Today in our Recruitment Hero Series at Centredexcellence, I share Helen Stacey’s inspiring success story.  

Helen is the founder and MD of Aspirejobs based in Dorset and Hampshire; an industry ‘veteran’ with over thirty years of recruiting experience. Helen and her team specialise in permanent and fixed-term contract recruitment across various industry sectors and levels, from Junior to Executive/Director. 

We wanted to Share Helen’s story of how she has shifted her mindset over the last six months, grown her confidence and, consequently, all her results in six short months. 

So, let’s dive in and get under the skin of exactly how Helen. 

  • Increased her fee level by 48%. 
  • Increased her conversion rate by 50%. 
  • Achieved a job fill rate of 56%. 
  • …….resulting in increasing Aspire’s revenue by 62%. 

Helen was part of our RockIT programme, so I asked her several questions to tease out all the actions she took that delivered the results she achieved. 

Helen, Tell Us More About Your Recruitment Background? 

I have been in recruitment for 31 years, and pre-Aspire, I have grown big recruitment businesses with two business partners.

I set up Aspirejobs in 2011, nearly 11 years ago, having been made redundant from a previous business. 

My background was industrial temps, so the real high volume, low margin, numbers game. I realised I couldn’t afford to do ‘just’ temps in my new company, so I started doing permanent recruitment. 

I focus on a geographical region which is Dorset and Hampshire, across several sectors across all levels for junior to executive level. 

Anything office and commercial and some technical engineering too; Salaries range from £20 to
£50k with a few on either side of that. 

When You First Talked to Us What Was Happening With The Business? 

One of my team members left and set up in competition with me a couple of years ago before I contacted you and Nicky. 

I continued working on my own, which was fine as I had done that before, though I was conscious I had no real direction of where I was taking the business. I had a significant birthday coming up, and it’s like, oh my God, what next. Then you start thinking about retirement and what you will do with your life.  

 I knew there was nothing to sell on if it was just me, and it’s like, well, where do I take it? 

And I had a conversation with Emma, a friend who had worked with you and Nicky, who suggested I contact you and then you and I had an initial conversation. 

I remember crying on that call! I didn’t even realise that I was in that state. I thought I was quite okay. But my confidence was low. I knew I was a good recruiter, but it was more about where I take the business and having the confidence to take someone on again without anything happening.  


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At the time of our conversation, I knew what I wanted, and it wasn’t a huge business. I am at a different time in my life. I want a work-life balance. 

It was then I signed up, and the rest is history, as they say. 

My previous business had a multi-million turnover with five offices, a lot of staff, stress, and cash flow; I didn’t want that anymore. 

I wanted something that gave me a better balance between doing a job I loved and having time for the other parts and people in my life. Since I set the business up, I met my husband and got married, and I don’t want to be working twenty-four hours, seven days a week.  

I have different priorities now. For me, it was about how I could grow the business the right way, balance my life, and still enjoy what I’m doing. For me, it’s about building a company that is maybe four or five of us that can carry on beyond me, which I have now done. 

My goal is to go down to two days a week and do the parts of the business that I am good at, getting out of bed and being in front of people. 

I’m well-known in my local business community as a go-to person, having been in recruitment longer than most people locally.  

It is about growing something that would allow me to have some time to travel while I’ve got my health and to support family members financially where I can. 

And, importantly, to have other people working alongside me that share the same vision and values.  


What Have You Implemented So Far From RockIT That Has Made That Transition Possible? 


We worked on some stats and figures, and I was shocked that we were only filling 25% of the jobs we took because I thought I was doing quite well.

That made me look at all the jobs we took on. 

I went through all the RockIT modules and wrote my mission statement, which took time to hone. 

Then I looked at my avatar clients, who are my tribe to work with. 

Mine is a geographical niche with my expertise within an 18 to 20-mile radius of where I am so very local and at those different sorts of skill levels. 

I was taking a lot of jobs that I knew I probably would never fill.  

Here is an example: I would have a client and help them fill some of the lower-level roles locally. Then they would ask if I could fill a legal position, and maybe something else outside my core sectors, and I would spend time and money advertising those roles and doing quick searches; when actually am I likely to fill them? 

Probably not.  

For me, it was honing the jobs that I work on. From RockIT, it was working the Gold jobs, according to the criteria you gave us and turning down the others. 

I am now doing that daily at the moment in terms of turning away jobs that are not in my niche, that I don’t think I can fill but also only working with clients that understand the current marketplace in terms of candidates and fees and who will move quickly. 

But most importantly, I’m only working jobs where I have exclusivity. There are a few historic clients where I’m on a PSL, but it’s not huge, and I pick and choose the jobs I do with them.  

I will work with the occasional client who has put jobs out on Indeed, and they’re not getting the response though I will not work on anything going out to other agencies. 

This was a mindset shift for me. It wasn’t that I was worried about missing out on roles as a solo recruiter; it was about what is the best use of my time. 

I knew I would be better off getting on the phone and getting more Gold jobs rather than wasting time filling stuff that I don’t understand, or that’s just not in my niche.  

The whole thing for me has been a confidence shift. 

If you ask my friends and family, they’d laugh and say, that’s ridiculous. You are so confident, and you know what you’re doing. You’ve been in the industry years, but I don’t think until you sit and have a conversation with someone like you, Katy, you realise how a lack of confidence with all the outside pressure we face can and is impacting you and your mindset. 


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How Did You Work To Prioritise Getting Things Done? 

At first, when I joined RockIT, I panicked, thinking I had to complete everything immediately. We were moving house and renovating the next one.  

I reached out for help to the RockIt group, and my RockIt coach, Penny, helped me realign my priorities and you suggested outsourcing to a resourcer. 

I had never thought about taking on someone that didn’t work in the office with me on a freelance basis. I explored a couple of the avenues the group suggested and decided that perhaps it wasn’t right for me, but I have since found a freelance recruitment resource.  

They work about 15 hours a week. I had to train her, which was a new experience working the way I work, which took six weeks. 

She’s contributed to placements and picked up a few people I overlooked this week for jobs.  

I would never have gone down that route if I hadn’t been for being part of RockIT. I started to appreciate my real skill in BD and managing the whole process.  

Tell Me More About How The Strategies We Shared Helped Your Fees? 

It was about my mindset and understanding where I was spending my time and the value I give. 

My jobs are between £20 and £50 K, but the £50 Ks are few and far between, so my average fee was not very high. It was £2500-£2700, and I have increased that by 48%. 

Our average fee is just over £4k, with some of that coming from very small tweaks. I was charging between 12 and 15% tops. And I remember Penny saying to me; I want you to just put your fees up to new clients to 16%; it makes such a difference. 

The first time I did it, I was a little bit like, “Ooh, 16%!”.  

And I know there are people around me doing roles at 10% locally. I am now at 16-16.5%. 

Penny is pushing me to go higher, and I haven’t got that far yet. I’m comfortable with where I’m at; it’s not a massive increase.  

I tell clients they are paying for my expertise and only have to pay when they take someone, I have found for them. 

Rebuilding my confidence has really helped. 

Our clients raise their prices yearly, yet as recruiters, we don’t; we keep putting it off, yet with the current market and inflation, why shouldn’t we? 

The conflict we have is in our heads. If we were to put that up by a percentage, would the clients stop working with us? 

No, probably not.  

If you don’t do it now in a market where there aren’t many people, you’ll never be able to do it. It is about supply and demand and playing to your strengths and the value you ad for your client. 

Our costs are rising too; recruiter licenses on LinkedIn and job board fees are doubling; we have to factor all this into our fees. 

What Would You Stay To People Considering Working With Centredexcellence?

First of all, join RockIT and have a call to learn more about how it works. Don’t use an excuse of being a one-person business; it can work for you. I was on my own when I joined RockIT, and now I have a team around me. 

You could do it because I’ve done it, and it worked for me.  

Yes, you must put the time in, go through the modules, and work with your coach. 

Reach out to the community because it is brilliant, and you can pick up so much from the Facebook group and the weekly accountability which I’m still doing, which is great. 

If you feel overwhelmed, reach out everyone is there to help you focus and prioritise. It helped me identify priorities and then take micro steps forward, which helped me make huge steps in only six months. 

What Next? 

Helen was on her own and hugely determined and acted on the strategies we teach in the Rockit programme and consequently achieved the results she did in only six months. 

If you would like to discuss how we can help you build your recruitment company to deliver the lifestyle you want, schedule a free profit Accelerator Session with one of our Scale Specialists.  

We will help you clarify exactly what you need to do to double your sales and fill rates and increase your fees while you build a business that runs on autopilot. 


Warm Regards  

Nicky and Katy