What Secret? Recruitment gold from Geoff Morgan and Andrew Banks

Using ‘secret’ as your search criteria under ‘Books’ on Amazon.com generates 142,462 returns. Narrowing down the search field to ‘Non-fiction’ and ‘Business & investing’ still leaves you with 8,787 books promising the reader some kind of insider’s revelation about their topic.

Of course we all know that it’s all a marketing ploy to get us a lot more interested in a book than we may otherwise have been.

Australian author, Rhonda Byrne, understood this better than most when she released her multi-million- selling book, The Secret, which ‘revealed’ that general happiness and success in life was about positive thinking, specifically focusing on what you want and desiring it strongly enough.

If you Google ‘the secret of recruitment success’ the top search result is this excellent article from Greg Savage’s blog (well worth reading, BTW).

The closest I can come to finding a recruitment success book with ‘secret(s)’ in the title is the Top Recruiter Secrets eBook.

It’s impossible to write such a book in Australia, because its’ already been done.

Yes. Really.

And it comes with infallible pedigree. How many recruiters have built a recruitment firm from nothing into a highly profitable $1/2 billion plus turnover public company in less than 15 years, employing over 2000 people?

That book is Flourish & Prosper: All we learned from our time at Morgan & Banks – and so much more by Geoff Morgan and Andrew Banks, published by Penguin Books in 2004.

This is an astonishing book for the simple reason that the authors are very, very specific in detailing the way that they went about creating and building their original recruitment business – Morgan & Banks.

If another book about building a recruitment company from nothing into a similar-sized company exists anywhere in the world, then I haven’t found it yet.

In other words, Geoff and Andrew have actually revealed secrets!

‘The fact is that success actually does have a formula and a secret ingredient and we were certainly the first to have it in our industry, and probably ahead of many service industries in Australia’. (page 42)

The book that comes remotely close (not very close) is Australian recruitment industry patriarch, V John Plummer’s soberly-titled, out-of-print Staffing Consultants: A management guide.

It’s amazing (to me, at least) how few owners and managers in the recruitment sector have read Flourish & Prosper.

It’s a veritable goldmine of information that is still incredibly relevant, even though the book is now seven years old.

I could spend thousands of words highlighting the many nuggets that you will find throughout the book but for now, I will just focus on a few sentences from Chapter 5, a very small chapter.

Chapter 5 Harnessing the Power of your People

(page 44-47)

‘We were actively involved in the comprehensive training of new recruits, who were given significant support and direction’.

‘We strongly believed that specialisation in, and concentration on, particular areas of commerce and industry led to more in-depth and thorough knowledge on behalf of the consultant, which in turn achieved a better result for the client.’

‘Frankly, we looked for happy, bright people who had good indicators and who were optimistic. We didn’t let any chronically negative people near our organization, because negative thinking is contagious. Be careful who you let near your mind!’

‘We’ve made some mistakes but we’ve rarely had to fire people, because the high performance culture of the company automatically weeded out those who didn’t fit.’

‘Once you were in the company, you very quickly learnt about the management structure, the branding position, the way to do an interview, the way to deal with clients and the reward system on delivery. All these systems allowed our recruits to feel secure. From the moment they arrived there was a precision, thoroughness and detail, which meant that it was almost like they got onto a moving walkway.’

‘We knew exactly what we wanted when we were hiring every type of employee: from recruiters for permanent positions; to salespeople selling temporary services; to researchers who mined the database for candidates. But although we carefully matched the person to the job, we found there needed to be ‘stretch’ in everybody’s role, to provide challenges and raise expectations’.

‘We found it interesting to note that when good people got bored by being under-utilised, they turned from being cooperative and happy to grumpy, and in some cases, aggressive and destructive.’

My summary of Chapter 5:

  1. Hire people for specific roles and ensure you understand the competencies and motivation required for success in each role.
  2. Only hire optimistic people.
  3. Company owners and leaders should always lead the training of new recruits.
  4. Don’t leave the success of a new recruit to chance. Have systems and processes to support the initial training.Have a ‘stretch’ component in every role.
  5. A high performance culture is self-sustaining.

And I’ll leave you with one of my favourite quotes from the book. It comes from Geoff Morgan:

‘We make the dust, we don’t eat it’ (page 26).

It perfectly encapsulates the feeling of being an industry leader, out at the cutting edge, focusing on raising the bar for your own standards rather than worrying about your competitors and other things outside of your control.

Unfortunately Flourish & Prosper is now out of print so your local library or a second-hand bookshop might be your best bet in getting your hands on a copy.

Whatever the effort, it’s worth it for the secrets of recruitment success.

Special thanks to the copyright holders, Morgan & Banks Investment Pty Ltd for permission to reproduce all the text quoted above from Flourish & Prosper: All we learned from our time at Morgan & Banks – and so much more (Penguin Books, 2004)


  1. Aaron Dodd on 08/03/2011 at 9:56 pm

    Ross, M&B's book has been out of print for years. I've looked once or twice over the last few years. Any ideas where a copy might be hiding?

  2. Ross Clennett on 09/03/2011 at 1:37 am

    I was able to get a copy at Borders. But best to call first. You can try online via this link:

  3. Jonathan Rice on 09/03/2011 at 6:14 am

    I'm reading "The Real Deal" by James Caan at the moment. He built Alexander Mann and Humana from scratch in the UK and it's an excellent read – more of an autobiography than a business text though.

    He started off his massive recruitment empire with a few cheeky reverse marketing calls with candidates that didn't exist – real 80's style! I was also surprised to learn that he actually invented "rec-to-rec"…

  4. HeadhuntingPro on 21/04/2011 at 8:47 pm

    Ross, I've been searching for this book for a while, but can't find it anywhere. Especially difficult because I'm in Canada and it wasn't widely circulated here. If anyone has a copy I can buy or borrow, please get in touch and you'll be my personal hero!

  5. Ross Clennett on 23/04/2011 at 5:36 am

    I have suggested to the publishers that they commission an update as many people cannot get hold of a copy. I'll let you know if I have any good news or if I hear of it available anywhere else.

  6. Kaby on 22/09/2015 at 12:50 am

    I know this is an old thread, but I recently found this book online as an ebook – in case anyone else is interested, here's the link:

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.