Business Masterclass with Raewyn Bailey - video transcript

The following transcript is from an interview with Raewyn Bailey, Managing Director of RB Recruitment at the Lord Mayor’s Business Forum at Upper Mount Gravatt on 4 May 2015. 

Julian Simmonds:  Raewyn, I thought we might start at the beginning, if we could? Perhaps you can tell me and the audience a little bit about how you went about starting your own business, RB Recruitment? Was it scary? Was it exciting? Then, of course, a little bit more about what you do.

Raewyn Bailey:  Okay. I started RB Recruitment in 1992, when I was 12. Okay, are you getting that?

[Laughter]

Raewyn Bailey:  I started it up because I did see a need for a banking and finance specialist in Brisbane. I had recently met my husband, and I think one of the big things you need when you have a business is support. My husband was amazingly supportive and he said, you can do this, you’re actually making a lot of money for someone and you should be making it for yourself.

So, I started RB Recruitment and I was lucky because my husband’s a banker, so he would actually look after all the money side and I just did what I do best, which is recruitment, and it sort of grew from there. It was incredibly scary, especially when he went up over the overdraft limit and you’re thinking, good God, what’s going to happen here? You’re waking up at two o’clock in the morning crying, thinking, is this going to come down? What’s going to happen?

One of the things I did do in the first three months is I looked at my clients, and I realised that 85 per cent of my work was with one client, and I realised you just can’t do that. You have to diversify. So I went out there as hard as I could and I got a whole lot of clients on in different industries and different areas to make sure that if one fell over I had lots of other clients to call on.

Julian Simmonds:  Okay. So, you spoke a little bit about - you’ve continued to grow the business from those beginnings. So there’d be plenty of SME’s in the room who are looking or have an ambition to grow their business, if not doing it right now. So what are some of the challenges that you faced as you were growing your business, and how did you get through those?

Raewyn Bailey:  Obviously getting good staff, even I make mistakes, occasionally. Also there are probably challenges too of having children and having a business. Because I wanted to be a good mother, and I imagine - put up your hands if you’re a mother in the room. Because if you’re a mother and you’re trying to run a business, it is very difficult and it’s a matter of working out the time you spend at business and the time you spend with your children so no one misses out, and usually you just miss out.

So I think probably finding good staff that could be there when I wasn’t there in order to keep growing the business and building it in different, I think that was probably a big thing.

Julian Simmonds:  Okay. As you’re going through the challenges, you talked a little bit before about some of the moments when you had doubts, and we all have those moments. What do you tell yourself to keep the faith as you’re going through the tough times?

Raewyn Bailey:  My favourite saying from Randeep, the Indian man. It will be all right in the end. If it’s not all right, it’s just not the end. I say that to myself religiously. I’d say probably one of the challenges too, when you’ve got small children, I remember having to actually make a phone call to the head of Macquarie HR. I was at home and I had my little two year old daughter. I said Mummy’s just got to make a little call for a minute and I shut the door and I went into the bedroom. All of a sudden she’s smashing on the door going, let me in. So I’m hiding in the corner of the wardrobe going, no you can’t hear any noise, it’s all okay. I managed to get through those.

Julian Simmonds:  Okay, a good quote to have on the wall then. Or at the office.

Raewyn Bailey:  Yeah, exactly.

Julian Simmonds:  So you talked about the importance of having the right staff, and a recruiter has to say that, but that’s okay. So Raewyn, and I do promise I ask this question of every guest speaker, because finding the right staff is so incredibly important. Perhaps you can tell us, other than hiring your wonderful services, what is the way to pick a good employee? What do you look for and where do you find them is always the challenge.

Raewyn Bailey:  I think obviously a lot of people - I would imagine people here use Seek. That is a good place to go for staff. Unfortunately there is high unemployment at the moment, so you’re probably getting maybe 160 people applying or 200 people applying for every job. I would suggest using industry contacts or people you trust. Talk to them and ask them who they might know who could be looking. Perhaps going and investing some money and putting it in an industry magazine, or something like that. So if it’s particular to the insurance industry, et cetera.

Finding that perfect person. I don’t think there’s anything as a perfect person, but I think it’s probably all about the process. I don’t know if you’re going to ask me about the process, but it’s certainly something that you need to pay a lot of attention to. I mean, someone comes in, they might ring and you get them in for an interview. You’re making a judgment call in maybe three quarters of an hour on someone that’s spent the last 20, 30 or 40 years getting to be who they are. So you’re trying to judge them in three quarters of an hour so they’ll work for you and be a good employee, and it just doesn’t happen that way.

So I’m suggesting for medium or even senior roles, have two meetings with them. Get your staff to meet them. Take them for lunch, take them for dinner, put them in a social situation, and for goodness sake, reference check. Please reference check. Because I talk to so many small businesses who think, loved them in the interview, they’re fine. Well they’re not. If you can get a reference from a supervisor from the last couple of years, you could save yourself a lot of heartache. Because the things that some of these referees say blow my mind, and they’re given to me by the candidate.

Julian Simmonds:  Okay. So, have a few interviews and references. What about in this world of social media that we live in, should you be checking their social media first?

Raewyn Bailey:  Definitely. Go on LinkedIn. See if their LinkedIn resume actually matches their real resume. Stalk them on Facebook. Stalk them on Instagram. Just see what they do in their spare time, you know, if they’re a pole dancer or whatever they’re doing. Not that there’s anything wrong with that…

Julian Simmonds:  It’s good fitness I hear.

Raewyn Bailey:  But you just need to make sure that they are who they say they are.

Julian Simmonds:  Okay. So you’ve gone onto Seek or wherever you’ve found them. You’ve whittled them down. You’ve done a few interviews. You’ve checked their social media. So far, so good. Say you’ve got them in an interview or a social setting, what are you looking for in the employee? Is there a particular attribute, like is enthusiasm number one? Is it the ability to speak, or the ability to write letters? Is it customer focussed? What’s your view?

Raewyn Bailey:  I think that really depends on the role. But I believe, and after 25 years of recruiting that attitude and intelligence are the two main things. You can’t change someone’s attitude that easily, and if they’re bright they’ll pick up things. So I think those two things, that’s what I look for when I interview.

Julian Simmonds:  Okay, so perhaps then attitude is more important than perhaps having all the previous experience that you’re looking for?

Raewyn Bailey:  Yes, definitely. If someone’s bright they can pick up things. But if they haven’t got the right attitude and they’re not the right person when they’re in there. You know, one person, especially in small business - any business - but especially in a small business, one person can actually damage the morale of the rest of the team and cause a huge amount of damage while they’re there.

Julian Simmonds:  Okay. So now you’ve picked your favourite person, you’ve got the employee and they’re starting now. You’re now about to invest a lot of time and money in training them and all the rest of it. How do you then make sure that you keep the person? How do you retain the good employee, rather than invest that time in training only to see them jump to another business?

Raewyn Bailey:  Look, unfortunately you can’t stop them jumping to another business. If they’re going to go, they’re going to go. I think what you can do though, to try and get them to stay is one, on-board them properly. So make sure that when they arrive, they actually have their business cards and they actually have their log-in set up and you don’t just throw them at a desk and say off you go. You need to care for staff. They are going to be a long term employee, hopefully, so look after them.

I make sure I have a chat with new staff on the first day, the first week, two weeks after that and formal communication every three months, every six months. A formal KPI recognition every 12 months, and I keep the lines of communication open all the time.

Julian Simmonds:  The best of intentions in the world, it doesn’t always work, right? Sometimes somebody who’s done really well in the recruitment process, you get them in and they’re just not a right fit. Is there a rule of thumb in terms of how long you should give the situation and what you should do to work at it? Or is it better to, if you’re going to separate, to do it quickly?

Raewyn Bailey:  Well, I always say, do it quickly. Because while they’re there, they’re doing damage. If you don’t do something about it I think the other employees are looking at you going, why aren’t you doing something about this? The people who are doing a good job are looking at this person who’s playing up thinking, why are they still here? So it actually affects them as well. I think you’re better to do it quicker rather than later on. I know it’s very hard for people, because no one really likes confrontation. But if you’re running a business, you need to be able to be confrontational. In a nice way, that you can just have a talk and say this is not working out.

Julian Simmonds:  You talked a little bit about growing your business and you said that part of the key to growing your business was finding somebody who could be there while you focussed on the more strategic things. So, that’s more than an employee now. This is somebody who you’re trusting with your business, your livelihood, your baby that you’ve brought into life. Is there a particular attribute you’re looking for in people who you’re actually making almost your partner, and is there a particular thing you should go about in terms of the recruitment of that kind of people or identifying that kind of person? Is it important that they’re referred by someone in particular as a personal contact?

Raewyn Bailey:  Oh no, I don’t think they need to be referred. But I think value set is very important. You have to have the same set of values. Obviously they’re on the same page as you about where the business is going, that’s probably very important as well.

Julian Simmonds:  Okay, and just making sure they share the same vision, as well. Can you educate that into somebody? Or is it something that you really want to make sure that when you’re interviewing them, they’re speaking from the same page?

Raewyn Bailey:  I don’t know. Because I think sometimes people might come on at a bit more of a junior level and you actually need to engage them in that vision. So you bring them along on the journey with you. Sometimes people grow into positions. So they might not start off being that exact person, but with your mentoring and leadership, they can become that person.

Julian Simmonds:  Okay. Here’s one, really without notice.

Raewyn Bailey:  Great, thank you Julian.

Julian Simmonds:  You must have had some horror stories along your way. Is there a particular horror story that you can share with us, without dropping anybody in it, that we can keep an eye out to avoid?

Raewyn Bailey:  Actually that’s quite hard. I haven’t had too many horror stories.

Julian Simmonds:  That’s a good sign for the business.

Raewyn Bailey:  Yeah, it’s a good sign for a recruiter, isn’t it? I can talk about one horror interview though. It was actually an interview I was meant to do, and the person had been referred to me. One of my consultants actually went into this interview and she was in there for two and a quarter hours. After the first hour, I had someone check on her. After the first hour and a half, I actually went in and said, I’m sorry Andrew, but you’re needed somewhere else, and still this man sat there in this interview. Every time she would go to leave he’d just put his hands behind and say, I’m not finished yet.

So, obviously if I’d been in there it would have lasted half an hour and he would have been out the door. Finally she had to leave him in the interview room and walk out going this is done, I’m over, and just leave him sitting there. So he left. So obviously, very low on emotional intelligence and obviously someone we wouldn’t put forward for a job. Very unusual.

Julian Simmonds:  What not to do if you’re interviewing. Yep, roger that.

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08 June 2018