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Thinking about starting your own recruitment agency? 🤔

By September 11, 2020No Comments

Fifty and not out! That’s right beloved readership, not only is that the first cricket reference I’ve eluded to but this article is in fact my 50th in this series of blogs. From frostbit fingers typing away in Jon Boys’ shadow to rallying back and forth with the Teflon Don Mr. Walters she’s been a wild ride. I still hover over the publish button every week out of fear of public backlash and any potential #cancelscott campaigns. We try and keep her light-hearted here at Rice, especially in times of global turmoil. In a sea of ‘how to’ and ‘top 10’s covering the usually; interview techniques or CV writings our blogs have a point of difference. For one, they aren’t sent to Sydney for a marketing team to ensure no offense is taken by any marginalized sub-sect of society. Nor are they regurgitated from 10 years ago or the lamest clickbait in the cyber pond “This is what your top client/candidate won’t tell you!” 😴 We can keep her relatively fresh mainly because we’re mingling with the market. It’s a good position to be in. Like that kid who opens up a black-market tuckshop from his backpack we’re cool with everyone; the jocks, the goths, the nerds, etc. This means we can give you some extra sugar when it comes to recruitment. For example, this week I reached out to some valued clients (and a little closer to home) for some firsthand advice on a relevant issue; starting your own recruitment agency!

In recent months consultants have found themselves cut adrift from whatever seafaring vessel was valiantly surfing the waves of our depleted market. Castaways on a remote island they have the choice to wave frantically at infrequent ships or, strap some bamboo together, Gilligan up a cycle propulsion system and breach the waters on their own. I put some poignant questions to recruitment leaders at varying stages of their agency for some insight.

  • What made you start your own agency?
  • Did you get rich quick?
  • What was the first hurdle you hit?
  • Did it help with the ladies/fellas?
  • If it all went tits up did you have a backup plan?
  • Was it hard recruiting for yourself?
  • Any advice for anyone considering starting up on their own?

Lisa Cooley, BrightSpark. 8 Months


  • Well, I’d got pretty good at making money for other people over the years, so I thought it was about time I made more for myself 😉 Seriously though, it just felt like the right time.  My now business partners, who I’d worked with in London and respect immensely, came to me with an idea, and hard as it was to leave a job I loved, it just felt right.  I’ve had some amazing managers and mentors over the years to learn from, so I was confident they’d armed me with the tools to make it work. I am passionate about putting people first and giving back to the tech industry and I’m excited to build a successful business of likeminded people.


  • Let’s put it this way, I’m still spending $40 a week on Lotto tickets, but it’s early days


  • Well, we launched 6 weeks before lockdown season one, so that’s an obvious one…. Thanks Rona!


  • I’m still married, so no.


  • Used car sales, real estate… I’ve heard we’re all the same anyway.


  • It would be without the help of the trusty crew at Rice Consulting 😁 Not hard, but it definitely adds some extra pressure to get it right, there’s no one else to blame if you f*ck it up.


  • You need to be prepared to work hard for long hours, if you think you work hard now, you’re in for a shock.  Don’t be cocky and assume all of your clients will follow you, although hopefully most will. Don’t expect a big holiday in a hurry. Actually, we can’t travel anyway, so as a well-known sports shoe company once said…Just Do It


Peter Stewart, Lynx Recruitment. 2 years


  • I am completely unmanageable and thought I could do it better myself


  • No! If anything, I’m making less now than when I was a good recruitment consultant 😄 It’s a long road ahead but we’ve got some ambitious goals


  • Cash flow, 100% cash flow.


  • I get more matches on Bumble but overall, still hopeless


  • Real Estate, I came from it and was pretty successful. However, failure wasn’t an option.


  • It’s certainly difficult, especially attracting senior consultants. I’ve been lucky having some great success with junior and new to recruitment consultants


  • Unless you’re willing to work 80 hours a week don’t even bother


Lee Marshall, Hunter Campbell. 6 years


  • The people I did it with. It took me all of two minutes to say yes to going into business with Johnny and Ken. They are both experienced business owners, recruitment leaders, and great guys.


  • We went pretty well. We hired our first consultant after a month in business and didn’t look back really. We had great relationships built over many years in the market, and it was humbling for so many people to pick up the phone and give us a call when we started out.


  • COVID was a curveball for us all but we were lucky that we went into it in great shape. We have a high performing team, loyal clients and though a lot of roles were withdrawn or put on hold at the time, we got through pretty well.


  • I wouldn’t have done it without them. I didn’t have the business acumen or the confidence to do it alone. When the three of us bang our heads together, we generally come up with the right answer and we all bring something different to the table. – Very diplomatic answer Lee! 😅


  • Not really. I knew as an experienced consultant I would always get a job but to be honest, it never entered my thought process.


  • It certainly got easier over time as the brand and culture grew. We’ve been incredibly lucky to hire great people. We learn from every hire, and we’re in a position where we know what we’re looking for, what works and we’re confident in our environment.


  • Personally, I wouldn’t start on my own. I’d look to get into business with someone who shares your values and vision.


Jon Rice, Rice Consulting. 10 years


  • I’ve always had an entrepreneurial bent, even when at school when I ran a paper round and sold Warhammer models with a mark up to my classmates.  I started my own agency in the midst of the GFC in late 2009.  I had enjoyed introducing an Australian Rec-to-Rec brand into the New Zealand market pre-GFC and, when they exited our market, realized this was my opportunity to finally own a business of my own, and carry on what I’d started under my own name.


  • It depends on what you regard as “rich”.  It took 4 months for the first invoice to go out and another few weeks for the money to land.  I felt richer initially when there were fees coming in and lower overheads.  But if you want to grow a quality, sustainable business, rather than a simple lifestyle business, then getting rich quick is never an option.


  • Hiring employees.  It’s when running your own business really gets real.  It’s incredibly exciting at first, but people are people and you’ll learn that soon enough in business.  Having to exit my first hire was painful, but luckily my second hire was great and is now a fellow Director in my businesses.


  • When I resigned from an employed recruitment job to start up my own agency, I had a 6-month old son at home, and my wife was pregnant with my daughter.  What I was able to generate from my efforts supported my family, so it helped with one lady!


  • None whatsoever.  I was all in.


  • Oh, the irony.  I don’t need to spell it out.  This is 100% the hardest thing for any recruitment business.  My first hire ticked all the boxes I had devised but ended up not fitting where we were going.  My second hire arrived when I wasn’t even looking, and turned out so good he is now my business partner.  I think this is the hardest thing for any business.  And recruitment businesses shouldn’t think this is easy just because they are in recruitment themselves.


  • If you have a fierce, burning, fire inside to own and run your own business then you must go for it.  If you are attracted simply by the dollar value of the placement fee, and want more of it for yourself, then don’t bother.


There you have it! Dipping into the stable to get you the word straight from the horse’s mouth. Hopefully, those on the fence have a little more clarity, and those who have already taken the leap can keep an eye out for the pitfalls. Overall, the champagne is more expensive but the razorblades are rustier. Good luck to everyone out on the waters and I’ll see you in two weeks for the top 5 errors in your CV, you won’t believe what number 1 is!! 😧