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From Recruitment Start-Up To Scale Up And 1000% Increase In Fees In 12 Months: Andy and Lumi’s Story
Posted by Denise
Over the next few posts, I want to share several ‘hero’ stories with you that relate to the many successes our clients have using the systems we have created here at Centredexcellence.
Today I want to share Andy and Lumi Philips’s story, which, to be honest, is amazing! They are the founders of Axiom Recruit, a specialist global recruitment partner to the Blockchain and Crypto markets.
Axiom was originally focused on the gaming Fintech, A.I., and gaming industry and through our work together, they are now focused specifically on Blockchain and Crypto markets internationally.
They are working with clients and filling roles in South Korea, Japan, throughout Asia, Dubai, Europe, London, New York, America, Cayman Islands, and several other counties on different continents.
A truly global recruiter that only formed in 2019 and then set up its office in Malta during the pandemic in October 2020.
Andrew has a background in international recruitment spanning twenty-four years, and Lumi is newer to the game, starting in recruitment seven years ago in Australia.
Both Andrew and Lumi admit they love being travelling entrepreneurs. Originally they spent a lot of time in Australia; however, they wanted to get back to Europe, where they are both from, to start their own business doing what they love, in a place they love, together, with an option to travel while working remotely, a style of work that is now accepted by their client and candidate organisations across the world.
So, in this case study interview, I asked them several questions.
How Did Axiom Come About?
The whole idea of the business started when we were both in Australia working our respective jobs, and it felt like it wasn’t going anywhere. We were living for the weekends. It wasn’t the lifestyle that we wanted. We started thinking, how can we do our own ‘thing’ and build our lives the way we wanted it to be while having the Mediterranean lifestyle, being close to our families, travelling opportunities, etc.
This is how the idea of Axiom came about. We built the company using our strengths; Lumi was candidate-focused, and I was client-side.
Where Did Axiom Go From Here?
We had the idea and the grand plan and went for it! Originally we threw everything up in the air. We knew there were multiple markets we could work in, and that is where we started, though we were scrambling around until we found Centredexcellence and the Momentum programme.
Joining your training made us appreciate that this scattergun approach would never work.
You have to be laser-focused on what you say and do. We’ve become more laser-focused and solid going through Momentum and the journey of starting a recruitment business and making all the mistakes everybody makes.
We now have an absolute single market clarity and direct focus on what we do. Over the next year, we will hire probably about three consultants for the business. We want to maintain that lifestyle approach.
So that’s one of the things we will say when we’re employing people for Axiom is that they can be based anywhere, they can live the lifestyle they want to live, and we can give you the infrastructure to do the business you want to do.
When we first started, nothing was working; we were desperate.
It was really important for us to choose a sector that we were interested in and liked. Because we tried to work in a sector that seemed impossible to penetrate first of all, and we didn’t enjoy it.
And I think that was a very tough decision. Three months on and we had the pressure of money and so on. And it was a very tough decision to start again from scratch in a completely new market and take everything from the beginning.
Yet once we did that, we realised that we were enjoying the market. It just organically started working out for us, day by day.
When we got rid of the noise, we could focus, and then suddenly people were like; all right, so that’s who you are, we can buy into that.
When you’re a bit of everything, no one knows what you are. So no one wants to buy it. So I think that was a massive turning point for us.
So What Were The Next Steps You Took As You Qualified Your Niche?
I think it was going through that process with Momentum, you know, we had to go through all the hard lessons; and it was hard. I remember there were points where I was like, uh!!
We had shared this before that we rebelled; I was like, this isn’t working. And I’m so busy doing other things.
Then the penny dropped that I wasn’t busy doing anything that was generating anything. I managed to turn that noise off and then focus. And when we started to focus and went through the steps and the reach-outs and the conversations, we found that the people were able to buy into our offer because they understood us better.
It was one step after another, following a process and doing the work.
It is easy to look back and go, yeah, all these things happened, but there were the days when it was like a Tuesday morning, and you sat there, and no one wanted to speak to you.
And you’re like, oh God, where do I start?
So what was great was having other people in Momentum around us. That support was really important, knowing that people are going through the same thing, and you need to make it through day by day until enough time goes by that you can own what you’re saying yourself.
You can be confident, and you can project that to the people listening to you so that it comes more naturally.
It is just the amount of time you need to put in, in the beginning. It is never going to be easy anyway.
It is about taking those consistent steps every day on the actions that will lead to what you want.
What Was Your Key Learning From The Process of Starting in a New Market?
Vital is the clarity of what you do, don’t try and be all things to other people. I think there’s power in turning things down, and I have turned things down; it’s the old story. You hear other people, but I’ve been there where you’ve turned something down and then a week later, something better and more aligned with what you want appears; it is important to build the confidence to do that.
We all go through the grind to get to what we want, and yes, it is hard, and accepting it is part of the process.
Those days where it constantly feels like you’re not getting anywhere, it all amounts to something eventually; it’s putting little pieces in step by step.
We never really considered giving up, even during our lowest points, because there was no plan B.
There was no other option.
We left the good life in Australia and came to Malta without anybody. So a new country, new sector, new market, new business, new everything!
We bet all of it on what we have here. So I don’t think there was any question of giving up at any point; we figured out how to be each other’s therapist and best friend, and supporter.
We kept pushing and hoping that the next day would be better. And sometimes it was, and sometimes we went weeks without having a good day, but eventually, things happened.
The other thing I learned from the course is adding value and good things happen.
Not to feel you have to get something from everything. Instead, be a consultant, and give people advice.
One of the things I say to candidates is, look, I might not place you in a job, but I am happy to be a soundboard for you if you are going through a process.
Even if I don’t have a commercial interest, now we’re getting more and more people asking us for advice that doesn’t have a commercial return for us, but we’re very happy to do it. And they’re very grateful for us to have it.
And these are the networks that we’re forming for the future.
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So, six months before we came to Centredexcellence to work with both of you, to the six months after, we have had a thousand per cent increase on the billings that we did six months before and six months after.
So, you know the figures are amazing. And I think that was the thing. It was like, I understand what recruitment is. I know what good recruitment is, and this isn’t it.
We had a terrible first six months, so where’s this change, what did we do, and how did it work?
We have never been pushy; we came from a consultancy approach.
It is doing it day in, day out to pinpoint the process, constantly going through those steps with people. I turned around my business development approach, and it works. I was an old school hit the phones type of person. I had to work on my mindset with this, and over time it started working.
It is about trusting the process and following the consultative approach that led to retainers.
For example, a client asked me before she gave me the retainer, should we do this on a retained basis? And I said, absolutely, you should do this on retained basis; it’s a CEO search.
We’re just finishing off now, but don’t necessarily give it to me. You choose who’s best for your business, but absolutely you need to go through a retained search. Then 24 hours later, she called me back and said, we want to go with you; send us your terms.
It is that kind of conversation that we had day in and day out that felt like nothing but eventually landed where they built trust in us.
Building Trust With Clients and Candidates
Trust-building works for me because I don’t sell; I try not to sell, particularly salespeople; a wall instantly goes up when you’re being sold to.
Yet if you have a conversation with someone, understand their key pain points and problems, and then give them advice, it is a different relationship you are setting up.
A relationship not based on look, I might place you, or I might recruit your next ten people for your business. Just let’s chat through it. The hardest thing is probably positioning yourself in the first place to get those conversations.
I think how that flipped for us as we came with zero context.
Our database was empty.
We’ve built it over a year while working as we had those first conversations through the reach outs; it wasn’t luck. It was part of the development work we put in.
It would happen that we would speak to someone who would say, this company might be recruiting and put me in touch with somebody. I started that conversation.
We got one job, and we went hard on the candidates, and suddenly Lumi lined up all these CPOs and chief products officers that I was speaking to. My diary was full for like three weeks. It was ten calls a day for an hour piece type of thing; it was full-on.
And that’s where the rest of the business eventually came from conversations with clients or candidates.
Flexibility and understanding were vital as we tapped into a lot of startups. We brought H.R. advice on processes they hadn’t had before. For example, how to recruit, engage and retain their team.
So all those conversations that, again, maybe not give us fees straight away led to something that eventually happened.
What Is Your Key Nugget of Advice?
I would say that if you want to do it, do it. I’ve had a conversation with friends back home about how sick they are of life; they aren’t going anywhere, working for a company that doesn’t care about them.
I have said to them to make a decision and do it. Find the idea in your head, be brave and put the commitment in because when you commit to something, you push through failure.
Put the work in every day; most people aren’t prepared to do that so that you can be successful.
Start with your idea, build your belief, and be prepared to work hard.
Be flexible and adapt and build as you go.
And, also from my side, I was so focused on what we were doing and our growth and ownership in this that I never once looked at our competition.
I didn’t want to know who else was trying to do what we were, which gave us ultimate focus. It is funny because we are updating our website and the designers asked us who your competition is? I didn’t even know because I didn’t want to focus on that.
I only wanted to focus on our growth and our success in the market and on how we can be the best that we can be.
An unwavering commitment was vital, and of course, your momentum programme was a turning point for us.
What Are Your Next Steps With The Business?
We are working on our marketing and branding now, and we are about to build a resource and admin team on a part-time basis.
We plan to grow the recruiting team internationally as we prepare to break into the German, Swiss and U.K. markets and Dubai. These will be go-getter recruiters who want a different lifestyle.
In terms of a timeline, we are turning from a startup into a scale-up, and this is so exciting because this is exactly what we want to do.
Scale and grow and then sell.
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What Advice on Scaling Would You Give?
The first thing is to focus on your self-growth at every level. We learned to work together, as we are a couple, which was a big adjustment.
Individual growth for each of us goes hand in hand with scaling a company. This involves the sector, our approach to life, and our mindset.
When those go hand in hand, you see the biggest advancement. So to me, this is a big thing, the all-rounded growth and learning approach.
You can’t have a messy approach and think the business will be successful. The company will be successful when you align everything and are committed.
This was a total commitment; our life savings were riding on this.
We learnt that what goes on in your head mirrors what happens in your business. It is about constantly evolving and developing the individual because you are only as good as where you are or what is going on in your head.
So it’s constantly developing those skills and those thoughts so that you can stretch yourselves and then, therefore, serve your clients so much better.
Finally, the accountability factor was hard for me because I like to sleep in the morning, and I want to go for long walks.
I learned to adapt and changed my accountability and my lifestyle. I became more accountable for using my time and what I put into the business.
I came to realise that’s so important. And the minute I made that change, because it’s all in the mindset.
We had a great quote on our whiteboard saying winner’s mindset, and I thought for a long time, what does that mean to me?
And to me, that means being accountable every day for what you do and how you do it and making it easier for the other person and yourself to be the best that you can be.
We wanted to share Andy, Lumi and Axiom’s story today, which I hope you will agree is pretty amazing. Two people who reinvented their life. They moved from employees to employers from one side of the globe to the other and are moving from startup to scale-up with a £1 million predicted turnover this year.
In this case study, they share some critical drivers of their success.
- Going all-in with no plan B
- Getting support from a coach, in their case, the team here at Centredexcellence
- Working on their mindset-everyday
- Being focussed on a niche they enjoyed working with
- Learning new ways to work with clients and candidates
- Playing to their individual strengths
- Being true consultants
- Doing the work; even when it was hard
- Committing daily to what they wanted
Andy and Lumi were excellent students, and they did the work we share in our various programmes. If you would like to discuss how we can help you build your recruitment or executive search business to seven figures and beyond, schedule a free profit Accelerator Session with one of our Scale Specialists.
We will help you gain clarity on exactly what you need to do to double your sales and build a business that runs on autopilot.
Nicky and Katy