Starting out without qualifications or industry experience was no barrier to success for Olivia Ryder who founded Macclesfield based COS Recruitment in 1982. Achieving growth from a small start-up in Knutsford to a £3 million turnover business she steered the Company through 2 recessions and has received a prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award from the Recruitment and Employment Confederation, the industry’s professional body.
What’s the secret to your success?
Hard work, determination and persistence play a big part, but passion is the one thing I believe everyone needs to make a success of anything they do. That’s what drives you to excellence and enables you to overcome challenges.
Who in your life has influenced you most and why?
My late father had a huge influence on me – shaping my character and showing me the importance of holding and staying true to your values, by the example he set.
What do you do for fun?
For an adrenaline rush I love to ski and I’ve started to learn horse-riding. I love spending time with my daughters and my two grandchildren. I am also fortunate to live within a short stroll of a beautiful, privately owned theatre/opera house who put on wonderful summer performances where I can take a picnic and a bottle of chilled wine to enjoy with friends and neighbours.
What’s the best bit of business advice you’ve been given?
Turnover is vanity profit is sanity – from my father who was an accountant and helped keep my finances on track in the early years.
Also, the importance of respecting everyone and finding out what’s special about each individual – this was learned from one of my earliest Recruitment Consultants back in the ‘80’s.
If you could have a 1 to 1 with anyone past or present who would it be with and why?
David Bowie, he was a trailblazer and pioneer, never afraid to explore new territory.
Also, Tony Byrne, who brought an innovative recruitment training process over from America in the late ‘80’s. It was characterised by complete honesty, hard work and an utter thoroughness in the process and is still the basis used by the best, most ethical agencies today. The natural curiosity of the recruiter in me would love to know what made him tick!
What is the biggest challenge in your industry right now?
Brexit is having an effect on some of our clients, holding off recruitment decisions until the picture is clearer, but at the same time certain skills shortages are becoming more acute and stand to get worse, making it more difficult to find the talent needed and pushing up salaries to attract the best, resulting in increased financial pressure on employers. Our challenge is finding the needles in haystacks and then motivating their interest in the roles we are trying to fill.
Tell us about the most memorable client or customer that you have interacted with during your years in business?
There are so many examples! In our business we have two types of clients – employers and candidates looking for work. It’s great to see how introducing the right candidate to an employer can really help that business and my team have recruited everything from a single role in an organisation, to more than 200 staff for a local call/contact centre which was a huge and exciting challenge.
However, for me as well as for my team, the most rewarding aspect of our work is seeing the effect and difference we make to the lives and careers of our candidates. I took a job brief just the other week from a lady we placed 20+ years ago who is now the CEO of that organisation – you can’t get more thrilled about what you’ve been able to bring about in your work than that!
How is Brexit affecting/going to affect your business?
It’s frustrating as no-one has a crystal ball to know what’s going to happen. All anyone can do is to make plans for all eventualities but I believe the lack of investment in UK companies could have a more far reaching effect than we are currently experiencing, potentially leading to a rise in unemployment in the future.
Where do you believe are the biggest opportunities right for your business and in your sector?
Improvements in technologies will provide opportunities to enhance services – there’s a lot of talk about AI and what it could do for the industry. Recruitment is all about relationship building so anything designed to help build, track or locate talent is exciting news for us, along with aids to assist with selection and streamlining the process for our clients and improving the experience for our candidates.
I also believe we can play a greater part in social responsibilities, with opportunities to help people who have different challenges to finding employment and encouraging inclusion and diversity with the employers we work with.
How do you motivate your staff?
I’m lucky to have a fantastic team who love what they do and who share my values and ethics. People do better if they are doing what they enjoy and excel at and have autonomy. Great team dynamics is vital to working together to a shared vision and I believe motivation is also helped by them seeing first-hand the effect they all have in shaping the business, from the daily decisions they make to the ideas they share that are implemented to create the company we have today. I work hard to achieve a culture based on ‘help each other to achieve the shared goals of the team’ and a ‘have fun, work hard’ family atmosphere.
What do you most enjoy about running your business?
The thrill of the challenge and opportunities from a constantly changing environment – whether from new legislation, technology advances, evolving job roles or the different characters and personalities we meet every day – you need to be positive, curious and genuinely interested in people and in the different businesses of your clients. Also, I love seeing my own people develop, build their careers and reap the rewards – both monetary and from job satisfaction – of this exciting business.