Unlocking Potential, Building Success!
In the world of recruitment, there is a certain allure that draws individuals in. It’s a sector filled with exceptional individuals, each with their own unique talents and qualities. From the fast-paced nature of the industry to the opportunity to connect with people from all walks of life, there is something undeniably exciting about being a part of the recruitment world.
One person who has found his true path in this field is Albert Ellis, the CEO of Staffline Group plc and an independent Non-Executive Director of HRNetGroup headquartered in Singapore. Over the years he has witnessed exceptionally talented and driven individuals, but its his experience of recruitment in Asia, particularly at HRNetGroup has he been “astonished” by the dedication and single minded focus which has delivered such market beating results, year after year.
This highly motivated, productive, emotionally intelligent, and determined professional recruiter, from Vietnam to Ireland, has been a constant source of motivation for Albert.
Throughout his career, Albert Ellis has demonstrated his expertise in implementing growth strategies, managing acquisitions, and driving successful turnarounds. He has held many leadership positions, including a 15-year tenure as the CEO of Harvey Nash Group, a global technology recruitment and IT outsourcing company. This experience has solidified his reputation as a standout leader, navigating complex challenges and delivering exceptional results.
In addition to his achievements in the recruitment sector, Albert has made valuable contributions in the advisory and consultancy sector. He has served as a Trustee on the Board of Asia House for ten years, an independent think tank and advisory service that fosters collaboration and economic growth between Asia and the UK.
Albert Ellis’s remarkable journey has redefined the recruitment sector and continues to shape the careers of professionals worldwide.
Join us as we delve into his invaluable insights and groundbreaking strategies that have made a significant impact in the industry!
Transforming the Recruitment Landscape
HRNetGroup, the leading professional recruitment and staffing firm in Asia, was established in Singapore in 1992. From its humble beginnings as a 4-person team, it has grown to become a powerhouse with 13 brands, 40 business units, and over 900 consultants spread across 15 cities in Asia. HRNetGroup’s success lies in its unique business model, which focuses on client satisfaction and a “Co-ownership” approach. This approach allows subsidiary “Owner entrepreneurs” to have a genuine stake in their business units, managing outcomes as if they were standalone start-ups. The advantage is that they also benefit from the scale and resources of a large publicly listed Group. HRNetGroup’s core values of “Purpose and Passion” drive the success of its people.
Albert, now the CEO of Staffline Group Plc, is an investor in HRnetGroup preferring to take his compensation in shares. Staffline, a London-listed company, is the largest provider of flexible blue-collar workers in the UK where Albert is also a co-investor alongside HRNetGroup. Staffline supplies approximately 35,000 temporary staff to around 450 client sites across diverse industries such as supermarkets, the drinks industry, food processing, aviation, logistics, and manufacturing. In addition, Staffline has a significant presence in Ireland, offering white-collar recruitment, Managed Services, and both Temporary and Permanent placements. PeoplePlus, Staffline’s training division, is a leading provider of skills and training in the UK. They specialize in delivering education in prisons and employability programs for job seekers. Staffline’s strengths lie in its extensive scale, broad geographic coverage, strong compliance approach, and use of innovative technology to manage a large labor force.
Power of a Solutions Mindset
In today’s competitive market, having a solutions mindset is crucial for success. Each customer has unique needs and priorities, making it essential to customize the services offered to ensure a strong and lasting customer relationship. Throughout Albert’s experience with various companies, he coaches the management to focus on the customer and implement actions that strengthen those relationships. A broad and unique portfolio of services can meet customer requirements during any stage of the economic cycle. This includes providing options such as temporary or contract recruitment, executive search, managed services, and recruitment process outsourcing.
Power of Organic and Acquisitive Growth
In recruitment, the most successful strategy is a combination of organic and acquisitive growth. The optimal mix of growth, according to Albert, is approximately 2/3 organic and 1/3 acquisitive over the economic cycle. Emphasizing “Organic growth” as the primary driver of value, it is essential for organizations to introduce new services, attract entrepreneurial talent, and expand geographic coverage through acquisitions in order to accelerate enterprise scale, innovation and ownerships culture. Imagine a company as a large lake that requires constant replenishment and renewal to prevent stagnation. Making bolt on acquisitions incorporates external ideas and talent often leading to the innovation and new ways of working, with many of these individuals, being owners of their own businesses, staying on to add to the success of the new Group.
Two main challenges:
- The long-term retention of key talent: The retention of valuable employees over the long term is often a challenge, especially when enticing opportunities outside the company arise, such as in the private equity sector or when individuals decide to embark on their own startup venture. These external options often come with seemingly attractive equity packages (on paper at least), which may require sacrificing short-term compensation and putting in extra effort. However, Albert’s experience suggests that these high expectations and rewards are seldom met, either in terms of the anticipated timeframe or the magnitude of the final payout, considering the significant compensation sacrifice that accumulates and compounds over time. Furthermore, starting a new recruitment business can be arduous, as the market is highly competitive, fragmented and saturated. Building scale and securing cheap finance for most recruitment entrepreneurs is increasingly difficult, and the administrative and compliance burden is more substantial than ever.
- Publicly having to justify investment: During economic downturns, it can be difficult for a recruitment business to publicly justify its investment decisions. However, these downturns also provide an opportunity for the business to gain an advantage over competitors by increasing their capacity by hiring more front line consultants. Unfortunately, the market and investors often do not give enough credit to businesses that choose to forgo the short term impact on the bottom line of expanding capacity. Investors can also be slow to recognize the underlying positive cash dynamics of a good recruitment model and the balance sheet effect over time, accordingly the share price becomes a poor reflection of the fundamentals. In these cases, opportunistic public company buyouts have been successful by utilizing the target company’s strong balance sheet to partially compensate existing shareholders without requiring significant capital investment from the acquiring company. In other words the acquiror pays the owner their own money as part of the consideration.
Fueling Growth and Restructuring
Throughout his career, Albert has been involved in two significant capital injections:
- The first instance occurred in 2002 when Harvey Nash faced economic consequences following the World Trade Centre attack. The company’s USA subsidiary was severely impacted, and the subsequent recession in the UK and Europe added further strain to their businesses in those regions. To address this, the company opted for a balance sheet recapitalization and strategically restructured the US and European branches.
- The second capital injection took place in 2021, involving Staffline Group Plc. The objective was to recapitalize the group and provide support to management in resolving trading challenges. To achieve this, fresh banks and institutional investors were brought in to supply working capital, aiding an accelerated organic growth strategy.
Rewarding Aspects and Crucial Factors for Success
The most gratifying aspects of advising and leading successful companies are witnessing the growth and success of talented individuals, both consultants, and leaders. While Albert appreciates companies like Apple, Google, SpaceX, and Tesla for their rapid growth, high margins, and innovative products, his definition of success focuses on sustainable and incremental improvements compounded over a lifetime. He is more Warren Buffet (Berkshire Hathaway) than Elon Musk. He believes that starting from a lower position, either personally or professionally, and achieving growth and success is more rewarding. Sustainability is a key philosphy, as rapid growth achieved through debt shows, this almost always ends in failure.
Additionally, when successful leaders start new ventures, they often have a head start due to their previous accomplishments, while unproven entrepreneurs must build something useful and sustainable from scratch. Therefore, Albert does not consider both events to be equally valuable. In managing a public-to-private transaction, the most critical factor for success is finding common ground with the acquiring party. It is important to identify the unique value that a private investor can bring, which may not be accessible to a public company. This value should then be used to justify the transaction. Simultaneously, it is crucial to ensure that loyal public investors, such as pension funds, public fund managers, and individual investors, are appropriately rewarded for their loyalty and capital. The goal is to achieve a win-win outcome, where compromise is made by all parties involved. Ultimately, history will judge whether the decision was the correct one for all stakeholders at the time.
Growth and Long-term Success
The process involves identifying the natural factors that drive growth, highlighting the distinctive features in the market, and subsequently shifting focus towards the next phase of the company’s strategy, which may involve deviating from the initial plan. This presents an opportunity to explore new avenues, encouraging experimentation and innovation. Although there may be failures along the way, this allows the leadership to be liberated and explore different ways of delivering. However it is always important to retain the original template for success while incorporating new ideas.
Proven Strategies for Dominating Recruitment
While discussing about the most effective strategies he employed Albert said, “The implementation of a diversified portfolio of services instead of relying solely on one service or market is crucial for long-term growth. This may include expanding into new geographic regions with emerging markets, for instance, Harvey Nash’s expansion into Vietnam in 2000, as well as venturing into new services like Hays’ move into IT recruitment in the 1990’s.”
Lessons from a Seasoned CEO
- Albert, with his experience as a NED and Trustee, has developed multitasking skills and a good memory. He has the ability to compartmentalize issues and challenges, allowing him to move on to the next company, division or project without getting bogged down in issues.
- As a CEO, Albert understands that he is ultimately responsible for both the successes and failures throughout the organization. All outcomes ultimately fall to the CEO and affect his personal brand, positively or negatively.
- In his role as an advisor, Albert has had to accept that he cannot control or guarantee successful outcomes. He understands that advice may respectfully be disregarded. Generally, as an advisor, one is not held accountable for actual implementation and delivery of results. This can lead to a diminished sense of personal reward and acheivement.
Future-proofing Organization’s Services
In HRNetGroup, there is a clear focus on expanding in strategically advantageous countries, particularly in Asia, to drive the scaling of their highly successful model. The unique “Co-owner” model, which HRNetGroup has pioneered, is believed to be ideal for fostering growth and expansion. This model allows for the sharing of risks and rewards with those who contribute to the Group’s success. The company also anticipates that offering more temporary or contract services will not only provide a steady stream of earnings but also enhance the already thriving permanent recruitment businesses. Additionally, HRNetGroup expects growth in outsourced recruitment processes and managed services.
Meanwhile, Staffline aims to expand its business by capturing a larger market share in the UK and Ireland, a strategy that has already proven to be successful. This growth is primarily driven by the company’s organic approach, capitalizing on its strengths as a best-in-class recruiter within its specific market segment.
In both HRNetGroup and Staffline, their strong balance sheets will be utilized to benefit from the trend of seeking quality amidst uncertain times.
Rave Reviews and Coveted Accolades
- Named as a Top 100 influencer/leader in recruitment by industry analysts SIA many times.
- Harvey Nash: