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One of Australia’s highest-profile large recruitment agencies, Collar Group entered voluntary administration on Monday, with the stated intention of cutting headcount by 20%, restructuring and coming out of voluntary administration within six weeks.

Based on the more than 100 comments on the LinkedIn post it appears senior management found out about the decision at the same time as other Collar employees.

The move has prompted a reaction from the local recruitment industry without precedent.

Comments were disabled on the post after 153 comments. Many commenters were withering in their assessment of both how Collar employees had found out their employment had been terminated, and the alleged behaviour of the company’s founder and CEO, Ephram Stephenson.

Activity on Linkedin appears to be the most accurate information about the ongoing tenure of Collar employees. Laura Horton, the group GM of professional services, retains her role while managing director, Rachel Jones, has lost hers.

Industry news service, Shortlist, detailed the sequence of Monday’s events  (subscriber $ access) in its story published late the following day, revealing Collar had confirmed the ATO was the company’s major creditor.

A flavour of the reactions across the industry, especially those directed at Ephram Stephenson is reflected in the response to Sydney tech recruiter Josh Hill’s Linkedin post yesterday in which he  laments the “tall poppy syndrome” evident in the “….predictable almost celebratory comments from some in our industry.”

Stephenson’s LinkedIn posts from the past few months give people plenty of ammunition about the disconnect between the public face of Collar’s progress and the realities of cashflow in the back office, with announcements of board appointments, contracts wins, a new office in South Africa and various sponsorships all looking a bit hollow after Monday’s voluntary administration.

Collar was founded in July 2021 and in less than three years had grown to more than 140 recruiters in 9 offices across Australia with over 1000 contractors and on-hire employees. Earlier this year founder, sole director and CEO, Ephram Stephenson projected turnover would climb from $45 million last FY to $120 million this FY.

Stephenson’s stated ambition was to break the long-standing dominance of the existing large generalist recruiters in Australia, such as Hays, Chandler Macleod, Workpac, Manpower, Adecco, Programmed, and Randstad.

Some of Collar’s most senior executives joined from these companies however the cracks were starting to show with a slew of senior departures in the past 9 months.

Chief risk officer Jamie Mallinder, director for mining, trades and labour Emma Koester, group general manager for RPO and MSP talent solutions  Chris Neale, WA State Director Janelle Coppin and successive Queensland state directors, Jamie Lewis and Joshua Allen all left Collar between August 2023 and last month

Three months ago, I published a blog based on a conversation with Stephenson about his recent activity and plans for Collar. Several comments were posted two weeks ago alleging, or supporting the allegations of, substantial cultural problems.

Views of the blog have tripled in just three days and additional comments have been posted.

Since Monday I have received many texts, emails, and LinkedIn messages about the situation at Collar.

Whether I like it or not, I appear to have been given the responsibility of telling the true story of what’s happened at Collar and also bearing some of the blame for feeding Stephenson’s publicity machine.

Even one (senior and well-known) industry leader seemed to suggest, at best, I should have known, investigated and written about the underlying issues at Collar before the administrators were called in, or, at least, written a more skeptical account of my February conversation with Ephram Stephenson.

I’m not sure whether to take this as a compliment about my track record of writing forensic accounts of recruitment agencies in administration and exposes of publicity-generating CEOs or a criticism that, because of this track record, I should have undertaken more due diligence on Stephenson and his claims before publishing the account of our conversation.

You can make up your own mind what I should have done, if anything, differently.

What’s not in dispute is the difficulties that lie ahead for Collar.

Although the business is still trading, for now at least, the remaining staff will be spooked by what’s happened and given a challenging market it won’t take much for many of them to jump ship.

The brand damage to Collar is immeasurable. You can be sure that many of Collar’s competitors will be dropping “Have you heard what happened to Collar?” into the conversations they are having with their mutual clients.

Ephram Stephenson’s future remains unclear – he has not made any public statements about Collar’s voluntary administration or his intentions, since Monday’s announcement.

No doubt there’s plenty more to be revealed about the rise and fall of Collar Group and its founder and CEO, in the coming weeks and months.

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Two sides and views to every story. I think your previous post was needed and would have been strange had you not shown and commented on the public facing image that Collar had. The key here is that you are now also sharing the other side to the story. Always respect your ability to highlight different perspectives, and also self-reflect when needed.

Phil Isard

Ross thanks for your comments. I’ve always found your comments fair and reasonable, and I read with the understanding that sometimes it’s factual, and other times it’s your observations.

Interesting that the ATO is the creditor that drove Collar into Administration, as May is the biggest ATO bill of the year (previous years Tax, IAS & BAS), suggesting their last BAS (being Feb) is being chased by the ATO. I wonder where staff and on-hire worker Super is at? As that was due in Feb and April?

As with any business, running out of cash happens slow, then fast! Like catching a falling knife, which will hurt whether you catch it or not. Lots of pain ahead.

Cheers, Phil


I wonder if Emilie Sydney-Smith and Mike Walmsley are still COLLAR®’s board members / advisors… surely could have advised better… 


Wow, he was really giving it a red hot go. Fast growth businesses are so hard to manage successfully in the people game…. a shame his advisors hadn’t promoted more caution earlier on. I hope they manage to salvage a suitable outcome for everyone.


They did but it all fell of deaf ears….


This CEO should be ashamed… there is reporting to indicate that he aggressively targeted and hired people well after meeting with administrators. Some people relocated interstate and others were sponsored and move their families internationally. Disgusting.

To think this muppet has accolades and awards when he treats people this way.


i dodged a bullet by not starting with Collar group


couldnt help myself

Anis kaur

When the news he was working on this since Jan gets out.


I think the biggest problem with all these events is the way everything is/has been handled. To have known this was coming since January and keep spending out of control is unforgivable. Surely sponsoring racing cars when struggling financially isn’t a great direction to go. The truth is this CEO had been warned, many times, that this was the road that collar was being dragged down and instead of dealing with it the answer that was found was to keep up the facades on social media of how great everything was. Based on his track record this actually isn’t surprising.
Then there was the handling of the announcement of administration. To hide in the boardroom while emails were sent to staff informing them they no longer had a job is despicable. Then lumping all owed holiday pay and redundancies into the company debt and therefore not paying it to the affected staff. Since, lies have been told that this isn’t happening when it has been confirmed by the administrators themselves.
I can’t see collar coming back from this and nor should they. All I hope is that past and present staff manage to find a better role with a trusted employer


Not to mention sponsoring the Business News breakfast with the PM event, the RCSA events, AFR BOSS best places to work awards (they self nominated for) and all the conventions they have paid to be at 👀


Jeff Smith

Never trust a leader who boasts about “revenue” without mentioning cost, profit and loss.


This is the worst place I have ever worked. The fact that we aren’t able to get open, honest and transparent information as current employees is beyond a joke. The hr manager now left and none of us know what is going on or if we will have a job next week.


The issues the staff left behind are left to deal with are despicable. Candidates have not had their Superannuation paid for months, and no answers are forthcoming about when/if they will. There are no FAQs or guidance on how to answer peoples concerns. Ephram is a master manipulator, very good at spinning a tail, I hope he never works in the industry in Australia again as enough people have been impacted by him.


Not just Eph – Tim is cut from the same clothe! As someone kept on and struggling through everything that has happened over the last week, I can say that a lot of the issues started when Tim joined and I feel like Eph has been manipulated by him too. He has been hiring non-stop since he was brought in (all his hays mates!) and flying all over the country spending big. Hired some woman (surprise, surprise… ex-hays) a few weeks ago and led a town hall representing management – nobody knows her from a bar of soap! We all gave them questions that were meant to be answered and none of them really got answered. Sadly Tim is just as responsible but seems to be coming out of it clean. More of us are leaving and looking.. watch this space – the only ones left will be the dregs from hays!!!!


Jamie M is a great guy, considered one of the best in the industry. He was invaluable in the few years he partnered with Hays ANZ as a principal consultant. Stupid to lose any person in that type of role before this type of event, particularly when it is someone of that calibre.


I’m a former recruitment candidate and had the most frustrating, lacklustre and stressful experience at Collar.
I realised quickly the disrespectful behaviour and how I was treated, Collar’s priorities, lack of transparency an action.
I was really disappointed so I made a phone call with Mr Ephram Stephenson Collar Group CEO as I’ve also worked under Mr David Ross.
Ephram listened to my concerns in between his “Vignettes” of Collar’s performance and ..”deals in the pipeline” and assured me of a solution and a call back …. I’m yet to receive that call… For me enough said really. Ephram your next move might be to wind up operations in Australia and head to South Africa and do it all over again.


You can now add Head of HR (Chief People Office) Emma Sewell to this list (left for a second time). Everyone is dropping like flies…


Don’t worry… Eph reassured us all a few times this week… apparently we are still on track to make $100m this year. Rocks in his head.

Anis kaur

100m more debt.


This guy deserves to be behind bars.

Anis kaur

He is a visionary of the recruitment world 🤣


In the next interview ask Eph about the enormous payrise he gave himself before all this went down…


Ephram seems to have a track record of failed businesses. However, he seems to always start up again, sucking in previous employees to join him.

I wonder if the next one will be only called Collar Care as that seems to be the only money generator in the business currently. Although it’s only successful because of our current aged care lead. Without her, he wouldn’t have a business!


Well, he registered Collarcare for GST only a couple of days after Collar Group went into VA. He went on a hiring rampage for senior people for Collarcare right before the announcement of VA. He knows exactly what he is going to do next.


From what I hear, staff are calling all clients letting them know that Collarcare is “fine” and BAU.

Ephram the Great OAM

lol classic con man


my mental health has taken a big hit over the last week. all we have heard is how profitable and successful the business is from eprham and now there is no job stability… the culture was bad before and now i just dont know what to do. I have panic attacks before walking in to the office and cry when i get home.. him and the management team left are in denial. this needs to be properly investigated


Where are their SEEK adverts?

Difficult to trade if you can’t post adverts and recruit.

Not a collar employee

total debt is $53m

Can’t afford a seek advert 👌


I thankfully dodged a bullet with this company…. I had an interview with a Carla and her colleague, and that went ok. However, a comment stood out to me when they were talking about their culture and noticed that Carla indicated one of her male staff members were toxic. I kept it to myself, thought about the whole interview, and made a decision to withdraw my application. At this point, I had signed the contract, but something felt off and decided to withdraw. A few hours later, I saw post on LinkedIn that she posted about me taking a counter offer and never took the opportunity to reach out to me for any reasoning. She just assumed and left her comments open for her colleagues to respond slightly negatively. All I can say is, how does it feel now to be on the other side of such a “supportive and bettering culture”? lol.

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