Hire a brilliant accountant on day 1, before you even start making money. I wish someone had told me how to run the financial side of a business, such as accounting, payroll, taxes, and credit control. For the entire first year I just didn’t know what I was doing. The right sort of accountant can help you rather than hinder you.
It’s a marathon not a sprint. I expended so much energy trying to be the perfect business from day 1 but have learnt that actually, there isn’t such a thing as a perfect business. A company is an ever growing and changing thing. I wish someone had told me to slow down, and let the company grow organically. Don’t try and run before you can walk, and accept that growth happens gently, not overnight.
As part of our series called “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Began Leading My Company” I had the pleasure of interviewing Jamie Doyle.
Jamie Doyle is the Founder and Director of Thompson Alexander, a consultancy providing a bespoke career and interview coaching service. Jamie has spent the last 16 years in recruitment services, career coaching, and talent management. With the expertise and experience gained in his career, Jamie decided to build Thompson Alexander to fill a gap in the market. Over the course of Jamie’s career, he has both directly and indirectly helped over 4,000 people to obtain their dream jobs and career goals.
Thompson Alexander currently provide coaching to a variety of skillsets at different levels, from school leavers and juniors, right up to C-Suite and Board level talent. They focus on an entirely bespoke and tailored service to every individual. There is no cut, copy and paste here. Instead, Jamie spends time analyzing his client’s behavior, skillset, and personality to enhance the strengths of each individual. There are entire sessions dedicated to tips and techniques that will improve individuals’ weaknesses, but often he focuses on enhancing individuals for a specific interview or career move.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
After training at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, in my early 20’s I worked as a professional actor before joining an IT Services Company. I was coaching individuals through their technical training programs by utilizing my background in public speaking and acting.
After developing a coaching methodology that combined confidence building and proven interview techniques that maximize an individual’s strengths, 14 years later I run an IT coaching, training, and recruiting people in a very niche area of software testing.
What was the “Aha Moment” that led to the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?
Before creating Thompson Alexander, I was working in large corporate environments that were faceless and entirely profit drive. This didn’t align with who I am as a person. I wanted to create a company that was built around the client and candidate experience and put their individual needs first. To disenfranchise from the standard recruitment model that focused on margin, instead providing a customer focused service.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
Possibly the most difficult aspect I face was not having the infrastructure and support that a large corporation provides. Setting up a business on your own can be lonely. I didn’t know who to turn to for advice on big business decisions, whereas prior there would have been a Director, or Line Manager I could go to. There wasn’t someone to take slack when I made a mistake.
I never considered giving up because I didn’t consider it an option. I was determined to do this no matter what because I didn’t have anything else to fall back on if it didn’t work out. As a result, I was forced to put my all into building the business and making it a success. I wanted to create a future for my family, and to build something that is a legacy, and I can be proud of.
So, how are things going today? How did your grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?
Today we are on track with our 10-year plan as we are currently tuning over £1.4 million, providing services for companies like eBay as well as start-ups.
I think grit and resilience came from having no option to fail, and always believing in quality. I believed in the quality of our recruitment and coaching service and had seen the benefits firsthand having helped 4,000+ individuals achieve their career goals. It helped that I also had an exceptional support network, I couldn’t have done it without the encouragement and support of my partner, family and friends.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
To stand out in a market that is full of mediocrity, we focus on our 3 unique selling points: niche testing knowledge, providing a premium service, and integrity. Over the past 4 years, every client we have won has been through referrals and word of mouth.
Over 50% of our clients we offer our services to initially say no. But we find that within a few months, those same clients call us back and say actually, hiring quality engineers is really difficult and we need your help.
The other 50% of our clients have heard that we are specialists and expertise within Testing recruitment, and they approach us first for assistance with hiring testers and quality engineers. This even applies to companies as large as eBay who we have worked with in the past.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?
I forgot to set a bank account up in the first month, so couldn’t send an invoice to my first client. I created a website, service list, and even went on site with a client. But when it came to invoicing them for the work, I realized I had missed this crucial step. It usually takes 6–8 weeks to open a business bank account, meaning that I had to wait 3 months to invoice clients. I had no income during those first 3 months because of this!
Often leaders are asked to share the best advice they received. But let’s reverse the question. Can you share a story about advice you’ve received that you now wish you never followed?
The worst piece of advice I listened to was to always follow my heart and my gut. Actually, what I have learnt is that your brain and other people’s advice is sometimes more useful. I wish I had listened more to those who had more experience and expertise in certain areas that I didn’t yet have, rather than taking it all onboard myself. For instance, I knew in my head that I didn’t have any expertise when it came to accounting, and so should have sought advice from someone else who did sooner, rather than trying to do it all myself.
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
Definitely my resilience. It’s important to remain positive no matter the situation. When running a company, there are times when things are tough, and days where not everything goes to plan. If you focus on the negatives, there is little space for success. Every mistake I’ve made, or bad experience I’ve had, I have used as learning experience.
Kindness has been instrumental to my success. I’ve helped people when they’ve been in a time of need, not decided to go ahead with roles/ deals. I go out of way to be kind and give real constructive feedback and support, something that a lot of recruiters don’t always do. As a result, candidates remember me and have even gone on to become future clients or generate referrals.
Empathy is key. I have always put people above profit. Of course, you need profit in order for the business to continue and grow, and to be able to pay employees, office rental and bills. By always putting people first (both employees and clients), people feel valued and important, which they are, and are more likely to keep in touch and work with us again in the future.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Find hobbies and make time for them in your default diary. One of the best things I have done is make time in my diary every week where I go and play golf (weather permitting of course!). It gives me time to switch off from the business for a few hours, otherwise it can consume every part of your life.
Always try to create new ideas, even if they are rubbish. It’s important to let your brain be creative and explore new ideas and opportunities. You might have 20 bad ones, but you only need 1 good idea to be your next venture or success!
What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can be done to avoid those errors?
Spending too much time and money on non-revenue generators, which also includes charitable endeavors. If you’re not generating income for the business, you can’t grow as a CEO, a team nor fully support the causes that are important to you.
Not staying true to your specialism. Focus on things that you are good at in the business, and if there is something you are not good at, either hire someone who is a specialist in that area or outsource it. As a CEO you cannot be an expert in every part of the business, sometimes the hardest part is delegating these areas, but this is key in order for growth and success.
In your experience, which aspect of running a company tends to be most underestimated? Can you explain or give an example?
Credit control — one of the hardest things to do without sounding needy, and that I have had to spend years learning. It’s a mind field, you don’t want to upset the client, but also you want to pay your team members and bills etc. There is a level of sensitivity, awareness, and directness needed.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Began Leading My Company”? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Hire a brilliant accountant on day 1, before you even start making money. I wish someone had told me how to run the financial side of a business, such as accounting, payroll, taxes, and credit control. For the entire first year I just didn’t know what I was doing. The right sort of accountant can help you rather than hinder you.
- It’s a marathon not a sprint. I expended so much energy trying to be the perfect business from day 1 but have learnt that actually, there isn’t such a thing as a perfect business. A company is an ever growing and changing thing. I wish someone had told me to slow down, and let the company grow organically. Don’t try and run before you can walk, and accept that growth happens gently, not overnight.
- To reach out to someone who had already started and was leading their own company. Spend time sat down with someone who had gone through and experienced all the highs and lows that come with leading a company. Not just from a strategical perspective, but also from a personal point of view, regarding the emotional impact on stress, and mental and physical health. I wish someone had told me what it was like to be on your own for the first year, because it was very difficult and challenging
- Don’t assume your employees or staff members care about the business as much as you do, because most likely they won’t. It’s better to spend time finding those rare diamonds who do care as much as you, and who genuinely align with the vision you have for the business. It’s important to find people who truly want to grow and learn with you and the company.
- To be calm in the face of adversity. In every business there is a tumultuous phase where things are going wrong, clients are doing the wrong thing, or money isn’t coming in. Try and be graceful and calm in stressful situations. I have learnt how to do that now, but I wish somebody had told me how to do this earlier. One of the greatest things I’ve learnt is how to compartmentalize stress with work and the business. As much as you care and put sweat, blood and tears into a business, there are more important things in life than making money.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
The movement I would start would be to eradicate homelessness in a day by providing rooms to stay in large chain hotels. They would have a safe place to stay so people wouldn’t have to worry about where they were going to sleep for the night, and have somewhere they can shower, have warmth and comfort, and use as an address when applying for jobs.
How can our readers further follow you online?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!