When Personnel Today contacted recruitment firm Pareto Law to ask why the Sunday Times had just rated it as the best small company to work for in the UK, the receptionist there explained that it might not be possible to speak to anyone because the joint managing director had taken the whole staff to Dubai for the week.
While that might seem to answer the initial question, it failed to explain how the recruitment company has grown from its inception in 1996 to a turnover of £3.6m a year, a headcount of 54 staff and a client list that includes Ntl, Vodafone and Barclays.
We managed to track down joint managing director Jonathan Fitchew and he explained how all this has been achieved.
“We place recent graduates in sales operations,” he said. “The best way for us to sell the concept of hiring recent graduates to one of our clients is for a recent graduate to do the selling so everyone we hire is pretty much fresh out of university.
“Many people leave university not really knowing what to do with themselves. So we give them a clear development path and a motivational environment.”
New employees in the Wilmslow office earn £18,000 a year; those in the West London office £20,000.
After six months they sit an account manager exam and Fitchew says they can then earn £30,000 in their first year.
After six months they also receive private health insurance and the company matches pension contributions up to 3% of salary.
The holiday allowance is 20 days, with two more added if you have no days off sick, and one for each year of service.
“We used to give non-smokers an extra day’s holiday,” recalls Fitchew, “but we had to stop doing it when we discovered it was illegal.”
On top of this the company organises regular social events and uses innovative games as sales incentives, such as “bush tucker trials”, in which making a successful sale entitles you to order a colleague eat a repulsive insect, and “strip cold-calling”, where employees forfeit an item of clothing when they fail to make a sale on a call.
While this might not appeal to everyone, the promotion prospects surely will: the director of the Wilmslow branch who joined the company six years ago when he was 21, now manages a team of 10 and earns a six-figure income.
In the early days, Fitchew believed that he could keep staff by paying them well.
After several members of his staff had been poached by clients that offered higher salaries he realised that he needed to offer a broader package.
While his workforce is well balanced in terms of gender and race, it is not so in terms of age.
“We have nothing against hiring older people,” says Fitchew. “It is just rare that you get a 50-year-old who is willing to pick up the phone to drum up new business. If one comes along we will happily talk to him or her.”
Room for expansion
Pareto Law has just opened a Leeds office, its first franchise, and Fitchew expects to open more across the UK.
“There are roughly half a million people we could place in the UK alone, and a client has just virtually ordered us to set up a Canada office, so there is plenty of room for growth in this company,” he says.