Talking Business With Paul Rayner, Oakstone International CEO

How have you seen Oakstone grow since first beginning?

Dramatically, but it’s been a rollercoaster ride! We grew quickly in the first few years, after establishing ourselves in 1995. In 2001 we had around 20 staff & were recruiting almost exclusively for the US software industry, which was the year of the dot-com crash & the US software industry collapse. We had lots of people and very little business, forcing us to reduce our team down to 4 people. For a while we were just holding our own & keeping our heads above water. Since then with a nucleus of key team members & clients, we’ve steadily built ourselves up again! In my opinion we’ve done this very successfully, in a stable fashion. In the last 3-4 years we have become a mid-size, and highly regarded, Recruitment Company with a 20-year history of helping software companies grow in Europe within our sector.

How has your background contributed to the success of Oakstone?

I had 10 years of IT recruitment experience, plus 5 years sales experience prior to establishing Oakstone – so fairly significantly I would say. The experience I gained working for my first recruitment firm was invaluable, in both recruiting and learning how to manage people. I also spent two years working for a recruitment franchise as a trainer & marketing manager, which taught me over and above being a recruiter, how to run a recruitment business, because we were selling recruitment franchises and training people to set up their own businesses from scratch.

What makes Oakstone unique in comparison to your competitors?

Quite simply it’s the team. The quality of the people we have in the organization, their experience, knowledge and ethics.

What would you say has been Oakstone’s greatest achievement to date?

Enabling and empowering our clients to build better, stronger teams of people. So it’s not one particular achievement, we enable quality individuals & help dynamic companies to grow.

Have there been any particular changes in the economy that have affected your business?

Other than the dot-com crash, not really. There have been two recessions since, including the recent Global financial crisis and we weathered both of those without changing a trajectory of growth at all. In my opinion while there are plenty of decent recruitment companies around, it’s only the top 10 -20% that are really good, and if you’re one of those you don’t struggle for clients and projects to work on, largely irrespective of the economic climate.

“At the moment we have 3 key managers, and helping them achieve what they want to achieve is what motivates me. Their success equals the success of the business as a whole.”

You mention that you also do career coaching. How would you stress the importance of this to your potential candidates?

Over the years I have thought that there are certain individuals who would benefit from career coaching and some people ask for help. For some people this can be really useful, but the reality is most people either have what it takes to do well and stand on their own two feet or they don’t. Although we offer it, we don’t charge for it and we have limited requests for that service.

What do you love about your job?

Everything. I was discussing this with Sarah this morning, having just come back from holiday, someone said ‘how is it coming back to work’, and I said well I love coming back to work, and I always have. I have spent a little more than half my career now working for myself, and prior to that working for other people and I have always enjoyed both. I have got a very simply attitude to this issue; if you’re not enjoying something, go and do something else. There really aren’t any aspects of the role that I don’t enjoy, well, with the possible acceptation of admin – that’s where Sarah comes in! The thing I get the biggest buzz out of is developing other people; it’s what I am driven by.

Can you give an example of someone you have developed?

Yes, Andy Strong is one. I hired him out of Phones4U, he was the manager here in Bournemouth. He was doing very well, he was the branch manager, successful and making a good living. He’s now increased his income by 300%, has a strong team of recruiters who respect him, and is one of the best recruiters I have ever met. He generated half a million pounds worth of revenue last year. I think he pretty much loves what he is doing, and it gives me great satisfaction to have been part of his success.

What are your future goals for the business?

Continued growth, In line with what I said about developing people, my goals are those of my teams. At the moment we have 3 key managers, and helping them achieve what they want to achieve is what motivates me. Their success equals the success of the business as a whole.