Listed below are ten points that I learned over the years. They are not necessarily the ten most important lessons learned nor are they necessarily listed in order of importance but I hope they give some insight into the way the company has evolved since it was established in 1990.
1. Trust People
My default position is that I always trust the people who work for the company. This policy has generally served me very well even though it has backfired on me once or twice over the years. In particular I am convinced that this policy has greatly helped the company to have a high rate of staff retention and a high rate of client retention as a consequence.
Equally so I try to develop relationships of trust with clients and suppliers. These usually evolve into longer term relationships which are usually good for both parties.
2. Take the Long Term View
One of the things we have generally got right from the beginning was to base all our decisions on the basis of always trying to do what is best for the company in the long term. This sometimes meant we had to take a financial hit in the short term to ensure the relationship survived and thrived in the longer term. This is an important lesson for any company to learn and to learn early if it hopes to get through the first few years when a company can be at its most vulnerable.
3. Don’t Always Have to be Right
In the earlier years of the company if I felt I or the company was right about some issue then that was enough for me and I sometimes stuck to my position. That’s fine in principle but I quickly learned it is more important in business to realise that the customer is right and one can’t afford to take too rigid a position on any issue as that can cost your company business. That doesn’t mean that you don’t stand up for what you believe in but I firmly believe that one has to have some level of flexibility to survive the test of time.
4. Don’t Need to Have the Last Word
Following on the last point sometimes one has to bite one’s tongue and grin and bear it. There is no point in rubbing someone’s nose in it as it is always better to be gracious rather than be overly dogmatic if you want the relationship to flourish. This means keeping one’s ego out of the way – from my experience too much ego and not enough humility is very bad for business.
5. Recruit People who are Better Than You
Some managers make the mistake of not wanting to recruit people who they perceive might be a threat to them in the future. I don’t agree with that thought process and have always tried to hire high calibre who can not only do the job they are recruited for but who also have the potential to grow with the company. At a certain point in a company’s evolution it is necessary for the founder to take more of a back seat and to give other people their head. If a company hasn’t consciously recruited people with high potential this challenge of transferring power to the management team is unlikely to be successful and an otherwise good company may fail as a result.
6. Honesty is the Best Policy
If you make a mistake I always find it has been best to put my hand up and admit it. Provided you don’t make a habit of making mistakes most customers appreciate this kind of honesty rather than find out at a later stage that you have been less than honest with them or concealed something from them. Equally so with employees and with suppliers it has been my experience that being honest with people helps in maintaining long term relationships.
7. Don’t Put Down your Competitors
I find this easier to do nowadays because most of our current competitors try to provide a professional service and adhere to ethical standards. This wasn’t always the case in the 90’s when the standard of recruitment agencies was very poor and it was necessary to actively distance one’s company from the behaviour of some of its competitors. Thankfully standards in the industry have steadily improved over the last five years and we have found it easier to establish and maintain good relations with the competition.
8. Keep Up with the Technology
My staff might chuckle at this point as I can be a bit challenged in this area but fortunately I have people working for me who always want to keep abreast of the latest technology so that the company can avail of the features of new technology to improve the service we offer to our clients. This is a critically important point because the technological changes we have experienced in this industry in the past three years have been much greater than the changes we experienced in the preceding twenty years.
9. Confidentiality is Essential
Maybe it is my HR background but I have always put a high value on confidentiality and have made it a core value of the company. In the course of one’s job in a recruitment and HR services company a recruiter is exposed to confidential and sensitive information about clients and candidates on a daily basis and there is no room for slippages in this critical area especially in a small country like Ireland where everyone knows everyone.
10. Strictly Adhere to Company Values
There is no point in having nice plaques up on the wall listing the core values of the company unless the staff can see that you “walk the talk” in relation to these value statements. In particular it is important to adhere to these values when business is tough and when employees are worried about their futures.
Our customers continually tell us it is our strict adherence to our core values that differentiates Collins McNicholas from its competitors. This is the kind of feedback any owner manager likes to hear as it makes all of the hard work and blood, sweat and tears over the years very worthwhile.
Founder & Management Consultant