UK Recruiter Abroad – John Colborne, Director of PSG
Second in our series of Recruiters Abroad, Pro Recruitment Solutions has interviewed John Colborne, a highly successful UK Recruiter having billed over AUD $1 million per annum. John launched, along with his business partner Edward Cross, Professional Search Group (PSG) in Perth, Western Australia in 2013 and excitingly they are now expanding their operations to the San Diego, California.
Below are John’s thoughts and impression on being a UK Recruiter Abroad!
Pros of a 180 desk:
How long have you been in recruitment and why did you originally get into it?
I have been in the recruitment game since May 2008 when I joined a company in London called Poolia specialising in Finance and Accounting placements.
I got into recruitment purely based on the fact my brother had worked in the industry for several years before I started and it opened my eyes when I saw the earning potential and incentives that play a big part in the industry.
What is your current role, and what does the next 18 months hold for you and PSG?
Since launching PSG Finance and Accounting with Edward Cross in February 2013, I subsequently launched our Information Technology division, which has since grown to a team of 4 consultants and is still growing.
Now comfortable with where our Perth office is at Ed and I thought the next step to grow the business would be to launch a second office. A few reasons brought us to the decision to launch in San Diego; it’s a growing economy and I have several friends living over there, who have and are experiencing success in the market; I am ready for a change, moving closer to home (London) was a preferred choice and we feel the US market is a huge market we can enter and prove successful in.
My challenge over the next 18 months will be to mirror what we have achieved in Perth. This will be a challenge given we do not have current contacts or clients based in San Diego but having written out a detailed business plan we feel with patience, hard work and time this will be achieved.
What brought you to Australia and what do you feel are the key differences between Recruiting in the UK and Australia?
I actually moved to Perth, Western Australia on a working holiday visa and came out to Australia to experience the place. However, it was soon after I arrived without any plans that I ended up interviewing and working for a global recruitment company, who sponsored me on a 4 year visa.
UK and Australia are two very different markets; UK seems to be a lot more competitive with a stronger emphasis on sales. Therefore, it is important that as a recruiter re-locating from the UK market to Australia, you need to be able to adapt to a more relationship driven market.
Other factors, which I have seen to be different from both markets include:
- UK companies expect longer working hours than Perth based companies
- Salaries in Perth are a lot higher, which is relative to the cost of living
- Perth is a resources dominated market, which is heavily influenced by commodity prices, whereas in the UK, the main industries are financial services, FMCG, media and retail.
I have seen a few UK recruiters from major firms struggle to adapt to the business culture in Perth. Have you come across many UK recruiters that have not replicated their previous successes and why do you think that is?
Yes, I have seen recruiters enter Perth with a reputable reputation but have struggled to get a grip with the Perth market because it is relationship driven. You can be a great salesman with a fantastic track record but if you become the typical ‘pushy’ or ‘salesy’ consultant that will frustrate a lot of clients in Perth. In this market the words ‘partnership’ and ‘trustworthy’ are words clients want to be able to relate to your business and yourself as a consultant.
You were making crazy money at Robert Half during the boom in Perth, what was the key to your success?
I would say a combination of timing, hard work and working with the right people. I joined Robert Half in December 2009 and at this time Robert Half was actually pretty new to the Perth market. I spent the first year understanding the market, temporary recruitment and basing my success around volume recruitment, so focused on meeting and building relationships with as many clients as possible.
When the market turned early-mid 2011 I had a good name in the market as a specialist temporary/contract finance recruiter, which gave me a lot more control over jobs when hiring as I became a ‘go to’ consultant for contract needs for many clients. These relationships enabled me to be ahead of my competition as I would often be a first point of call and would often then get exclusivity. To get to this point I was also process driven and focused a lot around planning my days and time management.
You have recruited in both IT and Finance. Have you got any words of wisdom for Recruiters out there thinking of changing discipline?
Anyone looking to change disciplines has to be confident in their business development skills and willing to put in extra hours to understand and research the market. Sometimes it can be refreshing to change disciplines and recruit in a new line of business plus if it’s a new division being launched it can motivate you, as it should open up internal opportunities for personal career growth.
In 2013 you launched PSG with Edward Cross, what has been the most challenging aspect of setting up your own business and making it successful?
When word got out in the market that I had resigned to launch my own business lots of people told me this was risky and I was making a mistake. From a business development/recruitment point of view I was not one bit concerned, as cold calling was a strength of mine. My concern as an individual at the time was understanding the operations of a new start-up. However, this is why we have been successful as Ed my business partner, had experience of launching the Robert Half Perth office and we worked closely together on the business set up. Ever since, we have both been part of the day to day running of the business, a lot of which Ed has taught me.
Also, individually the set up meant I would no longer be earning a base salary every month and quarterly bonuses but I was very confident it would only be a matter of time before we got this business to a place where this would only be a short term drawback.
As a recruitment leader what frustrates you most when interviewing experienced recruiters?
I find it frustrating when you can tell early on in an interview that a potential hire has no desire to work in recruitment as a career and instead they just see it as a job. These are not the candidates we want to hire, PSG focuses on those who want to make a life and a career, where earning potentials are unlimited. They need to show this to us as well as having goals in life and seeing recruitment as a guide to achieving these goals. If you are looking to become a Recruiter to earn a base salary, I would say you are setting yourself up to fail.
What interests do you have outside recruitment and how do you fit them in with the crazy hours we work?
I have always been a competitive sportsman but working in such an intense environment meant I had to make sacrifices for my job. Therefore, I no longer compete on weekends playing Football or Rugby like I used to. I now do my own training either before or after work and have turned to Golf as a sport to play on the weekends with friends.
What advice would you give Recruiters from the UK who are considering a career in Australia?
The earning potential is huge but as I have said before, you need to focus more on the relationship building side of things. Also, with the recruitment market becoming more and more competitive, patience is a requirement to break down some accounts so it’s understanding the balance between patience and persistence.
Socially, how did you make friends and integrate into Australian Society and have you got any words of advice for the ‘Poms’ out there who are thinking of making the move?
Having worked in recruitment in Australia since the end of 2009 the majority of my friends have been made through work and friends of friends. Most recruitment companies have a lot of consultants working for them from the UK, which tends to make it easier for ‘poms’ to settle in because they have things in common with those from the UK. However, recruitment all in all is a good environment to meet people as it’s a social industry to work in. Friends can be made from colleagues, candidates and clients.
Currently you are in the process of setting up a new office in San Diego, California. What excites you most about moving and launching this?
The challenge! I love a new challenge and moving to San Diego is not the natural progression for a company who recently launched in Perth, Western Australia. It is a risk, but we feel it’s a calculated risk, which will pay off if we can focus on:
- Hiring the best talent in San Diego
- Setting up and following our internal processes
- Patience will be a key as we need to understand that no one in the local market will know me as an individual or more importantly our Brand PSG LLC.
I am really looking forward to the challenge of building this brand in a new market and a new country.
San Diego has multiple recruitment agencies, what do you feel sets PSG apart and how will you attract the best talent in the market to join you?
Perth also had multiple recruitment companies before we launched, some, which have gone into administration since we launched. However, our success came through hiring good people, developing strong internal processes, creating a work hard/play hard atmosphere resulting in a low staff turnover.
We will aim to attract talent in the local market by offering competitive base salaries, competitive commission structures whilst offering professionals the ability to fast-track their careers for those who prove themselves. We want to replicate our strong internal promotion structure as this will help the business grow. Therefore, internal opportunities for good proven consultants will be vast.