Last week was just terrific, a true reflection point on what has been an insane 14 months. Keynote Group won ‘Best new business’ in Ottawa at the Best Ottawa Business Awards (BOBs) by the Chamber of Commerce and OBJ. After launching in September 2015 we have been on this insane, frustrating, stressful, joyous and often exhausting journey. I often joke with people that launching Keynote is the best and dumbest thing Donna and I have ever done – two young kids, starting a business with your spouse, walking away from nice secure income all while trying to be truly different to everyone else in a $12billion industry!
As part of the award process I was asked why we won the BOB and what I would attribute that too. The usual clichés all apply – hard work, good timing and working with wonderful people -but what else, what was our secret sauce?
1. We set a combination of goals
When we launched we knew what we wanted to become in 5 years. We had a distinct vision for where we wanted to be and built goals for year 1, year 3 and year 5. At the delivery level we set goals daily, weekly and monthly and push ourselves to do more in every situation. It wasn’t enough for us to know what we wanted to be, we needed to get a fix on how we were going to do it.
2. We don’t cold call!
Those of you in HR or internal hiring roles, I offer my apologies on behalf of the recruitment industry. Some HR professionals I know get 5-10 calls a day from recruiters. Agencies have become mechanical, volume based and KPI driven. Activity at all costs is the message they give to their staff and it has a negative impact on the experience for the client and the candidate. We went the other way – we don’t cold call. We have grown our business by talking to real people, face to face in situations where we had a common interest. We have committed to charity, to community groups and business referrals. We help others first and in turn benefit from introductions.
3. We learnt to say no
This is one of the hardest things we have had to learn to do, say no. If we don’t completely believe we will be successful for a certain company, we say no. We don’t set our clients up for failure, which in turn means we minimize that risk for ourselves. Rather than spend money on BD and cold calling, we grow through networking and referral, ours is a customer retention model.
4. We behaved differently than other recruitment companies
$12bn annually, that is the spend on recruitment services in Canada alone. A tried, tested and proven delivery method that has consistently reaped massive financial benefits for those in the space. However, we believe that there is a sweeping tide of change coming from technology and also the need to re-humanize the space. We didn’t launch Keynote to be like everyone else, we wanted to be different so that we could continue to be passionate about an industry that we have committed our careers to.
5. We were completely transparent
Whether you are a client, a delivery partner, a customer, a service provider or an employee – there is never a hidden agenda at Keynote. We will tell you what we are doing, why we are doing something and be direct in providing feedback around barriers to success. We aren’t in this to blow smoke, we are in this to help organizations find, fit and retain exceptional people – that is all that matters. Ask anyone we work with and they will tell you how our costs breakdown, why we charge what we charge and even the profit we are targeting in each deal. We are not perfect but we have nothing to hide – we believe we provide excellent value to all our stakeholders.
6. We ask for help
Our job is to deliver to our clients and that means we get help wherever we can do that. We have a wonderful list of delivery partners, advisors, mentors and business colleagues. From day one we were never afraid to admit our flaws, talk about issues or ask for guidance. We aren’t perfect and make our fair share of mistakes but how we have handled those mistakes and learnt from them has been a key driver of our success.
So there you have it, in a nutshell we are genuine and have a clear vision for what we can become, with values that resonate well with our team and our clients. We try to use common sense in every decision we make and target failure as a way to improve.