Gavin: Okay, Welcome back to The Business Secret Podcast. I’m here today with Dan Puket … or Puttick, sorry! And Tiffany Briggs, the directors of Links Recruitment. We’ve invited them in today to tell us a little bit about them, their business, and hopefully we’ll get some take-aways today on your journey and where you are. So, tell us a bit about yourselves, who you are, and the business you do, and what you’re about really if you don’t mind?
Dan: I’m Dan Puket or Puttick should I say? Yeah, I am Dan Puttick one of the directors at Links Recruitment. We are a recruitment business based in Cardiff and Bristol with a UK reach. We work in temporary and permanent recruitment markets, so, we procure talented individuals for companies all across the UK. Temporary being our main focus, which is probably 70% of our business. So we find the worker, we pay the worker, client invoices us in essence that’s what that means. Then permanent is where we charge attractive high fees to companies to do all the leg-work for them.
Tiffany: We work within six sectors, sorry .. I’m Tiffany Briggs, one of the Directors at Links. Got a bit carried away there with the sales spiel! We work in six sectors, Industrial probably being our largest, commercial or logistics close second. Engineering, manufacturing, IT, and Finance. So yeah …. Everything else Dan said.
Gavin: How did you end up here then? How was Links born?
Dan: Um… I’ve been thinking about this over the last couple of weeks to be fair, so it’s actually a good question to ask. For me, I’ve had a great career in Recruitment, it’s been a great journey for me. I started when I was really young… Came out of school, no education, somebody gave me an opportunity… a real diamond in the rough and, you know, I’ve really grabbed it by both hands. I’ve been lucky to have been with two big businesses who are quite prolific in the UK. What I have seen from my journey is good and bad and companies not doing the basics very well, and forgetting about the people. I’ve been in senior positions in other businesses and you get people “Oh I’m not happy with this/not happy with that” and “I don’t like this/I don’t like that”, and then it got to a point then in my last position, where I was a director, and I thought “Well why don’t I just take all the good, you know, with somebody else who wants to do the same thing i.e. Tiff. Try and bring it all together”… I’m sure everyone says this, you know, but it was a genuine idea of “Let’s take all the good, forget the bad, not do what people don’t like and create a company and follow that vision”. So I got to a stage, you know, 2 years Links is going to have been going now in August. I was eight years into my career, the vision that I was following at the time, kind of give me the kick up the backside to go and do a loan. I wasn’t really invested in that vision, they weren’t trying to change the way recruitment is done, they weren’t trying to think of the new ideas of how to do it, it was “Our business works fine as we are financially right now, let’s just teeter along, we’re good to go as we are”.
Tiff: We both sort of gave each other the push, I think, Dan’s story is slightly different to mine. I knew what I wanted, to be a business owner, I knew I wanted to do my own thing because I’m a bit of a free spirit. But I didn’t know in what sector at that point in time, because I’d been in recruitment for around four and a half years or five years, so then, Dan comes along and says
Dan: Helped her find herself…
Tiff: That’s way too much credit!
Dan : I nurtured her…
Tiff: But… You know, Daniel came along and said “Look I want to do recruitment” and I said “Do you know what? Recruitment is all I know! I’ve got the contacts, I’ve got the work ethic, I’ve got these ideas, Let’s come together and build a brand”. So, we actually thought of … Well I thought of the name LINKS overnight, and I come in the next day and I was like “I’ve thought of the name for the business… LINKS. What do you think?” And he said “LINKS it is!”.
Dan: Yeah it was … and then we started playing with all the analogies of linking people together …
Tiff: The missing link …
Dan: And then we quickly squashed that dead, it was cheesy as hell, stop it, you know. But jokes aside it is the link to bringing people together and the link to a partnership and that’s where the strength in the name came from I think.
Tiff: And as individuals we’re very similar, you know, our personalities, our drive, our work ethic, and everything like that. From a skill point of view, we’re very different. So Daniel is very process driven, he’s very operations, he’s very systematic, whereas I’m a bit more … Um… How do I put this?
Dan: Tiff is better with people then should we say? Tiff will talk about what you had for breakfast
Tiff: A bit more of a softer approach
Dan: I would like to know where …
Tiff: THE COLD HARD FACTS
Dan: … and when it’s happening, and how quickly are you going to pay the invoice. You know, that’s me
Gavin: So it’s a nice balance
Tiff: It works well
Dan: People can say “Oh LINKS are so friendly”, I go in there …. they say “Oh that Dan’s a bit serious, but he’s gonna get the job done”, you know?
Tiff: So we complement each other really well.
Gavin: Okay, compliment is the word .
Tiff: We couldn’t both be Dan and we couldn’t both be Tiff
Dan: It’s like when a window sales person turns up at your house, he’s all friendly at your doorstep promising you the world “Oh this guy’s lovely!” and then the window guys come and they’re not usually that friendly but they get the job done don’t they?!
Tiff: It works though, it works very well
Dan: And that’s what I think, from a client’s point of view, that’s all they really want then in the end. They want
Dan: And that’s what I think, from a client’s point of view, that’s all they really want then in the end. They want to deal with a company that yes they’re nice people but in essence they just get what we want done. You know, I don’t really need to love Dan and Tiff, I just need to love their service, and that’s where, I think, we’ve got it down to a fine art really. Because, we’ve got some great relationship with the clients, we genuinely get on with them all and that’s not us changing the way we are. I haven’t become more of a pander, I terms of I pander to client’s needs, I just, I deliver on what we say and Tiff does the same.
Tiff: We do the basics well
Dan: So I think the moral of that story is don’t change who you are, get people to work for you who, who you are as people, you know? I think, unfortunately with recruitment, people put on different hats and different masks and we haven’t done that because it’s our company, you know. I don’t want to do that when I come into work every day, I don’t want to be a different person when I walk in the door. I want to come from my personal life, which is great, and walk through the door and be the same person I was when I was at home.
Tiff: Exactly the same
Dan: What you see is what you get sort of thing
Tiff: With, you know, external relationships we treat the clients the same as the candidates, they’re both our customers. Both of them are treated equally because both of them are exactly the same importance. Internally, as well, we do treat our staff really well. We’re exactly the same in work, you know, as we would be in front of a customer. We’re just true to ourselves all the time I guess.
Gavin: I see that the recruitment industry is quite a tough industry anyway. In terms of…
Dan: … Heavy saturation.
Gavin: A heavily saturated industry, Cardiff alone, has quite some big hitters out here as well.
Dan: We see new one’s every day, new branding, workshops
Gavin: So what are you doing then to set yourself apart, and sort of mark yourselves a bit differently? How do you go about that?
Dan: To honest, there’s not really anything that I think we’re doing different to anyone else per se. In think back to how we started the company, we just do the basics extremely well, we focus massively on our brand image
Tiff: and reputation
Dan: And I think for us by doing the basics well, and doing what we’ve said we’re gonna do correctly, is worth its weight in gold now as we move forward. So we now, win a lot of business from referrals, a lot of client’s saying “You should work with this company or this company should work with you”. So what we’re doing is we’re just capitalising on the opportunities that we’re getting, so what that’s doing is giving us fantastic testimonials, so we’re a real professional provider and that’s been our focus. We don’t go out there and try win 20 new clients in a day, we win a client, we deliver to that client, client is happy and we move on. I think that’s what’s different about us, there’s companies out there they’ve got a sales team of four people and they’re trying to get as many deals on the table as possible, and then they go in “S*it (excuse my French, bleep out that. We’ve got to fill those opportunities, get it done”. We’re not doing that. we’re not splatter-gunning. What’s a little bit different to us …
Tiff: We’re very realistic as well, you know, we know our place in the market, we’re not a start-up anymore per se, we’re coming up to our second anniversary, but we are realistic with ourselves and what we can achieve and what we can provide for our clients.
Dan: And to give you an idea of how… and Tiff’s completely correct, there’s a lot of accounts around that are using, let’s say, 100 staff a day 150 staff a day, we haven’t got the infrastructure right now to do that. We would want those accounts, but we will go after those accounts when we know we’re ready. When our infrastructure and our service is there then I’ll knock on your door and say “I’m the right person” or “We’re the right person (sorry) to deal with your account”, but right now, what we’re doing is small to medium, 10 – 20 workers and we want to try and create our big client portfolio, we don’t want one or two clients, we want 50 or 60 good spenders with us because anyone will tell you in business it’s the wise thing to do. IF you have one client that you’re reliant on, and we’ll talk about this as we go in, and why it’s so important to us and why we’re so invested in that plan, we want 50 – 60 spenders who, if anything goes wrong, say four or five of those are not doing so well you’re still left with 55 to 50 good spenders. For us, that’s our business model at the minute. Create and build a client portfolio, build it steadily, make sure that everyone is getting the service that you’ve set out to deliver. Don’t over egg it, don’t take on too much business and focus on the bottom line too much. As long as the business is going well, it’s earning and it’s profitable, take your time. There’s no rush.
Tiff: And you do tailor everything to what a client wants as well, we assign this specific person. So for example, my background is mainly being, winning and servicing industrial FMCG accounts. So, I get assigned to a client because I have that knowledge, and I have that experience so I know what type of persona they’d be looking for. Not just from a skillset point of view but also from a characteristic point of view as well.
Dan: So we’re quite clever at using the strengths we’ve got and the business we’ve got that we’ve acquired to compliment what type of business we’re going after.
Gavin: Okay, It’s interesting you said that in terms of two year old company and the time and effort you’ve put into it. We talk about, it chapter 5 in the book, about Work/Life balance and whether you’ve got the right balance.
Tiff: This one has none! This one has not! Jokes aside, he’s got better
Dan: I struggle with this one, and I’ve got none. I don’t even know what it means to be honest, i really don’t. I really haven’t… If you look at my diary this week, god! To give you an idea of what my week has been… Early start Monday, worked all Monday, went to the gym for an hour, drove to Stanstead, got there for 11, worked until 2am, woke up at 6, went to a client meeting for 8, drove back, worked until half past ten, got home, went to bed, back into work, you know that’s kind of an idea of my Work/Life balance.
Tiff: That’s Monday to Friday, I think initially, we were both, sort of, ploughing the hours in to get the brand ready and up to where it was. But Daniel was doing that seven days a week, whereas now, I feel like …
Dan: We’ve got different circumstances, we should probably explain that, obviously because it’s on a podcast. So it’s not like “Oh sounds like Dan does all the work and Tiff doesn’t really do that much”. She was the clever one in this, it’s not that. Our circumstances are different, I’m very lucky to have a partner at home accepts that’s the way things are. I was a work horse when I wasn’t working for myself anyway it’s just the way
Gavin: It’s the way you’re built
Tiff: It’s the way she’s always known
Dan: And that’s what keeps me going, so if you tell me that on Saturday I’m going to sit at home all day and I’m going to watch telly, I’d go nuts. That’s just not for me. I’m up early, I like to be out, that’s just what gets me going. But Tiff’s got a young daughter, I’ve got an older so she has to leave at a time and so she should, you know, she’s got to leave, she’s got to pick her daughter up from nursery she’s got to be mum.
Tiff: But then when my daughter goes to sleep in the evenings, around half seven, eight o’clock. Out comes the laptop…
Dan: There’s circumstances that force her to be different. I think we both would probably be quite similar. But I exploit the fact that I’ve got a woman at home that looks after my daughter at home and does that for her. I think me and my partner have found a common ground of she sees that I’m doing it to try and better our life.
Tiff: You’ve been together a long time though, you’ve been together a long time. With me, it’s totally different. I’ve been the sole carer giver for my daughter essentially so I’m all she knows. I’m needed as a mother to do the drop-offs and pick-ups from nursery, and make sure that she’s fed and watered, and clothed and everything.
Dan: And our outcome is this, we’re two years old as a business, we’re doing extremely well, things are absolutely going the way we want it to and more, and I think that’s due to the time and effort. I listen to podcasts and I see other business professionals etc. and I don’t think that you could make a business that successful by just being invested nine until five, Monday to Friday. That doesn’t mean be in the office until 10 o’clock at night, don’t do that all the time, that’s just an example of a week. When I want to leave early, or if I’ve got something on then I will and that’s the luxury of having that flexibility. I think that you, if you’re somebody that leaves your business at the door at five o’clock and doesn’t pick it back up until nine o’clock in the morning, you’ll probably only get to, in my eyes, a certain level. That’s just the pro and the con of having your own company. The pro, you’ll probably have a good life and you’ll probably come out of it with good financial security, and be flexible to do what you want when you want in the end. The con is that you are always on call and you’re needed all the time, people rely on you and that doesn’t just work nine till five.
Tiff: It’s quite early on that we realised that we didn’t want this to be a life-style business, we had a bigger vision probably about two months in wasn’t it? Eight to twelve weeks in when we thought “We work so hard that we want this to be bigger that just life-style”, we could’ve done really well if we’d have just done… We’re a team of ten now, If we had just stuck to the two of us and we could’ve earned a decent living and lived nice lives and everything.
Dan: If we want to think about the financials of setting up your own company, we probably would be more wealthy and earning more as a company by not employing people and growing the business. We decided that we want to go corporate because we want to be seen as a big employer and investor in people and that’s our vision.
Tiff: And employer of choice
Dan: Yeah! I’d love to have a big couple of super branches and have 30 – 40 people working in them and being employer of 100 people plus, and that’s what really excites me in terms on career aspirations.
Gavin: Well that leads on to the next area for me which is risks in business. In terms of … What’s the biggest risks you’ve had to take? And what did you learn from those risks if you’ve taken risks which I think you have.
Tiff: I think in a sort of way, it is people and the investment of people. Salaries within a business are the biggest overheads, so you need to make sure that your hires are right. You’ve got.. I would say, when we have taken somebody on, we’ve always done a two stage process. It’s been both Daniel and myself, and a senior member of staff at times, depending on who we’re recruiting, present during those interviews to make sure that you are getting everything you can from that person, but go with your gut.
Dan: Yeah, I was just gonna say the gut. So I haven’t really done the gut until we started LINKS. I’ve always had that feeling of …
Tiff: You were a bit more calculated weren’t you
Dan: “Oh my gut’s telling me that person’s not right”, on paper, they’re the right person. The gut is always right. I’ve recruited a lot of people and on paper they sound great. They’ve said all the right things, but my gut’s telling me they’ve said a few things that I’m a bit unsure of. It usually always transpires that I was or the gut was right. Yeah, you always talk about the guy and go with the gut, and that’s not … we’re getting better at that. We are true people people … we meet a lot of people on a daily basis, we get ten to fifteen people gracing our doors and so you tend to get a good knack for what people are like.
Tiff: As soon as somebody walks through the door you get… first impressions count for everything in this day. Everything, literally, if somebody walks through the door and they’re literally like, scruffy and … I just don’t get a good impression from them. You tend to get, you know, warmer receptions from certain people.
Dan: So unless they walk in looking like Chris Hemsworth we don’t employ them. All our work force is beautiful!
Gavin: A handsome workforce!
Dan: So LINKS Recruitment providing the best looking workforce in the world
Tiff: You know what I mean!
Dan: I know, I know
Tiff: But yeah definitely, people is a risk. It’s a risk for any business.
Dan: I would say, take your time when employing people
Tiff: And make sure they’re right! And add diversity! We … I listened to a Podcast, It wasn’t a Podcast, it was a video, about employing people and always employ people based on strengths and weaknesses within your business. So whatever your weakness is employ somebody with that strength.
Dan: Don’t be afraid of, and I think lots of people and certainly business owners, would be afraid. They might think “Oh actually, they’re probably going to be better than what I am”, that’s what will make you successful as a business. Surround yourself
Tiff: We want our people to be better than us
Dan: You want them to take over so you’ve got to think to yourself “Could that person be better than me? That person can be and that’s why I’m going to employ them”. That’s certainly what I look for when we bring in people, I guess we’re gonna move on to what our future plans are so that’ll tie nicely in with, it’s important to recruit people who you could leave to run the business and you would entrust to do that.
Gavin: Okay then, let’s talk about a potential failure you’ve experienced and what you learned from it, and why you grew from it?
Tiff: The one that stands out like head and shoulders
Dan: So when we first started the business we were three months in and we secured a big contract with a large wholesaler based across the UK, employ 3,500 people, spending a lot of money with us, three months in to just starting up our own company, so we were flying. We were like “Oh my God, this is the best thing we’ve ever done, we’re making so much money, this is great!”.
Tiff: Luckily we did have other clients who were also spending a lot of money
Dan: I flew off to Barbados
Gavin: No work life balance you said, hang on!
Dan: Well I was gonna have it before this happened, you know, we were going to up root and go and work in Dubai! I’m joking! Things were going well …
Tiff: We’d just recruited our first member of staff, it was four days in
Dan: Off the back of this
Tiff: His first week
Dan: And we had this client, and let’s say a couple of others so we weren’t really protected, we were putting all our eggs, all our investment and time and effort into them. Then we had a phone call didn’t we?
Tiff: On Tuesday afternoon I took the phone call saying that everybody had been sent home and the company was going into administration. So, this was from a candidate now, this wasn’t even from the client.
Dan: So everyone had turned up, closed everything down across the UK, and they were like “That’s it.”.
Tiff: So then we’re looking on everything …
Dan: We should say that from that phone call I let out a big bleep word and then that’s kind of where we were at. So we…
Tiff: Long story short, we lost £61K.
Dan: £61K of basically profit really in terms of what was going out the door, what we owed to our financing company, and what they were chasing us up for so then we quickly… they must have found out via the news, they quickly called us and said “Obviously we know you’re going to shut down and re-start”, in essence. “We’ll be happy to help you restart as LINKS 2 Recruitment for example” we were like “No, we’re not closing down”. They said that we need to close down.
Tiff: Both of us had the same mentality
Dan: “You owe us £61K”, and I was like “Well we’re going to pay you back within a quick amount of time.”. They were like “No you’re not, you’re going to close down”, and we said “We’re not closing down. It’s not happening.”. Anyway…
Tiff: We’d worked hard …
Dan: To be fair to them, and probably good to give them credit really we used Hitachi Capital at the same, so, you know, they supported us to
Tiff: We still use them now
Dan: Yeah we still use them now and they really stuck by us, so anyone out there who’s looking for a financing provider then by all means get in touch because we can put you in touch with the right people. They were great, so they didn’t charge us interest on the debt which is quite unusual, they could’ve forced us to say “No we want the money back by a personal guarantee”. Bearing in mind, we had PG’s at the time, and they could’ve exercised those, and we weren’t having any of it. So we went out and won some very lucrative business with a very big client across the UK and we paid the debt within three months, cleared it.
Tiff: We… looking back on reflection we couldn’t have really predicted that happening, because they were paying their invoices on time and all of that.
Dan: Well you talk about failure, we could have. I dropped a ball here and I’m happy to hold my hands up to it. We had a worker, basically we were rocking with them and they were using other suppliers, so they were using us for everything and we thought it was great. They paid a couple of the invoices, large invoices £15 – £20K, we thought great, happy days. Then we had a worker who contacted me and said I’ve been told transfer to you Dan, I thought “Okay, that’s strange, usually we don’t get that”, because you’ve obviously been with another agency. So I contacted their client they said “Oh yeah, we want him to transfer to you” and so on. I met the worker because we meet everybody face to face in an interview, and he said “Yeah I’ve transferred to you Dan because the other agency aren’t getting paid”. I thought that was a bit strange, we were getting paid. They hadn’t been getting paid for a while, apparently things aren’t going very well. Well we rang the client then, had a chat with them. They said “No, I don’t know anything about it, so it’s okay”, we should’ve had that time, I think, properly, to see the warning signs of “hang on a minute, why haven’t they paid them?” And in hindsight now, what I’d do is go down there. I would say “You haven’t paid the other agency can I just ask why because…”, someone might see that as a bit of an aggressive approach.
Tiff: … Investigated it a little bit.
Dan: Based on we being burnt, because I would’ve looked them in the eyes and then known if they were shaking and rattling I’d have said “Well something’s gone wrong here”. Basically, “are you gonna do me over?”! “Are you going to literally put me into administration?”. I think we’ve learnt our lesson with that.
Tiff: It’s been the best … Well, no it was awful at the time because it was just before Christmas as well, our first Christmas. We didn’t tell our families at that point, we didn’t want them to worry. We knew, I think we knew that we were going to sort it. We were going to dig deep, we knew that we were going to get through it because we both had the same mentality.
Dan: We didn’t tell our families because I think that, with it coming up to Christmas. My partner, I’d left her a good job paying good money. Same as Tiff, so I don’t think they would’ve been as understanding. Not that they don’t have faith but naturally they would’ve just been “Oh crap, what are we going to do here?”.
Tiff: I think it more tested our relationship and our partnership, but we didn’t argue, we both had the same mentality and that brought us closer and stronger together as business partners.
Dan: Yeah! And to give you an idea into how
Gavin: Good strength in the link …
Tiff: I like the way you did that
Gavin: It worked!
Dan: You talk about loyalty and partnerships in business and at the time, when all that happened, the PG (Personal Guarantee) was only attached to me so Tiff could’ve said “Thanks very much Dan, it’s been great knowing you but I’m going to go work for someone else.”, and she’d have had no ramifications. She could’ve walked away. So from a loyalty perspective and from a partnership, she didn’t. Not many people probably would’ve done that, they probably would’ve thought “I’m on a sinking ship here. I’m off.”. I’d say lots of people…
Tiff: I’m gonna say something nice now which doesn’t usually happen with them. But it’s because of the amazing business that we’ve created together, it was both of our input, the branding, everything, the imagery, the logo.
Dan: Too hard to walk away from
Tiff: I couldn’t have done it. I believe too much in the brand, thank goodness I did. Now we’ve got a hugely successful business, we’re highly profitable, we’re absolutely flying in the industry. So, you know, it was the hardest experience but it’s been the best thing that could’ve happened to us because we learned so much from it. It won’t happen again.
Dan: And we only take that, for me personally … I’ve only taken a step back recently and gone “Do you know what? That was amazing! That was class!” and hat’s off to everybody, because it’s taken us… Although we cleared the debt, we cleared the debt to take us to a zero balance because we didn’t like the fact that we owed money. So we just went “Okay, let’s write off the time that we had. Let’s start the business from today. Pay the debt, let’s start today! Zero balance let’s move forward.”.
Tiff: But that sort of carried through as well, because as a business as soon as an invoice lands on our desk we do pay it straight away we’re that type of business. We don’t like having that invoice of debt hanging over us.
Dan: The only debt we have, which is the same debt that you’d have in your personal life for like a mortgage per se, is our overall financing and client debt really. We don’t have any investment, no financial backing from the government, we’ve taken no investment from private lenders. We’ve got none.
Tiff: We took a loan out personally each to set the company up and that’d paid off now.
Dan: So we’re in a good position. WE really learnt from … It could be seen that it was the client’s failure that effected us and we could’ve done more. Do your due diligence on your clients, credit check them, make sure everything’s robust. If you see a warning sign then action it, have the conversation. We didn’t do that and we got caught with the revenue and GP coming in, probably a new business thinking “Oh we’re a bit too scared to say anything to this client.”, they might go “Well bugger off then we’re not going to use you.” Don’t be. It’s your livelihood at the end of the day, protect it.
Gavin: And you’ve come out stronger for it 100%.
Dan: You mentioned earlier on, as Financial Planners we’re always dealing with businesses and what’re your plan, what’s your growth strategy or what’s your exit strategy more importantly. I know, obviously, you’re still young in your careers.
Tiff: and age!
Gavin: And Age. obviously! That goes without saying! But have you considered a plan as such? I know it might be a way off but we do work with clients and talk about what is the exit strategy for your business if there is one.
Dan: Mine has changed slightly, Tiff’s involved in the change. It’s that, I think we originally started and said sort of ten years we’d look to try and shape the business and maybe come away. It was completely low, ten years’ time, let’s make as much money as we can, let’s shape the business, let’s sell it to a corporate or management buy-out and let’s go and live our life. I think at 40 I’ll still be way too young… Well I’ll be 42 in ten years’ time and I’ll be way too young to be exiting business. I absolutely love it, so does Tiff, so I think probably what we’ll do is…
Tiff: We live and breathe it don’t we?
Dan: Yeah. So ten years’ time, get to a point where we’ve got a director structure in place, let them run the business, run a network of offices around the UK, we’ll take a step back and then just really work on the business. Don’t be involved in the day to day, but really work on the recruitment industry. Hopefully we’ll become a voice for the industry and help other businesses and I think that’s what we’re going to look to do in ten years’ time. We’ll look to acquire other companies, bring them into the family
Tiff: We’ll make some acquisitions
Dan: Yeah and bring them into the family, get our processes and the way we do things into them, and it’d be really exciting to take on a business that’s not doing all that. It’s a good business don’t get me wrong but not really doing all the processes correctly and all the efficiencies, and bring them into our mould. Then take them on to the next level and see them blossom, and I think then my end goal, by about 50, I’d like to retire and spend time with the family. That’s what I said to my missus that’s when we’re going to go away, go on nice holidays, we’ll do all the lovely, beautiful things that you’ve ever wanted to do and I want to do. 50 I’ll be good health still and I’ll have a good amount of time to do that, but I think we’re going to stick to together in business and we’re going to do things together aren’t we? And we’ve talked about investing in up and coming people, up and coming business ideas. Although we only know recruitment and it’s lots of what we do that would have synergy in any business. You know; Say what you’re going to do, be committed, reliable, our processes, communication structure we’ve got. That’d work for any company. So hopefully …
Tiff: Showing that best practice
Dan: With people like us, you know? Like us when we first started, if we had somebody like us in ten years’ time saying “I’ll help you take it to that next level”, that’d be amazing wouldn’t it?
Gavin: We’ve been working with mentors at Penguin, obviously, and it’s sort of improved the way that we deal with our clients and how we work. Do you work with mentors? Have you got a mentor …?
Dan: No, we … In all honesty we’ve had like… You get lots of people saying “Business Wales can help” and stuff, and that for me, hasn’t really worked for us per se.
Tiff: We’ve got very very good relationships and strong relationships with our clients who we do share the best practice stuff with. We haven’t got a mentor per se.
Dan: I wouldn’t be adverse to..
Tiff: It’s just the time!
Dan: I know some businesses have a big board in place, and their business has skyrocketed. So I think, in time, we might look at having a non-exec board in place that will help us. We’ll learn from their expertise and get different views of things, definitely I think that’s what we would do, but at the minute we don’t have any mentoring or coaching that helps us. It’s just really us that try and get it to the next level.
Tiff: We would look to grow our board as well wouldn’t we? Not just have the two of us but also have a couple of people internally within the business as well.
Dan: I think our plan of attack is that we would offer shares out to people within the business, and then make them a director so you get the investment from them and they see it as their own because it would be their own, in their own right. We’re not afraid to do that, to take LINKS a big as we want to take it we know we have to do that. So we’re ready to let go. But to the right people only.
Gavin: Well obviously you’re in the recruitment industry but, you mentioned earlier on in the meeting, that you’re recruitment process is quite strong for yourselves. In just of … who you want to be working with in the LINKS arena, and you obviously follow that process, I guess, for your clients?
Dan: Of course! Our process is extremely vigorous in terms of the way we do things, so we offer a guarantee and it might sound silly, but we offer a guarantee to meet everybody face to face. If we’re not happy with them then why would we expect our clients to be. We take them through a very rigorous registration process from an online paperwork point of view. We’re extremely compliant, we follow guidelines and legislation to the letter. We don’t cut any corners and that’s … naming no recruitment businesses but you hear of the some of the things that people do and you just think Oh God! But that’s usually new businesses who are just trying to make ends meet and they cut the corners to get the sale.
Tiff: Or older businesses
Dan: But we cut no corners because the famous saying is “Do it right and it’s done and you don’t have to worry about it at a later date”. We’re GLAA accredited, which is a Gangmaster and Labour Abuse Authority licence, which means you basically have to be doing everything to the letter. You can’t be candidates treat them right, pay them holidays, pay them correctly, above minimum wage, everything is under the watchful eye and we’ve done much in that sector to be fair, but it’s great to have that accreditation because we know we’re doing things the right way. That’s not gonna change. For us, I think, doing thing the right way makes me sleep easy at night. Doesn’t it? Because you can just go home and think we’ve not done anything untoward today we’re just going to go to sleep and wake up and do it again tomorrow.
Tiff: It’s peace of mind
Dan: Just don’t cut corners to save time, just do it
Tiff: Or make a quick buck!
Dan: If that means working an extra couple of hours and you’ve done it right and i’ts going to have that … because everything or us is about longevity. I don’t work for a client just for tomorrow, we need them for the rest of our career or the rest of LINKS’ days. IF you just do it right, there’s no come back.
Gavin: Okay. I’m going to ask you both just to give one piece of advice to a new business owner setting up. What would it be?
Dan: Choose the right business partner if you’re going into business with somebody. The biggest one for me is make sure your personal life is stable. If you’ve got a crazy missus at home or a crazy husband or partner, or crazy kids it will absolutely cause you a major issue. Make sure your family are invested in it, make sure they get that it’s going to be difficult and tough. Because, I’ve seen people in my career, not so much in LINKS, who have been great people but they’re missus has been on their case and stressing them out then hey come into work and the carry it. Husbands or partners or kids, make sure …
Tiff: You need a good support around you
Dan: Yeah, make sure your personal life and you as a person, you’re mentally ready for it. If you’re going out on the lash on a Saturday night and that’s your weekend, waking up Monday or Tuesday are a write off.
Tiff: We’re not big drinkers
Dan: Not saying don’t drink
Tiff: It’s just the stability
Dan: Be happy with yourself, if you’re going through any trouble then get them sorted first. Don’t start a business with troubles, get yourself to a good point in your life where you’re happy. Happiness, honestly, is the key to success. As cheesy as it is, I probably read that from a book. I’m a happy person, we both are, and I think we’ll be successful because of that. Our energy, people dealing with us; Clients, Candidates, it shows through. No one wants to deal with somebody who’s miserable.
Gavin: I think you’re both quite infectious, when I meet you. I get the same energy off you both.
Dan: So make sure you’re happy in life, you’ve got good people at home supporting you and you’ll rocket.
Tiff: Something that I, personally, is to not expect everybody to think like you.
Dan: Your expectations of people
Tiff: Expectations. Manage that because …
Dan: We did that though when we first employed somebody. We were like “Okay well 9 – 5 is our normal working hours”, and they work until 5 and I’m sat there looking at Tiff
Tiff: Dan would have everybody working 24/7
Dan: Tiff will say “Dan they’re doing a great job”, and I’ll say “No get rid of them, he’s left at 5 o’clock”
Gavin: “I don’t care we only pay them until 5”.
Dan: “Where have you told him it’s five?”, Tiff will say “It’s in his contract Dan”, “Change it. Don’t put a finish time on there”. But that’s terrible! Tiff is completely right, people won’t perform to your standards personally because naturally they’re not going to. Have an expectation for that person only.
Tiff: For me, we’re passionate but we can be quite impatient with ourselves at times. We’re very urgent, we want everything done now. We want everything done yesterday! WE do breed that into the … but we don’t apply it too much.
Dan: Because you just alienate staff, they’ll just be like “Oh my god, this is too much”.
Tiff: You can’t, but we are the driving force behind things. It comes from the top with us.
Dan: And the staff get it, but my expectations, I think the biggest thing for me was that don’t expect people to do 80 hours a week. You know, come on Dan get real. And that took me a while to get used to.
Tiff: But also, we’re both perfectionists so don’t change your business and the way you want things to be done at such a high standard to please other people.
Dan: Yeah I think you’re right, you’ve got to find that balance that okay don’t get them to work 80 hours but if you want something done within your normal working hours correctly don’t change that. Don’t have people say “Oh well I’m not doing that that’s too much”. Well no, that’s our process, if you don’t like that, leave.
Tiff: We’re very lucky though that within the business, anybody who’s joined us has been open minded otherwise we probably wouldn’t have recruited them. They’re open minded, they’re open to new things, they’ve grasped our processes with both hands. We are very process driven business.
Dan: What we don’t do is say “Can you do this for me?” And they ask why and we tell them because we just want you to. Don’t say that to anybody. When someone says why do we do that, you say “Well we do this because of X Y and Z. Because it provides a better service to our clients and because the people down the road aren’t doing that.”.
Tiff: “And it’s because it’s the most efficient way of doing things”.
Dan: “I get that Dan, and I’m gonna do that. Thanks for letting me know why we do it.”. So always let people know why you’re doing things and not just because it’s the way you want it to be done.
Gavin: Okay, you mentioned earlier about plans and expectations. Where do you see the business is 5 years?
Tiff: Oh 5 years?
Dan: One of the leading recruitment businesses in South Wales and the South West would be a great achievement for us, is where I want to be. I want, hopefully, I’m not being too bold, I’d want everybody to be aware of LINKS in some way shape or form. That’s not just in the recruitment sector, that’s an employer of choice “Oh I know LINKS Recruitment, I’ve seen a video campaign they did, it was amazing. I’m not ever going to use them for recruitment but what a great company they look like”. So I think we want our brand, because we’re so proud of it, to be seen and heard by everybody.
Tiff: One of the biggest things for me is the retention of staff, because I think when… Recruitment companies have got a bad name, some recruitment companies have got a bad name in an industry where they’ve got a revolving door and that type of thing. Which I don’t think looks good to the clients that you have. You’ve got to practice what you preach, you’ve got to make sure that your recruitment process is good and right internally before you start giving out to clients.
Dan: Clients hate change, they don’t want to deal with Paul one day and John the next and Jimmy the next. They don’t like it do they?
Tiff: I want to continue retaining our staff because our retention is fantastic. Investing correctly within our staff as well, and investing
Dan: And it’ll hopefully take care of itself
Toff: Yeah, and investing in new offices premises and we’re looking to open a new office in Q1 of next year in the midlands.
Dan: Which will be a challenge for us because then you’ve got to take into consideration that you’re not going to be there. People in Cardiff office, Bristol office, I’m in Bristol and Tiff’s in Cardiff so we’re there and hand’s on. Birmingham will be a challenge for us because, hopefully our processes and our communication channels we use will help people feel part of the team but we’ve got to make sure we make that team feel as welcome and nurtured as Cardiff and Bristol because they’ve got a director there. That’ll be an exciting challenge for us.
Tiff: More offices! More staff!
Dan: Come back next year and do a Podcast to see how that’s going! I’ll have a long beard a no hair! You’ll be sat there “Not going too well is it Dan?”.
Gavin: “What happened Dan?”
Dan: Yeah what happened!
Gavin: It’s all gone Pete Tong over there
Dan: I’ll open up my own car wash
Gavin: Okay, alright, well I really appreciate your time. Obviously getting to understand you and your business, don’t really know a lot about you personally so there’s a couple of question I’m going to fire at you and get a feel for you as people rather than you as business owners as such. So, it’s what book are you currently reading?
Dan: I don’t read books. I don’t read and if you’re going to ask me what my favourite book is then I don’t read books. I can read! Just want to throw that out there
Gavin: I don’t want to embarrass you!
Dan: I can read, but it’s just not my way of taking things in. So I prefer video, I listen to a couple of podcasts. So ‘Start-up’…
Gavin: Not judging you though
Dan: No yeah of course! ‘Start-Up’ is a great podcast, business podcast, a bit of Tony Robbins he’s a good guy for my personal development. But book reading is too slow for me.
Gavin: Tiff same?
Tiff: Same … It tends to be articles that I read, as opposed to a book. I don’t want ….
Dan: Short and snappy then?
Tiff: Yeah, I don’t have the time to…
Tiff: Yeah I just like, quick bits of advice that I pick up and pass on to the staff and each other. It’s that type of thing but I don’t listen to podcasts either.
Gavin: Okay, you are going to listen to this one?
Tiff: I think I’ll listen to this one yeah, I’m enjoying this one! This is the only podcast I’ve done!
Gavin: Okay music! Into music?
Dan: Yeah, only when the sun’s out and you’re going to think “What a strange guy”, but if it’s pouring down with rain I won’t have music on in my car. If the sun comes out I’ve got the window down, I’ve got the music on and I’m loving life. So this morning I came down here, I had the music blaring. People probably thought “Who is this Reggae man?”. I do like a bit of Reggae, Funky House, something fluffy so that’s what I tend to do.
Gavin: So what did you listen to on the way in today?
Dan: Um.. I was listening to the Radio this morning. So KISS, so I just listen to them on repeat usually. To be fair, I’m quite varied, I like a bit of it all really, you know? I like a bit of KISSTORY so the oldies so yeah …
Tiff: I like a bit of RnB, I’m a bit similar to Dan in a way though, I do like a variety. I don’t just like one type of music like I don’t only like House. I like a bit of Pop, loving Ed Sheeran at the moment, loving him. I just love all his songs.
Gavin: His new album is out now as well isn’t it?
Dan: And Lewis Capaldi I like as well at the minute. I quite like him as a person
Tiff: He’s so funny!
Dan: He’s got an amazing voice and his comedy
Tiff: Because our radio in the office is quite varied, we do like a bit of everything so we put KISSOTRY on on a Friday because we know it’s really good. Bit of everything.
Dan: Even the people in the office, who might not be into those sort of tracks you can see hem getting up “Oh yeah this is great yeah! Ready for the weekend!”.
Gavin: Diversity, like you said, we’ve said it a few times today and with your business model as well. So you don’t listen to Podcasts, this is the first one. Dan do you listen to Podcasts?
Dan: Yeah so Tony Robbins, Start-Up , Joe Rogan I think is hilarious and he does quite a few and typically they’re the ones I’d listen to. I listen to podcasts, I do a bit of meditation in the evenings which is quite nice for me and it really helps me go to sleep and wind down. It’s quite hard to get into at first because you really got to try and switch off, but yeah, it’s good so that’s usually via my phone and I’ll download an app and listen to some nice Whale music.
Tiff: A bit of Enya!
Dan: Or Orca’s mating or something like that!
Gavin: Whatever floats your boat!
Dan: I’ve got in on the speakers so my missus gets to hear! She just bangs the floor and tells me to turn it down!
Gavin: Turn it down!
Dan: Turn is down you silly Bas*ard!
Tiff: Jokes aside, because it’s hectic and because it’s busy, that down time is so important daily. Just to have that half an hour or 45 minutes every day. I do some yoga and that’s really important to do it. I do it at the end of the day. We’ve both said before we couldn’t do it at the start of the day.
Dan: I tend to knock your phone off, it’s scientifically proven anyway, you know, knock your phone off, don’t look at it for half an hour before you go to bed. Try and get yourself ready into the state of going to sleep. I actually time my sleep, so I use a sleep calculator because your body works in sleep patterns. So you’re in a deep sleep, not in a deep sleep and it works in two and a half hour intervals I think it is? So I, depending on what time I go to bed, I track what time I need to wake up and if that’s 5 o’clock in the morning, I get up at 5 because I wake up fresher then than I do in a deep sleep at 5:30!
Tiff: We’re both early risers though aren’t we? We both wake up at 5.
Dan: Same as you as well I think?
Gavin: Yeah same as me
Tiff: Because we are better in the mornings, we’re more alert in the mornings. It gets to like 4 O’clock in the afternoon and then we start to get …
Dan: Yeah, I just like it, the world is a bit quiet isn’t it?
Gavin: Yeah it’s much nicer. I like the sun coming up
Tiff: Early bird catches the worm and all that
Gavin: Yeah absolutely. So final bit from me then before we wrap up, a business idol of yours or anyone you look up to? Anyone you can recommend us?
Dan: In terms of somebody in the world? Elon Musk for me, I just think he’s absolutely class. I think he’s himself, he doesn’t put any airs or graces, I think what he’s doing for the electric car industry is just unbelievable! I saw something on Top Gear the other day, they were saying something about he’s created what’s basically battery farms because he knows that people like Audi and BMW are going to surpass the Tesla. He’s essentially then going to sell them the batteries to power their cars. He is insane
Tiff: Very clever, forward thinking!
Dan: He’s his own guy, and if you read about him he wakes up early in the morning and works until 12 o’clock at night. He spends his birthday working on Tesla and trying to make it a worldwide brand. You know, you’ve got to… as much as I know he’s a bit in the grey area sometimes, I quite like that about him because he’s just real. Then it brings me on to someone like Richard Branson, he’s an amazing guy, what a fantastic business man. He’s, like, too perfect for me. He bores me a little bit really because there’s literally never anything ever wrong with him. You see him jump out of a plane with a big smile on his face and doing a video on Necker Island. He doesn’t excite me, but I think with Elon, you see him smoking Cannabis on a show one day and the next day then he’s releasing an electric car.
Tiff: He’s creative isn’t he
Dan: It’s insane you know!
Tiff: There’s people like that …
Dan: He’s the future isn’t he. People like him are the future. So yeah, I read a lot about him and keep up to what he’s doing, but I think he’s quite a ruthless business man, but he’s doing something right and I think he’s going to change how the world is shaped. Electric cars! If we’d have said that ten years ago you were laughing.
Gavin: Technology is the one thing everyone’s focussed on
Dan: People were laughing weren’t they and now these cars drive themselves. It’s unbelievable. You can actually have somebody with their arms crossed in a Tesla and it’s driving itself. Unbelievable.
Gavin: And for you Tiff?
Tiff: I’m a bit old school
Dan: It’s me isn’t it?
Gavin: Yeah it’s Dan
Dan: Yeah we’ll take that!
Tiff: Yeah that’s what he’d like to see
Dan: You even wrote me down on your piece of paper here didn’t you?! You did! What are you back tracking?
Tiff: Daniel Puttick! No, um … D*ck! I like people who have come from nothing because I feel like there’s synergy between me and them then, and Dan and them. Alan Sugar is one person who I do look up to, just because he came from … He puts on no airs and graces, what you see is what you get with him, and that’s exactly how I am. He’s come from nothing, I think he was selling things on a market stall.
Gavin: Yeah he was yeah
Tiff: And now he’s an absolute multi-millionaire.. multi-billionaire! So yeah …
Dan: What I like about Alan Sugar is that he doesn’t really come across that intelligent. You speak to some people and you think “He’s so intelligent, I can’t have a conversation with him”. You know you could have like …
Tiff: A good craic with him!
Dan: a normal conversation, but he’s obviously very very good at what he does.
Tiff: Switched on, his business acumen is just fantastic
Dan: Again, I think that’s just the difference between someone from a very humble, working class background. I think you do get that difference with people. That life experience …
Tiff: Yeah 100% you can tell
Dan: You can see the knock back, the failures
Tiff: Not being born with a sliver spoon in your mouth, so you’ve got to graft, not having a choice.
Dan: That’s not to say that people, you know … Obviously parents, as am I, are looking to provide for my daughter and then that might be seen, by the time she’s old enough to recognise finances and so on, it might be seen that she will have a silver spoon because naturally that’s got to be every person. But, one thing I will do is make sure she has life experience, she gets a job, she works, she’s not spoiled
Tiff: She’s grounded
Dan: And the times that she starts to show that she’s spoiled I’ll squash that straight away, I think, don’t deter from giving your kids everything because that’s what we’re here to do but make sure they appreciate it and aby signs of spoiledness you’ve got to knock that out of them. Not literally knock it out of them. I don’t knock my daughter around or nor will I!
Tiff: We’re both similar with that mentality, like my daughter, she’s 4. She’s very grounded, she’s humble, she’s not spoiled, and I will continue doing that as well. I think it’s so important when you’re shaping a child for entering adult life to not be like that. Appreciate everything. Keep your feet on the ground, that’s what my dad says to me “Keep your feet on the ground”.
Gavin: I’m gonna call it a day as such, but obviously a big thanks for your time and effort today and sharing with us.
Dan / Tiff: Thanks for having us!
Gavin: I think there was two things of the time we spent this morning together that’s prompted off my page was: LINKS and yourselves are about being true to yourself, and, do the basics well.
Dan: Do that and you won’t go wrong.
Gavin: They jumped off the page for me today
Dan: And people respect you for that
Gavin: A big thanks to you both, and speak to you again soon.
Dan: Cheers Gav!