Every recruitment agency across the world is considering growth.

This used to mean how many heads you could add to the floor to drive your revenue forward.

A tall order in a talent short industry that battles some of the highest churn rates.

By anchoring your revenue to headcount you enter your agency into a constant fight against the tide.

There are an estimated 40,000 agencies in the UK market.

Most of which are lifestyle businesses, but for those serious about scaling, only 20% tend to make it past the ten-man wall.

That’s roughly around the mark where you have to step away from actively billing whilst managing, to become someone that’s solely dedicated to developing fee earners.

It’s where the lines of success are drawn by those with the best processes. Where you shift your focus to driving the activity of others that drive the revenue.

If you’re adding headcount on top of bad processes, then you’re effectively filling a bucket with a hole and your growth will always be restricted.

Why are you hiring for growth?

Before you look to hire your next consultant – pause for thought.

What are the reasons behind your decision to hire and could you unlock larger gains by optimising what you already have?

If you think like a bigger company from the beginning and double down on installing the right processes and technology, you will enjoy much larger dividends later.

Too many businesses learn this reality long after the fact. When it’s harder to implement better processes and are penalised for it.

Start as you mean to go on.

If you’re already an enterprise business, then the opportunity you’re losing from enduring bad processes will be significantly higher.

Is your technology being used as it could and is it useful?

Make sure you have a clear understanding of what growth means to you and that you have a clear way of measuring that?

You can’t manage what you’re not measuring after all.

Increasing headcount and revenue aren’t necessarily an indicator of growth, or healthy, sustainable and profitable growth.

I’ve seen plenty of agencies lead themselves towards the red by scaling without thinking.

Change the lines of growth

There are multiple roads toward Rome and the same can be said for growth. Instead of focusing on headcount ask yourself:

  • How can you increase NFI per head?
  • How can you reduce the time it takes your new hires to add profitable revenue?
  • Where can you identify the loss makers in your company? I.e. the customers you should prioritise, the jobs you should be working and the coverage they actually need.
  • How can you increase your margins?
  • How can you secure more retainers and improve your cash flow?

The most important rule for me is how can you do any of these in a measurable, repeatable and therefore scalable way?

Remember that your data is arguably – albeit controversially – more valuable than your people.

Data is going to be influencing your agency long after your consultants leave and your data is the most important tool for identifying why you’re growing.

Treat technology like a hire

Implementing technology alone won’t deliver the silver bullet that some might be hoping for.

A faster car won’t get you there any quicker if you have the wrong directions and lack the knowledge of how to use it.

You wouldn’t neglect to set your new hire some targets or dedicate time to onboarding them and your technology is the same.

For it to work in the way that you intend, you need to implement it in the right way.

Have a goal in mind and deliver your technology with an accompanying strategy.