Today is the first working day of our tenth year of trading at Ronin. I can say ‘our’ now as it represents the team that we have built. When I arrived at work at 7.30AM on 1st October 2007 I had no such luxury, I was on my own in a room that was smaller than a bus stop! That first day was probably the oddest day of my working life. I had been planning the business for several months, appointing accountants, opening bank accounts, arranging a factoring facility, creating a brand and of course registering the company. What I had failed to do was write a granular plan for the first few weeks.
So, what did I do? I followed my instincts, picked up the phone and started calling the contacts who I had built relationships with over the previous four years to tell them that Ronin was open for business. In 2007 this strategy was successful, I imagine it would work just as well today although it is harder to reach people on their phones’ these days. I quickly picked up jobs and set about trying to fill them. Ronin was up and running.
In my previous job I had worked frequently with banking clients, I had a non-compete which prevented me from working with these clients but my logic was to pitch to the Banks I had not worked with before, I knew the candidate pool and the demands of the sector. I was successful in securing 4 roles with Lehman Brothers 3 weeks before they closed their doors for the last time!
The crash came at the wrong time for my plan, it certainly stunted Ronin’s growth, but we finished the year with a profit and managed to place three of the redundant Lehman Brothers Procurement Professionals into new permanent positions. As the recession deepened, I had to be opportunistic and not idealistic. Servicing a tight vertical market was not practical, instead I had to find talent that would appeal to clients in a variety of sectors. This proved to be effective and popular with clients and candidates alike and has remained part of Ronin’s offering to this day.
One of the most fun parts of starting a business is choosing a name, creating a brand and seeing this materialise as a website, business cards, headed paper etc. I was fortunate to have a friend who had previously been head of design at Liberty. Paul McAnelly had started Hawaii Design a year before Ronin and I hired him to help with everything brand related, he even contributed towards the choice of name, suggesting all of the best brands have one word names. We worked through colour schemes, logo’s (prototype’s pictured above) and styles to find something that worked. I was set on standing out. Avoiding skyscrapers, boardroom photo’s and the blue and white corporate colours which are so popular in recruitment. I chose the brand logo that I thought would stand the test of time and to this day it is a conversation starter and has remained through two rebrands. We are still supported by Hawaii Design today and are in the process of a full rebrand, having these guys by our side for nearly a decade has been a privilege.
Since we started we have employed over 30 recruiters to reach our team which is today 13 strong. Pretty much every person who has worked for Ronin has contributed to our journey and I am grateful for the efforts that they put in. Some of our former consultants found that recruitment didn’t prove to be the career that they wished to pursue. Others I feel were the right people at the wrong time. It is tough getting from 1-5 people and from 5-10. I am sure I will write the same about 10-20 in years to come.
The big problem that we experienced when we were very small was that there was too bigger gap in terms of experience between the Directors and the Recruiters. Time has healed this issue as our best people have developed and been promoted within, they are now the blueprint for all new hires. When new people start at Ronin they can look at other successful employees and see themselves achieving the same within 1, 2 or 3 years, this has had a huge impact and we owe a great deal to individuals such as Sophie Cook and Jack Dawkins for their loyalty and hard work.
In 2011 I was fortunate to be joined by two people who have made a monumental impact at Ronin. Andrew has been the perfect business partner with his enthusiasm and experience as well as contrasting perspective offering Ronin the shot in the arm we needed.
Emma came with 5 years’ experience at British Gas and helped us to think like a bigger company. Emma laid the foundation for a slick back office and with Jon and Tom beside her we now have a great mix of skills on our operations team.
Sophie officially joined the leadership team last month but in truth has shown all of the hallmarks of a natural leader since she first joined in 2014. She has doubled contractor numbers and revenue on her interim team and is now developing great people around her.
Process and innovation
One of the major catalysts for our growth came in 2011 when Andrew Collins and I created 6 step sourcing process http://ronin-ltd.com/about/delivery/ . We needed to be able to replicate our approach in a way that new hires could pick up quickly. Our clients were looking for a consistent and thorough service, it made sense to deconstruct what we did and rebuild it in an efficient, simple and full proof delivery model. When we were in the process of creating 6 Step Sourcing we identified areas where instinct was relied upon and added online assessments. Using assessment tools has made our shortlisting decisions more objective. We are able to offer a more detailed understanding of each candidate to our clients than before and our service stands out as a different proposition to the majority of our competitors.
Our loyal advocates
For fear of leaving anyone off I am not going to list individuals’ names but I want to say a huge thank you to every person that has believed in Ronin and given us the opportunity to prove what we can do. In our first few years it was a risk, we were small and unknown. It is easy to use existing preferred lists or big name brands but you all put your reputations on the line to help us build a reputation of our own. We have worked with the most fantastic group of clients and we have always delivered, but without help getting through the door, this wouldn’t have been possible.
Numbers count, and one of my proudest achievements is having started a business and managed 9 consecutive years of profitability. The original start-up capital was repaid within the first ten months of running Ronin and since this time the business has grown organically without any further funding. Andrew Collins and I are careful with the level of pay that we take from the business and continually invest in the business to make it stronger.
Recent market analysis estimated that Ronin has a market share in region of 2% and is growing at a rate comparable to the top performing businesses in the sector. I am encouraged by the fact that we are achieving such growth and still have a very significant amount of market share to pursue. We have come a long way but still have so far to go.
Before setting up shop with Ronin in 2007, Mark spent seven years working for large, corporate recruitment agencies. And it was this that inspired him to create a new prototype for his industry, free to adapt to the changing world. “The industry was already changing at a rate of knots before Ronin came into being.”