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Leading in Flux: How to Thrive Amidst Market Dynamics and Challenges | Steve Preston

Today’s Guest Steve Preston

Steve Preston, a former Royal Marines Commando turned CEO and Founder of the specialist agency Heat Recruitment. With a journey that spans from navigating the high-pressure scenarios of the military to spearheading a 90-strong business recognized as one of The Sunday Times Top 100 best companies to work for in the UK, Steve's tale is one of resilience, adaptability, and a deep commitment to employee wellness.

  • Steven describes his approach to life as being optimistic and adventurous. He believes in seizing opportunities and making the most of his time, emphasizing that we only get one shot at life.
  • Steven explains that the focus of his business growth has shifted from increasing headcount to maintaining high average billings per head. He aims to improve the quality of business they are doing, rather than just increasing the quantity.
  • Steven acknowledges that in the past, rapidly hiring new employees led to a decline in average billings. He also identifies that they had been dealing with "toxic" business that consumed time but didn't bring adequate returns.
  • Matt and Steven touch on the evolving societal attitudes toward men displaying emotions, particularly crying. Both concur that the old stereotype that "men don't cry" is shifting, and that emotional expression is a healthy part of the human experience.

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Sponsor for this episode

At Aurion Media, we're committed to helping you set up and run your own successful podcast to grow your business and impact.

"You know what? I have found running my own podcast to be really rewarding. It opens doors to amazing people like nothing else I have seen. I have built networks, made friends, and had a platform to champion my customers, my team and my suppliers. I think just about any entrepreneur, or business leader should have a podcast because it has had a huge impact on my own businesses." - Matt Edmundson.

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Steven: [00:00:00] A couple of things I got rid of were definitely the, there's certain bits with the phrase in the military which is sort of, you know, don't try and break the system, the system will break you. Um, and, and, or it's, you know, it's been done this way for years, therefore let's just... Repeat it. So sometimes if you challenge the system that could go against you, as opposed to in business, you want to challenge everything because that's how you evolve and get better.

Um, but obviously then there's that other angle of it where the military knows what works and therefore is good at, um, training and repeating it. So the training aspect we brought into the business, so we're very key, um, and training heat is fundamental as well. Um, can't expect people to do. Um, a good job if they've not been trained to a decent level.

Matt: Welcome to Push To Be More with me, your host, Matt Edmundson. [00:01:00] This is a show that talks about the stuff that makes life work. And to help us do just that, today I am chatting with... Steve Preston from Heat Recruitment about where he has had to push through, what he does to recharge his batteries, as well as what growth looks like.

Now, the show notes, the transcript from our conversation will be available on our website pushtobemore. com and whilst you're on the website, if you haven't done so already, make sure you sign up for our newsletter because each week we will email you the links and the notes from the show automatically.

They just come straight to your inbox which is pretty awesome. Ah yes, now this episode is brought to you by Aurion Media which helps entrepreneurs and business leaders set up and run their own successful podcast. Why on earth would you want to host a podcast? Well, I don't know if I'm the right person to answer this question, given that I, in fact, host quite a few of them.

Uh, [00:02:00] I've found running my own podcast to be really rewarding. They open doors to amazing people like nothing I've seen. I've built networks, made friends, had a platform to champion my customers and my suppliers. And I think just about any entrepreneur or business leader should have a podcast, simply because it's had such a huge impact.

on my own business and I do think it's probably one of the most underused but most incredible marketing things out there at the moment. Now of course this sounds great in theory but in reality there's a whole problem of setup, distribution, getting the tech right, knowing what the right podcast strategy is.

The list goes On. The good news is, this is where Aurion Media comes in. You see, I love talking to people, I love conversations like the one I'm going to have with Steve in just a few minutes, oh yes! But I'm not a big fan of all that other stuff, so Aurion Media take it off my plate. They do all the production, the strategy, the [00:03:00] graphics, etc, and I just get to talk to people.

Which is a wonderful thing. So if you're wondering if podcasting is a good marketing strategy for your business, do connect with them at aurionmedia. com that's A U R I O N so that's the show sponsor. Let's talk about today's guest, Steve Preston, a former, a formal Royal Marines commando turned CEO.

and founder of the specialist agency Heat Recruitment. With a journey that spans from navigating the high pressure scenarios of the military to spearheading a 90 strong business recognized as one of the Sunday Times top 100 best companies to work for, Steve's Tale is one of resilience. Adaptability and a deep commitment to employee wellness.

Steve, welcome to the show. Great to have you on. How are we doing in sunny Bristol today?

Steven: Hi, Matt. Yeah, thanks. Yeah, all good. Um, yeah, we're [00:04:00] enjoying it down here in sunny Bristol, as you say, uh, and for once it is sunny, and so, uh, yeah, it's a,

Matt: Enjoy it while you can. Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. Steve, listen, um, there's so much about your bio that I, that, uh, after reading it, I want to get into, but before we jump into that, uh, as I said, this show is sponsored by Aurion Media and they specialize in helping people set up and post and run their own podcast.

So if you had your own podcast and you could have anybody on the show, As a guest to interview, both from your past or your present, the only caveat being that they've had to have had a big influence on your life, who would you have as a guest on your show and why?

Steven: from my past and my present, um, I would say, and these are people that I, I have to have known, or these are people that

Matt: Nope, they can be an author, they can, I mean, anybody, just somebody who's had an influence on you.[00:05:00]

Steven: I would say, um, there's many a sort of, an explorer that I would pick, um, you know Ranulph Fiennes, that, that have achieved phenomenal feats, where I think it's that just the, the ability to keep going in the face of adversity, I think, you know, that side of, um, Uh, the sort of, um, the grit and determination that's needed in order to climb, say, Everest or to, to go on a, a polar ex, uh, sort of expedition is, is phenomenal.

Um, it's like, uh, we had, um, Alan Chambers, for instance, he's, um, an ex, funny enough, an ex Royal Marine, but he's, he's been to the North Pole more times than anyone else. Um, he was a guest speaker for us at Christmas. That story's phenomenal because you're just constantly hearing how you've got to keep reinventing yourself.

You've got to, um. motivate when you probably don't want to be motivated. Um, and, and, and so those sort of things I think are, um, [00:06:00] um, inspiring, um, and keep you going equally from the business world. There's many a successful business person that you look at and you, you, you enjoy the story and the journey they've been on from, um, the Richard Bransons, which obviously we all, we all know and know the stories there, but, but equally sort of.

Um, so, you know, lesser sort of well known business people, I like to hear the stories of where they've come from and how they've, uh, sometimes even just by default. Find themselves in a successful position. Um, so for me, I, I'd be picking, yeah, as I say, you know, people that have achieved, you know, sort of extreme, um, expedition feats and

Matt: um, um,

Steven: um, those from the business world, which you can learn from.

Matt: yeah, it's good choices, Ranulph Fiennes, great choice, uh, you know, the expedition, the explorer, it's all fascinating, isn't it? But I imagine, um, we read [00:07:00] in the bio there that you're an ex Royal Marine Commando, so I imagine you've been to a far few places yourself, uh, and had to push through on a fair few things.

Steven: I think, yeah, I mean, that's part and parcel of obviously the, The world of being a Royal Marine is that you've got to, um, don't tend to get sent to nice places, put it that way. So you've always got to push through and you know, there's always that sort of, um, um, smile in the face of adversity as such. And, and, and, you know, when you're wet, cold, and it's miserable, you've got to, Find your inner strength.

Um, and, and that is part of the commando spirit. So, um, it's, it's something that you, you, I think you, you probably have it within you and then the Royal Marines find it for you and, and, and, and expand upon it and develop you further.

Matt: yeah, that's a really interesting point and I'm, a part of me wants to ask the question why you joined the Royal Marines, but the other part, just to pick up on what you've [00:08:00] just said there, you've probably got it within you, the Royal Marines probably helps you find it. How do they, did they do that with you?

I mean, what was sort of some of the things that, that drew that out in you, that sort of that spirit of resilience?

Steven: Well, I think, I mean, If you take the sort of, the way that you're trained is very much, you're broken and then you're rebuilt, so to speak. Um, you're pushed, you are pushed to the limits and then at that point where you feel you can't go any further, you're encouraged, um, but the word encouraged is the military way of encouraging, um, you're encouraged to go further.

Um, And then only by doing that you realize actually you can, you know, you can push yourself a little bit more or you, you, you can, um, um, you can achieve that bit that you probably didn't think you could achieve. And, um, I think that's what I predominantly wanted to do is take the good things from the military and [00:09:00] bring them to business.

Um, you know, there's a lot of, you know, things that I wasn't too keen on, you know, there's a lot of. Hurry up and wait when you're in the military, but equally, um, um, taking the good things from the military and bringing them to business, um, is what I was aiming to achieve.

Matt: mm So how did you, what was that journey then? Uh, uh, uh, you know, from the Marines to the corporate world? What was that like? Was that something you, you, like I, this is the date I'm leaving the Marines the next day I'm setting up my business? Or was there something a bit more nuanced in the middle?

Steven: Um, yeah, I mean, that, that transition, I mean, I, I, you know, served 12 years and it's very much like, you know, you don't think you're employable because you, you, you think you're institutionalized in a way. Um, So there's probably a month that, you know, there's a good month where I was fretting about even thinking, will I even be employed?

Um, you know, and you're stepping into the unknown, um, where simple tasks like, I didn't even know where my doctors was or even how to deal with that because it'd all been dealt with. So, [00:10:00] you know, certain things like that you, you've got, you haven't got a clue about. Um, um, but I was, you know, I was fortunate to transition and went to, to Hayes actually.

Um, and Hayes was quite sort of, uh, you know, a fairly, uh, Not, I wouldn't say harsh, but it was just it was in the world of recruitment. So it's on the stern lines, we say, you know, you're only as good as your last few months, as they say, you know, it's, um, so but for me transit, you know, doing that transition from military life to there was actually Relatively easy because I was enjoying it.

It was exciting, but it was also trying to get back to, um, sort of knowing what you're doing in your job because obviously you're having to reteach yourself. So that's, that was the big curve that you go on because you're sort of rapidly trying to, um, learn a completely new industry, um, and, and in a, you know, totally new environment.

Matt: mm,

Steven: equally when you, you know, when you leave, you know, you're [00:11:00] expecting on a, um. A big fanfare and pipes and, you know, everything, you know, you're expecting the gates to be lined with people and it pretty much is, uh, one guy just saying, can you hand in your ID card? And then, and then you're off and it, so it seems sort of, uh, there's a bit of an anti climax to actually just leave it in a way, because you sort of, you really are parking it and then, and that's, and that's you into Civvie Street and onto your new, your new chapter.

But I think I'd already prepped my brain sort of. Say I've, I've got one, you know, that first chapter, which is that military bit has been, um, that book's closed and I'm, I'm opening up my next chapter and that's what made it exciting to sort of look at where I was going to be going. And I had to obviously cut my teeth to understand the world of recruitment, which I, I managed to do both Hayes and then Reid, and then I set up Heat, um, approximately sort of three years after leaving the military.

Matt: So there's this sort of three year period then where you're learning your craft in [00:12:00] recruitment and at that point you then decide I'm going to do this myself and you set up heat recruitment. Um, I'm curious what, uh, and people may have asked you all the time, uh, this question, Steve, but, uh, what were the principles that you learned in the Marines that you brought into your business?

And what were the principles that you learned in the Marines that you deliberately didn't bring into your business?

Steven: Yeah, that's, that's, that's good. A couple of things I got rid of were definitely the, there's certain bits with the phrase in the military which is sort of, you know, don't try and break the system, the system will break you. Um, and, and, or it's, you know, it's been done this way for years, therefore let's just... Repeat it. So sometimes if you challenge the system that could go against you, as opposed to in business, you want to challenge everything because that's how you evolve and get better.

Um, but obviously then there's that [00:13:00] other angle of it where the military knows what works and therefore is good at, um, training and repeating it. So the training aspect we brought into the business, so we're very key, um, and training heat is fundamental as well. Um, can't expect people to do. Um, a good job if they've not been trained to a decent level.

So that's definitely there. Um, you know, we've got, you know, a lot of, well, our core values, for instance, that we still operate to now are very similar to the, uh, the Commando spirit, which is, you know, we're working along fun, excellence, um, integrity, partnerships, um, um, and enterprise as well. So, um, that's where we're.

Pitching ourselves with what we work towards now as a business and equally those, those aspects were already within the military there. So we want to make sure that we're striving to be [00:14:00] professional, you know, it's that sort of professional excellence and, and, and make sure you're having fun whilst you're there and not doing things just for the sake of doing them.

Matt: yeah,

Steven: That's one thing that, you know, that the military is quite good in the sense that, you know, if you'd managed to complete everything that was needed to be done, then you'd be able to hit the gym or whatever you wanted to do. You'd get some time in lieu, you know,

Matt: um, so there, there's a few things that you mentioned, there Steve, that I just want to pick up on, um, one was for you training is key and you, you, you, this was something that you bought over and you keep training your staff, so is this an ongoing training sort of regime that you have with your team or is it?

Okay, so I've always, you know, once you've trained, you've been trained kind of a thing. So the military might, I mean, I wasn't in the military, my brother was, but it seemed to be like he was always training for something and always being prepared for something.

Steven: and, and that's literally what we do. We, you know, we, I even still call it the same as what the military, you know, we still call it continuation training. You always train, there's always something to be doing. [00:15:00] Um, we have a dedicated trainer at Heat, um, and Nathan's fantastic. He keeps literally, Um, uh, listening to the floor, looking at what areas still need to be developed, whether it be a certain, um, uh, it might just be negotiations.

It might be, um, um, a certain area that one individual wants, or it might be a collective. So there'll be, um, Lunch and Learns, for instance. That's a key thing that happens sort of generally on a, uh, it can be a weekly or even a monthly basis. Um, And, and generally ongoing, um, training. We train people up from, we've trained people up from the beginning where they've just come to the industry fresh.

And equally, we've got people that are experienced that have come to us, but we then push training that ensures that people operate in the heat way so that, um, we can't then turn around and say somebody didn't know what they were doing because [00:16:00] they've had that training. And that's from the top bottom as well.

That's, you know, we, I know at the moment he's building a project so that all the directors will get some additional training. It's not, we don't sort of look at just because of where you are, it stops. Everyone's got to keep evolving. And, and, um, even if you only get one, one little element of, uh, something that you pick up on or you learn or you think, Oh, if I tweak that and it's going to make me just a little bit better at my job, then that's, that's fantastic.

It's worked, isn't it?

Matt: yeah, it's a really, it's a really powerful point because I know a lot of business leaders who will, who will mentally ascend to the fact they do training. But I don't, I don't know if that translates into deliberate intentional training of, um, staff, uh, on a, on an ongoing basis. What's, uh, what, what, what, you use the phrase lunch and learns.

What's that?

Steven: Um, Lunch and Learns are where we will take. Um, it'll be an individual that's either [00:17:00] been asked or, or they'll volunteer, um, and, and it may be, um, a top biller who's just, or someone who's had a, a really, um, got a really good story about a bit of recruitment that they've just done, and what they'll do is, um, they'll, they'll, it'll be on, generally on a, uh, on a Teams call, Everyone else will be able to sort of sign into that.

And then part of that, they will, they will, um, do a Q and A, but about how their success has come around, um, and talking basically. So it would be an individual from our business talking to the rest of the business about how they've gone about, whether it be their, it might be their business development, it might be how they won a certain bit of business or how they've, um, how they, how they found their success or, or equally how they've.

evolved from being a trainee consultant to a principal consultant. So it's, it's a way for us to learn from the people that we have within our business so that we've got the success stories being told as well. [00:18:00] Um, and equally people can learn from somebody who's actually recently done that so that they can say, Oh, I've just joined the business and I can see that, um, you know, X individuals just gone and done this.

Well, if I do that, it's there for me to achieve as well.

Matt: That sounds great. So it's not actually just somebody else coming in and teaching you. A lot of the learning is peer learning isn't it, you're learning from one another Mmm.

Steven: yeah, that's literally what it is. It's a, it's a sort of a peer to peer, um, sort of Q& A and, and sort of discussion as well, where people get to obviously ask their questions and then we, we, that, that would be like this, it would be recorded and then that would be put onto our internal intranet so people can then watch it back.

Um, and pick up the various points that they want.

Matt: How has your own leadership style changed from being a Royal Marine Commando to heading up a company recognised by the Sunday Times, which is, congratulations on that by the way, that's no mean feat.

Steven: No, I mean, we're really pleased with that. I mean, we [00:19:00] managed to get on the list, actually, uh, both the, both the years, um, obviously building up to the shutdown of COVID, you know, so that was, that was good. Um, yeah, I mean, the leadership style is, is, yeah, very different to the military way because the military, you just say, you just say what you want to happen and it happens because, um, There's different consequences.

Um, um, you know, you're in a very sort of. Um, you know, generally it's classed as orders, isn't it? You're delivering orders to people. Um, whereas in, in, in business, it's very, um, um, I suppose there's, there's discussions around everything. You've got to, you've got to get the, you know, get people's buy in, make sure it's aligned with the overall strategy and planning.

I think it's, it's still, you've got to, you know, there's points where you've got to be assertive and there's points where a decision needs to be made, but [00:20:00] overall it's generally through more of a sort of a committee style, um, and, and the various different level of meetings and, and with that, then the strategy, you know, obviously once the strategy is there, it all aligns nicely along, along with that.

So, um, And equally as the business has grown, it's allowing, you know, we've got a lot, you know, we've got, you know, we employ good people. So it's letting good people do their job. Um, you know, there's no point trying to be doing, you know, I suppose in the early days, I was probably guilty of doing too many or wearing too many hats and doing too many things.

And part of that is actually just interest and excitement. You want to be involved. You want to know what's going on and you want to. Um, you know, it's your business. So you, you, you're, you're involved, you're brought into it. Um, but over time, you've almost got to force yourself to step away and, you know, not do those things that you really want to do or you enjoy or want to do, but allow others to do it because that's, that's what, you know, that's what they're good at [00:21:00] and that's what they're being paid to do.

So, so let people do, And, you know, and, and get off the reins, so to speak, you know, um, which it's, you know, it's tough. I suppose it's tough for a lot of business owners that set, you know, the founders that set a business up is to get to almost go, now you're not wanted, now you're not needed in that area.

And you're like, but I've been doing it for years, let me.

Matt: It's almost, the trick is almost to do yourself out of a job, isn't it, as the business founder and owner. You're just like, so we, I don't want my name on any of the tasks or any of the projects, but you've got to work hard to get there. How easy did you, um, how easy did you find it switching them between, I mean, I guess you had this sort of three year intervening period, um.

I'm curious, was it easy for you to switch between a sort of military style of leadership to the more collaborative approach that you maybe need for business?

Steven: I would probably say I found it [00:22:00] relatively easy, but probably in the early days, people would probably say, no, you didn't, um, um, you know, it's probably more, um, in, you know, now I've sort of, um, you evolve over time anyway, and you realize to sort of, whereas in the early days, I probably wanted, Everything done instantly.

I was like, you know, let's, you know if a task's there, why is it not being done? Why is it not being dealt with straight away? Um, now you realize actually there's a lot of things, a lot of moving parts and, um, you know, things will, will, will, will, they will get to the point of being done and, and solved and everything else, but you just might have to be a bit more patient.

Matt: yeah,

Steven: which is one of those. qualities is that it's sometimes quite tough to just sit and wait, isn't it? And let things evolve as opposed to trying to rush them.

Matt: So, how have you, you started the business three years after leaving the commandos, has it all been sort of sunshine and rainbows since then or have there been a few challenges where you've had to [00:23:00] sort of find that resilience that you, that you learned in the Royal Marines?

Steven: Yeah, I mean, we've, um, I think that, I mean, there's been numerous times throughout, you know, I mean, we've seen in the time of running a business from. 2006. Um, you know, we've seen the FTSE at its highest. We've seen the FTSE at its lowest. We've been through a couple of recessions. We've had obviously lockdown with COVID.

Um, so there's many a time you've got to reinvent yourself, um, learn on the spot, so to speak. Um, you know, the, the, the whole furloughing people. I mean, that was a, Nobody puts that into a learning manual. I mean, that was, I think most people were, um, just flying by the seat of their pants, realistically, just because nobody knew how long it was going on for, what was happening, and you've just got to be as adaptable as possible.

I think that's what, um, you know, from the military, that's what gives you, [00:24:00] you know, that adapt and overcome is very much always spoken about. Um, but from the early days, I, you know, I set the business up, um, in a very unorthodox way. In a sense, I imported a log cabin from Lithuania, which I built with my brother and a friend.

Um, and then we had six people working from it, um, in the end of my garden. Um, so it was, um, and that was a saving

Matt: why would you not?

Steven: Yeah. And that was a saving grace because that got us through that 2008, 2009 recession because we were, um, hankered down in a, in a log cabin. Um, and then we moved into, you know, sort of, um, commercial offices.

Um, and since then we've seemed to find new office space every sort of three years and, and move on again and keep growing. Um, we opened Manchester last year and that's a success that's been going really well. Um, and then obviously our London operation is growing as well. So it's just being adaptable and, um, and, and [00:25:00] yeah, I think adaptable and, and, and having that ability to make decisions when you need to fairly quickly.

Um, um, but equally now I tend not to, I suppose in the early days I'd have made decisions. Probably without, um, I don't know, consulting, whereas now it makes more sense that we consult on pretty much most things because it just means that we get a better end result with the decisions, you know, I don't accept that I'm right at any time, you know, you always have to listen to those advisors around you.

Matt: yeah, yeah, no, fair enough, fair enough. So what if, I mean, is the log cabin still there? I was curious.

Steven: No, the Long Cabin's, I moved out of that house probably 10 years ago, so I guess it's still there. Yeah, we had to relocate the office before I could even move house. I didn't feel I could sell the house with a business.

Matt: yeah, that'd be an interesting mortgage deed, that's for sure. [00:26:00] Um, so, so what, um, how did you guys deal with COVID? Cause I imagine recruitment and COVID weren't necessarily a match made in heaven, were they? Or were they? Did you do really well into COVID?

Steven: We, um, so when COVID came around, we just signed literally a month before COVID and that all, I think it was the end of March, wasn't it, when lockdown actually came in, um, in the March start of April. Um, we literally just signed a lease on a new floor space, 7, 000 square feet, um, accommodating about 110 staff. Um, and then literally the brakes came on, didn't they?

And it was just... What do we do here? So we, um, we, we, we took a sort of a, um, chill out, shall we say, a condor moment, as we call it. You know, we just sit back and just actually just try and gather [00:27:00] your thoughts. Um, uh, at which point, you know, we, we, we put everybody onto furlough. Um, there were a couple of people that we, that didn't qualify and then they did qualify because I think the rules changed, but basically everybody went to.

to furlough. Um, um, and it was, it was really was self preservation really, wasn't it? It was just trying to make sure that we, we, we, we saved as many people's jobs as possible and that we weren't going to lose anyone. Um, we did a bit of restructuring, which was actually good because it allowed us to look at the business a bit and look at what we did and didn't need.

So, um, we were able to do a bit of restructuring, um, gather our thoughts on that, which was, um, Which is where the success came, because when we came out, then we brought people back fairly soon, I think around about the October time, we brought people back in, in different waves of experience levels, so that we knew people could, um, start to generate business [00:28:00] and hit the ground running because of their experience levels.

As we brought sort of the more junior people back into the business, um, and then by the end of the year, we had everyone back in the business, um, we were able to, um, build a new plan, a new model around it, which, um, which is now. Um, really working for us as a business and we're seeing much better business being done, much greater success.

Um, so it was, uh, it was a definite, I mean, I mean, gosh, to say hiccup is a wrong word, but it was a definite, you know, speed bump to us as a business. Um, but actually there were some positives that came out of it that the, the, the, the strategy we have now is completely different to the strategy we had.

Going into, um, lockdown and COVID.

Matt: Would those strategies have evolved, do you think, if it, if there hadn't have been COVID? As in, if you're in a better place now, so it [00:29:00] was, it took COVID to get it.

Steven: Yeah, 100%. I think it's, it's that sort of element of, you know, that sort of, I don't know, a silver lining within a bad situation, um, was actually that it allowed us to take stock, look at ourselves, um, and make some sort of harsh, you know, harsh and strong decisions, um, which I don't believe we would have done had that, had COVID not happened because.

Um, because we would have carried on doing what we were doing, if that makes sense, you know, you carried on, um, operating as we were. I mean, we were just in the stage of bringing in, um, say work from home, um, and we were saying, right, um, senior consultants and above can do two or three days from home, and that's what we bring in.

Well, Within about a month of that decision and us trialing it, we were going out buying 70 laptops to ensure that everyone could work from home. Um, so it completely threw, um, it completely threw that out the window. Equally, we've been trying to get clients for [00:30:00] years to use, um, like what we are now, you know, different, um, you know, means, whether it be Teams or, or, um, FaceTime, whatever, for those initial interviews to find out if the person's, you know, rather than somebody taking a whole day off to go to an interview that's probably, 14 minutes to an hour.

Now people can do it, um, either from their, from their smartphone or whatever. Um, uh, so that really did, um, move the world of recruitment on a lot quicker than, you know, than what it was.

Matt: Yeah.

Steven: Um, at that time moving at, whereas we, as an industry, we were trying to get, you know, video conferencing, um, to the forefront, but, you know, people were generally sort of like, Oh, I'm not an actor.

I'm not, they don't want to be on TV or that sort of thing. I don't want to be on screen. Whereas now we're all so comfortable with it. We're all on,

Matt: we've all become so used to it, haven't we? Yeah,

Steven: so yeah, completely. And I think part of that was, you know, that was a way that we communicated through lockdown with people. Um, it almost forced the hand there.

So those, that, that I think is a real positive that people have got used to [00:31:00] using technology now in a way that not only just for sort of, um, for business meetings, for socials, but equally for, for interviewing as well.

Matt: yeah, that's really powerful. How has um, how has the world of recruitment changed in a sort of a post Covid world, where people expect to work remotely a lot more these days?

Steven: Yeah, I think, um, there was the whole people want to work remotely, but now there's a sort of, I think we're definitely seeing more of the hybrid where, you know, people are in the office two or three days a week. Um, I think, I don't think anyone truly wants to be 100% remote. Um, um, I mean, we, we have, we do have people in our business that are 100% remote, but then what we do is we have what we call heat days.

Every quarter we get everybody together, um, and we'll, we'll, we'll do something, we'll do an event, um, whether it be, um, you know, lunches or going for the races or something, we'll do something where we get together, [00:32:00] um, just for, um, keeping the culture, um, and I think that's a key thing is making sure that you don't lose your culture through people being remote all the time and not knowing each other, um, or socializing, and we are, you know, I, I believe, you know, obviously humans, we live in towns, we live in cities, we are social beings, aren't we?

That's, That's otherwise why would we go to, you know, events with each other in the weekends or whatever, you know, um, so, um, and we're, we're seeing that evolving into, you know, the, the, the, it doesn't seem to be 100% one or the other. It's like people don't seem to be in the office all week, but equally, um, and I think because of that, we're seeing, I think, a better balance for people, you know, well being, people don't have to take a day off to, Go to the doctors or take a day off to get a car MOT'd or all the things that people would inherently take a day off to do, you can do within your flexi or within that sort of work from home scenario, um, even if it's just waiting for, I don't know, if you've got an internet upgrade at [00:33:00] home or something, you'd have to take a day off work to do that, just to stay indoors for an engineer to visit, you know, now it can all be done around the normal world.

Um, so I think that there's, there's good in it and the way that it's, yeah. I think it has evolved for people to be able to manage their lives a

Matt: yeah, I couldn't agree more. It's an interesting, you use this phrase, a better balance, and I feel like... We sort of, it seems to be, the pendulum obviously with lockdown swung sort of from one, uh, sort of swung from one extreme, didn't it? Where everyone was in the office 60 hours a week, all the way to no one's in the office at all.

The pendulum sort of seems to be sitting back in the middle now where we've got this sort of mix of work.

Steven: And people used to be bothered about, I mean, I've never, I was never bothered about, you know, someone's late for two minutes or five minutes. It's in the big scheme of things, that's a really small thing. And now we don't even, we don't even bother about assessing it. It's no point because it's literally, people [00:34:00] are...

Taking control of themselves and they'll do a professional job. So if somebody starts at nine, who cares if they start at 10, who cares? But equally, people are putting the hours in around what suits them, um, to get the end results. So in a way, the management style has gone a little bit different to where before COVID, we were very much about, um, when we were all in the office, it was all about.

Wellbeing and how people are and that side of things, whereas part of the management and not so much driven about the results, whereas now, one of the things is part of the management tool now is about the results, because that's one of the aspects that you can actually track, whereas you can't track so much of the other stuff nowadays, you know,

Matt: No, totally, it's very, we seem to have got to this place, don't we, where we're like, this is what I need you to do, um, that's what you'll be judged on, however you get that done, uh, that's more down to your personal autonomy rather than me telling you what to do now, um, and it seems to be a really interesting way of working.

Um, what do [00:35:00] you, I mean, you've got this business, you've got this, Um, Steve, where you have, you have received quite a good accolade from the Times. Um, what is it that you do that the Times saw that thought, actually, this is why we're going to give you the award? What was, what was some of the things that made you a bit of a standout business?

Steven: Um, part of the, the, um, success from it was, um, culture, the culture was strong. Yeah. Um, they, they, they always look at how the, how the culture is, um, and, and equally the wellbeing from it. Um, the way that we'd, um, you know, we have different, um, lunch gatherings where people, you know, they'll pick a theme of, uh, of, of, People gather with their different, um, uh, contributions for, for, um, say a Mexican theme or whatever.

Equally, there'll be different bits where we have the heat gyms and people can use the gym. We've got a lot of stuff just going on around making sure that it's not just, [00:36:00] um, You know, sort of, uh, work, work, work, rather than actually making sure that there's that fun aspect within the business, which is what, I don't want to come to work myself for, you know, 40 to 60 hours a week and not have fun, you know, you want to make sure it's enjoyable, um, and that's, that's part of what we were trying to bring across to the, the, the Sunday times.

Um, I mean, you've got to be, you've got to have a success with the business. You've got to be, um, providing a, um, A good end client service, um, which is, which is what we, we're always about looking at whether it be how we're managing our candidates or how we're managing our clients. Um, it's got to be literally first class.

Um, it's a competitive world, so you've got to make sure that you're, you know, running your A game all the time.

Matt: Mm.

Steven: Um, and it was basically having to put that across, um, and, and that was noticed and that shone through. So that was, that was how, uh, The, the awards [00:37:00] came about and it's a, it's a great one. We're really pleased with it, really chuffed with it.

And it's, um, you know, when you're up against some, you know, it's, it's when you, you see the companies you're up against and you realize how good they are as well, and then you realize this is actually something to be proud of, you know,

Matt: yeah, yeah, no, totally, I'm really, did it make a difference to your business once you won the award? I suppose it gives you a certain kind of credibility, but did it, with your customers, but did it help with recruitment for your own business, for team retention?

Steven: I think what it, I think when you're. Entering awards like this, I think what it does is because of the way that the questions are styled and the way that you've got to complete your entry, that in itself, we always found that every time you enter an award, you evolve a bit more as well, because it makes you look at certain areas and say, right, okay, you know, is our person, you know, Um, I don't know, our diversity and inclusion policy.

Is it up to date? Is it correct? Is it as good as it can be? Um, and then you look at other areas and think, okay, what else can we look at? What, what can we [00:38:00] do that's going to enhance us even more? So I find the process is, is good in itself because it's making you, making you assess yourself. Um, and then I think with the awards, I think, I don't know if it, if It solely attracts people, but I think it could be a difference between if somebody's got a choice of two companies and they're looking at one that's got some, you know, there's one, you know, two Sunday Times Awards, um, as opposed to one that hasn't, I think then that could potentially sway it there and someone could say, actually, do you know what, these guys must have, uh, done something good to get this in the first place.

Matt: yeah, I mean the credibility it gives you is quite extraordinary, isn't it? It's, um, Yeah, I mean, well, like I say, again, congratulations, Steve, let me ask you, um, what do you do to sort of recharge your batteries? You've got this company, you're winning awards, um, you know, things are going, they're motoring, you've got a few hiccups along the way, but how do you, how do you stay motivated?

How do you recharge your batteries?[00:39:00]

Steven: Um, I, I like, I mean, you know, I'm generally always busy myself, always busy, whether it be, um, You know, hitting the gym, you know, like try and get to the gym daily. So that's, that's a key one for me is just having that time just to put your AirPods in and just zone out for, you know, 40 minutes to an hour, just, just on your, you know, your own space.

I think you, you do need your own space a little bit with that. Um, equally, I, you know, I do a lot, you know, a lot of football. Um, with my, with my lads. So we're always doing that all the time. You know, that's pretty much a daily thing nowadays. Um, and then when I'm, when I've actually got more downtime, it's very much.

Obviously, you know, factoring in, um, you know, nice, you know, factoring in holidays, making sure you get some time to actually just, you know, slow down a little bit.

Matt: hmm. Mm hmm.

Steven: but even so, I find myself, even if I've got a bit of time, I start looking at, well, what can I do in [00:40:00] this bit of time? You know, what's next?


Matt: ha.

Steven: and I do, I like, I like, I like just taking part. I very much, um. You know, I want to, where possible, always say yes, you know, so if somebody's saying, you know, should we do this? I'm like, yeah, let's do it. It's, uh, I don't really see things as a sort of, as a chore in that sense. If I'm, if it's, you know, if you're, you're out having fun and enjoying life, it's, it doesn't, you know, that's, that's what it's really about, isn't it?

Matt: Um,

Steven: I only got one crack at it, so you might as well make sure you're filling your time up, making the most of it.

Matt: I'm with you, absolutely, you get one, you get one shot, it's not, um,

Steven: So for me, I

Matt: it's not, it's not something you can repeat, that's for sure. Um, what does growth look like for you, Steve? Um,

Steven: think in the early days, I would have said head, you know, sort of head count and the size, you know, to make the size of business. I think now what we're looking at is, um, yes, we're increasing our head count. Um, but what we're making sure is that [00:41:00] we, we maintain the, the, the, um, the levels, the target levels are kept high.

So that we don't, because all too often we, you know, in the past where we've hired in, if we've hired in say, you know, I mean, we've hired in, you know, sort of, I think at one batch we've hired in about 18 trainees. Well, then what you see is you see a big dip in regards to the average billings. Um, because obviously, uh, it's going to take a hit from there.

So what we're looking at now is more, um, making sure that we're not impacting that overall average billing per head, as opposed to keeping that high. And then growing the business. So this is part of that sort of changing the strategic view that we're looking at is making sure that we are, um, really doing, you know, doing good business, whereas I think before we had some business that we were servicing and It was really see what we would call [00:42:00] toxic in a sense.

It's taking a lot of time. It's not, you know, not getting the responses that you need or in and therefore it's sometimes quite tough to sort of move away from that sort of business because you think, Oh, it's our bread and butter. But equally, actually, when you do, you realize that you can, um, um, You can evolve into, you know, better business and do, do better quality business, which is what we're after doing, you know, good quality business. And that in itself fuels the growth. That really does.

Matt: that's a really powerful point, doing better quality business fuels the growth, it's always been the case, uh, it's, um, it's true, isn't it, and, and, and, that sounds, that's, I mean, that sounds great, that sounds great, so Steve, let me, we've got to that time of the show where I'm going to grab the question box, I'm going to take a stack of random questions out of said question box, I'm going to flick through them, you're going to tell me when to stop, wherever we stop, that's the question that we answer,

Steven: Okay. Stop now.

Matt: okay.

So, [00:43:00] oh, I've dropped them on my desk, hang on. Pick it up. When did you last cry with pain or sadness?

Steven: Wow. Um, I mean, my standard answer would be being a. Uh, a raw marine, they, they extract your tears. Um, so, so

Matt: I joined the Royal Marines, yeah, that's the answer.

Steven: Yeah. Yeah. That's the first thing they do. Extract all emotion. Um, um, I, yeah, I mean, the obvious things are, you know, I lost a few, you know, losing a few people in your life. That's, that's a key one, isn't it? Um, um, in the sense of, so that would've been on 2019. That was a very bad year for me. Lost three, three close people there. So, Um, that would be a time that I'd, I'd take as a, you know, a bad year.

Matt: Mm

Steven: um, and then, you know, they're, they're the times that [00:44:00] you have to fight back and you have to get more resilient and then you bounce back from those bits. Um, and I think, um, inevitably it makes you stronger. You know, and, and I suppose years, you know, so if I went years and years back, I would have probably, the younger me would have thought, oh, crying was a weakness, you know, whereas now I see it as a bit of a strength and a, and a, a release of.

Um, you know, tensions that are built up in you anyway, so I don't, I wouldn't see it as a, as a, as a bad thing anymore anyway, I, I see it as a good thing, I see it as a good release.

Matt: mm Yeah, I'm with you. I was definitely brought up in an era where crying was definitely not something that men did. Um,

Steven: Yeah,

Matt: and, um, until someone pointed out to me that the shortest verse in the Bible, do you know what it is?

Steven: no, fire away,

Matt: Jesus wept. Um, and so, uh, it's in John's gospel somewhere, I think. Um, but yeah, so it was one of those things where they were like, well, if, if the son of God can cry, then, then it's okay for men to [00:45:00] cry.

And you're like, well, okay, fair enough. Um, but it was very much of an era where, like you, where men don't cry. And so, um, I, but I agree, actually, it's quite an important thing to do. Um.

Steven: yeah,

Matt: Quite important, like you say, sense of release, um, and I think it's, go on,

Steven: no, no, no, after you,

Matt: I was gonna say I think it's something you, that probably men of a certain age have had to re learn how to do, mmm.

Steven: yes, yeah, yeah, yeah, I think so, I think it's just, and by other people accepting it makes it easier for everyone then, in that way, um. Equally, we're an Arsenal household, so we've had to cry quite a bit this year.

Matt: Oh wow, and so for anybody outside of the UK, Arsenal were this close to winning the Premier League title, and it all went Pete Tong on the last, on

Steven: We nearly had our tickets booked, but no.

Matt: let me tell you Steve, I was, I'm a die hard Liverpool fan [00:46:00] and um, I was rooting for Arsenal this season. When we, when I realised there's no way Liverpool was going to do anything but um, I was like come on, a good friend of mine who's an Arsenal fan, we're like come on Arsenal and then we were just like oh, I felt your pain man, just capitulated at the end slightly.

Steven: yeah, exactly. Yeah, it was a definite landslide towards the end of the season.

Matt: It was. You needed some more of that Royal Commando spirit. Maybe they should employ you next time to help them with that, uh, with that mindset. Listen, Steve, it's been great talking to you, man. And, um, really appreciated the conversation. If people want to connect with you, if they want to find out more about heat recruitment, got some questions for you, what's the best way to do that?

Steven: I'd probably say either just, um, connect on LinkedIn. That's a good way. Um, obviously, uh, or drop me an email, steve@heatuk.Com.

Matt: Fantastic, fantastic. We will of course link to Steve's both email and LinkedIn in the show notes, which you can [00:47:00] get along for free with a transcript at pushtobemore. com. Or if you sign up to the newsletter, that will be coming straight to your inbox. Uh, Steve, listen, appreciate you being on the show.

Thank you for joining us. Uh, but I've, I always enjoy talking to people who have come out of the military. There's just something about you guys, which is. Which is just awe inspiring. So one, thank you for your service and two, thanks for coming on the show. It's been an absolute pleasure.

Steven: Thank you, Matt. Thank you.

Matt: What a great conversation.

Huge thanks again to Steve for joining me today. Also, a big shout out to today's show sponsor, Aurion Media. If you are wondering if podcasting is a good marketing strategy for your business, and I think it probably is, do connect with them at aurionmedia. com. That's A U R I O N M E D I A. com. Be sure to follow, push to be more wherever you get your podcasts from, because we've got some more great conversations lined up.

And I don't want you to miss any of them. And in case no one [00:48:00] has told you yet today, you are awesome. Yes, you are. Created awesome. It's just a burden you have to bear. Steve has to bear it. I have to bear it and you've got to bear it too. Push to be more is produced by Aurion Media. You can find our entire archive of episodes.

on your favourite podcast app. The team that makes this show possible is Sadaf Beynon, Estella Robin and Tanya Hutsuliak. Our theme music is by Josh Edmundson. And as I mentioned, the show notes and transcripts are available on the website for free at pushtobemore. com. That's it from me. That's it from Steve.

Thank you so much for joining us. Have a fantastic week wherever you are in the world. I'll see you next time. Bye for now.