Alex Rawlings, president and founder of Raw Selection, joins the podcast to talk about his experience with starting his own firm and the appeal of focusing on a niche market. He discusses the importance of documentation when it comes to creating your own training programs, and also shares his thoughts on why occasionally working from an office can be incredibly beneficial to professional development.
David Folwell: Hello, everyone. And thank you for joining us for another episode of The Staffing Show. I am super excited to be joined today by Alex Rawlings, who is the president and founder of Raw Selection.
Alex, why don’t you go ahead and give us a little introduction to yourself and how you got into staffing?
Alex Rawlings: Yeah, I appreciate that, David. And thanks for having me on the podcast.
So, a bit of an intro to me. And, to me, I think like a lot of people in the recruitment industry, more so previously, less so now, fell into the industry passionate about the outdoors, wanting to be an outdoor instructor, realize you can’t really make a lot of money unless your name is Bear Grylls, came back home with my tail in between my legs and applied for loads of jobs. And I got a phone call from a company I’d never heard of, from a business I’d forgotten I’d applied for, along the big myriad. And they said, “We’ve spoken to a person of a person who knows you, and thinks you’re a decent guy. Do you want to come in for an interview about a recruitment role?”
So, naturally, did loads of research, and ended up in what we regard as hell placing dentists and dental nurses and….
Rawlings: …all sorts of different bits and pieces. And one of my stories is I remember doing 10 placements and not doing 10,000 pounds or just doing 10,000 pounds in revenue or something like that. I did that, did well, and then moved to another recruitment firm, and did work on placing technical sales people in the UK. It was one of those firms that a lot of people in recruitment have that kind of transfer in their career. It teaches you really well, but the culture’s horrible. It’s just about beating you up. The environment’s terrible. Everyone takes calls on their cell, and goes around the corner because the boss is an asshole. I hope I can swear on this. If I can’t….
Folwell: Yeah, you’re good.
Rawlings: I then found an opportunity in a kind of mid-to-senior-level recruitment business, and that’s really where my career began to build. And within three days of me starting within that business, my boss sat me down and he said, “Look. Good start. Appreciate it. Three days you’ve been committed. You’re on the phone all day, et cetera.” And he said, “You know, you’re going to have a difficult decision to make at some point. It’s whether you stay here or you start your own firm.” And I thought, “Jesus, this guy’s good at reading people.”
And then, two and a half years later, getting frustrated with management, frustrated with growth of the business, et cetera. My missus finally decided to kick my miserable ass and get me going. And then I started a firm, obviously called Raw Selection. I didn’t think too much about the name. It does sound like a pet food. Somebody thought it was a porn channel. I think that says more about you than it says about me. But I didn’t want Rawlings & Partners or whatever else within recruitment. I wanted Raw Talent but somebody had stolen it. So, Raw Selection was born. And I went off about trying to get my first deal, and my first fee.
I went into a brand new market, a brand new industry, never recruited in this space before but I was driven by wanting to do bigger fees, and certainly wanting to do senior executive and genuine executive recruitment. Because I don’t know what it’s like in the States, David, but there’s loads of firms out here and they all claim to be executive search and they’re placing salespeople, sales engineers, technical salespeople in the U.S., in the most part in the U.K. And they call themselves executive search and they do no different than any other recruitment firm which just sounds fancier than anything else. So, that’s what we went after. And nearly five years in, I’m still here.
Folwell: That’s an awesome story and love the outdoor component of it as well. And so, getting Raw Selection off the ground. So you went into executive search. One of the things that we just launched, our State of Staffing report, and one of the things we learned was that the fastest-growing firms are niching the market, they’re going after a fairly differentiated strategy and identifying who they’re going to go after specifically. I hear “exec search” all the time, ask them who they work with. They’re like, “Well, anybody who needs an executive.”
You are about as niched out as I’ve seen with a focus on private equity. How did you end up going down that path?
Rawlings: So, what I wanted to do is I want to place CEOs and CFOs. One reason was fee sizes. Second reason was probably ego. I was really keen to tell people that I placed chief execs. I think we’ve all had that conversation. You’re sat back, you’re having a discussion and someone’s like, “Oh, you’re a recruiter. Oh, you’re a bit of an asshole. I bet you couldn’t get me a job.” And I remember having loads of those discussions, and I was pretty vocal. I’d say what I think, sometimes to my own detriment… and I remember someone said to me, “Can you get my partner a job?” And I was like, “Well, probably not, but what does she do?” “She’s a hairdresser. You recruiters, you know, you place everybody.” And it was early stages, and I was just like, “Oh, I’m afraid I only place CEOs, CFOs, COOs, or investment professionals in private equity, and you won’t be able to afford my fees.” The guy’s face dropped and it made me feel good for about five minutes, and then, I realized it was my own ego.
But you’ve got to go niche. The narrower your niche, the broader your appeal. I don’t know who said that but well done, whoever it was.
Mile-deep, inch-wide type process. And even within private equity, we are so broad, and we focus just on lower- and middle-market firms, and we have our portfolio division that specializes in industrial. And then we’ve got a portfolio division we’re just building out, which is healthcare, life sciences, and working across that spectrum. And then we have our investment professional and back-office team doing placements for investment professionals with back-office teams.
So, even though we sound niche, we are broad, and we are just narrowing, narrowing, narrowing in our top-performing the business. And I’m happy to give this away, guys. It’s a great market. It specializes in aerospace and defense but machine components, businesses backed by private equity, sub-150 million. There is only about 300 to 400 companies in the U.S., and that’s where he makes all his money from.
Folwell: That’s amazing. And so, you have experience in the dental tech sales, so you’ve got kind of a broad experience of different recruiting roles. What is unique about kind of private executive search NP?
Rawlings: I suppose what’s the difference here is because what’s happening when these businesses are actually being acquired. So, for those that don’t understand private equity, or haven’t come across it before, you’ve got a three-to-six-year window in most private equity firms where they need to take a business to an exit. And what these guys typically like to do is buy a business that’s doing about 10 million in revenue, and then exit that business when it’s doing about a 100. But they don’t want to take a thousand years overdoing it. They want to do it ideally in five years. And therefore, what we’re looking for is executives that obviously do a lot of add-on acquisitions but they’ve got to operate with speed and pace. You’re not sitting in a business for 10 years and taking the business from 30 to 35 million and thinking you’re a hero.
This is fast-paced business to get businesses growth and building a really strong team out. And the nature of that means that guys from…and I don’t know the private word particularly well anymore but if you work for Emerson Technologies or you work for GE, about 99 out of 100 times those executives will fail because they’re full of bureaucracy and politics and bullshit.
Rawlings: It’s finding people that can operate at that pace. And that’s where your nicheness is. And the value that that brings, the multimillion dollar exits, multimillion pound, multimillion euro exits that happen on that means that we get to do some good work, quick pace, and hopefully put some brilliant executives into companies and get paid pretty well for it.
Folwell: And so, you’re basically partnering with the PE firm saying, “Hey, when you buy your next company, we’ll find the executives for whoever it is that you’re purchasing.” Are you working with them pre-acquisition? Or is it always post-acquisition?
Rawlings: Yeah, absolutely. Both. So, we’ll work with…
Rawlings: …them pre- and post- whilst they’re doing due diligence. We’ve done searches for that. And then, obviously, when they’ve got a business, we do a lot of replacement positions.
Folwell: Awesome. And what’s the kind of size and growth of Raw Selection?
Rawlings: Yeah. So, we started up as usual stuff, bedroom-type recruiter, wondering….
Rawlings: …if I was ever going to make any money. Fortunately, scored pretty quickly, got a retainer on the board within my first four weeks. And that made me feel like I was a million dollars. And then we’re five years in.
So, we’re currently about 10, 11 people head count, and our goal…and I don’t like sharing this because it just sounds like every other recruitment firm in the world that wants to be the biggest and the best. But our goal is to be the biggest within private equity executive search and to be the go-to provider.
Now, I apologize for anybody else that’s heard that bullshit before and gone with it but that’s about building infrastructure within a business. And if you think about how recruitment businesses are founded, run, driven, and developed, they’re like technology, they’re like systems, they’re like processes. And that’s what we’ve spent kind of the initial five years of building out the platform. It’s still not perfect but it’s about building that platform of a business, a bit like a manufacturing plant, a bit like a technology company, and taking bits from other places to grow that organization significantly.
So, we moved into a new office during COVID. Best time for cheap real estate. And we’re about to move again. And we’re looking at offices in New York, potentially California, and we’ll look at offices in Europe, and most likely London in order to grow the business. And we’ve done very well in taking graduates, sales experienced people, training them in recruitment, and taking them through the process and making them really good.
Folwell: Yeah. And so, as you’re kind of talking about the infrastructure…and I know you and I, through a conversation, you’d mentioned earlier about the importance of training in management and staffing. What are some of the things that you guys are doing differently, either from an infrastructure perspective or when it comes to training and management?
Rawlings: Yeah. So, I’ll kick off on the training side. The first thing we’re doing differently is we’re actually training our people, which those recruitment firms claim to do. And anybody who’s listening to this and isn’t in recruitment, ask for proof of their training program. And if it’s in a classroom for two weeks or they don’t have it, or it’s in your boss’s head, it doesn’t exist. Or it’s probably shit.
So, what we’ve done is we’ve built out a training program. Because of the people that we play against, which kudos to Egon Zehnder, Russell Reynolds, Spencer Stuart, we come up against all the time, and all the rest of them, Heidrick, and the big…firms, and I’ve got a 25-year-old guy here that’s our top biller and earning a stupid amount of money…but because we’re coming up against those people and where we’re taking them from, you have to develop people properly, training them both, obviously in recruitment, obviously in their industry, but also in sales. So, building out that program.
And I think that’s what a lot of firms don’t do right. And our guys are still getting trained, even though they’ve been here for two-and-a-half years. They still train every single day. Think Grant Cardone, if anybody knows who he is, or…
Rawlings: …Cardone or whatever, without the, “Rah! Rah!” clapping and all the rest of the stuff in the morning meeting. We implement that, and we run through it, and we teach people properly how to pitch a retainer, how to identify pain, how to identify problems. And then we also get external trainers in, work with our 250K, 500K and plus billers that then get trained and developed by external sources. And that’s an ever-going process, always getting upgraded.
And then we’ve got secondary level training for our experienced people. And then we have a management training and development program for our managers in the business because first-line billing managers have the toughest job of any industry. So, give them the tools to do so.
Folwell: For all of the content for training, I know a lot of staffing firms want to have more training, want to have more education in place, finding the time or the resources to actually implement that and come up with that content, how are you coming up with the process or the content for it?
Rawlings: Yeah. So, we’ve built it. Every time we train somebody, we upgrade the process. We create scripts, we create examples of calls. So, if you are listening to this and you’re a founder of a business, it’s probably likely you’re damn good on the phone. So, record that call and use it as training. Then treat someone how to sell a retainer. When you mess up a call, record that, put that in your training….
Rawlings: …program. Build out elements of that. I mean, you’ve got a lot more in from there. There’s so much stuff online, so many people. There’s Jordan Belfort’s training that you can bring into your own training. There’s tons of stuff. Gary Vaynerchuk’s a really good example of what he shares about social media and content. Document what you’re doing instead of creating. There’s always going to be an element of creation with regards to training but if you document what you are doing and then build that into a platform, then you’re killing two birds with one stone and you’re creating it but without actually having to create it because you’re already doing it. And that’s what we’ve kind of built the business on the back of, is that kind of training program. And then we just continually evolve and develop it, and keep building it.
And management side’s a bit tough, and that’s a lot of one-on-one discussions. But, certainly in the initial training and development side, that’s what you’ve got to build.
Folwell: On the management side, are you using any operating systems like Traction, Scaling Up? Or where do you get your management skillset to grow your business?
Rawlings: One thing that I’ve done is I’ve never…and I apologize if one of my old bosses is listening here. There’s one of you that’s all right. So, you can take that as you will. But I’ve studied management and leadership, and I’m only just learning, and the glass is full. I’m here with regards to where I’m getting through it. I take from all that kind of stuff. And I’m going to forget the guy’s name but he’s the famous recruiter from Australia. And he’s always on LinkedIn, and his name’s completely escaped me. His book’s got loads of good stuff with regards to implementing stuff in management, and also implementing stuff into your training program.
So, I just read, read, read, read, taking elements from here. We used the Ken Blanchard Situational Leadership. All of my managers know S1, S2, S3, S4, when to deploy that, how to deploy that. So, it’s building those elements in, how to utilize KPIs professionally and not beat you up and make you hate your job, actually using it to develop people, how to drive people on goals, and how to position feedback in a radically candid perspective.
So, all those things that we see that Google have created, Twitter was the Radical Candor with Kim Scott. All these elements, all I’m doing is pulling this together, and utilizing that knowledge, and building it in a training program. And then, eventually, we will have…well, we’re in discussion with, I think, Leadership West, which we won’t have heard of because it’s a UK firm to then come in and help us actually with further development of those managers, and further building.
But what I’ve found is when you go straight to outside help, usually at a loss, you need to build….
Rawlings: …the foundations first within your business, and build the credibility. And then top up the management skill set. Otherwise, you’re just spending money on people when they don’t have the foundations. And usually the training companies will only be with them for a day, a month, or whatever else, and it’s just not enough to build. So, build it, the training internally, and then top up with external resources.
Folwell: Oh, that’s great. And you also mentioned that you’re very process-oriented and trying to focus on the technology side of things. Are you open to sharing what you guys are doing from a tech stack perspective or anything unique you’re doing on that front?
Rawlings: Yeah. So, something we’ve just looked at and reviewed, even though I think our actual tech profile is pretty good…some of the new stuff I’ll throw out there, which we just about… And I don’t know all the details of it because I’ve also got a kind of marketing/operations manager here that helps me with building out some of that stuff. But Sourcewell is one of them. If you’re looking to do outreach, we’re going to use it for our actual internal recruitment. We’re going to use it for our sourcing process for us to be able to build that consistent messaging process rather than just the one message, connection message, forget about it. They connect with you. If you’ve got LinkedIn, Sales Navigator, or Recruitee, you’ve got two inboxes. People don’t see it. They don’t exist. So, that kind of follow-up from there.
We use Salesforce as a CRM. If you’re on Bullhorn, then Cherry…there’s all this kind of stuff. You custom-build your platform and you build it on Salesforce or another custom-built CRM, you are ahead. We don’t use paper. We don’t write things down, which I don’t think is particularly tech-focused and….
Rawlings: …or if you’re writing stuff down on paper, you lose every bit of information you gained. So, we have every candidate that’s ever been interviewed in a business, or I want to run a salary survey, I press a button. I want to amend a candidate. I want to change them. I want to do anything with them. I want to do a search and we’re doing three biggest deals we’ve done in the business. They’re all off the CRM, and they’re all sent to the client within 24 hours. So, that’s what you want as a business, to be able to replicate that. And they could have been interviewed two, three, “x” years ago, and we’re able to therefore deliver on that.
So, I’d say the main important one is get a decent CRM and build it to you, and build out the platform on it. And then, I’d probably say very simply Trello. And…
Rawlings: …it’s not very tech-focused but if you don’t have virtual assistance, why?
Rawlings: All of our administration is done outsource. The guys don’t know how to put accounts onto the system. And sometimes they try and they piss me off because they don’t tag everything correctly. So, they don’t do that. You send it to an email. It goes to the research/virtual assistant team, and they do that. And we manage them all through Trello, and it’s all done through cards, and do all the research platform for it.
And I apologize, guys. I can’t go through every bit of detail. I’d love to go through every bit of tech but….
Folwell: Yeah. No, that’s great.
Rawlings:…How do you build all those processes in together to utilize that tech? So, that’s a little bit of an example of what we use right now. But also what we’re also considering with kind of Salesware. There’s something else called OneUp, and I couldn’t tell you what it does but we’re about to trial it. Trainual? Trainual? Trainual? We’re just about to look at deploying that, which is about building an online platform for induction and training program for us to grow the business. And then the….
Rawlings: …usual stuff like Dropbox and stuff, which nobody’s interested in and, hopefully, you’ve all heard of.
Folwell: Yeah, absolutely. And so, we kind of touched on the infrastructure, training, management, technology. In terms of how you go to market and how you differentiate yourself when it comes to actual search or delivering value to the PE firms you partner with, what are some of the tactics or strategies that you put in place that you feel make you…or you’ve already gone through a few that make you unique but is there anything else that you guys do that you think is especially differentiated compared to your competitors?
Rawlings: Yeah. I think it’s simplistic. When you try and sell yourself…I can’t remember who it was that said it, but I was at a business show in the UK and the guy was at the front talking about USPs, and I was like, “Yes, come on. We need some new USPs….”
Folwell: Yeah, yeah. Rawlings: …”Great talent. We find the best people,” all the other bullshit. And if you hear yourself saying that, great, every other recruitment firm’s got the best network, the best talent, the best X, Y, and Z. So, obviously, we sell on our process and how we actually fill searches. We’ve got a 15-step process of how we go through that to work with clients. And we can go through that in detail of actually what are the steps. Most clients aren’t interested but you can then position that.
Key things is our transparency. For anybody that wants to know what we work with, with regards to our terms and positioning, it’s all on our website. Very clear how we work on a contingent, how we work on a retain, how we work on our engaged fee, and what that all looks like is all really clear and transparent.
Never do we tell a client, “Well, let me speak to you about your vacancy, and then I’ll be able to decipher whether or not I’m going to charge 31% or 32%.” Because it doesn’t really matter. It’s just how….
Rawlings: …much pipeline I have. It’s all that bullshit that I was trained in and, “Oh, yeah. Never share on the upfront.” Share on the upfront. Share what you do. This is how we work. This is what we do. And being really clear and transparent, and have something that is that interest-generating, nobody else does, that guarantee within your business. And that’s like, “Right, bang. This is what we do. This is how we operate,” and that complete clarity. And we do exactly what everyone else does. We find people, we source on LinkedIn, we use data, we use virtual assistance, we have X, Y, and Z, everything else that you’ve all got. We’ve got a database. Everyone’s got a database with 50,000 plus in it.
We’ve got all of that, but it’s how do you differentiate? Through communication, through good training, through understanding client’s pain, from being a specialist. And then, giving the client guarantees, and telling them that we’ll guarantee you fill your position, we’ll do X, Y, and Z, and actually putting your money where your mouth is. And that is what separates firms. Usual know your market and everything else. It’s just everybody else is doing it. You’ve got to train people incredibly well, and offer something within your terms, within your positioning that’s different than every other recruitment and search firm which just does great talent.
If you want to find out what that is, guys, go to the bloody Raw Selection website, look at the client page, and you’ll see the exact offering of what we offer clients. You get fuck-all for contingent, and you get a lot for engaging our retained services, and looking forward to seeing tables like that on loads of recruitment firms because it damn well works for us.
Folwell: That’s one of the first things I noticed. I was going to your website earlier today, and noticed the transparency on that. And it’s something that I’m not used to seeing on staffing firms’ websites. Ironically, about two weeks ago, I was on a private equity website and saw the exact same thing where they had their exact win ratio, their loss ratio. I was like, “All right, here’s exactly what we do. Here’s our failures. Here’s our success is what you’re getting.” It really kind of sticks with you. Usually it’s like, “Oh, I’ve got to dig, figure out if this person’s legit, figure out what the rates are.” And I love that you have that upfront.
With that, I’m kind of shifting into kind of what trends that you’re seeing in PE right now. And I know you’re in the search side of it but are you seeing things slow down? I mean, we’re in kind of an interesting time from the economy standpoint. What are you seeing in the private equity world?
Rawlings: Yeah, it’s an interesting, interesting space at the moment. We aren’t seeing a slow-off from a search perspective at this stage, which means everyone just piling to private equity. But where we are seeing a slow-off is payments. And I think that’s really interesting. We are chasing payment right now more than we ever have had to. And following up, people are feeling the pinch, they’re feeling the pressure a little bit. There’s a lot of capital on the market. A lot of capital’s been printed and pushed out. If you’re a big Ray Dalio fan…
Rawlings: …and you think the world’s going to end tomorrow.
Folwell: Oh, my gosh.
Folwell: Ah, yes.
Rawlings: …He’s been pretty bad on this one.
Rawlings: I’ve also seen his stuff before, so I’m not as worried. He didn’t buy Bitcoin which, depending on when this goes out, it’s not doing very well today or this week, thanks to….
Folwell: Right. Yeah. Six months from now, we’ll be back.
Rawlings: Hopefully, the guy’s not right on this one. But we’re starting to see that slowdown with regards to payment, and therefore that’s given me an indication that we may be moving. Now, I’m not an economist. I haven’t got a degree. I’m one of the worst educated people in the business. So, I’m not fair. I just follow….
Rawlings: …what other people say.
Folwell: I know what you mean. Yeah.
Rawlings: The colleges and universities and everything else are going to drag us down on this one, unfortunately. And we’ll have a nice reset, and we’ll see if the U.S. dollar gets pounded through it and we have a new currency, more dominant currency. We used to have the Netherlands. We used to have the pound. And then we have the U.S. dollar. Is it going to stay the same? Ask Ray Dalio. I know nothing other than regurgitating his stuff. But certainly we’re starting to see a change. But search has not slowed off yet. But I’m anticipating seeing that. As we run….
Rawlings: …into the Q3, I think we’ll see it slow down.
Folwell: Yeah. It’s definitely interesting times right now. What are some of the mistakes that you see people make when they’re going into recruiting executive talent?
Rawlings: If you’re looking to get into this industry, I mean, a lot of the mistakes that people make is just not choosing the firm that they work for. I’ll answer this in two ways. What are we doing actually in recruitment that’s — and what are we doing when we’re getting into it?
If you’re looking to get into recruitment, research the firm, ask the right questions, and actually find out about what it is that these guys are doing. How do they operate? Who are the leadership team? How do they communicate? What have you actually got training program-wise? It can be very difficult to differentiate one firm from another because we’re all the best. We’re all amazing. And remember, we sell jobs for a living, so we should be good at what we do. And find the manager, management in recruitment. And I’m going to put me in this. We’re all shit, so keep working on your game.
If you’re a manager, keep upgrading yourself, read every book you can; leadership, management, process, systems, whatever it is you need to be to be the best version of you. And interview your manager when you’re coming into recruitment because those are the people that will make the fundamental difference to whether you are successful or not. And I’ve had the unfortunate position where I’ve not really worked for somebody that’s hugely inspired me and driven me to be better within executive search recruitment, whatever title we want to put on ourselves to make ourselves sound fancy. But interviewing for that is definitely important.
I think, if I look at what do I see recruiters as making…ah, that’s a difficult one because we all make a lot of mistakes every day. I’d probably say, “Guys, we don’t understand client’s pain well enough. We don’t understand where they’re coming from.” And that’s because we’re not good enough sales people. And we don’t invest in sales enough in developing our own game. So, fundamentally, it comes down to are you investing yourself all the time, every day, reading, developing sales training, to be better? And if the answer of that is no, then you’re going to get beaten by someone else. And that means you can’t understand a client’s pain well enough. You can’t position the takeaway sell, that you can’t read in between the lines of where they’re coming from or where the issues are. And if you get searched to the end and you get picked, and you thought you were exclusive, well, you’ve not sold well enough.
So, it’s about how do you understand and how do you question? So, I’d probably say we just don’t understand clients’ pain enough because we’re just not good enough at sales.
Folwell: With that…I mean, you mentioned Cardone earlier but do you have any sales books that you recommend?
Rawlings: Yeah. So, a lot.
Rawlings: But I’d probably say there’s two books that everyone in recruitment needs to have read. One is The Rich Recruiter because it just gives you the foundation of the formulation of what we do. There’s loads of others. And I’m going to forget all the guys’ names, so I apologize. But there’s the Breakthrough! recruitment book as well. I can’t remember the guy’s name. And then, there’s the American guy. I’ll send you after you’ve done the show-
Rawlings: …for sure. But there’s…not American guy. The Australian guy, Greg….
Folwell: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Rawlings: …Savage. He’s written a pretty good decent book for recruiters and recruitment managers to learn, especially business owners to learn from. But the sales book I highly recommend is Advanced Selling Strategies by Brian Tracy. Learning how to sell, learning how to go through. I don’t like Grant Cardone because he comes across as a bit of a chauvinist pig.
Folwell: I don’t know who that is.
Rawlings: I don’t like Jordan Belfort because I’m a bit too straight-laced, and screwing loads of people out of money. But hellfire, can those guys sell. And they’ve got a process of selling, and a process of questioning, and listening to them every day gets you in that mindset for that, and gets you through osmosis of that. Every day, listening to them talk will get you better at sales. But this Closer’s Survival Guide as well would be another one I suggest you read. It just gives you that confident…bit too much overconfident, and you’ll try and over-close but you then reign it back in a bit and then you’re better from there but… Advanced Selling Strategies, Closer’s Survival Guide, Rich Recruiter. I said two. There’s three. Three books you need to read.
Folwell: Great recommendations. I appreciate that very much.
Shifting gears a little bit but I noticed you’re in your office, you’ve got Raw Selection sign. I like the tagline, “Diligent….”
Rawlings: It’s real. It moves. It’s not a background.
Folwell: Clearly, you’re in office. And I heard that there are other people in there with you. Are you fully in office now? Or are you doing a remote at all?
Rawlings: We have. Our marketing manager works remote. She works part-time, and she works….
Rawlings: …two days a week or whatever. But we’re back in the office. We have been for ages. I know the U.S. has opened up and some of you guys stayed open the whole way through. U.K. went into lockdown. I’ve worked in the office for most of the process. I think it’s another warning for people when you’re asking that question. When we’re interviewing new people to come into this industry and they want to be successful, then you need to learn by osmosis of being around the people you’re in. I’m not against working from home. I’m not one of these guys where, “Freddy’s ill. I need to look after my kid.” Just stay at home. Don’t come in. I don’t want….
Rawlings: … your illness in the office. Trust your people to be able to operate but be sat next to someone who’s killing it, and you will eventually kill it. Learn from them, and absorb their information. Spend time in the morning coming in and doing training. Get in an extra half an hour earlier and do role-play with one of the guys. Take the top biller out for lunch and ask them tons of questions. Be around people to be successful. And if you want to be a manager in this industry, you have to be around the people to learn, and to be able to interact, and to be able to engage and learn from both management, from recruitment, from selling, all those different areas.
I’m a big believer in that for people to be successful but just give people the freedom if they want to work from home because you just want to work from home that day, then work from home. But let’s get in the office and spend time with people. Who enjoyed being locked up at home? Certainly, the U.K. was absolute fire down, not allowed out. My dog wasn’t allowed out for twice in a day. Spend that time with people and enjoy it. Balance that with working from home every now and again, or working part-time from home, or whatever you want to do. But, guys, let’s get in the office. Let’s make calls. Let’s get that buzz. And let’s enjoy what we’re doing and have conversations, recruitment-related, that are football-related, soccer-related. If you’re over your side of the pond, whatever it is, but let’s enjoy what we do.
Folwell: In exec search, I know a lot of times, or at least historically, you’d be out meeting the people you’re placing in person. Are you doing any in person?
Rawlings: No, we don’t. We do the old Zoom call. I’ve just come off a Zoom call with a client. We do what recruiters were built to do, which is make calls. We do a lot….
Rawlings: …of our business in the States. Guys in the U.S., what you’re doing we’re absolutely smashing out there. Guys in Europe, we don’t do as much in Europe as we do in the U.S., and we don’t really do a lot here in the UK, but yeah, we pick up the phone, we build relationships, we have conversations, and that’s how we build the business. But I fundamentally agree that that face-to-face time that you’re going to get is really….
Rawlings: …important. Yeah, getting….
Rawlings: …our clients. But wherever we’re based, our clients aren’t there. I mean, if I’m based in New York, I have a client in California, Oklahoma, Washington, whatever else. So, we just pick up the phone a lot, and speak with people, and work hard.
Folwell: That’s great. So now, we’re going to kind of transition in the next section of the podcast. I have some questions about you and your personal growth. You’ve already shared quite a few insights and pieces of advice for the audience but we’ll kind of jump through these questions.
The first one I have is advice that you wish you were given before entering the staffing industry?
Rawlings: I’d probably say take more risks because when you’re young, and I entered the industry about 19, I just wish I’d just gone for it more. I wish I’d just found out about senior firms, not stayed doing 10 fees for less than 10 grand, and I’d just gone, “Right, who’s the best in industry? Find them and go for it.” Whereas, it was like, “Oh, I must stay here for two years because it looks good on my CV, and I must….
Rawlings: …stay in this business I hate for two-and-a-half years before I get there.” Surround yourself in great people. The people are the most important part. And take the risk and just, if it’s crap, go find them. If you think you’re good and you back yourself, go find that person and take the risk. Because when you got kids, and when you got a house, and when you’ve got everything… I haven’t got kids yet but it will come at some point, I’m sure…and you’ve got responsibilities, you can’t take those risks. So, take them early, and get exposure and experience because that’s what will fly your career more than anything else.
Folwell: And second that one. And in the last five years, what new belief, behavior, or habit has most improved your life?
Rawlings: It comes down to belief in myself. The biggest thing that slowed the growth of this business, I thought do a million year one, five million year three, 20,000 million year, whatever, six…we’re not there yet, but we will. Just believe in yourself and what you’re doing. Have confidence in your capability, leverage the connections and contacts that you have, sense check it, and put your foot on the accelerator and go for it. I spent too much time with my foot on the brake, foot on the accelerator. I want to grow but I want to be slow. I don’t want to take too many risks. But just go for it.
Folwell: Awesome. You’ve already recommended quite a few books today but I can tell you’re an avid reader and a learner. And it seems like it’s kind of core to who you are and who the company is. Do you have any other books that you’d recommend or books that you’ve given out as a gift to your team? And if so, why?
Rawlings: Yeah. So, everyone who joins the business…actually, that sounds like I’m staged but it wasn’t. Everyone who joins the business, they go, “Guys, come and get a free book.” Everyone who joins a business gets Jim Rohn… I always pronounce that incorrectly. Jim Rohn, Jim Rohn. I think it’s Jim Rohn… who gets the book, 7 Strategies for Wealth & Happiness.
Now, a bit of a story behind it, with you guys, where I got it but, in simplicity terms, it’s a bloody good book, and it gives you those steps of goal-setting and achieving that, I’ve sat…you guys can’t see it on camera but if I go the right way, there’s a bookshelf there with all my stuff that I need to read. And then there’s books all over this office with bookshelves and racked up in there. You can get lost but read the books that you need the impression of now. If you need sales, read sales. But that would be one huge book recommendation from that perspective.
And if you’re in management, and you haven’t read Ken Blanchard’s One-Minute Manager and then followed on with the coaching books and everything else from there, then I would highly recommend that you read that
And then, if you are a human being, get all of Tony Robbins’ books because they are phenomenal, and just listen to the bloke because he’s come from nothing, and he’s now worth an absolute fortune. And whether you like him or dislike him, I don’t care. He’s got a huge amount of value, and it’s only $30, 20 quid, for his book, so read it. They’re amazing.
Folwell: That’s great. I think you’re going to take the record for most book recommendations. I actually love that….
Rawlings:…I could keep going for a long time.
Folwell: I’m the same way. We’ve talked a lot about success. How has a failure or apparent failure set you up for later success?
Rawlings: Again, it comes back to that risk-taking. You’ve got to fuck up. Everything that happens in this business that goes wrong, I look at what have I not done to ensure this happened? We lose a deal. What have I not trained somebody in? What have I not prepared somebody to be able to do? What have I not got my managers at the level that they need to be able to operate at to support that consultant? What are we missing? Why have we not got this? Why are we struggling here? You’ve just got to take it on the chin. And the more you fail, the more you will succeed.
We have all the values on the wall in the business, and it’s all sport memorabilia. Warren Buffett’s on the wall. Alan Shearer’s on the wall, which is a top-performing football soccer player. Anthony Joshua. And we have Michael Jordan on the wall with one of the metal art posters that we’ve got. And that’s all about making mistakes. So, it reminds everyone in the team that if you’re making mistakes and you’re getting things wrong, as long as you’re not repeating it over and over again, you’re making progress, and we are learning. That environment is very difficult to instill. And it’s very confusing for people when they come in. But when you build that, and you share openly your mistakes, including me, and you put it in your training, and you tell people how you’ve messed up a retainer pitch, and then you’ve got a really good one next to it, and one of them’s average, that’s where people go, “Okay, this is a safe environment. I’m going to take risks. I’m going to go for this, and someone’s going to slap me on the back for having a crack. Then, that’s definitely the way to go.”
Folwell: That’s fantastic. The last question I have for you is what is an unusual habit or an absurd thing that you love?
Rawlings: Do you know what? I’m probably going to say this, and I’m going to sound like a dick for it, and that’s absolutely fine. But anyone who knows me knows that my hobby is my work, and I just love my hobby, which is doing this work.
If someone says to me, “Do you want to go do this and that’s where I’m at?” Someone said to me, “Do you want to sit down in a room for a day, a week, a weekend, and get some beers in?” I mean, come on, let’s do this properly. Spiced rum’s my favorite. If anybody wants to send me spiced rum as a “thank you” for all the advice, that’s brilliant.
But, jokes aside, it’s my work. I just love it. I love growing businesses. I love being involved in that process. I love building processes systems. If I wasn’t in recruitment. I’d probably be an operations guy somewhere getting annoyed at the salespeople. But that, for me, is annoying. And I apologize because I know that sounds like an absolute asshole, and…I just love what I do.
Folwell: Yeah. No, that’s fantastic. And with that, any closing comments that you’d like to share with our audience?
Rawlings: If you’re in recruitment, just keep working on your game. Investing in yourself is the best investment that you can make. There’s loads of quotes out there. That’s Warren Buffett’s… You should spend more time investing in yourself than you should on your job. So, just get yourself good, and eventually it will come. You will make the big money. You will be successful. Just don’t be a dick when you do it.
Folwell: I love that. Well, Alex, it was great having you on today. Lots of insightful topics and conversation, a ton of great book recommendations. Thank you so much.
Rawlings: Yeah. I appreciate you having me on, David. I really appreciate it. And thanks a lot. I apologize to listeners for my swearing. That’s the way I am, I’m afraid.