Bouncing back and learning the lessons of the recession
THERE have been plenty of casualties of the recession in the last two years but there are also plenty of companies who have survived to tell the tale.
Rise Technical Recruitment is one of those firms that is starting to realise that there is life after a downturn that has been one of the harshest in living memory.
Set up by friends Ben McCarthy and Jeff Leng just over five years ago at the height of the recruitment boom, the firm enjoyed a meteoric rise in the first few years of its existence.
In many ways, the sharp-suited duo are typical of a business which is one of the toughest around but also offers fantastic rewards for those who rise to the challenge.
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The company specialises in recruiting engineers but has also moved into higher education in the past two years, and it was that move that helped save it from the worst ravages of the recession. Two years ago, the early successes came to a crashing halt, but, after an horrendous 18 months, the firm is starting to prosper again and a few harsh lessons have been learnt along the way.
Ben and Jeff met while working at a national recruitment firm and decided that they had learnt enough about their trade and were good enough at their jobs to set up on their own.
Jeff, 31, said: "I sold my car to raise the cash to put into the business. We had £10,000 each and we rented a serviced office on Park Street. We had enough money to keep going for about two to three months and we just took it from there.
"It is amazing to think how much has changed in those few years we just had a few files and contacts and some office space, we started from scratch."
Jeff added: "To be honest, I was never particularly academic at school but I always knew I wanted to go into business from an early age.
"When I got my first job in recruitment I was rubbish at it for the first three months, but you learn from your mistakes, if you don't in this business then you won't survive. Within a year, I was one of the best consultants in the business and I was managing my own team."
The duo were lucky enough to start their firm at the height of the boom and the growth of the firm was nothing short of incredible. Within the space of three years turnover went from zero to £2.5 million and Rise was employing more than 30 staff in offices in Prince Street in the heart of the city centre.
But two years ago everything just came to a shuddering halt. Ben, 35, said: "It was like the tap had been turned off. In the space of a matter of weeks the phone just stopped ringing. It happened overnight.
"The majority of our clients were in engineering and that was one of the sectors that was hit the hardest – the companies simply stopped recruiting overnight."
He added: "Thankfully we had started to get involved in education and the balance of our work completely shifted, it was this that kept us going. The education sector was largely unaffected but engineering just completely came to a halt. It was strange because our business completely changed its focus overnight."
Jeff said: "To be honest with you, it was a horrendous time, it was a nightmare but you learn more about yourself during times of crisis than the good times.
"We grew so quickly and were so successful in such a short space of time we almost took it for granted, when the recession came along we suddenly had to take a long, hard look at what we were doing."
Not surprisingly, people were lost along the way but the company is now in the process of rebuilding itself and growth has returned.
Ben said: "We have the infrastructure in place to support an office for 40 people and we are looking to grow the business. All the phones and computers are already in place, but the business has to support the expansion. Having said that, we are back where we were in 2008 and there is a definite up-turn in the market. Engineering firms are recruiting again."
To say that both men are confident about the future of the firm would be something of an understatement but harsh lessons have been learnt over the past two years.
Jeff said: "We are looking to become a national company out of Bristol. Two years ago, we had more than 30 staff and we lost people along the way. We are now looking to bring those numbers back up.
"We have been through some really difficult times but there have been some positives. When times are tough that is when you learn most about yourself. You learn about your strengths and your weaknesses."
Ben added: "It has taught us some really harsh lessons and it has changed the way we do things. I am not saying we didn't used to be careful but now we analyse everything we do. We have changed the way we do things and that's the way things will stay.
"In a way we took our success in the beginning for granted and we will never do that again."