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Increasing Fees and Doubling Fill Rates: Vanilla Recruitments Success Story
Posted by Denise
Today in our Recruitment Hero Series at Centredexcellence, I share Eloise Shelton’s success story.
Eloise is the MD of Vanilla Recruitment, covering sales, marketing, accountancy, finance, HR, and several office markets with a focus on mid to senior-level roles.
Eloise’s story is one many recruitment entrepreneurs will relate to; It’s having that dream of building a super flourishing business with a difference, which means: Building a recruitment brand and a unique service offering for your clients and your candidates that your competition isn’t able to create, because they don’t have the skills and knowledge, expertise, and experience.
The challenge is when building an exceptional business of this magnitude, there will inevitably be things that, as a business owner, you will have to overcome that aren’t easy to navigate through.
This experience is known as Entrepreneurial Fever, where you are stuck in a cycle of overworking, and the business dominates everything in your life. It becomes a job rather than the aspiring dream creation you want to build.
This is exactly what happened to Eloise (Ellie).
Consequently, after 14 years of struggling to grow the business on her own, she’d lost her mojo and her love for her business. She was struck down with entrepreneurial fever, and every time she tried to scale, she lost money hand over fist.
Now frustrated AND determined, she decided to make her vision a reality, committing to figuring this out once and for all.
In this Recruitment Hero Case Study, we will share how Ellie implemented structures and systems in her business that enabled her to scale.
- Increasing her percentage fee from 15% to 17%,
- Restructuring her team for improved performance
- Increased efficiencies
- Doubling her fill rate from 38% to 76%!
Ellie was part of the RockIT program, which supported her in achieving these results. Book a call with one of our scale specialists here to find out if this program will work for you.
So, let’s hear more about Ellie’s business and how she transformed her results.
What Do You Do And Tell Us More About Vanilla Recruitment?
I’m the managing director and founder of Vanilla Recruitment. We are a head office recruiter specialising in office sales, marketing, accountancy, and HR on a temporary and a permanent basis.
Predominantly we cover Northamptonshire and work across the east midlands for more senior roles.
Currently, we have ten employees; there were more in the past, which I’ll talk about later; we are a close-knit team.
Where Was The Business When You Started Working With Centredexcellence?
Before I started the RockIT programme, I had been in business for 14 years; We’ve just had our 16th anniversary, which is crazy.
When I first came to you, I had a lovely business, though it wasn’t profitable. I had a larger team that was challenging to manage with unpredictable job flow and billings.
Everything was awkward and uncomfortable, and I had fallen out of love with it, which I now realise so many business owners experience when they first come and join your programmes.
And I remember talking to the Centredexcellence team after our first session and feeling completely different. I knew this was what I needed to do to get back in control.
I wasn’t billing or doing anything particularly well; I was busy all the time yet not achieving anything of value.
As you say, I had Entrepreneurial fever preventing me from scaling, which was frustrating as we had such a good brand.
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What Changed For You And What Strategies Did You Implement That You Were Learning?
The major shift was around our mindset, which you have supported us with, and a huge part of that was working out what I wanted from the business and what I wanted for my life.
Then once I had that set, I realised that actually, I was the person standing in my way. Yes, there was a lot that I needed to implement in the business, but when I had the clarity of what I wanted Vanilla to be, it was easier to follow the roadmap to get there.
So we worked around who we would be as a business and focused on that. A huge amount of it was on the accountability because you guys make us report weekly on what we are doing to ensure that we are on the plan to achieve what we want.
This is something I still do every week to make sure I stay on plan.
A big part of what we needed to do was systematise. I’m quite process-driven anyway, and we had some systems in place that people weren’t following.
We weren’t implementing as we could, and we weren’t always basing our decisions on data which we then started to do with the help of the business x-ray process.
I had never analysed the business in that amount of detail. So looking at who our clients were, where we had our successes, and deep diving into the numbers was uncomfortable.
I’m a people person who likes selling rather than detail, so I brought my operations manager on the course because she was great at that. And she also held my feet to the fire to ensure I followed through on things.
We identified our client and candidate avatars and the avatar roles. On the back of that, I closed two divisions because we used to have a legal division and one other, which we closed down because we were spreading ourselves way too thin.
I streamlined the business, but it was the best thing I did to reduce our numbers to people who would fit the brand, the culture, and who we wanted to be.
I looked at the people we had, the sectors where we were strong, the systems we could develop and who needed to go.
We looked at which clients work well with us and what other clients we want that are like this.
Even to the point of deciding, we don’t work any vacancies below £20k because the positions above this were our sweet spot.
Because of this, we could put a much more streamlined and slick process in place. We also looked at the gold job process again, which is specific about what jobs you take. This moved our fill rate from 38% to 76%.
Streamlining the people and processes meant we moved from 360 recruitment to 240; we created a happier and more productive team who were in flow.
How Did You Handle This Change With Current Clients?
We started by putting a minimum fee, the value we wanted to earn from any placement.
Therefore, we would return to our clients if they wanted us to work on a lower salary, then we would offer them the minimum fee.
So we weren’t just saying, Mr or Mrs Client, you know, thanks, but no thanks. And yes, we’ve worked with you for 14 years, and now we’re not going to do that anymore.
Many of our clients were repeat business that had been there since I’d set up on my own day one; I didn’t want to do that, so we put a minimum fee in place.
This approach worked well because if clients still wanted our service and to be with us, we felt we were also winning.
With new clients, we wouldn’t take anything below that level,
How Did This Fee Approach Impact Your Performance?
With our new systems and approach, we weren’t busy fools working lots of low-level roles. This allowed us to be focused on pulling in higher-level roles from the clients we wanted to work with.
Our fill rate improved because we were working with committed, exclusive or retained clients because that’s something that I hadn’t done before joining RockIT.
By avoiding the low-level roles, we could concentrate on the more profitable work, which meant we made more money by doing less. The penny dropped that we couldn’t be all things to all men, and we were making more by niching down.
As Your Fill Rate Increased, How Did This Help Your Partnerships With Clients?
Really well. We are providing a better quality of service our Google ranking and reviews have increased.
We have lost some clients, but I would say they are clients that we wanted to lose. And consultants, too, which was all part of the streamlining process.
As scary as it was at the time, it was the right thing for the business.
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What Would Your Advice Be To Other Business Owners?
Join RockIT! It’s one of the best business decisions I have ever made. The support is immense, both emotionally and in developing the business.
I couldn’t have got through COVID without the support from Nicky, Katy and the Centredexcellence team. I would say be brave even if it’s uncomfortable.
Take action that, you know, you need to take.
Look at the data because all the clues about what needs to happen are in the data, and that takes the emotion out of any decision you have to make.
We have worked with a whole new set of clients, and I have built a community with these businesses that has been amazing.
It is about being accountable to yourself and taking action.
What Is One Thing That Has Made a Difference For You?
Changing my mindset and taking responsibility for what I want in life, what I want my business to be, and the life that it can provide my family and me.
So rather than thinking, well, I can’t do this because of the economy or I can’t do this because I have twins at school and I haven’t got enough time.
I am responsible for everything in my life.
You guys brought that home to me in many of the early sessions we did, and then you’ve continued to do that.
Creating a morning routine; who would have thought how well that works for me?
So in my morning routine, I do my most important thing first. So before the rest of the house is up, I’m up at 5.50 am and at my laptop.
At six, I will do an hour and a half’s work before the children wake up.
And that’s allowed me to be able to get things done and implemented and keep moving. And then even a simple thing, like walking the dog.
My routine before I come into the office daily sets me up for success. I have RockIT to thank for the many things I have been able to do.
Eloise was a huge implementor of all the strategies we teach in the Rockit programme and consequently had huge shifts in the profitability and growth of her business.
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 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.
Nicky and Katy