Claire Sofield is the Co-Owner and Managing Director of Four Recruitment – a Recruitment Consultancy based in the North West of England. Claire has over 18 years experience in the recruitment sector. Claire’s role is to deliver the vision, this involves implementing a clear strategy, developing a high performing team and delivering exceptional financial results
My route into business was a little unconventional. Losing my dad at the age of ten forced me to view life differently and reassess my purpose and what’s important in life.
I’d always pictured myself in a leadership role, but that’s as far as my plans went during education. I entered the recruitment sector at 21 as my brother worked in recruitment. A few years later, after he’d seen me have quite a bit of success early on in my career, he approached me with an opportunity to set up a business with him.
I remember speaking to my mum about whether it was the right thing to go into business with my brother and she desperately didn’t want it to come between us as a family. Unfortunately, my mum passed away seven years ago and hasn’t been able to see how far the business has come and how strong we remain as a family!
Setting up Four Recruitment is the second (to my daughter) best decision I have ever made, taking the risk massively paid off and I am so proud of the company we’ve created. As a family-run and owner-managed business we pride ourselves on our values and strive to position ourselves as talented and trusted recruiters. We’re continuously growing and have a fantastic team in place who work hard to bust the stereotypes that exist in the industry.
How did the idea come to you for the company?
After working for different recruitment businesses in the early stage of my career I knew I could bring something different and better to the table. I wanted to take what I’d learnt and the good parts of a recruitment consultancy and put my own stamp on it, with the aim of always doing things the right way and setting an example in our industry!
What became obvious to me is that we wanted to approach our sector with a real moral compass, something that I felt our sector often lacked. As a brother and sister duo we really wanted to build something that we can be proud of and with a real legacy for us and our families.
How did you achieve awareness?
A lot of hard graft is the honest answer! When we first set up, we were focusing on the Lancashire market and recruited just into Finance. It was a sensible decision as they were markets we knew and it was easier to gain market share in Lancashire.
Once we cemented ourselves in Lancashire, we expanded into Manchester. We did lots to raise our profile as a business, such as advertising, events, forming partnerships and, like I say, just plain old hard work! That, combined with our desire to do things the right way, meant in year one we achieved our annual financial target by May. Then the recession hit!
How have you been able to gain funding and grow?
Funding is something we’ve used in the past, both when we first set the business up and a few years ago when we opened new divisions. It’s been debt funding as opposed to investors. As we continue to scale, there may well be additional needs where we will look to explore the range of funding options open to us.
What are the key successes?
For me, the reason why I wanted to start a business was to overcome the stereotypes in the industry and do things differently. So, I personally think the key to success is staying true to your original objective and always making decisions based on your own values.
Today we encourage our team to replicate these values in everything they do, and we reward them for going above and beyond in their roles.
The biggest measure of our success is what our clients and candidates say about us – if they’re happy then so am I, as it means they’ll continue to come back to us and recommend us. Everything else looks after itself.
In terms of our staff retention, this is another huge measure of success. Our sector can be quite transient, so if people are staying with us it’s because they feel valued, enjoy working here and are getting the development they want.
What were/are the challenges and how have you overcome these?
My resilience was tested during the covid pandemic, as it was for everyone. It was in the initial weeks amongst the panic and uncertainty that my fighting spirit kicked in and helped me to initiate our response. We took action to ensure our business and our workforce were secure and I’m certain that our decisions and our approach in the early stages allowed us to exit the pandemic stronger than ever.
I honestly believe that without covid, we wouldn’t have had the success that we’ve had over the past two years. There were a number of products/services we introduced and positive changes we made which just wouldn’t have happened if we weren’t forced to view the world in a different way.
As we continue to grow, I know one of the biggest challenges will be making sure our team spirit and culture doesn’t become diluted and that we continue to recruit people in line with our values.
What are your plans now/for the future?
The pandemic was a challenging time for us as a business, but fortunately, we didn’t just survive, we thrived. We took the time to delve into our business and re-visit the underlying purpose of everything we do. This allowed us to re-imagine our strategy, positioning and the core values that we rely on.
2021 proved to be our most successful year, and in that time we achieved the following:
- Grew our team by 46%
- Increased our client base by 50%
- Our financial performance was 42% higher than any other year
- Opened our new office in Manchester
- Strengthened our management team by appointing a Commercial Director
We have further plans to grow our team, taking us to 32 people by the end of 2022, and are looking closely at opportunities to allow us to increase our market share.
What would you like to share with others to encourage them to start their own entrepreneurship journey?
It’s impossible to know everything about business when you start out, but if you have the drive and determination to succeed, then you can learn the skills as you go. There is so much to comprehend as a business owner that it’s important to understand and view it as a process and not a destination. I am constantly thinking about how we can improve and grow the company and it’s essential for me to learn and develop along the way.
I’ve always latched onto key senior leaders in business who I really respect, and used them as a sounding board which has been really helpful.
It’s certainly not for the faint hearted though, there’s not getting away from that, but equally so worth it!
Can you share your top tips for entrepreneurial success?
My best piece of advice and something I have relied on as a business owner myself is surrounding yourself with experts and partners to support you in various areas of your business.
I have worked with accountants, solicitors, IT contractors, design agencies and the list goes on. Surrounding yourself with experienced specialists ensures you receive the advice and support that you need to propel your business forward.
Sometimes the cost of these services can seem steep, and sometimes even unnecessary, but it’s important to ask yourself what it would cost if you got it wrong. I think it’s so important to find a consultant that you get along with on a personal level as well as a business one. They need to get to know you and your business as it will make it so much easier for you to work and communicate with them.
Personal development is also huge, if you’re not learning you’re always going to stay in your comfort zone meaning that it will be harder for you to grow! No one is born knowing how to be successful. I listen, watch, absorb and then relate what I’ve learnt to Four.
What are your favourite inspirational /motivational quotes?
“Never forget that something amazing is coming your way – you just can’t see it yet.”
I think it’s so important to stay optimistic in every situation. Take for example the time when I lost my parents. In the moment it was unbearable and a horrible position to be in but if that hadn’t happened, would I be a business owner today? Maybe not.
It was the pain and trauma that forced me down a route that I wouldn’t have taken otherwise. Out of a difficult situation came something amazing and for that I am very grateful.
I think there’s many versions of this but we’re constantly reminded how fragile life is, we’ve got one chance, so smash it! That’s my version!
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