I wanted to attract top recruiters from my competitors whilst mitigating the perceived risk of moving to our startup. It’s not a long-term strategy, but it is one employed by a number of well-funded recruitment startups.
- A startup is also likely to have a very competitive recruitment commission scheme, and certainly one that is designed to both attract and retain recruiters. This is a long-term strategy.
The combination of a competitive salary increase coupled with a very exciting commission scheme goes a long way to alleviating concern of risk.
Build your own desk with limited restrictions
A startup could offer an increase in candidate and client exposure. If you contrast a global firm’s structure with a newly formed business, you may have some restrictions in place such as a salary band or candidates you can’t approach, account managers with ownership over clients or even restricted to working roles based in certain locations of Singapore.
In a startup, very few constraints exist when it comes to the above. There could be flexibility to work a desk you’re really passionate about that no-one is recruiting in, or filling a role in Hong Kong but based in the Singapore office.
On the flip side, you will have to develop clients and relationships from scratch. It’s about as tough as it can get, but it could be worth it in the long-term and you would have picked up some great experience along the way.
Become a future entrepreneur
I think this may be a surprising one to recruiters or founders reading this article. Recruitment is an industry with low barriers to entry and some entrepreneurial consultants desire to form their own startup. What better way can there be to prepare by joining one yourself?
For me, I have always been realistic about the fact that some recruiters will leave you to form their own businesses. I think only an insecure owner is worried about this, simply for the fact it’s going to happen anyway, whether you like it or not.
I can promise you one thing from my experience. Startups are not always what you expect. Running a desk, recruiting, is just one part of it. A vital one for sure, but there are so many challenges to running a new business. It’s a long list of things not many people think about. It includes everything from software selection, accounting, cash flow management, HR, internal recruitment, admin etc. It’s a very long list!
Focus on building your desk but observe all the other factors that will be going on around you. Most of these functions will be fully visible in a small startup.
This is relevant in the aftermath of COVID-19. So much has changed in the past 15 months and I doubt anyone could have predicted just what was coming and how it has changed the way we work.
Recruiters have had a taste of working from home, relaxed dress codes, greater freedoms, family lifestyle flexibility and an increased reliance on remote technology.
Startups more often than not can offer some of these flexible benefits that may be attractive to recruiters.
What this all means
Taking into account that the startup founder is someone who has demonstrable experience, whilst acknowledging there is a level of risk, there can be very tangible benefits to joining a startup for the right people.
There are of course many challenges to joining a startup, which I will cover in another article.
Whether it’s right for you or not depends on you personally: what motivates you, your approach to recruitment and what you’re aspiring to achieve in the future of your career.
Please do not hesitate to connect with me on LinkedIn for some advice and career opportunities within the recruitment industry.