SME recruitment pain: two scale-ups have a remedy

Finding the right talent to boost a company’s growth can give any HR professional a headache. Writing a catchy job description, advertising it and sifting through a pool of applications for just one position can take weeks.

UK small and medium-sized enterprises create 60% of all jobs in the private sector, according to the Federation of Small Businesses.

But attracting great people who share a company’s values and objectives can keep entrepreneurs awake at night. The latest Aldermore Future Attitudes report revealed that 67% SMEs struggle to find qualified hires and retain their existing talent.

This week, the 100 Stories of Growth Campaign celebrates two innovative recruitment scale-ups. With deep understanding of the SME ecosystem and novel solutions, they help small businesses grow, supplying them with a grade-A hires.


Cranberry Panda sets e-commerce HR standards

London-based e-commerce recruitment agency Cranberry Panda has sourced top-notch talent for over 140 companies, maintaining an impressive 87% customer retention rate.

Founder Jonathan Hall says finding the right people and keeping them has been fundamental for the company’s scale-up success. To keep the team supported and happy, Hall has invested in initiatives such as free one-to-one sessions with a mental health coach for every panda.

Investment in people will remain our number one priority.

Cranberry Panda applies the same attention to people when finding talent for its clients. Instead of pursuing an “aggressive and salesy” strategy, the company focuses on “one job at a time” and building long-lasting rapport with the clients.

Being a scale-up company itself, Cranberry Panda is very well attuned to the needs of small businesses. This helps the company identify the best talent to help clients realise their growth ambitions.

For now, Hall wants to increase turnover by 60% to £1.75m and double the headcount by the end of 2018. Cranberry Panda is determined to notch this up by following the organic path of growth. The founder doesn’t rule out possible mergers to accelerate the process though. [Read Cranberry Panda’s story]


Hiring Hub champions independent talent agencies

Hiring Hub is a matchmaker for small recruitment agencies and companies looking for fresh talent. Through Enterprise Investment Scheme-qualifying investments it’s been growing 50% year on year. But its scale-up journey hasn’t always been so smooth.

Bootstrapping in the early days, co-founders Sara Jones and Simon Swan sought external funding to kick-start their growth ambitions. Soon after, Swan learned that pairing up with investors that don’t share your vision can be a recipe for disaster.

We disagreed and ultimately things came to a head, but we managed the process fairly and amicably – I’m grateful we were able to agree to what felt like a divorce.

To keep the business afloat, the founders tapped into their personal funds. Their perseverance paid off when in 2014 crowdfunding platform Venture Founders introduced them to EIS funding.

Hiring Hub raised £450,000 from 22 savvy investors in just 30 days. With a healthy injection of capital, the company paid off previous investors and revamped its business model. Back on track, Hiring Hub has been growing ever since raising further £2m of investment.

Today, Hiring Hub employs 25 people and has a 20% turnover growth. Swan believes that its great human capital has been crucial in disrupting the recruitment industry. It will also be pivotal in helping Hiring Hub to scale further. [Read Hiring Hub’s story]


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