Culture is caught, not taught: 10 years of Kingfisher Recruitment

(L-R) Matthew, Mal and Rohan,   enjoying the
2011 Kingfisher Christmas Party   at the Kyneton races
In 2006 I met

Mal Stuart
when he attended an RCSA Leadership workshop I was running.
He and his business partner,

Rohan Christie
had started their own recruitment agency, Kingfisher
Property Recruitment  , the year previously and they were now in the process
of bringing another shareholder,

Matthew Barnett
 into the business. At the end of the workshop,
Mal said he and Rohan were looking for some external help and I might be
the person to provide that help. That conversation started my relationship
with Kingfisher which continues to this day.

 

As the business grew, Matthew was promoted into the role
of Managing Director and under this leadership the company has now expanded
into Sydney and Brisbane and employs twenty five people.

 

Matthew kindly made himself available to answer my questions
about Kingfisher Recruitment’s past, present and future.

 

Ross: What was the original motivation for the founding
directors in starting Kingfisher?  

Matthew:   We had been
interested in creating a brand and identity that reflected us and how we
liked to work. We did not have a vision to get to any certain size or scale,
rather we enjoyed what we did and thought we could create a business that
was ours and also create a company to be proud of.

 

Trust was a key driver for us as well. We did not want
to enter into an equity position with our employer at the time and as soon
as we realised that, we knew it was time to make plans to do something else.
When you come to that realisation, you are wasting time hanging around.
If someone had contacted us to offer us an awesome role in recruitment before
we came up with the idea of Kingfisher, who knows what might have happened.

 

Ross: What were your original goals for Kingfisher and have you accomplished
these goals?  

Matthew:   The initial
goals for Kingfisher changed very early in the piece. The directors were
content to service a small client base, work on fewer roles and not chase
financial targets. It quickly became clear that this approach appealed to
clients at that that time; a time when candidates were in very short supply
and often over-sold into inappropriate roles. We then decided to take our
relationship-based recruitment and combine it with the more proactive approach
of some of our competitors, hence the decision was made to grow Kingfisher
into a national business.

 

Ross: In the early days what was the hardest aspect of running your own
business?  

Matthew:   It is not long
before you realise the need for structure and process. This can vary from
simply sending out invoices and debt collection through to how information
is presented to clients in a consistent manner. The first realisation was
that our time was better spent on recruiting rather than administration
and trying to balance the books so we hired a part time book keeper; the
best money we ever spent!

 

Ross: What service offerings did Kingfisher start with in 2005 and how
have these services evolved over the subsequent ten years?  

Matthew:   Kingfisher
Recruitment was originally known as Kingfisher Property Recruitment as we
only serviced sectors within the property market. To take full advantage
of our contacts and allow us to fully service our clients’ needs we decided
to broaden the focus to the built environment, hence the decision to drop
‘property’ from our name.

 

Ross: What did you do in the early days to define and create a distinct
Kingfisher culture and how has this evolved over the subsequent ten years?  

Matthew:   More recently
I have heard the expression that ‘culture is caught and not taught’ and
if I look back, this is exactly how Kingfisher has ended up with the great
culture that we have today. Firstly by having a group of directors that
strive to be successful but not at the expense of others, coupled with the
strong belief that we want to continually improve everything we do. Unsurprisingly
early hiring decisions saw us hire like-minded individuals. This created
an environment where everyone naturally worked hard without heavy management
required whilst really clicking as a collective, enjoying themselves and
supporting each other. You can still see this as a key part of the culture
today where everyone is supportive, enjoys their work and looks forward
to the day ahead.

 

Ross: What are the three or four core character strengths of those people
who succeed at Kingfisher?  

Matthew:   We have always
strived to be the best in our space and this is part of all discussions
we have with new consultants. It is important that everyone at Kingfisher
has the desire to be the best in their space and posses the drive to succeed.
I believe that with these character strengths in place we offer the environment
to make good consultants into fantastic consultants. We do not believe in,
nor are we able to, drag people kicking and screaming to success.

 

Ross: Kingfisher has expanded from one office to three
offices. What have you learned about growing by expanding your physical
presence?  

Matthew:  
Again, the reason for opening offices in other states was to allow us to
service our national clients. We realised that we needed to replicate what
we had already created in Melbourne and that it was an extension of the
existing business as opposed to opening up a new business. This may sound
very straight forward but it was challenging on many fronts. First we needed
to have good processes in place to ensure the consistency of experience
and outcomes for our clients and candidates no matter if they were dealing
with our Melbourne, Sydney or Brisbane office. The other aspect was to replicate
the culture which meant that early hiring decisions were critical and a
lot of interstate travel was required by the directors to model and reinforce
the Kingfisher culture.

 

Ross: What are the most significant
changes that Kingfisher have had to deal with in terms of client and candidate
behaviour since 2005?  

Matthew:   With the number
of online based recruitment tools such as Seek, Facebook and LinkedIn, our
clients are able to identify candidates for themselves like never before.
This has seen an increase in in-house recruitment teams and RPOs. These
same clients also appreciate the value of engaging recruiters for specialist
roles that they struggle to fill themselves hence we are seeing a new hybrid
version of RPOs or in-house teams that specifically partner with expert
recruiters engaging them exclusively on a regular basis. This has created
a market that offers good opportunity to recruitment businesses that can
offer highly specialist knowledge, strong candidate referral networks and
an in-depth and clearly defined process.

 

Ross: Tell me a little about the role that technology plays at Kingfisher
in 2015  

Matthew:   Technology
plays a key role at Kingfisher. By providing the latest technologies including
cloud based CRM systems, iPhones and Surface Pros, consultants are fully
mobile and able to access information at any time. This allows us to provide
a more efficient and professional service to our candidates and clients.
Strong personal branding by all consultants, via social media platforms,
is essential for the development of the Kingfisher online community.

 

We have recently moved to new offices in Melbourne. It’s
an activity based environment designed to not only provide a more productive
and flexible working environment; including informal, quiet and communal
working areas as well as timeout activities, but importantly to provide
a transparent and interactive experience for all visiting clients and candidates.

 

Ross: What are you most proud to have accomplished at Kingfisher?  

Matthew:   We have created
a supportive environment where recruitment services can be provided in a
professional and honest way. It is always fantastic to hear positive feedback
from our candidates and clients about the service they have received. I am
most proud of our consultants saying that they love working at Kingfisher
and that they love coming to work.

 

Ross: What are the Kingfisher goals for the next five years?  

Matthew:   Our business
plan is in place and we are committed to it. The plan is simply to continue
to organically grow our current services across the built environment across
Australia. We will do this organically by training rookie consultants and
leveraging from existing relationships. By developing an in-depth training
program we are able to train consultants from scratch in a way that ensures
the consistent delivery of the Kingfisher experience to all future candidates
and clients.

 

Ross: How will Kingfisher celebrate its ten year anniversary?  

Matthew:   With a huge
party! Ten years is a big milestone for us and we are keen to share the
moment by thanking everyone including clients, candidates, friends, service
providers and our staff and families for contributing to our success and
making this a reality. Plans are already in motion for a July celebration,
details yet to be finalised.

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