Executive Grapevine | Executive Grapevine International Ltd

How this recruiter went from fired to founder in just 24 hours

We chart the journey of recruitment start-up, Ferris Slater, a North West agency...
How this recruiter went from fired to founder in just 24 hours

Ferris Slater's Managing Director and Founder, Jonathan Slater, explains how being fired from his job as a recruiter spurred him to start up his own agency – on the same day.

“In 2015, I was employed as a Recruitment Consultant, and quickly became one of the firm’s top performers,” he explains. Yet, this is only the start of his story. “I had a few problems with how the business was operated and subsequently spoke with colleagues about setting up on my own in the future. Word got back to the Directors, and they decided to fire me.”

“I threw myself into self-employment, battling restrictive covenants. The first six months were tough.”


Using the firing as an incentive, Jonathan set up his own company on the same day he was let go. “I threw myself into self-employment, battling restrictive covenants. The first six months were tough, but ultimately it was a great environment to learn how to administrate my own company effectively. This company was called The Canvas Group. But, whilst my heart was set on going solo, I wasn’t fully ready. It didn’t help that my previous employer tried to keep the commission they owed me, around £16,000.”


Whilst Jonathan just about got through the first six months running the agency, despite late payments and other setbacks, his grander visions were put on hold. “I began enjoying life as a freelance headhunter, working part-time, billing around £80,000 in 2017 and enjoying a good lifestyle, I wasn’t ready to hire others,” he says.

However, in 2018 he made the decision to get some help and kickstart his dream of running an independent agency. In January, he set-up Ferris Slater with an old colleague. “We pooled our resources together and wanted to build something serious,” Jonathan explains. “Within three months we had two employees and a beautiful office. Each of us invested around £26,000 each into setting it up and payrolling staff.”


However, just six months later, Jonathan’s business partner had to leave the firm - “a huge shock" for the nascent agency. "It put a lot of pressure on me and the others," he explains. "One of the two employees we had also left the venture, deciding to resign and taking business he developed with him. That particular employee came with a hefty recruitment fee too.”

Crucially, this early misfortune didn’t quash the 26-year-old’s dreams. In part, due to the investment already made and the faith of his other staff members. “In July, I went out to look for investment and took counsel from a number of parties. We managed to raise £50,000 from a mixture of peer-to-peer crowdfunding and bank lending due to having a good track record with my other businesses,” he says.


The firm is now looking to hire and Jonathan has expansive plans for both the agency’s future and that of his employees. He is adamant that as a business leader, employees deserve a fair, motivating profit share alongside great perks and benefits. “I also love the idea of flexible working too,” Jonathan adds. “I think great results can be achieved without working 10-hours a day, 6 days a week. So far, the handful of employees who have worked for me have had unlimited annual leave and no set working hours. That level of trust empowers people and it allows me to be a mentor, not a manager."


“I’m feeling extremely confident in what the future holds for Ferris Slater. I’m now 100% equity owner and my business competency improved dramatically during those turbulent months. Not only that, but we’ve developed collaborations with experienced business leaders who believe in myself, the business, and its future success.”