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Recruitment's £1million Apprentice

From Lord Sugar’s business apprentice to seven-figure recruitment boss...

Recruitment's £1million Apprentice

Crowned winner of The Apprentice in 2012, Ricky Martin, Founder and Managing Director of Hyper Recruitment Solutions (HRS) became the first Apprentice winner to surpass the £1million pre-tax profit mark. A recruitment firm, focussed on mid-level and senior recruitment in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics industries (STEM), HRS aren’t just about their whopping profit levels and continuous expansion. They are on a mission to revolutionise recruitment for STEM industries.

Studying Biochemistry with Medical Biochemistry at Cardiff University, Ricky quickly came to the realisation that the lab coats and safety goggles weren’t the area of science that he was most suited to. So, he set up a Loughton-based recruitment consultancy, allowing him to blend two of his greatest passions: science and sales. He says that his contribution to the STEM industry is far more effective by sustaining it through recruitment. “If I can put the right scientist into the right job that works on the right thing, medicines can be made which really save lives. The influence that I can now have is more powerful,” he explains.

Ricky’s vision for HRS – securing talented professionals who can make a difference to STEM - turned from a dream into a reality following his win on The Apprentice and he has since been the first winner to surpass £1million in pre-tax profit threshold. The £250,000 investment from his legendary business partner, Lord Alan Sugar, enabled Ricky to kick-start his recruitment firm in the way that he wanted. “We [Lord Sugar and Ricky] have a four to six-week Board meeting where we look at where the company is growing, what we have done against our forecast and it is an opportunity to stress test my ideas with someone who has a lot of experience on the commercial side,” he explains. Ricky says that the pair still have a good business relationship which is exactly what he had hoped for.

“I don’t want to bite off more than I can chew and risk undoing all of the work that we have done.”

This focussed forward planning has panned out well for HRS – as shown by their continued success. The specialist recruitment consultancy turned over a whopping £8million in the 12 months leading up to June 2018 achieving an impressive 106% growth on profit and a 90% increase on turnover. This financial growth far exceeded the consultancy’s estimated growth of around 28%. But, this accomplishment isn’t by accident. Ricky says that his principal success is attributed to his investment into the appropriate functions. “What I mean by that is investing into training up my staff, introducing the right systems, the foundations of the company, and not going after everything straight away,” he explains. Taking the time to invest into the right business structures has greatly benefitted HRS. And, this has transcended into the recruitment firm breaking company records in terms of both sales and profits whilst expanding and restructuring.

Ricky speaks very passionately about HRS and how he hopes to supply the STEM industries with top talent. Looking to the future, HRS have organically doubled their workforce. With two thirds of the consultancy led by employees with a STEM background this is a trait that Ricky actively looks for in new candidates. Although not every recruiting role requires a distinct scientific background, Ricky says that employees with an interest in STEM are more likely to enjoy their job and perform better. “I always say recruit or do a job in a sector that you care about. If you don’t care about it, you will just be in it to gain a few skills before you move on,” Ricky’s passion for science is transcended into his internal recruiting tactics.

“If you don’t support the people that you work with, how can you support people with finding jobs?”

And, securing employment within the STEM industry for hungry jobseekers is high up on his agenda, too. Expansion has prompted the introduction of an internal training academy with a sharp focus on employee retention and aiding employee progression. This ensures that his recruitment staff get the best training right from the very beginning. “The academy was designed to give employees a softer landing in the first three months instead of throwing everything at our trainees straight away.”

HRS use the first three months of employment to show trainees what they are doing and how the firm are approaching situations. Ricky explains that the scheme has seen a drastic increase in the trainee success rate which has escalated from three to eight out of ten successful people. Having a greater trainee success rate has allowed Ricky to expand his workforce and encourage employees to internally climb the ranks. And, if trainees feel that this consultancy role is too far removed from the science lab, Ricky says that it is his moral obligation as a fellow scientist and a recruiter to help them find more suitable work.

Besides a growing workforce, HRS have recently opened two new offices in Manchester and Edinburgh and are continually looking for new opportunities. However, Ricky is mindful not to expand too quickly and restrains from diversifying into new areas of recruitment. He says: “As soon as I do that, I become very similar to all the other recruitment companies. For us to grow, we need to retain being specialist.” The recruitment boss explains that he is not pressured into hasty decision-making when considering future expansion. The process of entering new regions is tightly underpinned by finding the right opportunity and the right person to lead that office. His people-orientated stance was mirrored by his efforts to retain one of his top workers after she wanted to move back home to Scotland. He says this gave HRS the opportunity to navigate into the Scottish market in the safe hands of a trusted and knowledgeable employee.

Growth according to Ricky has to be modest. “For us to go into Europe, its likely to be a member of staff in the business already who wants to take the opportunity.” He adds: “Europe will be first because it is logistically closer, more accessible and there is a strong common language of English. A lot of our current customers have European bases, so we would be able to work more closely with those customers and help them across Europe.” Yet, he is not in any hurry. Although, Ricky has his sights set on conquering U.S. markets, as many of his customers are headquartered there. Yet, he is quick to remind himself that HRS is still a young business. “I don’t want to bite off more than I can chew and risk undoing all of the work that we have done.” He is still wary about doing too much too soon.

“If I can put the right scientist into the right job that works on the right thing, medicines can be made which really save lives.”

When considering the extent of future expansion, Ricky said that it would be unlikely for HRS to venture into alternative sectors of recruitment. He explains that the field would have to be closely aligned to the consultancy’s life-changing vision to add value to STEM industries for it to be considered. He explains that as soon as his vision starts to dilute, his current marketplace will feel strained. “If it is not linked to [STEM] but it is profitable recruitment, then I am not interested,” he concludes.

Despite his success, Ricky explains that The Apprentice crown often comes with a cynical connotation. “Winning The Apprentice doesn’t just mean you’re an idiot who got lucky; it means that you’ve got an opportunity. And, I’ve turned that opportunity into a business that is making a difference,” he concludes. What’s clear is Ricky’s dedication to the STEM industry. While he may not have suited the scientist role himself, he is adamant that by putting the right scientific into the right job, he can make a remarkable difference to the industry and save lives.