July 9, 2021

James Caan on the 10 Characteristics of Highly Successful Recruitment Entrepreneurs, Ep #81

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What do the most successful recruitment business owners have in common? I can’t think of anyone better qualified to answer that question than James Caan. 

In this interview, James and I discussed the challenges and opportunities for recruiters in a post-pandemic environment, and what it takes to achieve extraordinary success in our industry. James delivered massive value for aspiring entrepreneurs, including advice based on his own experience, plus insights from his unique perspective as an investor in the recruitment sector.

James is a serial entrepreneur, investor, philanthropist, and a former panelist on the hit TV series Dragon’s Den. James founded two recruitment companies with combined revenues of over a billion pounds, Alexander Mann Solutions and Humana International. In 2004, he set up his own private equity firm Hamilton Bradshaw, and in 2014 he launched Recruitment Entrepreneur. To date, Recruitment Entrepreneur has enabled 32 founders to launch and scale 22 recruitment businesses. 

Is it easier or harder to start and scale a business in today’s economic environment? The legendary @jamescaan gives his solid response only in this episode of  #TheResilientRecruiter! #recruitment #recruiter #training #coaching


Episode Outline and Highlights

  • [2:08] Key challenges and opportunities for recruiters in the current market and post-pandemic environment.
  • [12:11] Why recruiters should broaden their horizons and consider international markets.
  • [14:28] Preventing counter-offers – James’ advice on candidate qualification.
  • [21:30] Starting a successful recruitment firm in the current market
  • [23:08] The 10 characteristics that are critical to your success when starting or scaling your recruitment company. 
  • [33:20] Attracting & retaining great talent – how to persuade the best people to join your recruitment firm. 
  • [43:40] James’ thought process on how to assess someone’s drive / self-motivation
  • [48:36] The single best piece of advice James has ever received.

Post-Covid Environment Challenges and Opportunities

Considering where we are and what we’ve been through the past 12 months, I asked James for his observations on the key challenges and opportunities for recruiters in the current market. James shared live experiences of the challenges the recruiters in his portfolio companies have  faced for the past year. 

James’ advice for recruiters included four very specific suggestions:

  1. The impact of internal recruitment and the need to move up the value chain. Internal recruitment is growing rapidly and typically most positions below £50k salaries are the ones being easily filled with internal recruitment. What does this mean for your recruitment business? You need to elevate yourself above the 50k-salary and start working on more senior positions.
  2. Specialization and focusing on a niche market is important, but in order to grow, you should start thinking laterally by expanding horizontally across your client base. Instead of being super-specialised within a particular function, e.g. Tax, focus on maximizing the value of each client relationship.
  1. The market has quickly become highly candidate driven. This creates tremendous opportunities for recruiters but also certain challenges. The epidemic of counter-offers points to the need for recruiters to re-learn the craft of candidate qualification and improve their skills at managing the placement process.
  1. Out of necessity, recruiters were very creative last year in terms of uncovering new opportunities – e.g. expanding into new geographic territories.  Let us not lose the element of strength that we created due to the pandemic.  

Is Now the Best Time to Start Your Recruitment Business?

Are you hesitating to start or scale your recruitment business because of the uncertainty created by the pandemic and volatility as the market recovers?

I was curious to know whether James thought it was harder or easier to start or scale a recruitment business nowadays.  His reply was, “I think starting a recruitment business is not about the market timing. I think it’s about you. Success in our industry is about your passion, your drive, your conviction, your belief, your expertise.” He added, “When I see somebody succeeding, it’s rarely because of the market, it’s rarely because of the sector, it’s generally because of them.”

How to Start and Scale a Successful Recruitment Company

What is your definition of success?  As James pointed out in our conversation, success means something different to everybody.  

Not everyone wants to grow a large recruitment company.  Many owners would be perfectly content running a lifestyle business with a small team of 3-4 people that generates a million pounds per year, for example. James highlighted the fact that very few recruitment companies grow beyond 10 people.  That’s absolutely fine provided you understand that type of business has no exit value because it requires the owner’s personal involvement to sustain it.  

On the other hand, if your goal is to scale your recruitment business, that requires a different set of skills and qualities. According to James, there are at least 10 different characteristics you must possess (or be willing to develop) in order to achieve extraordinary growth.

Toward the top of James’ list was the ability to attract great talent and persuade them to join your team. Unless you can bring the right people on board, you’ll never be able to scale a recruitment firm.  

To hear James’ advice on how to attract and hire great recruiters, and discover the other 9 characteristics of highly successful recruitment entrepreneurs, click the “play” button and listen to the podcast.

“Observe the masses and do the opposite” My very special guest, @jamescaan, shares his thoughts and insight on building and scaling your recruitment firm in this episode of  #TheResilientRecruiter! #recruitment #recruiter #training #coaching


James Caan Bio and Contact Info

James founded private equity firm Hamilton Bradshaw in 2004 and joined the panel of heavyweight investors for BBC’s Dragons’ Den in 2007. His main focus is on charity work, current investments, growing Hamilton Bradshaw and mentoring entrepreneurs to help ensure their success.

With a passion for building businesses and backing talented people, he has been building and selling businesses since 1985 and thinks it is important to invest in people rather than just products or businesses. James is a great believer that it is people who create a successful business through their passion and conviction, with a firm belief that “It’s your attitude, not your aptitude that determines your altitude”.

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