As Peoplecorp celebrates a big birthday Jane talks about how it all started.
Why did you decide to start a recruitment business as opposed to say HR Consulting?
When I first came to Australia I went round the recruitment agencies looking for temporary work. It was not a great experience so I decided rather than moan about it to do something to change things.
What has your ethos been and have you changed it as time has gone on?
Our ethos has always been about quality and respect for the individual and that has never changed. We have always taken the view that to place a person in a job is a privilege not to be taken lightly. We work with people’s lives. It’s a huge responsibility. That’s why we have such a quality team of recruiters. We’re very picky and only the best work with us.
What age were you when you started Peoplecorp?
That’s a great question. People don’t usually ask it as they tend to think that start ups are the provenance of the young. Well I was in my 40s. I had enough energy and importantly I had the experience to be confident about what I could achieve.
Did you start on your own?
No, I had a great partner in Shonagh Thatcher. She focused on the permanent side of the business and I focused on the contracting. Shonagh had to leave for personal reasons so my husband, Andrew, joined the business and took over the permanent side.
Did your husband coming to work with your create problems?
Andrew has always been very open to women being successful so he was happy to slot in and work at finding his own niche in the business. He had to earn his place as a Partner and it’s a standing joke how he was on trial for a year! The only down side was that for many years just about all our conversations were about Peoplecorp…..morning, noon and night!
What was it like recruiting back in the early days of the business?
It was full on. We worked very long hours. Technology was not then as it is now so the focus was on newspaper advertising. That added extra tension as, being a small business, you had to hope you weren’t down with the carpet ads in the Saturday paper! Advertising was also a major cost to our clients as ads were very expensive, in the thousands of dollars, so the pressure was on. And of course resumes came in hard copy and were either posted or faxed. It seems funny to think of that now!
How was the market different?
Well, part time working was practically non-existent. It was a personal crusade of mine to increase opportunities for people wanting to work part-time. There was a lot of talent out there that no-one was tapping in to or valuing. I found it easier to get people into part-time contract roles. Once candidates were in and working clients could see the benefits and often offered those contractors permanent roles. It’s something I look back on with great pride.
Do you think there is a perfect profile to be a recruiter?
Nope, not at all. I think there is too great a tendency to slot people into boxes and label them. Attitude is more important to me than anything else. You can always work with good attitude.
What do you admire most about your team?
Where to start?! Their professionalism, their good humour, their generosity with their knowledge and their total focus on achieving excellent results for both the client and the candidate. I could go on and on….but as the song goes, they’re simply the best.
And finally, what did you do to celebrate Peoplecorp’s 20th birthday?
Apart from cake you mean?! Well we thought long and hard about this. We wanted to say a big thank you to the people who make it all possible, the team. We thought about the usual things but then had a lightbulb moment and settled on giving everyone some extra holiday. It was a nice way to say thank you and give them all time off with their families. I think that went down even better than the cake!