Aaron Lee launched Pocketbook Personnel in 2021 after recognising his ability to hire the best candidates for his food venture businesses. Professionals in the hospitality industry started approaching him for help with hiring. Pocketbook Personnel now has contracts with Manchester United Football Club, the Ascot and other prominent names. In this article, Aaron shares his journey and tips for running a successful staffing agency.
How did you find your niche?
Our directive is straightforward. We aim to provide hospitality professionals with a work-life balance they have complete control over whilst earning above the average market rate. This differentiates us from our competitors since they have the directive of fulfilling client demands and needs before considering the most crucial part of any personnel lead business—the people. Our people are our niche.
How long have you worked in the industry?
I have spent over 10 years in the hospitality industry, but my experience isn't what I rely on when presenting Pocketbook to clients and industry peers. Even with our small database of chefs, we hold over 150 years of combined experience in the hospitality sector alone. I build the company’s credibility on the people within the brand, from the office team and their interviewing / vetting process to on-the-job performance from our operations team.
What is the biggest obstacle in running a start-up agency, and what challenges have you faced?
Like running any new start-up, you face issues with fundraising, client prospecting and many other problems. In the recruitment industry, our biggest issue was ensuring we were well-placed within the market and well-positioned for fulfilling the needs and demands of our targeted industry clientele.
Building trust for potential candidates is vital for the growth of a company of our nature. So, placing yourself and your brand within the volatile market is key to developing your agency.
How important is networking for your business?
I stand behind the firm belief that a network is a net worth no matter your company's stage. The more influential people you make aware of your offer to the industry, the more likely you will receive recommendations. Placing yourself and your brand representatives in the right rooms at the right times is key to ensuring maximum effect.
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What tips would you give to a new entrepreneur?
Find one thing, do it well, and pour all your resources into building this revenue stream until it is economical enough to open a second income stream. Be different, and have a niche, but don’t let your niche limit your offering, sometimes, clients want simplicity, and different isn’t always better.
My example would be opening a fried chicken business. Its niche is a chicken and waffle dish. However, the shop's biggest seller is the chicken burger and chips. A niche captures, and simplicity sells. Important to know when trying to build both a brand and revenue simultaneously.
How do you source, approach and close clients?
Begin by remembering what you have set out to achieve with your brand before stepping into a room or having a conversation with any potential client. Be ready to say no to a client that doesn’t fit well with your vision. This will distinguish you from the ‘yes man’ competitors and keep you and your team well-positioned for the right clients when the time arrives.
Prospecting a client for the first time can be daunting. To simplify, you should list your ideal clients before starting your journey. Never cold call a client. Instead, attend networking events or find ways and means to work with the clients on other projects. This gives you the opportunity to peacock your talents. Closing your client is a delicate yet aggressive process. As long as you have done your research and priced yourself correctly, you’ll have no trouble sealing the deal.
Which key factors are fundamental when client handling?
Once you have a bank of clients, it is easy to forget the company’s vision and become overwhelmed with the surge of enquiries. Build solid foundations and structures to meet your client's demands. Be aware of the politics and changes within your client’s industry and get ahead of any issues they may face. Study and become well-versed in each sector you approach, as a lack of knowledge will lead your clients to seek answers and solutions from your competitors. Much of your client-handling work happens behind the scenes of your own company. The key is early and constant communication.
What are the biggest challenges you have faced in this industry so far?
Ensuring my candidates are engaged and excited by the idea of working with my clients. To do this, I am always doing a double-ended sales pitch to ensure both the client and candidate marry up well and perfect working harmony is found.
Overcoming this obstacle requires understanding both parties and the ability to build a high level of trust with both your clients and candidates. Ensuring your client, you can fulfil their needs and reassure your candidate they have found the best agent on the market.