Recession Led Innovation

Gordon Stoddart, Co-Founder of The Recruitment Network says now’s the time for reinvention

The current Covid 19 pandemic has challenged business leaders in ways that previous economic downturns never could.  The lockdown did two things that’ll hopefully never be experienced again by business leaders – a ripping up of normal working routines and team dynamics and for many a devastating overnight collapse of revenues.

Beyond the worry about the health of friends and loved ones and the sadness related to the human cost of Covid 19, there was anger, grief, frustration and many other negative emotions felt by business leaders and their teams from the impact on the business that they had worked so hard to build. You could plan and risk manage for most things, but this has been particularly brutal.

And yet, we are seeing across the TRN Community a continued spirit of belief, entrepreneurial optimism and innovation. The best will survive and will ultimately thrive by finding a better way to do things and a different way to stand out. In the weeks since lockdown, I’ve seen members of The Recruitment Network community innovate in so many ways –  launching new service offerings,  generating opportunity and revenue from different markets, building new platforms to improve the customer experience, adding value to clients in ways they’d never previously found time for, increasing productivity by forty per cent just by thinking differently, creating communities they’d never considered and engaging their teams in fun, crazy ways.  One even set up a sanitising business to deep clean and service and support their clients!

What is it that stops us innovating this effectively when there isn’t a lockdown or a recession? Time? Other priorities? Habits?

I’m naturally more of a perfectionist than a disrupter and have obsessively believed that doing the simple things brilliantly is the best way to build a great business. I’ve also learnt that innovation is just a fancy word for finding a better or different way. I wouldn’t describe myself as an innovator, yet I innovate obsessively every day.

As service providers you can perfect or disrupt. At TRN in the weeks since lockdown we’ve seen the benefit of both. We work as hard on our own business as we do with our clients (you’ve got to practice what you preach, right?) to get some really important business principles agreed and nailed. Here are a few principles we’ve always believed underpin a great business:

  • Purpose and Values are foundational
  • Build a team of people who want it, get it and are capable
  • Reputation is everything – obsess about the experience you give people
  • Technology is opportunityuse it

Let me share how this has played out for TRN since March.

Firstly, all the work to build the ultimate team has paid off – the engagement and productivity from the team has been immense in supporting our membership.

Secondly, the very clear Purpose and set of Values we’ve had for years made decision making easy. Here’s what I mean. Our Purpose is ‘To unlock the potential of talent’ (and has been for 15 years) and one of our Values is Family First (which includes ‘Being there for One Another’). With those 2 in mind, it was an easy decision to go to our TRN members prior to lockdown (and everyone recognised we were the first to do it) and say ‘pay whatever you can afford, we’ll continue to support you unconditionally through this period’.

Commercially it was risky but there is no doubt it was the right thing to do and majority of members decided to continue to pay membership fees -they appreciated the gesture. Purpose over profit. We sleep at night, we’ve had phenomenal feedback, it’s been great for relationships and for our Reputation (we continue to attract new members)

Thirdly, on lockdown, we offered our new online platform, which was released in February as a paid-for solution, to the global recruitment community for free, to help people navigate through.  We now have over 3000 subscribers from 25 countries and nearly 1,000 CEO’s/MDs/Owners of recruitment businesses who have now joined the TRN community in the last six weeks. More recruitment business leaders generating more data and input than ever before adding value to the community. Technology and digital innovations are great opportunities for any business.

The timing of having the platform ready just before a lockdown, when everyone needed virtual solutions and support, was lucky. Investing in it and building it was not. It came from a belief that innovation and disruption matters to stand out.

We all need to be leaner, smarter, better and different. Let’s learn from this period of innovation, of finding a better way, and build it into our culture and mindset forever more and the future will be bright. `


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