In this episode, Jan-Lutje Thoden, founder of Start to Finish, shared his inspiring journey of growing his recruitment business from humble beginnings to achieving over €1.1 million in revenue within the past year. 

Jan discusses the key strategies and mindset shifts that have contributed to his success, such as moving away from traditional cold-calling methods and instead implementing a systemised approach for generating leads and closing clients.


Episode Highlights:

  • Systemising and automating BD processes that reduced time and energy output, while delivering a stream of quality clients that consistently convert
  • A strategy focusing on retained engagements rather than contingency placements – stabilising revenue streams while reducing workload
  • Having a clear mission, vision, and core values for the team
  • Focusing on what you enjoy and delegating other aspects of the business
  • Hiring top talent (“A-players”) and avoiding micromanagement
  • Narrowing down the business focus to specialise in specific areas
  • Joining mastermind groups and seeking coaching to identify blind spots and learn from others

Jan-Lutje Thoden, founder of Start to Finish, shared his inspiring journey of growing his recruitment business from humble beginnings to achieving over €1.1 million in revenue within the past year.

If you’re looking to take your recruitment business to the next level, this episode is a must-listen. Discover how Jan’s strategies and insights can help you streamline your processes, build a strong team, and ultimately achieve the growth and success you desire. Tune in now to learn from his experiences and start implementing these game-changing tactics in your own business today!


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The Critical Role of Hiring

The Transformative Power of “Superstar” Employees

Jan emphasises the importance of hiring exceptional individuals, stating that even a single “superstar” can make a tremendous difference in a company’s performance. He illustrates this point by recounting an instance where his team struggled to fill two crucial positions for an important client. Despite the team’s best efforts over several months, they were unable to find suitable candidates and began to question their ability to work with the client effectively. However, the situation changed dramatically when Jan hired a new team member who managed to fill both positions within a mere three weeks, demonstrating the transformative power of a single, highly skilled individual.

The Significant Impact on Fulfilling Key Client Roles

The ability to successfully fill critical roles for clients can have a profound impact on a recruitment company’s reputation and future prospects. Jan recognises the importance of this particular client, acknowledging their influence and the potential for them to serve as a valuable reference and marketing tool within the industry. By hiring a “superstar” employee who could quickly and efficiently fill the client’s key positions, Jan not only met the client’s immediate needs but also laid the foundation for a strong, long-lasting relationship that could lead to further opportunities and growth for his company.

Process Implementation and Knowledge Management

Importance of Documenting Processes

Jan stresses the significance of documenting processes within the company to ensure consistency and facilitate effective training. He recommends having a centralised “knowledge hub” where all essential information, such as videos, scripts, and process descriptions, can be easily accessed by team members. Jan emphasises that everyone in the company should follow the same processes to maintain uniformity and efficiency. By recording and sharing best practices, the company can continuously improve its operations and onboard new employees more effectively.

Regular Performance Check-Ins With the Team

To ensure that processes are being followed and to monitor the team’s performance, Jan suggests conducting weekly or bi-weekly check-ins with team members. During these meetings, key performance indicators (KPIs) should be reviewed and discussed to gain a clear understanding of each individual’s progress and identify areas for improvement. Jan notes that these check-ins are crucial for distinguishing between genuinely productive work and mere activity, as people may claim to have had a great week without the results to support their assertions. By regularly reviewing KPIs, leaders can identify top performers, learn from their success, and share their best practices with the rest of the team. This approach not only helps to improve individual performance but also contributes to the overall growth and success of the company.

Achieving the Right Company Culture

Balancing Empowerment With Accountability

Jan acknowledges the importance of creating a work environment that is both enjoyable and productive. He emphasises the need to strike a balance between empowering employees and holding them accountable for their performance. While micromanagement should be avoided, Jan believes that it can stem from two primary issues: the manager’s personal tendencies or the presence of the wrong people on the team. To foster a culture of empowerment, it is essential to hire the right individuals who can thrive with autonomy and take ownership of their work. Simultaneously, implementing clear processes, setting expectations, and regularly reviewing performance metrics can help maintain accountability without resorting to excessive oversight.

Combating Micromanagement While Maintaining Staff Alignment

To prevent micromanagement while ensuring that staff members remain aligned with the company’s goals and values, Jan-Lutje Thoden suggests several strategies. First, he recommends clearly communicating the company’s mission, vision, and core values to the team and regularly reinforcing these principles through team meetings and discussions. By frequently revisiting these foundational elements, employees can better understand how their individual roles contribute to the overall success of the organisation. Additionally, Jan advocates for a system of peer recognition, where team members acknowledge and praise each other for demonstrating the company’s core values in their work. This approach not only helps to reinforce desired behaviours but also provides valuable feedback to management about which employees are most effectively embodying the company’s culture. By implementing these strategies, companies can create an environment that encourages autonomy, accountability, and alignment without the need for micromanagement.

Marketing and Lead Generation Tactics

Creating Effective Marketing Funnels

Jan highlights the importance of having a well-structured marketing funnel that consistently generates leads for the business. He refers to this as the “attraction machine,” which should be designed to engage with potential clients on a daily basis through various touch points. Jan emphasises the need for a systematic approach to marketing, where the funnel is continuously working in the background to attract and nurture leads until they are ready to take the next step in the sales process.

Tailoring Messages to Audience Needs

To create an effective marketing funnel, Jan stresses the importance of tailoring messages to the specific pain points and desires of the target audience. He notes that the content should focus on addressing the clients’ needs rather than solely promoting the services the company thinks they should purchase. By crafting messages that resonate with the audience and demonstrate a deep understanding of their challenges and aspirations, the company can build trust and establish itself as a valuable resource in the industry.

The Utility of Touch Points for Building Trust

Jan-Lutje Thoden emphasises that marketing and sales, at their core, are about building trust with potential clients. To achieve this, he recommends creating multiple touch points that allow the company to engage with prospects consistently and efficiently. In the past, this often involved numerous phone calls, but in today’s digital landscape, Jan has found success through regular social media posts, particularly on LinkedIn. By sharing valuable content and insights, he has been able to establish his company’s expertise and build relationships with potential clients. Additionally, Jan highlights the power of recommendations and referrals, suggesting that companies should focus on working closely with a few key individuals and leveraging their personal networks to expand their reach and build trust with new prospects.

Challenges and Solutions in Client Acquisition

Overcoming Startups’ Aversion to Cold Calling

Jan-Lutje Thoden faced a significant challenge when he first started his recruitment business, as he aimed to work primarily with startups. He quickly realised that the traditional method of cold calling, which he had learned while working for other recruitment agencies, was not effective with this target audience. Startups, in particular, tend to have an aversion to cold calls, making it difficult for Jan to connect with potential clients using this approach. To overcome this obstacle, he had to explore alternative methods of client acquisition that would resonate better with his desired clientele.

Adapting to Industry Changes and COVID-19 Impacts

The recruitment industry has undergone significant changes in recent years, and the COVID-19 pandemic has only accelerated these shifts. Jan-Lutje Thoden recognises that the way people conduct business development has evolved, and recruiters must adapt to stay competitive. One positive aspect of these changes is the increased accessibility to international markets, as remote work has become more widely accepted. This has opened up new opportunities for recruitment firms to expand their reach beyond their immediate geographical areas. However, it has also made traditional methods like cold calling less effective, as people are less likely to answer phone calls from unknown numbers in today’s digital age.

Utilising Social Media for Sales, Particularly LinkedIn

To adapt to the changing landscape of client acquisition, Jan-Lutje Thoden turned to social media, with a particular focus on LinkedIn. He recognised that social media platforms provide an opportunity to connect with potential clients, build trust, and establish his company’s expertise in the industry. Jan invested significant time and effort into his LinkedIn presence, dedicating up to 90 minutes a day to the platform. This included adding new connections, crafting personalised messages, and sharing valuable content through regular posts. By consistently engaging with his target audience on LinkedIn, Jan was able to generate leads and build relationships with potential clients in a way that resonated with startups and aligned with the evolving preferences of the modern business world.

Mission, Vision, and Core Values

Regular Reviews and Reinforcement Within the Team

Jan places great emphasis on the importance of having a clear mission, vision, and set of core values for his company. He believes that these guiding principles should be regularly reviewed and reinforced within the team to ensure everyone remains aligned and focused on the organization’s goals. To achieve this, Jan’s company holds twice-weekly meetings where the team discusses and reflects on the mission, vision, and core values. 

The Function of Mission Statements in Guiding Business Operations

A well-crafted mission statement serves as a compass for guiding business operations and decision-making. Jan stresses that many businesses often struggle to articulate why they do what they do beyond the basic goal of making money. He believes that having a clear understanding of the company’s purpose and the unique value it provides to its clients is essential for long-term success. A strong mission statement helps to differentiate the company from its competitors and provides a sense of direction for the team. It also serves as a litmus test for evaluating new opportunities and initiatives, ensuring that they align with the company’s core purpose. By regularly reviewing and communicating the mission statement to the team, Jan ensures that everyone remains focused on the company’s ultimate goals and can make decisions that support its overall success.