The Benefits and Challenges of Expanding Your Recruitment Business Overseas, with Rob Green, Ep #96

Exploring new markets can be really exciting especially if you’re considering international expansion. But as much as opening offices in a new territory can present big potential for growth, it can also present an enormous amount of challenges. That is what my special guest, Rob Green, will be sharing in this episode. Rob has built recruitment teams across Europe, Asia, North America, Australia, and Africa.  Despite some significant successes, it was never a walk in the park. In this interview, Rob shared both the  mistakes and learnings he gained.

Rob has almost two decades of experience in the recruitment industry, recruiting lawyers in 40 countries. He launched his career in London with Badenoch & Clark. Since then he has worked and lived in various locations around the globe. In 2014, he took over the Hong Kong branch of his company, rebranded it as GRM Search and won 15 industry awards over 8 years working with the most coveted legal firms, multinational companies and financial institutions in the world.

Episode Outline and Highlights

  • [1:49] How Rob and I were first introduced to each other.
  • [4:29] Rob’s colorful recruiting journey in 18 years.
  • [20:30] Challenges and resilience in recruitment during a recession.
  • [27:11] Ego is the Enemy – what ego cost Rob and the valuable learning he had.
  • [29:00] Rob reveals the story behind his biggest challenge by far.
  • [35:49] In hindsight, what would Rob have done differently?
  • [38:07] When growing your business, how fast is ‘too fast’? 
  • [46:53] The value of getting help.
  • [50:00] Rob’s venture in South Africa – achievements and main learnings.

Overcoming His Biggest Challenge

Rob humbly shared his biggest challenge which took place in 2016 when he started in Hong Kong. Growing to 25 people with expensive offices, high salaries, and high commissions, the business was not sustainable. When local market conditions worsened, he had to scale down the business or go bust.  Within six painful weeks, he had drastically cut his overheads which sent a shock through the HK legal recruitment market. Behind the scenes, he was going through a very tough time because of personal problems which magnified the issues he was having with his business. Rob recalled, “I had grown the business too fast. We had a number of offices that just weren’t profitable. I was trying in many cases to buy my way out of trouble by starting new desks, starting new offices… We just grew too rapidly with the wrong people and the wrong structure.”

I certainly admire Rob’s unselfishness in sharing his story. In our conversation, you will hear what steps he took to stabilize his operation in HK while expanding successfully to South Africa.

Key Learnings From Mistakes

This podcast is called The Resilient Recruiter for a reason, and indeed Rob personifies that quality. He has built teams and offices in Cayman, Hong Kong, Melbourne, Johannesburg and Cape Town, which were all successes. He also expanded to Brisbane, Singapore and Tokyo which he considers as “massive failures”. Rob is happy to talk about the things that he did right as well as sharing the mistakes he made. Here are the takeaways of what he shared:

  • Having the right people 
  • Having the right compensation plan
  • Having a sound structure
  • Understanding the culture of your market, building the market and creating the demand
  • Try to put aside your ego

The Value of Getting Help

One of Rob’s key success factors is getting guidance from others. This is how he put it,  “This is for all business owners for recruitment – get help!” Rob believes that you can learn a lot from fellow business owners as well as professional coaches. The key is to have a growth mindset, be receptive to feedback, open to new ideas and focused on constant improvement. As the expression goes, “you don’t know what you don’t know.”

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 

Rob Green Bio and Contact Info

With almost two decades’ experience in the recruitment industry, Rob has recruited lawyers in 40 countries, working with firms and companies from the biggest in DLA Piper, Bank of America, Facebook, Alibaba, and such like, to small one-person law firms, looking to double in size. Rob launched his career with leading financial services agency, Badenoch & Clark, in London. Following his relocation to the Cayman Islands in 2005, he joined one of the Caribbean’s top recruitment companies, CML, to establish the region’s leading legal recruitment provider. In 2009, Rob became a partner in the business and moved to Hong Kong to grow the business and become one of the top consultancies in Asia. He took full ownership of the Hong Kong branch and rebranded as GRM Search in 2013, winning 15 industry awards in 8 years and working with some of the most coveted legal firms, MNCs, and financial institutions in the world. Enticed by the link between Africa and Asia, Rob opened GRM Search’s first office in South Africa in Johannesburg during 2014. He moved with his family to settle in Cape Town and spearhead the growth of the business into the African continent in 2017. GRM has had notable successes in Asia, Africa and Australia, with some failures along the way to keep him humble. Rob regularly shares his views on the legal job market with industry publications, business radio shows, HR seminars, and law graduates at HKU, Stellenbosch University, and UWC. He is renowned for his global outlook, experience, legal market knowledge, and down-to-earth approach. In his spare time, Rob is the proud founder and chairman of South Africa’s first soccer programme for special needs children (GPS Vikings FC) and a part time boxing ring announcer as well as a doting father and husband.

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