John O’Sullivan – how I became a successful entrepreneur


This blog was originally posted on 18th December for the REC blog by John O’Sullivan, Chairman of the Elite Leaders Network.

I purchased the Elite business in 2008 after being invited to speak at one of their forums. I was so impressed, I bought the company. It’s very easy to become non-current if you haven’t run a company in a while, but I liked that Elite gives you the opportunity to get quality, as well as face time to discuss real issues on the ground with recruitment company owners every month, so that’s why I knew I wanted to be involved.

The peer-to-peer aspect of what Elite does is quite different and unique. We’re seeing peer-to-peer learning more in our industry than we did 10 – 15 years ago. People were very secretive before then and they wouldn’t have shared best practice or ideas with other recruitment leaders. There’s now a realisation that there’s more to be gained by sharing these things with like-minded companies. It’s powerful to learn from others and their mistakes.

On the other side of the coin, I’m a non-executive director and strategic advisor. Generally, when you reach a certain point as a business owner in recruitment, you realise there’s a lot of things you don’t know. You can suddenly realise you may be a great recruiter, but you don’t know how to run a company, which is when you need to start looking for external advice and guidance.

It’s useful to find someone who knows the industry well and has done the things you aspire to do. Look to find someone who can help you bring growth, but more specifically, their contacts. Network, do your research, find people who have done what you want to do. Chemistry is so important. You’ll be with this person for a few years and possibly longer. It’s also useful to talk to people who know when it’s appropriate to hand on to someone else. No one person has all the answers you need.

When you join Elite you’ve got a network of people who can engage with you at the appropriate time, in the appropriate way.

I have three pieces of advice to becoming a successful recruitment entrepreneur:

  1. Find your own talent to work for you. Be brutal about it, go out and hunt down the best. Make sure they come and work for you. If you do that, you’re already half-way there.
  2. Spend a lot of time and effort developing proper client relationships. Be open, and work in a partnership, where you can innovate and put new and better solutions together.
  3. Make sure you’ve got ways of harnessing talent embedded within your business. Make sure you identify and network with talent pools you want to provide to your customers. It’s not just calling them when you’ve got a job or tapping them for information. Genuinely become a part of the communities of people you want to place.

If you’re brilliant and passionate, don’t get bogged down in accounting and spreadsheets, get someone else who can take care of that, while you can focus on those three things. If you can do that, you’re almost there.

For more information about Elite LeadersElite Future Leaders or the Elite Business Health-Check, contact the REC today on 020 7009 2100.

Rise in mid-career professionals becoming trustees to ‘give something back’

Volunteering is on the rise. Encouraged by the success of the volunteer programme at the London 2012 Olympics, which saw 70,000 games makers fulfil 800 roles, more professional people are looking at ways in which they can give something back.

Official Statistics released by the Cabinet Office in April 2013 revealed that 72% of people had volunteered at least once in the last 12 months, with 44% of people volunteering formally and 62% volunteering informally, significant increases from 2010/11 (65%, 35% and 55% respectively). Many charities have also reported a doubling in monthly inquiries from would be volunteers since last summer.

Trustees Unlimited, a joint venture recruitment company set up by NCVO, Russam GMS and Bates Wells Braithwaite has noted that many of the trustees they recruit to charity boards are full time professionals in their 30s and 40s, looking to gain new skills and experience outside of their day to day careers.

Last year, the company conducted research amongst 1200 trustees and found that the number one reason people become a trustee is to ‘give something back’ (55%), secondly to gain new skills and improve professional development (33%) and thirdly because they are committed to a charity’s cause (30%).

The fact that trusteeship leads to new skills and enhances employability is supported by a report from Third Sector Research last month, ‘Does Volunteering Improve Employability’ which found that volunteering enhances career prospects for 45-60 year olds, however, the report also highlighted that this was not the case for young people.

Ian Joseph, Chief Executive of Trustees Unlimited comments, “Becoming a trustee can enhance the appeal of CVs for people looking for more senior roles in their 30s and early 40s. We have noticed a big rise in demand for trustee positions amongst mid life professionals working full time who might want a change of direction, add a new dimension to their careers or simply do something more philanthropic.”

“Serving on a board of trustees is also a big opportunity to learn new skills, including governance, finance and the opportunity to work with different people from all walks of life. It is a big responsibility and it can be life changing. “

“Taking on a trusteeship can enhance employability for people at all stages of their careers and arguably graduates job hunting in a competitive market potentially stand to benefit most. If there were two applicants with similar qualifications at interview, the one with volunteering experience would have the edge.”

One charity that has recently recruited three mid career professional trustees is Music of Life, a small charity providing high quality musical education and performance opportunities for children and young people with disabilities and special needs. The charity was looking for new trustees, following recent departures, with expertise in marketing and communications, finance and fundraising and ideally experience of working in the fields of disability or education.

The three trustees chosen are all working professionals – Stephanie Stewart a former charity CEO, Jessica Clark, a lawyer, school governor and already a trustee at Brent Community Law Centre, whose son also has special needs; and Elly Williamson, a financial PR consultant who is also a musician and has great contacts in the arts world.

Since being in the roles the chief executive of Music of Life, Maria Teterina has commented that the organisation has already been transformed because of their specialist skills and passion for the cause and the charity is planning ahead with confidence and developing a new strategic plan which she believes they will be able deliver.

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Russam calls on Government to support Britain’s growing number of “self-drive workers”

Whilst the latest employment figures from the Office of National Statistics paint a positive picture of the UK jobs market, with 29.8 million people in work in Q2, the highest since records began in 1971, Charles Russam, Chairman of Russam GMS says the figures obscure the changing composition of the UK labour force, which the government is failing to recognise.

Almost half of the UK’s working population (47%) are not full-time employees on a payroll, and it is estimated 4.4 million are self-employed, 8 million work part-time and 1.6 million are temporary workers.

Many people are choosing to work independently as freelancers, contractors or interim managers, especially in creative industries such as technology, software design, music and media, which Russam says has big implications for the future economic prospects of the UK.

The growing number of “self-drive workers,’ is however, not aligned to government or EU thinking, policy making or legislation which focuses entirely on getting workers onto payrolls, fully protected and fully taxed.

Charles Russam, Chairman of Russam GMS said: “Self-drive workers are largely not recognised, understood or supported by government. They seem to think that when the economy improves self-employed or part-time workers will be back full-time on the payroll again. This won’t happen. We are witnessing a complete evolution in the way people work today.

“Many people want to work independently, and in the interim market many companies are choosing to employ senior business people on an interim basis because it is a cost-effective, low risk and flexible resource. This growing body of “self-drive workers” needs practical support and policies from government to make their way of working easier.”

“By recognising self-drive’ workers, government could not only make savings for the public purse, but encourage greater economic activity, innovation and entrepreneurialism in business which the UK needs to keep pace with emerging economies such as China.”

According to Russam there are five key areas where “self-drive workers” need support: 


  • Full and strong recognition by Government that self-drive workers are just as important as those who are full-time on a payroll.
  • Easier access arrangements for competing for public sector contracts
  • Employment legislation -  Over the last few years this has been mostly driven by the EU, who have always seemed keen to provide high levels of legal protection, control and taxation. The UK Government has gold-plated many of the measures introduced from Brussels, but should review these in light of the growing number of independent workers to see if they are fit for purpose 
  • Tax legislation – HMRC need to address the tax issues facing independent workers and ensure a level playing fields for those both on and off the payroll, including looking at areas such as childcare costs that are not tax deductible 
  • Mortgages – banks/building societies should be more flexible as many independents are penalised by their status and the need to produce three years of audited accounts.  In many cases, the recession has severely reduced incomes and different ways of assessing credit-worthiness need to be devised. The risk difference between an independent with varying earnings and a pay rolled executive who could lose his/her job is virtually nil.


Russam GMS says government, financial institutions and the business community all have a role to play in adapting to this new and growing workforce.

They are co-hosting a one day conference with Angel News called, ‘The Great British Workforce Revolution – going it alone as an independent’ to explore these themes on Wednesday 16th October 2013 at Dexter House, No.2 Royal Mint Court, Tower Hill, EC3N 4QN London

Charles Russam said: “The aim of this important conference is for Interim Managers and Independent Consultants to take a hard look at what really makes a successful “self-drive worker.” What do they have to be and what do they have to do to succeed in an area where 47% of people are working and where senior and talented business professionals operate as individuals, driven by varying degrees of entrepreneurial ambition and instincts. We see these individuals as fundamental to the future of the UK economy and there are important issues to explore.”

For more information go to: http: – and bookings for this important Conference can be made through this website.

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