How being a ‘hero manager’ will hold the growth of your team or recruitment business back

Virtually all start up recruitment businesses are built around a top biller or a partnership of two top billers. To be a big billing recruiter, the most common trait is that of a desire to be the best. In members of your business this should be cherished, fostered and actively encouraged. Breeding a competitive culture in your business is one of the key ingredients to a high profit company. However, once you become an employer, this winning attitude of wanting to be the biggest biller that got you there can stop you building a real business, and by that I mean a business than makes money for you, not purely because of you.

In a business start up, I look for this ‘being the best’ attitude because for the first few staff this MD employs he/she needs to strive for big billings and lead those around. But to make that transition to building a business that makes money when you’re not there, being the best recruiter in the business will almost certainly hold you back.


I speak from experience.  In my first recruitment business, I really struggled in letting go of being the top biller, and it took longer than I’d like to admit to focus on real business growth. This real business growth requires you to move your focus to different tasks; hiring and training staff, marketing, looking after the cash side of the business etc. So how can you do this when you’re still hammering the phones? Don’t get me wrong, as a top biller there will be low hanging fruit you can pick off whilst growing your business and I’m not saying don’t do this, but you have to make time to work ON your business, not just IN your business. And this is the part that most recruitment agency owners find so hard. You’re made to chase money, you’re trained to prioritise filling jobs above anything else, and what beats the adrenalin rush of a big deal coming in?! So it’s understandable that it’s so hard to control this addiction and lift your head up and look longer term.

It’s also not just the drug of being the biggest biller, it’s that of being the ‘Hero Manager’. Yes, it feels great to dive in to a deal on behalf of one of your consultants that might go south and save the day, or handle a fee negotiation and agree a better rate than your staff can and be the office hero. But if you keep up with this habit, your staff will never learn, become lazy and rely on you to do the hard parts of the job for them. They’ll just keep coming to you, peddling that feel good drug of asking you to be ‘Charlie Big Cheese’ and giving you the chance to get another fix. However, like the famous saying “You can give a man a fish and he’ll be full for a day, but teach a man to fish and he’ll never go hungry again” is true, you have to find time to train up your staff. But how do you resist this constant temptation?

Firstly, don’t be scared of your staff not doing the job as good as you, pain is a far better teacher than pleasure so if you do let your staff make mistakes you can use these experiences to coach them to get it right next time. Empower your staff and show trust in them, it’s amazing how this can be a much bigger motivator in staff than money. It gives a feeling of recognition and responsibility to step up, so to grow your business’s team leaders and directors of the future, you need to understand this simple concept of empowerment and apply it.

If you truly want to become a genuine business person, you’ve also got to understand and embrace delegation. Delegation sounds simple but when you are running a business, I guarantee you’ll find yourself undertaking tasks that one of your staff can do for you. You may feel it’s lazy passing on some of these jobs, but it’s simple business economics.  If you can get someone to do the task who’s paid less than you, it gives you more time do to the jobs no one else can do. It also falls in line with that common time management failure of doing the things you enjoy doing, rather than the things that are a priority, so stay disciplined and pass on whatever you can to your team. This is where I have a view that a good support person is one of the most important hires in your business –  if you can trust this support person fully, you can delegate so, so much more.


Lastly go back to making time in your month to work on your business, and by working on your business I mean looking at the strategic growth of your business, the business indicators and the longer term initiatives. This is in fact the hardest part, and if you don’t have a mentor, coach or business shareholder, it is very hard to discipline yourself to keep to this. Personally I found the best answer for me in my early years was to find a mentor, so I had someone to coach me on how to grow my business, give me the peer pressure to set business actions and keep to them and as simple as a bit of discipline each month of having that half day in my diary each month to go off site for the Board Meeting. I do this for all the businesses I support and have a large network of peers who I’m happy to refer on, so if you’re reading this and think it could be the answer for you feel free to contact me and if I can’t help, I’m sure to know someone who I can refer you onto.

Rhys Jones
Written by Rhys Jones Managing Director – Davidson Gray

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