ASC’s Managing Director, Neil McNally tells us what it takes to manage a recruitment business.
Neil started the company with Financial Director, Mike Smith in 1991. The company has gone from strength to strength, working through some tough economic times to develop into the successful business it is today. A business with four UK offices, over 40 employees and a culture that strays away from the stereotypical recruitment business.
From starting his business at 22 years old to meeting 3 of the 1966 England World Cup players, Neil talks through his journey and experiences of managing a recruitment business over the last 28 years and what he sees for the future of the company.
What inspired you to set up ASC Connections?
Being a Director / Owner of a business was something I wanted to do from a very early age so when the opportunity arose, I jumped at it. Every job I had prior to getting into recruitment, I used to think, could I set up a business like this and run it? What are the prospects? I even had a car cleaning round when I was 12 or 13. It started with just me but I soon scaled it up by involving 2 other friends.
Where did you start your recruitment career before ASC and what made you decide to go into recruitment?
I started my recruitment career at a company called Eurotec which was a subsidiary business of The Bertram Group. I worked as an IT Recruiter which continued to be my chosen sector for a number of years. Like many people, recruitment was suggested to me by a Recruitment Consultant who was interviewing me for a sales job. It seemed like a good idea at the time.
What have been the biggest challenges you have faced over the years at ASC?
Too many to mention, however, getting through 2 recessions springs to mind. This involved re-shaping the business by unfortunately having to make some redundancies but also changing the direction of what some of the remaining staff were focused on. Also, one of the biggest challenges when managing a recruitment business over the last few years has been identifying and attracting new staff.
Now tell us what your biggest highlight is to date?
Every time we’ve created something new such as opening a new office or putting a new team together, I see that as another main highlight. I do believe change is good.
What changes have you seen in recruitment over the years and how has the company adapted to these changes?
Over 28 years, the industry has undergone significant change. Technological changes have re-shaped how we operate more than anything else. How we access data, how we communicate with one another have changed dramatically. Emailing, texting and the internet were largely unknown entities within recruitment when we started. The business has always adapted to technological change in a very positive way and generally kept up or stayed ahead of the competition. The first job boards weren’t created until 3 years after we were formed. I sound like a proper dinosaur now!
How would you like to see the company grow in the next 5 years?
We obviously need more headcount to grow the business but it’s more important to work with the people already within the business. Supporting everyone to maximise their own potential first is crucial. It will help form a much stronger foundation to bring new people in. The key areas of Engineering & Manufacturing, IT and Supply Chain & Procurement is where the focus will be including the Business Support disciplines and Executive level roles within those industries.
How do you feel your career developed you for your ASC venture?
I was only just 22 when we formed the business so my career was quite short up to that point. However, I did experience a lot of diversity in respect to the types of companies I worked for, the people I worked with and the varying management styles I was exposed to. This variation and diversity helped me develop a business far more than any training course could. On top of this, recognising and learning how to communicate with people effectively before starting a business venture is crucial
Describe a typical week at ASC?
The great thing about managing a recruitment business is the variety. Every week is different, different office every day, different challenge every day.
What do you feel is the key to maintaining a great company culture?
Part of my job as Managing Director of ASC is to make sure employees have the tools they need to do their job and to create an environment they are comfortable in. Also, being accessible to everyone goes a long way in creating a strong culture. My door is always open for everyone.
What do you feel is the key to managing a successful recruitment business?
There is nothing unique about what we do, it’s just about how well we do it. Managing a recruitment business successfully, requires you to create a team that want to be there and have all the core attributes that it takes to be a good recruiter. I believe you have to treat people well, identify their strengths and weaknesses and give them the relevant training and direction that’s necessary.
How do you relax after a hard week?
Who said I relax? Not really, spending time with family and friends over good food is the best way to relax.
Where has been your favourite place you have travelled to and why?
I don’t have one specific favourite place but I have been fortunate to have visited lots of different places with a lot of diversity including Hong Kong, New York, California, Thailand, North Africa and much of Europe. I like to experience different cultures.
Have you met any famous people?
I’ve met famous actors, musicians and sportsmen but I think meeting 3 of the 1966 World Cup winning team, Geoff Hurst, Bobby Moore and Gordon Banks on 3 separate occasions is up there.
If you could go back to your younger self and give yourself a piece of advice, what would it be?
Managing a recruitment business requires time to plan and prepare to ensure you meet your goals- Winging it doesn’t always work!
What advice would you give to anyone thinking about setting up on their own?
Whatever type of business you’re looking to set up, make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons. If you think it’s a quick route to making lots of money then you’ll probably be mistaken. If it’s about the status of being a Director or Business Owner, this feeling will wear out. First and foremost, you should have a passion for what you do. Your business is more likely to have longevity if you enjoy what you do. Spend time planning and preparing and take advice from people that have set up similar ventures. Remember, working for yourself, even if you have staff working for you, can be a very lonely place, however, it can also be the most rewarding thing you’ll ever do.
Does Neil sound like the type of Director you’d like to work for? Send Neil your CV as he’s always on the lookout for new talent. If you’re looking for advise about setting up on your own, send him an email.
Rebecca Crowther is a Marketing Executive for ASC Connections. Her love for writing started when she was young. In her current role, she loves creating content to support candidates on their career journey and help clients hire talented indviduals.