Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Review of 2011

So here goes - all these things relate to business rather than life (we had a baby this year which i think just about probably trumps the good stuff below but lets not let reality interfere with an obsession of all things digital, recruitment and media)

1. Best thing about the year - we have grown revenues by 30%, permie staff by 30% (thats 3 people), profitability by approx 25% (creeping costs...). So there will be turkey on the table on Xmas day rather than KFC Bargain Bucket.

2. 2nd best thing - a lot of new clients (LIDL, TGIFridays, Ocado, London Business School, ASOS, netaporter, Anglian Home Improvements, Jamie Oliver Group etc)

3. Most disappointing thing. Mid year we lost a long standing client who we loved working with. I took it well and in no way sulked for a month and pretended that i was so over them and was in fact better off now and much happier now to everyone i spoke to. part of the sentence above is untrue....

4. Biggest surprise - we have sort of become a full service agency. We create and plan a lot of print adverts, we do brochures and EVP projects. Bringing Northgate Arinso into the fold gave us a much bigger skill set and our clients trusted us to deliver our service in new areas. I am pretty sure we justified that trust in spades

5. Nicest surprise - a client was going to go all RPO on us and therefore we would be delivering a much reduced service - then last month they said no we are not.

6. My biggest conversion - i got and now fully evangelise "mobile" and mobile readiness to everyone and anyone. Its where your users will be accessing your site and content - so give the customers what they want.

7. Biggest growth area in our biz - no shock - its social (for projects/and time) and PPC (for revenue and clients)

And finally - its been fun, tiring but fun. Its been my favourite year since launch in 2006 - the work has been varied, the clients have been largely great, suppliers and partners remarkably co-operative.

Not sure i wholly recommend for the sake of your sanity being a father to 4 young children and running a business in a very hands on way (i need to state at this point that i probably do about 20% max of the important parenting stuff).
But in 2011 - i got away with it.

Merry etc and Happy blah blah

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Turning Point

I may be insanely optimistic given the macro economic news (FTSE, Eurozone,low growth) but i see a really good year ahead next year for the UK recruitment economy.

Speaking from our own client base (biased towards retail/catering/hospitality/IT) - we are booking increased ad volume in contracts for vast majority of businesses who are up for contract review

we have sign off for (long awaited) new initiatives for Q4 2011/Q1 2012

seem to have some movement of personnel of clients - which has created a healthy new business pipeline

But.....still the news out there is so grim, maybe we are just lucky...

Thursday, 13 October 2011

The Road to Mobile Damascus

Its not a particular radical thing to say and Matt said it better than i could the other day but i have shifted firmly from the agnostic mobile recruitment camp (lets wait and see - there are so many bigger priorities than mobile - perfect products don't exist) to full on evangelist and convert.
What do i mean in terms of sorting your mobile rec strategy out though (and what don't i mean)
What do i mean?
1. How mobile friendly is your careers site? try it yourself - your users will be. If its crap - sort it as top priority (approx 20% of jobseeker traffic is mobile - various sources)
2. Can you apply easily online (almost certainly not) - you are not alone but put some pressure on your ATS supplier (or add it to spec of next ATS) - you can gain real tangible competitive advantage if you can get ahead here
3. How does your content/copy appear on the media you are using on a mobile device (it is likely if your content is flawed online - it is deeply flawed on a mobile device)
4. is an app right for you? this is a whole bigger topic but at least have the discussion
5. Have an eye on the future - it is clear which way this is going and how your users want to interact with you over next few years - have a plan and begin to explore/pilot/trial and learn.

What dont i mean?

1. Spend a fortune on a mobile ad campaign. It still does not quite work in terms of push marketing (in my view)
2. Don't be bleeding edge. You can be innovative without going too bold.

This is the end of the evangelist's sermon


Friday, 23 September 2011

Job Boards Real Threat - Aggregators

we are all a bit bored by the "social media will sweep away job board" debate aren't we? (FWIW - my view is there has never been such an efficient way for a person to access and apply for jobs than job boards - so there is plenty of life in that model)

What i think is really quite interesting is what the role of aggregators will be in UK over next couple of years. Aggregators are a slightly dirty secret in all that most (all??) major job boards use them to get qualified job seeker traffic but don't like to talk about it.

Data quality can be poor - we get clients complaing about Indeed, Simply Hired etc and how there jobs got up there and can we get them down.

Due to their very nature (aggregating job content) they appear high in Google search results for all common searches. The sites have helped them build this leading SEO position.

So what's stopping them selling direct and bypassing the job boards as they do in USA. Answer - nothing and now they are doing so. So have the job boards created a monster which is now going to turn on them and destroy their marketplace and yields. Who knows??

The big brands of the jobsites (Monster, Total,Jobsite) would legitimately say they have spent millions building trusted brands and that will maintain their market leading position. But are these brands really that strong??? i mean....really???

So forget Facebook - if i were a media owner i would be looking in another direction for my next big competitor.

And a brief aside - in early days of OME - i had a meet arranged out of the blue by someone with SimplyHired and they came to our office - now my excuse was it was a busy day and i had to pick my daughters up from school - but i could only end up having 15 minutes with them and i had done zero prep. and had to leave them half way through the cup of coffee (having been shouted at by the mother of my children to get my arse out of office and get to the school).
one of the people i met was Gautam Godhwani who i subsequently discovered was $$$$billions. I think he saw me driving off in my mum's old car she had lent me after taking pity on me, times were tough in Year 1 and 2.
I wonder what he thought of one of the self proclaimed UK thought leaders in digital recruitment...

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

OME's Offsite Day

Without trying to be too grand - the 5 board members of OME had a day out of the office and tried to right all the wrongs, deconstruct the company, show a path forward to glory and riches.
Now my view on these things is that if you end up with a bunch of overambitious commitments, it ends up being very demotivational as you set yourself up to fail. At same time, if you end up patting yourselves on the back and not striving to improve, you end up stagnating.
So we tried the middle ground.
Everyone ended up with 2 actions, everyone has a pet project they believe in. And best of all i made the notes of everyone's commitments.

So i can name and shame any one who falls short and subtly edit my own promises if they are looking unlikely to be delivered.

i think that's called win-win.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011


The current riots are terrible and depressing and i am sure very scary if you are in the middle of it. But here are some other things that have depresed me about this topic.
1. my twitter stream being a little too full of some people almost getting excited and spreading rumours of troops marching down whitehall, bank of england being stormed, london landmarks ablaze etc. Some social media rubernecking definitely occurring.
2.Academics/socialists impossing their middle class motivations for the riots (its about the cuts, social inequality, Hacking, MPs expenses) onto a bunch of scumbags who want a new telly and to act like the big men they are not.
3. People criticising police for doing too much, doing too little, over physical, not physical enough. we get the police force we deserve and the downside in living in a society with human rights, innocent till guilty and habeas corpus is that they have an impossible job right now. Its a society problem (not police) and unless society backs them to use the force we see and are shocked about from foreign locations - then live with their apparent impotence.

Anyway back to digital recruitment....

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Scammed by Charity - Let Down by Agency - Same Effect

I took my daughter to some play group thing last week and got a visit from 2 guys doing a charity collection (treeofhope)- now i don't normally give unprompted to charity collectors for two reasons
1. I carry a cynical attitude that it will all go in overheads or its a dodgy charity area that should be covered by state etc
2. I am basically quite tight! (charity begins at home...)
However - due to everyone else there chipping in £5 i did same. And felt good about myself.
and then i read the leaflet
- it was full of words like "children", "Sick", "care" "generosity". But i could not work out what the hell they actually did.
- and then the killer - "34% of money collected will go to charity". Jesus - so £3.33 of any fiver goes to collectors etc.

This experience has obviously stopped any future impulsive donations stone dead.

So - what has that got to do with the agency world - well, i come across clients all the time who bought an "SEO solution", "facebook campaign" "behavioral targetting campaign" a year or two ago and received nothing that we in the industry would recognise as such under those headings.

They spent £xxxx on a social media launch - and got a facebook page, a couple of articles posted on their site and posted on an unloved twitter feed. In essence - they felt ripped off like me above.

net effect - they dont want to invest again and run risk of being let down again and it prob delays by 1.5 - 2 years properly adopting really effective ways to recruit/engage/commuincate with their audience.

What i really like about the stuff i see out there from suppliers now (the one's i admire anyway!) is sensible objectives, realistic estimations of level of commitmemt needed internally and budgets that enable good work but not out of whack with other priorities in client.

result - happy client, quality results, more investment, open to new ideas.

I did meet a nice woman in the street at lunchtime though who seemed very nice and i think she must have worked for Oxfam as she had a branded bib on and a direct debit is so easy to set up....

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

OME's Hospital Club

We launched and run a networking event - OME Hospital Club. It was the brainchild of Kork (OME Client Services Director) and Gill Davies a former client. Its a LinkedIn group that meets once a quarter in the Hospital Club - hence the name.

I was initially worried that it would not take off - that people would get wrong idea that we were trying to be a kind of smaller version of The Firm but it has really flown.(with very little input from me!)

The rules are very simple
- attendees are in house recruiters but its not that tightly "policed" - we are a friendly bunch
- networking not selling (even from us)
- a small amount of content - but no presentations
- you can come and say Hi for 10 mins or be kicked out of the bar last (i will name no names)
- we get a sponsor (Monster and Creativepool so far) to network and inform the group of their offer. Both sponsors have been really well received by attendees.

Feedback has been tremendous and the 3rd event in september will we hope be the best yet and i guess what i am saying is the best things for your business can sometimes start with a 30 second conversation that is followed through and executed brilliantly. Dont wait for a genius inspirational idea to come calling.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

BeKnown - 1st Thoughts

So Monster have stepped into the fray into the much discussed social network solution for jobs by launching BeKnown loads of info in link and Matt has given his initial thoughts here.

Essentially - its introducing a LinkedIn type product to the Facebook audience (gross oversimplification i know)

So what do i think?
- the perfect solution does not (nor should it ever) exist to corral the platforms of social media into a neat job ad/app box. And i am sure Monster doesn't think its a panacea either.
- it's a pretty cool solution. Very easy to distribute, network, "follow" relevant companies, jobs, people.
- unsurprisingy but pleasingly they have put as much thought into how organisations may use it as opposed to just candidates. This obviously will help its commercial take up.
- There are many companies who want to "do" social and this may be a very easy way to dip toe in water.
- I hope Monster put a lot of money behind marketing it - as if they do and they get some momentum - this could be a massive game changer - could being the operative word as ever who really knows.

As for the business model - i will have to come back to you on that one!

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Digital First - possibly Digital Only - papers and agencies

Guardian made an announcement yesterday on "Digital First Strategy" which is kind of just a way of saying we are going lay off a lot of journalists (and sales, production etc) but we do have a plan. This is a bit of slap in the face of the counter intuitives who are proclaiming print to make a comeback any time soon.

Choices facing the large newspaper groups are

- either to radically reduce their cost base (and i mean RADICALLY reduce)- Guardian employ 630 journalists - the Huffington Post employs about 80

- or become playthings of very rich vanity publishers.

The similar choices for the traditional rec ad agency businesses are

- Radically reduce their cost base (many seem to have been pursuing this via multi stages for last 2 years)
- Reposition your business - WMW are largely employee comms/brand, Work and TMP are very much brand strategists to some degree
- Or go out of business as your lunch is eaten by the new models that have sprung up while they have been paralysed staring at the gaping holes in their revenue line

That is unless Roman Abramovich fancies buying up a couple of businesses in recruitment advertising to put on his mantelpiece.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Reasons to be Cheerful

Surely - it's time to call the private sector recruitment downturn over and has been over for quite some time. Everywhere i look there is activity or worst case talk of activity. Even our clients that are having their share prices whacked are still active in sourcing the best people to work in their businesses. And then we have organisations (including some of above)who want to really kick on and do very cool stuff indeed or worst case very necessary remedial work on their recruitment processes/attraction strategy.

From a personal perspective - OME's Reasons to be Cheerful include
- new staff Jamie Bailey and Sarah Casey - come on down!
- new clients - welcome aboard! LIDL, TGI Friday's, London Business School, NPL (part of Serco), Northgate Arinso and Go Ahead.
- new products - launching under JV a business called R4O - which is a natural product extension to what we do - more detail to follow.

So i officially hereby declare (with apologies to my friends in public sector)- this period of caution and nervousness over.

NB Expect the normal pessimistic, bordering on miserable author of this blog to return next week.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

I agree with Nick.....

What is going on out there! Up until recently - i could go onto various blogs and forums on any day and find something i could completely disagree with - i could think the author was clearly a fool and a charlatan and consequently tell them just that in a funny (well to me anyway) and incisive way. There was so much abject nonsense out there, that it was like shooting fish in barrel. I am also well aware that there would have been some (clearly "fools and charlatans") that thought OME were 100% wrong on many issues too.

Now i keep finding well thought out balanced views supported by evidence or logic, and predictions with suitable ifs and buts rather than this is DEFINITELY going to happen.

- Is this a sign that this industry is growing up? established digital channels, adoption of the new in a controlled and measured way, progressive clients and suppliers on the same page. No established habits but a light and healthy cynicism of the new entrants to market, that means financial investment will come later.

- Have we become too consensual and staid, maybe a new establishment is forming ( i could get all Animal Farm on you here)

The one thing i know is that disagreeing and arguing was much, much more fun. Debating the value of spending £50K on Second Life, winning awards for YouTube Videos that no user ever saw, Big campaigns that had no decent response mechanism and not a thought for the user experience, and for my own part i remember saying that Twitter would never catch on.

Aaaaah, those were the days......

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Love me not so tender

Got an invitation to tender on Friday that the organisation were very keen for us to pitch for, well that's quite nice i thought. Until i read it.

I won't go into pros and cons of long woolly tender docs that don't appear to be constructed in any way to find the best supplier or even the best priced supplier as many of them request costs for services that are at best low priority and worst pretty damn irrelevant. To be fair - i quite enjoy a well written tender process that goes out to a finite,identified group of relevant companies run by people who know broadly what they want to get out of the process.

The thing that got this one put into the eternal pending file was that it was a 3 year contract that was going to be pay by results. That is a fine principle and one we benefit from normally. However Year 1 of contract would be about setting the benchmarks/targets and therefore the supplier should not expect to make any margin from Year 1 (translation - supplier would take a considerable hit in Year 1). The client would then set the targets for Year 2 based on Year 1, and targets for Year 3 based on Year 2.

In brief - what is wrong with the above
1. The logic is that it would serve supplier well to perform poorly in Year 1 and get soft targets. Kafkaesque in its silliness.
2. The client sets the targets (not client and supplier) - again logically why not keep ramping up targets - supplier cannot do anything about it. Maybe i should try that on the biz dev team at OME.
3. I have an inbuilt principle not to do loads of work for someone and not get paid until about 18 months later (in fact fund their activity out of our pockets) - what if company/organisation gets bought or goes bust, the economy tanks, government cutbacks, stuff gets outsourced etc etc. I feel that my frantically waving a performance led contract is not going to get noticed by anyone at this point.

So thanks for the invitation but i am washing my hair that night.

Thursday, 12 May 2011

The Return of OME's Top Tips

when we were a tiddly business about 3 or 4 years ago, we did 2 documents as a bit of marketing one called "10 biggest mistakes organisations make in digital recruitment" and the next one "10 things organisations should do today in.....". It was bite size tactics and tips written in a classic "no bull" OME way. This had 2 effects.
1. It was really popular - led to us winning business, starting conversations, forming partnerships that endure today.
2. It was massively ripped off. The most notable being a media (Centaur owned) who sent out a customer email "10 biggest mistakes organisations make in digital recruitment" with zero changes in text. and another ad agency - who had the temerity to change about 4 words and claim it as their own.

Anyway - over lunch Kork and I thought we should re-visit it and refresh it for 2011. so here goes OME top tips.

Its not a strategy, its not comprehensive, its not bespoke. But you know what - most heads of recruitment would benefit from doing quite a few of these.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

We lost a client...

a week or so ago - won't bore people with the details - but in brief - they are reorganising, centralising mktg function, still working with us in specialist digital areas blah, blah, blah

But i have to face facts..... it stings.

They don't love OME any more, hang on they don't love me anymore. What is wrong with me, i tried so hard. I should have cared more or i should have not been so clingy. Maybe if i said i would change they would come back.

Sad as it sounds - i went through all of the above (for about a day while sulking) till my wife (and my fellow directors) told me to man up and concentrate on fact that the business is 60% up year on year and we have just taken 3 new clients on. (can you see how i ever so non subtly turned an apparently negative and and painfully honest piece about bad news into a puff piece about how well OME is doing - sorry - i cant help it)

But it did get me thinking is my teenage attitude to winning and losing in business a problem or is the fact i take it all so bloody personally part of the success. I am sticking to the latter for the very good reason that i very much doubt i will change much now.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Computer Weekly closes and a personal memory

So if i wrote a piece every time a former giant B2B print title closes - this would be a weekly update, but i can't let this one pass without mention. I started my career on its arch rival Computing magazine (and eventually became publisher). Both titles ran 100+pages of job ads every week - ratecard £10K a page - Yield about £5K. Lovely money!!

But please allow me a little personal reminiscence as the memories flood back.

The most important meeting of my career thus far was when i was publisher of Computing and was with European MD of VNU its owner - i had to present a 5 year plan (5 years!!!! who does that anymore) for the title. And had prepared 56 slide(56 slides, i know...) masterpiece full of research, plans, spin offs. Unfortunately Slide 5 was the projected recruitment ad revenue for next 5 years which resembled a ski jump without the little lift at the end. We never got to the other 51 slides. As i showed him that £20 million of revenue was not and could not be made up (i was not responsible for online). To paraphrase the Labour manifesto of 1983 , it was the longest career suicide note in history. My stratospheric rise in company suddenly halted and i think i resigned about 4 months later without a job to go to and joined 33, and a few years later set up UK's first digital ad agency.

I am not sure if you had told me then that CW print would close within 10 years - not even i would have believed you but this industry transformation seems to be getting faster and faster. And the thing is - it is so difficult for those inside the establishment media to see it or more importantly to react to it, its such a potentially horrible scenario that it leads to inertia with brief bouts of panic thrown in. And i think that point still applies to many media owners out there now.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

print rec ad market to return......

Someone mentioned that they firmly believed that the print classified (jobs,cars,homes) would return due to dissatisfaction with quality and quantity of response etc.
And then someone said so on twitter (my former golf buddy @alconcalcia) too
My first thought was they were joking but apparently not.
now the solution to quantity and quality response problems are

Clear employer/job offering and compelling reason to apply
Good copy - keywords / seo etc
Plan and buy the Relevant and best media
'attractive' advertising
Simple response mechanism
And great process/screening/resp mgmt

Now by definition these are broad topics that will differ and the solutions need to fit each client, but give me the above or let me create the above and your responss problems will disappear.

Now to use response as a reason to go back in time 5 years is to like reacting to some repairs that need doing to your car by ditching it and getting a horse instead.

To be fair it would mean i made a hell of an entrance when i arrived at my next meeting.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Service vs Growth - or Service and Growth

Speaking at a conference tomorrow (Caterer/recruitment/social media) and organised a networking event last thursday (a good friend of the biz Gill Davies really organised it but we sponsored it.)Now the problem is we meet lots of great people - many of whom are lovely enough to want to discuss digital/PPC/Social and what they can do/should be doing better.

However - we are a service led business - we have to deliver on our promises. So how do you prioritise new business??

Answer - its just growing pains i guess and a good problem to have but we have made a very clear decision to split new biz and delivery. what we won't do is compromise on our service standards as it has been in our DNA since Day 1 and if i am being mercenary about it - clients recommending us to friends, peers etc has been by far and away our best source of growth.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

A disconnect with the real world

So in the real world
- rumours of a double dip recession
- inflation getting to be a nasty problem
- 'savage' cuts happening that will further drive down consumer confidence
- retailers saying feb figures look grim

In the OME world
- wildly busy
- most agencies and media i respect also say they are doing great
- retail clients expanding
- even had some not very interesting enquiries about taking a stake in our biz

Where is the truth? I have not got a clue but i prefer the latter scenario.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Tribal Resourcing sold to TMP (UK)

So sale of Tribal to TMP is clearly quite interesting. This is my very quick take on it.
1. sold for £1 - puts it in same cost bracket as the Evening Standard sale in 2009. Statement of the obvious but there is clearly something wrong with underlying profitability of a company that is given away, is it crippled by high costbase? declining markets? losing too much money? duff product? or more likely a combo on some or all of the above.
2. 2010 - £37000 profit on £39m turnover - is a 0.1% return. Ouch...One presumes that most of this turnover was media billings and such like so those figures are pretty horrible given that 2011 is going to be uglier in their markets (government/health)
3. My non insider view is that they are caught in perfect storm of reliance on public sector and still largely print revenues which are in cyclical and terminal decline respectively.
4. TMP (UK) taking it on - possibly most interesting thing. Their mgmt (and investors) must believe that they can convert the client base to digital, sell more product and retain in long term relationships. And economies of sale are obvious too. But, and i say this no relish, one would presume the cost cutting would be quick and deep to get things moving in right direction. Their must be some brand equity in the Tribal name and i have no idea how they intend to run the brands.

Anyway - i am sure we will get some statements from both parties in next few days - which will clarify the situation.

Monday, 24 January 2011

SMART 2011 / RAD Awards

Thursday was a long day - i attended and spoke at the Smart 2011 conference - where i put extra stress on myself by deciding i would cover a new topic and also go for a workshop interactive session rather than more standard pres. Now the sad thing about speaking is i dont get as much as value from the other sessions (too busy selfishly thinking about my slot) but i really found the approach of conf refreshing. It was a world away from the uber bullshit world of social that existed in Q1 2010 - maybe it was the speakers (#mattallder #andyheadworth #steve_fogarty) but it was really grounded stuff - real world, practical advice etc.
would loved to have networked more but had the Dinner Jacket on for the RAD Awards in evening. Now this is the biggest awards in our world but our industry has changed so much - i always feel that this is an "old" industry event - still has awards for best local press advert etc. To be fair to them - they have made huge strides to make categories more modern and digital but i still feel like a bit of an outsider in the room - explaining to people/other agencies who we are and what we do - which is a bit odd 4.5 years in.
The brilliant bit of night was that our clients had 3 nominations (Pizza Express and YO! Sushi) and Pizza Express/Pink Squid won for - so congrats to all involved.

Friday was a quieter day....

Monday, 10 January 2011

Conference Speaking - Smart 2011

Speaking at the conference next week. And via a complex set of circumstances - i am covering a slightly different topic from my initial brief. My session title is "impact of social media on recruitment value chain". After my initial thought of blimey - i am going to actually do some proper work to organise all my thoughts/experience/analysis into something coherent (he hopes....) i am quite excited. Why?

- I am a bit bored with the "building blocks to a social media rec strategy" which i have been updating and delvering in 2011. Its good stuff but the Do's and Don'ts may be quite simple for what i think looks a more experienced audience.

- I actually think the topic is very interesting (see below for why)

In last 5 years i have spoken at quite a few conferences/seminars etc and the breakthrough for me was to stop trying to cover everything, don't think it has to be perfect, don't worry about people disgareeing with you and dont watch other speakers and panic that they are nicking all your good stuff! When i am in the audience all i want is not to get sold to (very dull) and to hear a few things that are interesting. I don't want comprehensive - i want to be stimulated or even better provoked.

So for me when i look at this conference - there are some great people like @mattalder @billboorman @andyheadworth who know their stuff and will give great overviews of industry trends and great tools and techniques. And they will do this better than me, So what do i bring???

Well (excuse the immodesty) OME work with some of the UK's biggest recruiters, who have grasped the digital nettle and now want to have same success with social. However like most organisations - budget for innovation is limited and the precious time of the recruitment team is extremely short. So our views have to be based on the practical nature of implementing social programmes and how to avoid wrong turns. All of our clients want/demand that we save time and money and increase quality. And what does "save money and increase quality" typically mean

- reduce reliance on rec cons

- reduce candidate attraction costs from direct sourcing

- find new channels for candidates

- have more relevant response/less irrelevant response

- beat the competition

and all those points above have SEISMIC impact on the Recruitment Value Chain!!