Late last year the RCSA announced that DFP Recruitment CEO, Robert van Stokrom would succeed Lincoln Crawley as RCSA (Aus & NZ) President.
Robert has very kindly agreed to answer my questions about himself and the plans he has for the RCSA in 2014.
Ross: Tell me a little about your background prior to joining the recruitment industry.
Robert: I spent 25 years in technical roles in multinational Pharmaceutical Manufacturing, running manufacturing, packaging, QC, R&D and logistics.
Ross: How did you come to join the recruitment industry?
Robert: After spending too much time overseas and travelling within Australia, I decided that a change was needed, particularly as my young family was growing and this was a major priority. I approached my current business partner Eddy Bidese, now chairman of DFP, with a view to establishing an Executive Recruitment business within his business at the time, Forstaff.
Ross: What did you find to be the biggest challenge when you initially moved from ‘client side’ to ‘agency side’?
Robert: I found that the competitiveness of the recruitment industry was a significant change from what I was used to. Pharma was a complex business with not much competiveness where recruitment was at that time the opposite.
Ross: Tell me what motivated you to move from recruitment agency employee to recruitment agency owner? How did it come about?
Robert: I had always intended to be involved as an owner of a services business. I needed to have an environment where I could push the envelope with my own thoughts on leadership and management. I needed to be in complete control of my efforts, and the subsequent results. The Forstaff story was a great one, and the association with our chairman is highly successful, the combination of this resulted in the purchase and expansion of DFP.
Ross: What’s the scope and size of the DFP Recruitment business in early 2014 and what does your role involve?
Robert: DFP has grown from 3 branches and 30 internal staff to almost 100 staff and 14 branches. DFP has, for many years, been a market leader in staff retention through its many successful internal strategies. DFP has also many very long term relationships with key clients due to our business model.
Ross: DFP have acquired other recruitment agencies in a challenging economic period when many buyers have kept their cash in their pocket. Why have you done this?
Robert: We have always operated DFP on a growth strategy; we are not bottom line focussed as we believe that establishing a sustainable critical mass is a higher priority. Economic conditions have been difficult in the past, but it has not waivered our prime goal of growth.
Ross: When and why did you become involved withthe RCSA?
Robert: I joined the RCSA Vic/Tas Council in 1999 as a councillor.
Ross: What roles have you fulfilled prior to recently being elected National President? What did they involve?
Robert: I was president of the Vic/Tas division on two occasions for a total of 8 years, a member of the RCSA Board for 6 years as Finance Chair for 3 years and CPD Chair for 3 years and also Vice President for 4 years.
Ross: Why did you run for President?
Robert: I am a great supporter of this great industry. I have been lucky to have been associated with many capable and entrepreneurial people over the years. I believe I have gained a strong knowledge base to continue the good work of our previous President, Lincoln Crawley. I supported Lincoln as Vice President during his term and believe I am suitably prepared for the role.
Ross: What do you aim to accomplish as President?
Robert: I/we intend to, through the employment of the RCSA strategic plan, firmly establish the RCSA as the association that is regarded as Australia’s expert on employment, skills, the workforce and workforce management. The RCSA will facilitate and inform Australian business and Government to adapt to changing skill and labour force requirements.
Ross: What’s the most significant issue facing the recruitment industry right now and what are you, as RCSA President, doing about it (or intend to do about it)?
Robert: The current slow market is the most significant short term issue we need to deal with. This is caused by several factors of which one of the most significant is the reduction of our country’s
competitiveness on the global stage. Our message to Government, Industry and the Unions is clear. Research, surveys, and facts support the need for a more flexible, higher skilled mobilised workforce to protect and grow our economy. The RCSA is a critical cog in this requirement.
Ross: How political do you intend to be in ensuring the RCSA members’ interests are strongly represented in Canberra?
Robert: We have been politically active for some time in Canberra. As politics would depict, it has been more difficult with the Labor government. Despite this, we have been very active in the past with both Government and opposition. We have a renewed strategy now, due to the change of Government, of a multilevel contact programme which will achieve the influencing plan we have in hand.
Ross: What can RCSA members expect in 2014?
Robert: We will be more vocal in media; we will be pro-active and active in issues we need to be more profiled in; we will lead the issues rather than having to respond to them.
Ross: Outside of work, what are your major hobbies or leisure pursuits?
Robert: My wife, Leonie and I enjoy a fun and full family life with 7 children between us, 5 grandchildren and Shortie, our dog. We love the beach, movies, live theatre, and live bands. I love my motor racing; I race in Group Nc historics with a 1973 BMW 2002; I play guitar and try to get our band together as much as possible for a good jam. I enjoy entertaining at home, restoring cars, gardening, fishing, riding my motorbike, cycling and keeping fit through regular early morning gym so we are always enjoying an active lifestyle.
Ross: Favourite music/band/singer?
Robert: Mick Hucknell (Simply Red), Bob Seger, Richard Clapton
Ross: Five dream dinner party guests (and reasons)?
Robert: Richard Branson, as he is, for me one, of the most impressive successful risk-takers in business, and is a great connector. Ringo Starr, as he knew George Harrison the best and I need to know more about George as his music was unlike any others. Bill Gates as he is not only an amazing businessman, he is probably the top living humanitarian. Hugh Jackman as he is such an amazing person and actor but has remained grounded and still very cool. Vladimir Putin, so he could maybe learn what it is like to be a great person from my other guests – maybe he will stop behaving in such an anti-social way, and if he does I would have great pleasure in having Hugh help me throw him out.
Ross: Favourite holiday destination?
Robert: I enjoy Europe for new experiences, or anywhere where it’s warm, sunny and by the beach for just relaxation.
Ross: Favourite drink?
Robert: Cote de Rhone red wine.
Ross: Favourite meal?
Robert: Leonie’s home-cooked gluten and dairy-free lasagna.
Ross: At school, you wanted to be a [what] when you grew up?
Robert: I wanted to be a pilot and a rock star
Ross: What’s something people would be surprised to know about you?
Robert: I have taken acting lessons and would like to be involved in a movie if only as an extra.
Ross: Thanks for your time, Robert and all the best for your new role.