Interview with James Foster

Tracey - Today I'm joined by James Foster, of Foster Growth. James is a Recruitment Consultant and he's been a BBB Success Group member now for just under 12 months.  

Today I'm going to take you through our usual four things. I'm going to give James a chance to introduce himself and what he does, we're then going to look at James's biggest success over the last 12 months, the biggest challenge that he overcame, and then the one piece of advice that he's going to give you as a business owner.  

So, James, tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do.  

James - I work with ambitious business owners and help them enjoy growing their business by servicing them with intelligent recruitment.  

Basically, I join them on a contract basis, almost as an employee, and act as their recruitment partner - taking ownership of all their recruitment activities, generally.  

I work best in businesses that have a growth goal, a target which requires a real commitment to hiring if they're going to meet that target. I will go through the whole recruitment model. There are areas where we should put in more time and energy, which make more chances of success. We'll put a lot of time in the qualification piece, looking at the identity of the people that they need, not just around skills but also around cultural fit and fitting in with growth plans.  

I then take that to the market and search all the avenues that generally people search within recruitment but also comprehensively screen the candidates that I put forward to them. They're already well-prepared before they actually get to meet with a client. I also run all the interviews, so I'm actually with both the candidate and the client throughout. This is really something that the candidates love. They do feel that they've got a lot of support in there. They ended up performing, I think, to their best by quite a long way.  

And then, obviously, I manage the offer, but by that point the work that we've done at the front really does mean that that piece is relatively straightforward.  

So far, my sweet spot has been around post-seed investment companies. But as the model is more assignment-based, it could be applied to any recruitment drive which requires two hires in a month up to 15 hires over a year.  

Tracey - I love that, so you're really after those highly ambitious big growth businesses that have a big recruitment requirement. And it sounds quite different to traditional recruitment, so you're really getting into the business, understanding the business and providing them with the right candidate. 

James - Absolutely. Because it's charged on an hourly rate, it means I can spend more time at the start with that qualification piece. I can spend more time with candidates that are looking good to make sure they're on board and committed to the role, so by the time you have a shortlist of final interview candidates, every single one of them is putting your company at the top of their list of their options.  

And hence, you'll ask the question about the biggest success in the last 12 months. Well, I secured my first client at the end of February and by the beginning of April, we'd filled three of their roles, and went on to fill all eight of their roles with a hundred percent success over a five-month period. But in those eight roles, we had eight offers, eight acceptances, eight starters, of which six have already passed their probation, two very close to completing. And I think that that really solidifies the fact that the journey the candidates took from start to finish, to the point of engagement all the way through to offer, was very consistent and almost a pleasure. And it just gave everyone a lot more confidence that when we were in the room at the end, everyone was saying yes. And that was, I think, one of the key areas of the success - the fact that those eight offers were all accepted and were all starters, so it's been a good year. 

Tracey - You know what is exceptionally good about that? I love that as your success because it's absolutely focused on the growth of your business. And I know that you went through a big transition this year to really create the business that you wanted to run.  

But what really stands out for me, James, is that the recruitment industry is one that got hit very hard. I've spoken to a lot of recruiters and I'm not saying it's not tough out there, but so many seem to be pulling back and stopping and not doing the work that needs to be done, and you've done the absolute polar opposite throughout the whole of this period.  

You've pushed hard, you've re-engineered the business, you have not stopped. You're at a point now where you're really reaping the rewards and they're the rewards of tenacity and hard work and focus and being smart about what the market needs right now. So yeah, you absolutely deserve it. You've worked your arse off during this period, so well done! 

James - Cheers. I appreciate that. And the one thing is the focus that has been a real help, it's given a huge amount of confidence. 

Tracey - All right, so let's start straight into the juicy bit. What was the big challenge that you overcome this year? 

James  - Well, the big challenge I was given, actually, was when I joined BBB, because you guys are very big on the goal setting. And I've avoided goal setting in almost 18 years of being in business.  

It never really worked, was never very successful, but I bought into that and once I bought into it, it took a huge amount of energy, time and emotion to actually work out what my goals were.  

What did I want? Not some random numbers that I think I should say, and it did take me almost three months to get something down or committed to. And to be fair, obviously the current situation blew them out of the water, but didn't matter, because when we came to reset them again, I had the confidence of what I was trying to do.  

It didn't take as long. I did go back and get rid of a few. I've adjusted some others, and I came up with some new ones. But it just really helps doing that on a regular basis to make sure that you've got a plan, because it will go bad.  

I need to know what the hell I am doing. Why am I doing this? What was the point? Oh, yeah, that just reminds me. And other times, you’re just knackered, and you wake up in the morning - you don't know what to do and you can't be bothered - and it's like, okay, just go back to the goals. What are we going to do today? 

It's like making your bed first thing - you've achieved something. So, the goal setting I found really hard because I've never done it and it's an evolving thing. But I think it's absolutely essential and I'm glad I did it. And I'm doing it all the time, to be honest. 

Tracey - Now you're confident. So that was a great one. 

I love what you said there, because when you're not used to asking yourself the question, which is, what do I want, and can I really achieve that in the next 12 months? And if not, what do I then need to do in the next 12 months? How do I then break that down? And the important question that people forget to ask themselves is what are the tasks that are in my control that I need to do in order to give myself the best possible chance of achieving that goal? That's what fundamentally goes out the window.  

And I know it was a battle to get you on it, but fair play. It may have taken you three months but you who gives a shit if you end up in a place where goal setting and achievement is now really working for you. And you can see the impact it's having on your business. You're constantly showing up with your one hundred percent goal completion. And you're a convert. That's a BBB win in my opinion. So yeah, I love it. 

James - And also, the other thing which I had to take on board - that sometimes it doesn't work, but it doesn't matter, tomorrow it will. Just get back on it tomorrow and do it. Don't let it hang over you. It used to hang over me forever. It's been a real eye opener. As I said, I rejected it for years but not now. It's an absolute dead certainty. I can't live without it. 

Tracey - Love it. 

So what's the one piece of advice then, James, that you would give business owners. 

James - Well, there's that setting goals piece, but I think on the back of that, there was one thing that George always bangs on about which some people get a bit wary about and that is the sales piece.  

But the thing about sales is you've got to look at your business and ask yourself, what is the most important thing that I need to do? And I can't believe there's going to be any business owner that doesn't, if they're really honest with themselves, come back with having sales as the most important thing.  

When you start buying into that and you start realising that that is actually the first thing you should do, you then realise you've got to invest the time and the energy and do whatever it takes to be good at that.  

I've spent quite a bit of money and put a lot of energy into my sales technique. It was pretty ad hoc before, pretty random. Sometimes it was good, most of the time it was pretty bad. And now I'm consistently getting out doing sales. I'm enjoying it, I'm looking forward to it. It didn't happen overnight; it took a lot of effort. And as I said, I spent a bit of money on it - I got some support and on the back of that, I'm really enjoying it. I believe in what I'm saying.  

I can pick it up and put it down. Sometimes I can spend two hours on it, sometimes I can spend 15 minutes on it. But needless to say, I'm doing it all the time. And I'm loving it, you know? And I can see the confidence it gives me with regards to where my business is going. You can't put money on it. I feel so much more confident. I'm living by prosperity and opportunity as opposed to fear and worry about what's going to happen. I go, "Well, you know, if I can do this work, I will get clients in October. I'll get clients in November. I know how to do this now". But it's taken a long time. Six months ago, I wasn't doing it. I wasn't doing enough of it, and it's taken a long time. But you've got to make that choice and if you're really serious about your business, you need to get on top of sales. So that's my big advice, it's not easy. 

 Tracey - I couldn't agree more. But you said a couple of really interesting things in there.  

One was about the amount of time and energy it takes, and I see business owners beat themselves up all the time because they're not instantaneously amazing at sales, and the truth is it does take time and energy. You have to learn. You said it took you - even someone that's been in recruitment, which is pretty sales-heavy as you know, as a chosen career - even your sales expertise is ad hoc and some days it's dire. So, I love that.  

What you said is it takes time and investment - time, money and energy to really get good at something - which you did.  

The other thing, which is really important, is that a lot of businesses are not sales heavy. Whether it's HR or marketing, for instance. That's what they love, and that's what they're passionate about, and they want to do this stuff for great clients. They're amazing at what they do, but they inadvertently take on a sales role the moment they set up their own business. And it's one of the big challenges for business owners to overcome, that they are a sales person. They have to be in order to make the business successful. So, a great piece of advice for business owners for moving forward, fantastic. 

James, it's been an absolute delight watching your journey so far. I cannot wait for the next 12 months. Because if you think about what you've achieved this first 12 months, God only knows what's coming. 

But it's like night and day, you know? Who you were when you showed up at BBB and who you are now. I am genuinely excited about what's to come.  

It's been an absolute pleasure today; I really appreciate you taking the time. Thanks for your wisdom, and we will catch up with you soon. 

James  - Lovely, cheers Tracey. 

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