Extrastaff, the high street driving and industrial staff recruitment specialist, is a force to be reckoned with in Southern England. The company has a clear aim – to go on to become the UK’s number one national high street specialist in the supply and management of temporary driving and industrial personnel.
And it looks set to do just that. Extrastaff has blazed a trail of growth and success since its inception, winning a number of national awards including the Recruiter Excellence Awards for the Best Regional Recruitment Firm for London and South East in 2005, the Best Logistics Recruitment Firm in 2009 and Best Back Office Team in the same awards. It has also been listed as the 59th most productive UK Recruitment business in Recruiters HOT 100 and ranked 37th in the FAST 50 list of fastest growing UK agencies.
When Tim Millward conceived the Extrastaff business in 2003, there was no obvious recognisable shop-fronted high street blue-collar brand in the UK. Various generalist national firms offered a mix of industrial and secretarial temp cover, but predominantly the logistics and industrial specialists were local agencies, leaving a clear gap for a national network.
Since then Extrastaff has opened 12 profitable locations across Southern England, won numerous awards and achieved one of the industry’s lowest internal staff turnover figures. The company’s high quality ethos and premium service have meant sales have grown organically year on year, with a compound annual growth rate of 60%. Even in the recession, Extrastaff managed to avoid closing branches or making redundancies.
In the wake of economic turbulence and its associated impact on the jobs market, Extrastaff’s interim results for the first half of 2010 are highly impressive, showing a 40% increase on 2009 (£5.52m vs £4.04m), and turnover for 2010 is expected to top £12m. It’s a success story that is certain to continue, as Tim Millward explained to Warehouse & Logistics News:
“For anyone to say that the last two years haven’t been hard would be simply untrue. The reality is that it’s been bloody tough! But what we did was the opposite of many competitors… Firstly, we focused on quality and we invested strongly in the business, in marketing and in our team, which gave us a tremendous edge when the jobs market started to recover. We were in a strong position with a team of consultants who knew the market and knew the clients, and could deliver immediately.
“Financially, as we are not a ‘pile it high sell it cheap’ agency, our client base is always very diverse and well spread – we would rather have 10 clients using five temps each than one using 50. That spreads the risk, but also we have always credit insured, meaning that our bad debts, even in the depths of the recession, were very low. Using credit insurance also means that clients must be large enough to be insurable, so we have a large bias towards blue chip clients.”
Millward believes the premier service that Extrastaff offers has been contributory to its success:
“In recession, client companies look to their resourcing partners who offer them the strongest service, and that isn’t always about cost,” he says. “Elements such as 24-hour service and filling placements at very short notice with good quality flexible workers to ensure consistent cover are very important. It’s about supporting clients’ business and adding value to their operations…
Competitors who stuck to offering high volume, low margin temps, often of debatable quality, had a difficult time, as there was no added-value in their service.”
Indeed, many of Extrastaff’s competitors experienced real hardship, closing branches, closing down or retracting through heavy redundancy programmes. As Millward says:
“Our approach was entirely different and the service remained premium, which ensured temps and clients stayed with us. We didn’t have to close any branches or make any redundancies, and even had our usual summer and Christmas parties for the team. It takes so much time and effort to build good branch teams, and we have fantastic people in our branches, so you have to look after them properly.”
Extrastaff certainly drew ahead as businesses started to re-invest in their workforces, and has invested nearly £100,000 in a bespoke IT system, which is designed for the driving and industrial sector and unique in its offering. Millward explains:
“We saw a strong uplift in the use of temporary workers during the last six months of 2009 – this simply accelerated towards last Christmas and did not slow down in the New Year, which is the normal trend in the driving and industrial sectors. We’re actually very proud of what we have achieved during the worst trading conditions for two decades, and are now opening two further branches to extend our reach across the UK.”
Millward is excited about 2010, and says he expects to have the strongest year in the company’s history to date.
So, what is the background of this entrepreneur who is building a growing force in supporting the warehouse, driving and logistics industries?
Where it all began
Tim Millward is a businessman and financier. He has only ever worked for himself, and his first degree was accounting, before moving into recruitment in 1988, when he formed Big Jobs Recruitment Group with his then wife. His first branch opened in Hendon in 1989 and specialised in supplying driving and industrial personnel. The company grew quickly to become a well-respected and popular local business, and developed through the nineties into a six branch operation turning over £6m per year, before Millward sold it to a high street plc in 1999, ten years after the doors first opened. Having sold Big Jobs, he invested in property and completed a full time MBA at Imperial College.
With this experience and success under his belt, Millward looked to establish Extrastaff in 2003. When asked if it took a long time to establish the company, he is quick to point out that the figures speak for themselves. From a standing start in 2003, by the end of 2004 Extrastaff was doing the equivalent level of business that Big Jobs was handling before its sale. In other words, what took ten years before this time took two!
Seven years down the line, he remains an energised CEO of the business, supported by a team that he cannot praise highly enough. His co-directors include Steve Hill (Operations Director), Danielle Wilson (Sales Director) and Gary Prince (Finance Director) – a combination of skills and industry knowledge that joins together to formidable effect.
Tim set up the business with Steve Hill and Bev Perry, and Steve runs the branch network. Tim describes him as ‘the best in the business,’ and they have worked together since 1990. Tim says that Gary Prince is incredibly organised in his running of the award-winning head office team. Danielle Wilson joined Extrastaff as a branch manager and showed incredible sales ability at all levels. She was promoted to Sales Manager, and then Sales Director. Bev Perry is now running three branches and has worked with Tim and Steve for 15 years.
Extrastaff’s head office is based in St. Albans, where just eight of the team manage and administer the whole business, including a massive weekly payroll, with amazing accuracy. Additionally, the company has 11 further branches strategically placed to service clients and candidates from the Midlands down. Branches include Ilford, Hanger Lane, Dunstable, St. Albans, Enfield, Dartford, Northampton, Watford, Harlow, Basildon and Maidstone, with plans to cover the whole country.
The company supplies workers for a broad range of clients including warehouse staff, drivers, industrial staff, and logistics staff. It primarily provides quality temps but can also support clients that are looking to fill permanent roles.
As Millward highlights, “You can tell a lot about a business by the company it keeps, and we’re very proud of our client list. We’re working with some of the best brands in the business and are on the PSLs for many of the larger transport and distribution companies and many local authorities.”
Part of Extrastaff’s business is to supply temporary staff at very short notice. As one client says, “If I have sickness or sudden absenteeism to cover, the service I receive is unique. I can pick up the telephone and by the time I get to work a high quality temp is on his or her way, often arriving before I do. If they can’t supply, which is very unusual, I’m given a positive negative rather than kept hanging on. I call that service.”
This doesn’t happen by magic – it takes trained consultants considerable time and commitment to ensure that a seamless supply of candidates remains available. As Millward confirms, “It’s not just about finding a quick fix to a problem. If we find a candidate, it is vital that all necessary employment checks are done before that employee shows up on the first shift. It is standard practice for the agency to make sure all new starters are legally allowed to work.
“For example, we make sure that all drivers have held their licence for a minimum two-year period and have ongoing DVLA checks, as well as having full tachograph knowledge and being able to demonstrate a full work history. References are critical too – there are absolutely no short cuts to the administration process that needs to happen.
“This year we’re investing nearly £100,000 in a state of the art IT system to manage the whole recruitment process. This system is bespoke to us and designed to fit our very specialised sector. Compliance with legislation in our industry is very important, and we take it very seriously.
“The thing with recruitment, however, is that it is the knowledge, training and experience of our consultants that add value for clients. If you could commoditise people, then everything could be done at arms length over the internet and there would be no need for a branch network, and probably no need for recruiters. Luckily, people aren’t a simple commodity.”
Is the mantra different…?
“Absolutely” says Millward. “If you use most generalist high street agencies for industrial or driving staff, they tend to only be in the office from 9 – 5. My offices are open at 7am and we are contactable on the office number 24-hours a day. If we are to provide a high quality service, candidates have to be attracted and interviewed, and assessed face to face. Telephone interviews miss so much… how can that help a client?
“Extrastaff is one of the very few high street blue collar agencies with a branch network that provides consistent expertise and a strong presence within our different locations. We enable our customers to speak to an experienced consultant from their nearest branch 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
“We are members of the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) and adhere to its strict code of professional conduct and recruitment standards, as well as those of the Freight Transport Association (FTA). As well as audits from the REC and the Department of Business, Innovation and Science, we have our own internal auditing process to make sure that all the branches are exceeding standards and we have an open door policy for clients to examine our branch recruitment processes. Our new IT system, which is currently being beta tested, will allow clients online access via a secure web link to confirm compliance and KPIs.
“We have ongoing training for our consultants. Many are recruited from the industry and come with direct knowledge and experience of the sector, but we have a policy of ongoing training for them so that they understand how logistics works. Extrastaff is what we describe as ‘diversity aware,’ giving support and advice to clients and ensuring that candidates are placed on skill and merit.”
The only way is up…
When asked how much scope there is for further organic growth, Millward remains optimistic:
“There is enormous potential for further growth, and we will certainly be looking to continue the journey, year on year on an organic basis. This will include further branch openings to increase our national presence.
“The other route that we are also considering is an acquisitive programme which will catapult our growth significantly, but we need to ensure that any acquisition is one that sits alongside our own service ethos, and we know from experience that there are agencies focusing on quantity rather than quality.”
What is for sure is that we haven’t heard the last of Extrastaff, and this dynamic recruiter is set to become a major brand, servicing the warehouse and logistics industries.
Tel: 01727 810000