This year DNA celebrates 10 years of business in the marketing recruitment industry. Although the journey has not been all plain sailing, we have overcome some great challenges and we are happy to say that we have come out on top!
We have created long lasting partnerships with both clients and candidates over the years and treasure these greatly - as without your support we wouldn’t be where we are today.
Here, Founder and CEO, Ali Wallace, reveals his own entrepreneurial journey:
How did the idea for DNA Recruit first come about? What was happening in your life at that time?
It had always been my ambition to have my own business. I had been in full time employment since I was 22, working at various marketing agencies in London and the South East. In 2001 I decided to take a year off to travel and see the world, this is where I ended up meeting my wife. On my return I decided to embark on a career in headhunting in the UK and globally. This is something which came very naturally to me and after 6 years with one business I decided to branch off and DNA Recruit was born in 2007 - officially kicking off on the 18th March 2008.
The name DNA Recruit (Dynamic New Alliances LTD) came from some inspiration whilst playing hockey and trying to work out what we were actually going to do. I remember discussing with my wife what we could call the business and we came up with Dynamic New Alliances. DNA Recruit LTD was born and the rest is history…
How did you get your first clients and candidates?
My first client was a friend who runs an Integrated agency in London called Mercieca – he offered me the chance to find an Account Handler for them and within a few days I had placed this role and they were an immediate starter.
My first retained client was an old client from my past called Gavin Wheeler who is the Founder of WDMP as CRM agency and he engaged DNA on finding him a Strategy Director for his growing CRM agency – after three months and a solid process we placed this role and they are still there now as an Executive Planning Director, 10 years later! This experience always reminds me how important networking is, and perhaps sometimes just being in the right place at the right time. I feel very lucky for this break so early on.
A key thing that I learned was not to take any client you thought would work with you previously as a given and be thankful for everyone who was interested to engage and believe with you. This is a lesson which has stayed with me and will do forever.
After this I interviewed a candidate for this role in Grays Inn Road and ended up having our first office there – Word soon got around that I was looking for people and I practically worked 7 days a week, 20 hours a day, interviewing candidates, meeting clients and focusing on the highest levels of client service
I successfully placed pretty much all the roles I took on in the first 6-8 months and built a reputation pretty much by recommendation and referral. Again, I was very grateful for this amazing opportunity, and the belief and support of the wonderful clients and candidates I worked with – this is a key value will never change!
What were your first hurdles in business?
In June of 2008 a large company went into liquidation and unknown to myself this would bring about one of the worst recessions in history. Rather than believe the hype I knuckled down and focused on clients, candidates and great customer service and 6 of the first 12 candidates I placed in 2008 are still in jobs I placed them in and also all the clients who gave me the chance are still clients and candidates today!
During your first 3 years in business what was your best moment?
Starting out a business working with my wife and also sister! Everyone warned me of working with your family but given I grew up on a farm this instills a closeness with your family which never leaves you. Working with people who you trust across vital areas of the business such as finance, operations and admin allowed me to concentrate on my strengths which are recruiting, networking and matching the right characteristics to a business – creating Dynamic New Alliances – DNA!
What would you say is the biggest lesson you have learnt?
The biggest lesson I learnt is that a business is about the people that are in it – yet no one is bigger than the business. I’ve experienced a few people who believed they were and they jumped ship when the going got tough!
How have skills sets changed over the years – what are the biggest transitions you have seen?
Skill sets have changed over the years with the addition of LinkedIn. More recruiters and in-house talent are focusing less on the ability to communicate and leaving the recruitment cycle to email rather than picking up the phone or meeting face to face.
Our power is ensuring that we can identify talent and understand the DNA of a business, knowing it’s people, culture and it’s USP. Discovering all this ensures that we match the right talent, characteristics, behaviours and abilities to the right company. It’s a skill which many don’t have and these skills are going to be utilised more and more as technology tries to take over!
What is your vision for the next 5 years for DNA Recruit?
In my view big isn’t beautiful, being able to grow ones business is not by piling in as many bums on seats. It’s about being smarter with time, hiring like minded hard working talented employees who can work with us to focus on quality!
Less is more - work more exclusively with clients and candidates to ensure everyone is more economical with time.
From your own experience, what advice would you give to anyone wanting to start a business?
It is important to really understand where your strengths are and what you love doing (and what causes you stress). I’d suggest you have these written out and framed to ensure you stay true to yourself - get someone to profile you and identify this and then build a business plan around these.
Don’t listen to coaches NED’s or people who have been there and done it and tell you what you should be and end up leading you down a garden path that might not be right for you or what you really need!
Always pay everyone on time, make sure you stay true to your ethics and values no matter what pressure you are put under. Finally remember to set expectations for all staff and never falter in these and manage them accordingly!
DNA are thankful to all those that have supported us over the past ten years, allowing us to grow and build a successful recruitment agency.For more information on DNA visit our insights page.