How to Start, Scale and Sell Your Recruitment Business in 7 Years, with Karla Reffold, Ep #91

Starting a recruitment business isn’t easy. Scaling a recruitment business is even harder, as evidenced by the fact that 73% of recruitment companies never grow beyond 10 employees.  Selling a recruitment business is rare indeed — according to BDO there are only 20-40 M&A deals done per year in the UK recruitment sector.  

Accomplishing all of this in 7 years while still in your 30’s is practically unheard of.  Yet that’s exactly what my special guest, Karla Reffold, has achieved. I had so much fun interviewing Karla about her entrepreneurial journey as a young, female founder.  She shared the challenges she faced and the crazy ups and downs she experienced.  You’ll hear what she learned from having founded, scaled and sold her recruitment business in the tech space — traditionally a male-dominated sector.


Karla founded the international recruitment business, BeecherMadden in 2010 before overseeing the acquisition by Nicoll Curtin. In 2020 she joined Orpheus Cyber as COO. Karla is also an experienced speaker on cyber security and was included in SC Magazine’s Top 50 Women in Security in 2019.

Want to increase your success in winning new #business? Hear 4 pointers from @karla_reffold COO of Orpheus Cyber,  in this episode of  #TheResilientRecruiter! #recruitment #recruiter #training #coaching

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Episode Outline and Highlights

  • [1:57] Karla talks about how she launched, scaled, and sold her recruitment business at a young age.
  • [6:01] When should you expand? Karla’s trigger for making your next hire.
  • [11:10] How Karla established a foundation for growth during the first 12 months.
  • [15:40] Hear how the “Green Flag System” helped Karla’s business to consistently grow.
  • [19:00] Best practices to be successful in winning business.
  • [26:08] Hiring based on values, developing your company values and assessing talent against them.
  • [28:00] Resilience when things don’t go your way – Karla shared the key challenges she encountered while growing her startup recruitment business. 
  • [32:40] Karla reveals why she decided to expand to the US and what she learned from opening an office in New York.
  • [46:30] When is the right time to exit and sell your business?
  • [54:22] Challenges of being a young female founder in the tech space.

Increase Your Success in Winning Businesses

A critical part of Karla’s success as a founder is how she consistently wins businesses which immensely contributed to her company’s growth. What are the keys to increasing your success in winning clients? Karla shared at least three.

  • Invest in marketing and branding. BeecherMadden created a salary survey which they leveraged to get publicity and appointments with key prospects. She also set up internship programs to create a strong social media presence, which in turn launched marketing careers for her interns. 
  • Speaking engagements. Karla would speak at every industry event she could, persuading event organizers to give her an opportunity. Her expertise in tech enabled her to share meaningful insights and these speaking engagements helped to make the BeecherMadden brand dominant in the cyber security market. 
  • People. As a team, they really focused on business development and Karla gives credit to the hard work her team put in.
  • Confidence. Something that really stood out to me was Karla’s confidence, which she explained is something she’s always had. Her upbringing played an important part in her envisioning success and knowing that she can do anything she puts her mind into.

What if Things Don’t Go Your Way?

As a young founder, things wobbled a bit when she was expanding quickly. In fact, she believed that one of her learnings as a business owner is that growing too quickly can create a lot of problems. Another huge challenge is stepping back from the day to day management, which she attempted to do after her second child was born. Karla told me the story of hiring a Managing Director to run the business while she was on maternity leave, which turned out to be a disaster.  Listen to how she was able to get things back on track after this major setback. Hear her other stories as well as her key learnings on never underestimating her value. If you are a business owner or someone who is just starting, you may find this one truly relevant.

Careers Beyond Recruitment – Becoming a Senior Executive in the Tech Space

Karla is now a COO at Orpheus, a leading cyber threat intelligence and cyber risk rating company and is respected in her industry. Unfortunately, that respect wasn’t always there. What were the challenges she faced as a young woman in tech? Karla recalled, “I was in my 20’s when I started… I remember people would literally say things like, “you’re very young aren’t you?” Fortunately, Karla believes the industry has changed for the better and the tech space is gradually becoming more diverse. 

In 2020, Karla transitioned from the recruitment industry to cyber security, which brings a new set of challenges. One question she now gets asked is “Wow, how does a recruiter become a COO?” Her response: “I founded a 7-figure business and sold it for a really decent multiple – that’s how.” 

Our Sponsors

This podcast is proudly sponsored by i-intro®. 

i-intro® is an end-to-end retained recruitment platform. Our technology and methodology allows recruiters to differentiate themselves from the competition, win more retained business, bigger fees and increase their billings. Be sure to mention Mark Whitby or The Resilient Recruiter for a 25% discount. Book your free, no obligation consultation here: www.recruitmentcoach.com/retained 

When is the right time to #grow your team? @karla_reffold of Orpheus Cyber talks about the #greenflag approach. Hear her insights in this episode of  #TheResilientRecruiter! #recruitment #recruiter #training #coaching

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Karla Reffold Bio and Contact Info

An experienced business owner and leader, Karla is passionate about values-led leadership and people development. Karla founded the international recruitment business, BeecherMadden in 2010 before overseeing the acquisition by Nicoll Curtin. In 2020 she joined Orpheus Cyber as COO. Orpheus is a threat intelligence company with a SAAS platform that helps organisations manage their own risk, and that of their third parties, with an easy-to-understand cyber risk score. 

Karla is an industry awards judge, the host of industry interviews on the Cyber Talks media platform and the Zero Hour Podcast. She is also an experienced speaker, on the topic of cyber security and women in technology.  Karla was included in SC Magazine’s Top 50 Women in Security in 2019. She was a finalist at the Women of the Future awards in 2016, for Entrepreneur of the Year and a finalist in The Future Ladies Awards for Mentor of the Year in 2019.

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