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Bank of Ireland – Featured Business

About you

Is this your first business?

Yes this is my first business

When did you first decide you wanted to work for yourself?

I first decided I wanted to work for myself when I was studying. A few internships I did made me realise it would be hard to have a lot of autonomy if was an employee and that I wouldn’t be able to master the process from the beginning to the end. These were two important things for me; that’s why setting up my own business seemed to be in my opinion the best solution.

What are the things that you find most valuable and rewarding about working for yourself?

I would mention first the satisfaction you have when you see that the idea you have is successful. Setting up a business is not an easy matter and you face disappointments but when your business is finally taking off and you start to see the first victorious smiles on your partners’ faces; that’s the best rewarding gift!

Where did you get the idea for your current business?

When I moved to Dublin in 1999, I quickly realised there was a huge demand for multilingual candidates as more and more American companies were getting established in Ireland. Indeed, all the multinationals that relocated their headquarters to Ireland during the Celtic Tiger years needed skilled bilingual professionals to run their operations and customer centres.

Being a multilingual candidate myself, I had the opportunity to see that recruitment agencies were struggling to handle the demand and didn’t spend enough quality time with the candidates to make sure they fitted the job and had a long-term career project in Ireland. As a result, many of them didn’t stay in the companies more than six months because they wanted to go home or because the job didn’t match their expectations. Multinationals were not satisfied and I knew there was an opportunity to create my own recruitment agency and fill that gap in the market.

That’s what I did in 2000. I created Approach People Recruitment, a multilingual recruitment agency that takes into consideration the candidate’s career path and expectations to offer them career opportunities that matched their profile. Our objective is to build long-term relationship between our clients and candidates.

About Starting Up

How did you evaluate your business idea before deciding to go ahead with it?

First of all, I took the time to get to know the competitors, the way they worked and the services they offered.

Second of all, I spent time trying to understand why multilingual candidates were coming to Ireland, what they were looking for and, very important, what was their experience with recruitment agencies in Ireland.

This approach enabled me to gather a lot of information I could use to convince candidates to come to my recruitment agency and understand the problems clients were facing with our existing competitors.

Did you prepare a business plan before starting your business? How often do you revisit it? What advice would you give to others when writing a business plan?

We forecasted the expenses which enabled me to know how many placements we needed to make per month not to lose money. My advice would be not to focus too much on the incomes as they’re quite unpredictable and will be generated naturally with the quality of your work. The point is to be realistic with the expenses and to add 50% more to what has been planned for the expenses.

What challenges did you face in the early start up stage of your business? How did you overcome these challenges?

The most important challenge we faced in the early stage was the difference between our expenses and our incomes. We usually had to wait to be paid by the clients when we’d made a placement, provoking an overdraft on our bank account. Thanks to the good relations we had with our clients, we could ask them to accelerate the payment process.

The second challenge was to be a new business and be credible when negotiating with clients. The strategy we had was to offer a high-level service, and the confidence we had in our business was the key to overcoming this challenge.

About your business

What is the nature of your business?

Approach People Recruitment is a multinational recruitment agency with its headquarters in Dublin. Created in 2000 by two French entrepreneurs, Approach People has become a leader in multilingual recruitment in Western Europe. We work in key partnerships with many of the World’s leading companies based in Europe, looking for their future talents. We mainly recruit multilingual candidates for areas such as Sales, Marketing, Finance, IT and Business Support.

We operate in most Western European countries through our offices in Ireland, France, Spain and Switzerland.

How many employees do you have?

We have 50 full-time employees spread in Dublin, Paris, Lyon, Barcelona and Geneva. Half of the staff in Dublin is Irish.

How has your market changed in the past few years? How has your business changed to keep pace?

Despite the market conditions, our operation has taken advantage of the situation by consolidating our clients and obtaining new ones. We have had similar successes during the boom years.

Because of the current economic situation, the companies are more demanding on the skills and motivation of the candidates they hire. They want to be sure the candidates are going to bring an added value. Our quality-driven and meticulous recruitment process has been the key element that has enabled us to obtain new clients and strengthen our market position.

What are the most crucial things you have done to grow your business?

We first specialised in recruiting French candidates for multinationals in Ireland. After some years, due to a fall in the number of French people coming to Ireland, we decided to become more generalist to keep growing and started to recruit all multilingual candidates.

The other crucial thing I’ve done is to have diversified the risks. When we decided to expand our activity abroad, we didn’t put all our resources in one country or one team. We started small and took our time to secure the activity and develop it step by step.

What plans do you have now to expand your business further?

We want to strengthen our activity in Ireland by negotiating key partnerships with new companies. We are also working on our marketing strategy to increase our notoriety and develop our database of multilingual candidates to be able to provide our clients with the best professionals on the market. We are currently in the process of hiring 20 new recruiters for our offices in Dublin and in Europe.

What has been your most effective marketing tactic or technique?

I decided to value quality over quantity. I didn’t undersell my services to have more clients but always remain consistent with my values and initial strategy. Also as a small company, I’ve always decided to target businesses instead of the general public.

What’s the worst business advice you’ve ever received?

Follow the crowd! An entrepreneur has to do the opposite. He creates the trend and is not afraid of shaking up the market with something new!

About entrepreneurship

What is your definition of an entrepreneur? Do you believe that everyone has what it takes to be one?

An entrepreneur is someone who is able to spot the opportunities on a specific market and uses efficiently his skills to take advantage of this gap to develop his business.

An entrepreneur has to be self-confident to believe he can create, manage and build a successful company, even in the tough times.

He has initiatives and is creative but he is also methodicaland thoughtful. He accepts the criticism and is able to learn from his mistakes. A good entrepreneur is indeed someone who has the capacity to question himself to become stronger and to adapt his business to the market’s changes.

I think being an entrepreneur is a way of thinking. This is a job in its own right and as every job; everyone doesn’t have what it takes to do it well.

What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about starting their own business?

Don’t give up because of disappointments at the beginning. Believe in your idea and be confident. It takes a bit of time to get started but it’s worth it! Last but not least, be ready to earn very little money for a long time and therefore start with at least one year of savings aside for your personal day-to-day expenses.

How important do you think innovation is for entrepreneurs?

Innovation is crucial for entrepreneurs. An idea that works is an idea that hasn’t been used yet.

Article on Bank Of Ireland – Allaboutbusiness here