Only six months ago, Tom, Ed, Joe and Joseph left the recruitment agency where they had been working for a combined 17 years. Together they founded Capio Recruitment, an agency specialising in insurance, legal and financial services.
As described on their website, Capio is a Latin word meaning to take control or to grasp. The founders felt this was reflective of core spirit of the business. Setting up on their own took courage and confidence, seizing the moment despite risk and uncertainty, and taking control of their lives, their careers and their future.
It’s still early days, but the foursome are building a strong foundation and are energised to take on the challenges that lie ahead – and reap the benefits that come from being their own bosses. We spoke to the four founders to get the lowdown on their journey so far.
TIMESTWO (TT): What made you decide to set up by yourselves?
Ed: “It wasn’t a case of being unhappy where we were, we just wanted something that we could put our own stamp on and feel ownership of. We felt we had hit a cap on what we could earn, and this was an opportunity to grow and develop something of our own. Conversations started in the pub with a throw away comment, ‘imagine we did this for ourselves?’ and soon we were having serious conversations about setting something up together.”
TT: What were the frustrations you experienced when you were employed by an agency?
Tom: “As any recruiter will know, it can be frustrating give away a vast proportion of fees. We wanted to move away from being employees and have a real seat at the table. After years of experience and consistently high billings it was clear we could do it on our own.”
TT: What were your initial fears in setting up your own business?
Ed: “I had been with my company for over 3.5 years. It was my first role in recruitment, and it was a good position in a good company. Was I turning my back on the best opportunity I had ever been given, throwing it all away? What if it all goes wrong and we have to go back to square one? But we all felt it was the right time to take the leap and the benefits really outweighed the concerns in the end.”
TT: What has been your toughest challenge?
Joseph: “It’s been a steep learning curve on all levels. There are a lot of moving parts in business and all sorts of admin. Managing the day-to-day operations on top of the recruitment is time consuming and challenging. If anyone out there is thinking of doing it, you have to be 100% up to the task because there will be moments that make you consider why you did it in the first place!”
TT: What has surprised you most about running your own business?
Joseph: “We were expecting an absolute slog, working 14-hour days and practically living in the office. But, in reality, we have had the freedom to dictate our own hours and our work life balance is much better. We are working as hard as ever if not harder, with more risk attached, but being in control of your own destiny – and day – is invaluable. It’s a good feeling to not have to answer to anyone except yourself and your trusted team.”
Joe: “We also didn’t expect that arguing over the play list for the office each day would be such a bone of contention!”
TT: What three words would you use to describe life as a founder?
ALL: “Rewarding. Tumultuous. Exciting. And of course – Capio!”
TT: What has been the impact on your personal lives?
Tom: “Walking away from a consistent salary and pipeline had a significant impact on our cash flow which was a bit nerve wracking and we have had to change our lifestyles temporarily until we start seeing the money coming in again. As the saying goes, you don’t eat until you kill!”
Joe added: “I’m the youngest of the group and being a Director and business owner at this early stage of my career been a real growth experience. I am pushing and challenging myself with this venture, I can already see positive changes in myself and I look forward to my own continued personal development along with the business.”
Ed: “Everyone has been so supportive, positive and encouraging about what we’re doing and we’re all incredibly grateful for that. Our personal situations are all different, but we are generally happier and finding it easier to spend time with our friends and family. Hopefully they are enjoying that aspect too!”
TT: Did you consider getting investment?
Ed: “We did speak to a couple of firms that invest specifically in recruitment start-ups. They were positive conversations and we did seriously consider what they were offering. If any of us were trying to do this on our own, it would have been a no brainer but with the four of us it didn’t make sense. The deal that was on offer would have meant the fee would be compounded so we would essentially end up paying four times over.”
Joseph: “Perhaps we could have found a more suitable offer but we already had a business plan in place and the numbers were looking good. We wanted to give it a go by ourselves but if you’re a one- or two-man band, investment is the way to go.
Tom: “At the moment there’s only the four of us to worry about, but when we’re looking to expand the business and the grow the team, we might need to consider the option of investment to cover some of the salaries and given us the time to develop those teams.”
TT: What are your plans for the future of your business?
Ed: “We’re not looking to be the biggest agency out there or grow to quickly. We want build really solid, capable teams. We refuse to compromise our standards so will not grow if our level of service is affected by expanding before we’re ready.
Joe: “We are all hands on and will continue to be so, so essentially our customers are getting Director level service from highly skilled and specialist recruiters – not entry-level juniors who don’t really understand the job or their sector.”
Tom: “Our aim is also to be an ethical company that gives something back. Recruitment generates a lot of money and we have each chosen a charity organisation that supports a cause close to our hearts. For every fee we charge, we will contribute £100 to one of those charities and we’ll ask the client to select which one so they can feel involved as well.”
TT: What would your advice be to anyone looking to set up their own recruitment business?
Joe: “Do your research. There is a lot to organise from the website, CRM system, job boards, accountancy, telephones, internet, office space – and on top of this you have to do your day job!”
Joseph: “Don’t be afraid to talk to investors and advisors. Keep your connections open and don’t burn bridges. Doing it as a four is hard, doing it solo would be a huge challenge so you will need support and partnership. If you’re not an experienced consultant with a proven track record of billings, I wouldn’t even go there!”
TT: If you were to do it all again, what would you do differently?
Joe: “So far so good. We’re probably making mistakes that we won’t even know about until we look back with hindsight, but we will learn from them.”
Tom: “Ask us again in six months!”
Capio’s website can be found here.