About This Conversation
Steve Morris joins Treysta’s Adam Drinkwater, to talk about the process and financial planning involved in leaving the security of paid employment to go out on his own. He is candid about his experience of starting a business, as he shares the challenges and the benefits, and what the future could look like.
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About Our Guest
Steve Morris founded Building Recruitment Talent, a company that specializes on how recruitment should be conducted, in 2020. He focuses on building relationships and making both the job search and talent search a more engaging and positive process.
Please feel free to reach out to Steve via LinkedIn.
Transcript of Conversation
00:00:17 Adam Drinkwater
Welcome everybody to in conversation with, today we are joined by Steve Morris, who is a very good friend and also a client of Treysta.
00:00:27 Steve Morris
And Steve has a rather interesting journey, particularly starting out prior to COVID, I thought sharing today would be quite inspirational to others who are interested in the similar area.
And to give you a little bit of background without stepping on Steve’s toes and Steve and slightly before COVID decided to go at his own venture. And then of course was hit with the headwinds like many of us were around that time, that we did not expect.
Through the journey of that and onwards, it’s been quite inspirational to see Steve success how he’s tackled certain things along the way, and some of the challenges that we talked through, both financially and from a lifestyle impact as well.
So, Steve, I think it might be a good place to start by asking you to give a little bit of background as to what happened in 2020, the decision you decided to make where that started from and then, what happened just before the world change?
OK, yeah, I don’t think that will need a much introduction with it’s a well-covered topic, but yeah in terms of my background where I’ve come from, starting in recruitment in the UK and here in Australia for 15 years now. Seven years in Sydney, up to clean up to 20 It’s Wayne, I’m quite successful in terms of the career I’ve had so far, qas quite a senior member of business I used to work for, and I suppose you know, leading up to the beginning of 2020. You know a few changes in terms of, you know where that was heading in what I wanted to do in terms of my career.
I wanted to take it so yeah, so the opportunity that was presented to me to kind of step away from that secure paid employment that I was in before and have a bit of a uh, kind of reassess of where I was at and what we want to do. And so obviously, you know until that point that always being paid by someone and the security of you know, recruitments at a commission based job but obviously got the security of your salary and I’d always done pretty well.
So yeah, to step away from that and have the opportunity to actually, you know, just think about what I wanted to do next was, you know something that was. Yeah, I’d kind of been thinking about for a while, yeah.
Obviously at the beginning of 2020, everything kind of came to a head and stepped away from that and took the decision really to really assess my options and you know, came to the conclusion that wanted to go and start my own business.
What was the main driver behind wanting to start your own business, were there particular things that you wanted to do it for? Or a reason for it?
Yeah, so obviously you know recruitment, I suppose, is one of those industries that you don’t need a huge amount of capital to start the business. Yeah, you need your networks, need your contacts. You need people to trust you and you need a bit of a business head on your shoulders and through my previous roles I’ve kind of got the business exposure, so I knew I could, you know I could do that.
There’s a lot of upskilling, a lot to learn but certainly you know at that point it was a now or never moment I suppose, yeah, so for the age I was. I’d had conversations previously with people that possibly doing it, for one reason or another it wasn’t quite the right timing or right time in my life. And I suppose having worked so hard for so long, teams reporting into me, and you know billing well, working long hours I think it’s just the time to reset and think about what can I do next for me?
And wrestle back a bit of control almost there.
Yeah, absolutely absolutely.
I remember we talked at the time about the natural fear that you would have to in something like that, you know what if it doesn’t go right or… and we’re chatting through financially, the implications of what if I don’t receive income? How long may not receive income flow and how do I fund my life so that was obviously quite a key part of it as well.
Yeah, absolutely, absolutely.
And I think, yeah, one thing that I was quite lucky with I’ve always been a bit of a saver, so I’ve always had a bit of a buffer and I think when we started talking initially about you know what to do with finances what to do with money. You know it’s quite apparent that I was I’ve always been good at saving, but I didn’t really know where I was going with that.
And so, I was fortunate in in the fact that I had a buffer there to, you know, allow me to, you know, be comfortable and setting up the business, the costs of the business and knowing that you knowing that it could be 3 months, could be six months before I really start seeing a return on that yeah and but having said that, you know beyond that there was the risk of you know, if it doesn’t start turning it around and start making money, then you know there’s obviously the risk of that’s my life savings that I’ve tried to use and it’s not worked so.
Yeah, I remember at the time we were talking about how long that time frame is and if it’s six months, You know how long do I go forward before there’s a turning point of going back to employment?
And obviously at the time the time frames and money we’re talking about, there seems to be a reasonably sensible thing to look at in the course of a normal life. About a month later, everything changed. So, how did that change the time frames and the money we’re talking about, and especially given that recruitment is obviously very face to face. On the deck meeting people quite often and obviously that all got taken away.
Did that seriously impact your time frames and your success as a startup? Did you work around it? DO you want to talk through that a little bit.
Yeah, so I suppose you know by leaving one recruitment job of going into another if you operate in the same market you have, uh, restraint period anyway, yeah, so as part of that financial planning that we went through was that you know, I can’t be actively out there in the market anyway, so I suppose what it changed for me was the recharge. And so, I was planning on taking it time out to overseas, sd some traveling. And within a week of booking that literally the borders shut.
And that, yeah, that’s a whole different story, but I suppose you know the I reframed that was it allowed me to have a bit of time to really invest in setting up the business, so do it properly from the back end rather than having that panic or almost rushed to be ‘I want to get out there now’ ‘I wanna do something’, so the restraint period helped.
But I suppose you know having that extra time to really put the groundwork. And make sure the website was set up properly, make sure the terms of business was set up properly and make sure that you know the markets I was looking to attack well mapped out and uhm, yeah, just doing that groundwork.
And to be honest you haven’t worked so hard for so long. It’s actually nice to have that rest. I probably didn’t realize how burnt how I was, so the plus side was allowing me to recharge. And you know when I was ready to go for it I could really put the foot down, yeah but yeah. You know to go back to original point of you know, was it panic stations?
Absolutely, you know in hindsight, now you look back and you know, barring that initial period of everyone hunkering down, thankfully people quite quick in Australia in particular, other parts of the world were affected, but you know, just stick their head up and go yeah, we’re still trucking on, there’s still plenty happening. So, you know the time period for me probably worked out quite well in that.
Yeah, I wasn’t actively going out to my market until near the end of that lock down period and so that that was a blessing, but up until that point I really didn’t know what was happenin.
Yeah, yeah, probably quite an irony really, the way that the lockdown periods worked in that they opened up around a time that you were ready to go out and get active. And like you said, sometimes funny how it works that you get that forced period to take stock and focus on things.
Hard to say, but maybe if you’re active and trying to do that at the same time, you may not have done so well, so we’ll never know but maybe covid was a good thing for you in some ways.
Yeah, potentially potentially. I think I was very fortunate in the industry recruiting too as well. Yeah, it remained busy throughout this engineering sector. A lot of money pumped in by the government, so I suppose you know, watching the news following the COVID numbers every day, as I’m sure everyone did, tuning into Gladys and seeing what the latest numbers were. You know the government, I suppose we was hearing from them, gave me confidence that you know there’s gonna be money in my sector.
You know, will it filter through how long it lasts? You know there were big challenges at the time and I suppose it led to me, you know, assessing or reassessing having sleepless nights about, you know I’d set myself in 6 to 12 months.
You know, if by the 12 month period, it wasn’t getting enough traction then you know that would be a real decision time. Yeah, I think it was probably extending that and then making me reassess how much have I invested in stuff, where’s my money being spent?
Yeah, so a lot a lot of tough decisions.
Probably probably a reasonable example of planning, which you never really set a straight course and stick to it, you have to adapt along the way. So, pleasing that in the conversations we had, you have your buffer there and you could then adjust as you go along.
I know now that a couple of years down the track or more, you’ve been very successful in what you chose to do, which is a great story. I wonder if before we talk about how that’s affected your life positively, that we can just have a bit of an insight into some of the rewarding elements that you found by making that switch to self-employment.
So, obviously we talked about the challenges.
Or particularly COVID period? Yeah, are there any other challenges for listeners to help them understand going into self-employment? What are some of the big things you’ve tackled? What are some of the really rewarding things that you’ve felt along the way so far?
So, I think you know, in terms of the challenging things it’s you know, not knowing how to run a business. So, although you know being self-employed, you know what your tax obligations? And how do you record expenses? Have you record payment? What accountant do you use? Are they any good?
You get recommendations from different people, and I suppose you can get quite caught up in the noise of listening to other people and what they suggest. I think it’s obviously important to sound out your peers and rely on other people that you thought of networks with the industry reaching out to other industry experts as well for their recommendations.
But I suppose it you know it’s making your own decisions is scary uh, but ultimately very rewarding as well. Because you know, you fall on your own sword, when you’ve made the decision.
So in in terms of, you know the rewarding side of the business you know it’s it allowed me to fall back in love with my job. Because you’ve got that real, you know, passion for what you do, you see the rewards of what you do. You try different things and you have the freedom to do that.
You might try something in a different way or it’s a new technology. Be whether it’s targeting a different market, whether it’s trying to be smart in the way you do things.
You know different ways you target achievements and set those small goals and I think that’s quite important is about to set those small goals along the way.
So celebrate your wins.
So right exactly exactly it couldn’t be something little, you know the first time again, yeah, very crudely, but you get an interview or the first time you speak to a new client. Or you know, the first time you’ve got your account setup. You first see the invoice come in, the first time you pay a bill, but in terms of the reward in side of things I think you know, a lot of people echo this.
You know one of the positives of COVID a lot more flexibility has entered the workplace so you know you don’t necessary have to work for yourself to find that degree of flexibility and certain industries and certain employers. But that’s one of the really rewarding things that I’ve found that I can work to my terms.
And do things in my hours in my own way, so you still need to be accountable to your clients and your candidates. You know the people that paying your bills and you need to be available, but you know, gone are the days you need to be available at your desk. You can be available, you know from you know, go away for the weekend so you go on the Friday and then you spend time in Byron, you work Friday from there.
Equally, if you need to, you know, get into your fitness you need to build that into your day. You got a lot more flexibility. It’s not a quick 45 minutes on your lunch ’cause you need to be back at desk and someone breathing down your neck. You work to your own terms. That doesn’t necessarily mean you work less hard, work less hours, but you work your hours which makes it more enjoyable.
Probably a good segue into what I want to talk about next, which is the decision you made around work and how that’s affected your life or influenced your life outside of work, shall we say, although they now have a blend of the two you just referred to.
So, I know that and been a friend I kind of witnessed this along the way and the journey. So there have been some great positive developments through your life as a result of making this change and some of the things you just mentioned. I know you’re a big fan of travel and having the ability to go out and see new places and discover new things. And also, from a perspective of building in your life as well, whether it’s achievements that we talked about earlier that you found at the moment. So are you able to just expand on that little bit and maybe help people understand by making the choice that you did, how that helped you in turn change your life and your lifestyle. Achieve some more lifestyle related goals.
Yeah, absolutely. So you know he’s a touch upon their I’ve always like like traveling and I, I suppose you know when you’re working for someone else, you’re limited to your, you know you leave entitlement, etc. And I’ve just really enjoyed having that flexibility to be able to take the holidays., yeah, on my terms again. One, yeah, the challenge is working for yourself, no one else is there covering for you.
So, holidays have changed in that I do need to be aware that you know I’ve got responsibilities and you know I still need to be. Yeah, I can’t fully switch off, but with that you kind of compensate for that by allowing yourself to go away more, take more time out and I think it’s been really important to. You know the first year of the business, for example, I would you know, really putting their foot down in terms of the hours and having weekends away, but I’d say probably the first year of the business I probably took two or three days off, when I could really have been working?
And so, I think a turning point for me was, you know it’s quite lucky that’s quite successful from you know year one. So, it allowed me to then reassess, and you know, like. you said what are my reasons for doing this
And yeah, it allowed me to take more leave, take more holiday, be available but you you know, do a bit more forward planning that you know you can manage your workload while you’re away.
You do what needs to be done, but you allow your time to switch off recharge, so I think it would be very easy to burn out in in the kind of industry and then you could work every hour of the day, and the more you work, the more you, generally earn.
Do you think you’ve learned along the way like you’ve just referred to, that you think you’re ever improving your ability to balance?
Definitely definitely. I think early doors, phones always on, answering calls any day or night. I’d be trying to reach out to people in the evenings, I’ll be up early trying to reach out to people trying to get them around the working hours and I do find that I’m now yeah, I do what I need to out of hours, but I do.
I’m much more disciplined in terms of trying to stick to your work hours for doing what I need to do. Yeah, and again, you know working hours doesn’t necessary mean 9 to 5. It could be that you know start working early during the day so you know to take that time off recharge, do what I need to do, and then maybe work a bit later in the evenings or things.
I suppose following into that as well and I touched on earlier, the life impact there have been able to travel and do more trips that are important to you, but also some of the financial and life goals and objectives that you’ve had and have achieved over the last couple years. Without going into too much detail, obviously the balance of that helps in terms of you understand how much you need to work to achieve those things.
So, in the planning that we’ve done, we’ve been able to understand how much you need to earn in particular year to achieve something. Or, you know, get together an amount of money to achieve the next goal. So, I know that you’ve been ticking through those quite well. And would you say that your ability to do that has been improved by owning your own business and having the control more than you did before?
Absolutely yeah, without a shadow of a doubt. I yeah, I suppose you’re the master of your own destiny so and going back to falling in love with you know the industry and what I do again, I suppose you know.
Again, touch on a point before where I was kind of saving without a real plan. You know, sitting down and actually discussing what are my life goals, where do I want to be, what can I achieve? You know, running my own business is certainly give me that financial freedom, to you know, really plan, earmark you know earnings against certain things that I want to achieve that I want to do.
Whether it’s you know investments for a long-term retirement fund is set up deposit for a house. Reinvest in the business, and I think it’s giving me the freedom and probably a bit of a push as well to really think you know what I want to achieve? How do I do it? And it’s kind of, I suppose it’s built into the business plan to work backwards from there, you know, to in order to achieve X amount financially, what do I need to do to achieve that?
And yeah, and that doesn’t mean that you know if three months ago the financial year I’ve hit those goals that right feet up and switch off. Which yeah, who knows maybe one day that that’s what I’d want the business to be. But certainly at the moment it’s, you know I’ve got positive goals that I want to achieve about you know securing my financial future?
Yeah, and you know, going towards retirement and I I don’t think I would have had those thoughts necessarily or or some of those goals in place working for someone else.
Good point you mentioned there about the things that you’re working on moving forward or the planning that you do now, which obviously is so important when you operate your own business. And you know you gotta keep kind of looking forward and how you innovate. Do you want to talk us through some of the things that you are working on now at the moment, particularly in the business. For example, whether it’s short term long term? Maybe how you’ve changed the focus of the business as you’ve gone along because you’ve learned things along.
Yeah, absolutely. So, I suppose you know, early days of business you try and wear many hats. Naturally you look at that expenditure spreadsheet, as it is in the early days, everything goes on there so you you’re trying to keep your outgoings, as well as possible.
And so, I think you know, moving through, as you become more financially secure in terms of the business, you start realizing that you don’t need to do everything, and you’re certainly not the expert in everything, so I’ve started to, you know, rely on people outside of just myself.
And to take workload off and take burden off me, if someone has got better expertise, get them to do it, not myself. So, you know at the moment I’m working on, you know, marketing improving my, I suppose footprint in the industry, ’cause that’s one of the challenges of being a small business.
Yeah, and you’re only as good. Or you can only you know, you’ve only got so many hours in a day to try and get your name out there and you know, grow your footprint in the industry, so you know things like actually spending money on marketing. Getting somehow else who knows what they’re doing, who can do something an absolute fraction of the time that it would take me. And to start building ROI of, is that worth the expenditure? Absolutely so yeah.
So, the things I’m working on, you know, the marketing side of the business. I’m now on 2 1/2 years into it, I’m at a stage where I’m starting to assess whether I want it to be a lifestyle business, whether I want to, you know, turn it into something that maybe you know it can grow it’s not just me that that’s relying on or it’s not allowing me to generate revenue for the business.
Do I add team members? How does that look? Do I want to build the business up to, you know, go back to managing people like I used to my old job in it becoming more of an actual job then, rather than lifestyle business. So yeah, I’m probably at that point at the moment. You know, I’ve just taken on my first full, you know, full time hire in terms of someone that’s actually in the office.
Thank you very much. Yes, it’s a big moment actually so, so Ryan, hopefully listen to this and it will notice the shout out to him. But yeah, that that’s a real turning point for me, where you know, he’s someone that. Yeah yeah he’s a cricketer who wants to become a professional cricketer, so there’s not a long term commitment at this stage in terms of you know, is he going to be someone that I’m looking to train up and be a part of the business, you know for the next 3-5 years, so it’s a good and it goes back to what I was saying before about spot testing things that you know it’s.
A good way for me to see do I want to be, you know someone that is managing people again, do I want that responsibility of, you know it changes the business they’re looking at you.. You know they’ve got mortgages, they got bills to pay. You know, if the business isn’t successful, it’s not just me where I can go, but you know that didn’t work out, let’s go back to working for someone else there’s a lot more responsibility.
From that obviously, the rewards financially hopefully come, that’s why you employ people. But that’s a real turning point I’m at, at the moment and it’s a real acid test at the moment as to whether that’s something that I really want to do and I enjoy. Or if, like you just do a pure lifestyle..
That’s that level of responsibility and potentially changes that balance of control we talked about earlier, where you’re not looking after yourself, there’s someone else you’ve got some responsibility toward.
Yes, you’re not the only person that your decisions affect, so it does take it to a kind of a new level I.
Yeah, I suppose yeah, and then go back to your points about you know business planning and and my personal I, I suppose goals that that I’m looking to achieve that would obviously impact that because you know, it’s no longer just a case of well, you know, I’ve got this, we want to achieve so I can say for the next three months I’m really gonna work really hard and make sure I can build up a buffer, to afford that. You know, it could be that I do that, but someone that employing isn’t doing so well, so then all of a sudden that swallowed up by covering if someone what they do well so.
I think it’s so often it it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking you just have to go hard all the time or just grow and grow and grow and grow. And I suppose when you do that, not only do you risk losing balance and therefore you start to see other things fall by the wayside, personal relationships, or other plans that you’re trying to make. But also, you know continuing to do that, where where is the end game like when are you ever happy?
If you just continue to follow this, chase. One other point that I picked up that you mentioned there is I suppose I’m learning at some point that you need to acknowledge there are other people around you that you can access with specialist skills. And not being too proud to ask and I think that’s often a hurdle or one of the challenges we all have humans is sometimes we can be too proud to ask, that’s and it can be a barrier to success, absolutely so obviously.
So, is that something you learnt going through the early stages of realizing that I can’t do everything, or I thought I could, but I can’t. Or is it something you’re always aware of and it was a kind of a you you’d consumed from books or the material that you know?
Yeah, no fair question I I suppose yeah, from day one in a lot of the early decisions were purely outgoings financial, so it was a case of, especially you know once COVID hit and there is that extra uncertainty is what the future held. At that stage it was all about reducing the overheads. You know getting your partner to help with some admin on other people and more on a pro bono kind of basis, leaning on your networks and relationships.
And so, I think I always knew that I wasn’t the best person at marketing. I’m not the best copywriter. I wouldn’t have to design a website. You know, I could sit, sit and try and do that all day and I’d come up with something that wouldn’t be great, so I think early on there were some key things that I knew I had to invest in. In terms of that early marketing so you know, actually paying someone to do a professional website, to help me brand my LinkedIn. And brand my social media presence.
Make sure yet business logos looked, you know, nice that they you know portrayed what we want them to portray. I remember speaking to lots of friend’s early doors and spent, you know, a good couple of weeks just trying to get a logo that looked good and in the end it you know it just made sense to go to a professional, they sorted it, sent me 3 designs and within afternoon I had that sorted.
I remember you asking me about your feedback for the logo and I thought yeah, I’m the worst person to answer, I’m not specialist in this field.
No, absolutely so. So, it’s good to get people to input, especially that close to family, friends and bring them on the journey as well and I think that helps, especially when you go out on your own. One of the challenges is you are on your own. So you know a lot of people when they start a business, it’s with someone else, with two other people, and so I suppose one of the big challenges for me, probably.
You know, going back to your earlier questions, but you know, in terms of starting the business by myself, there’s not that many people to bounce off. Not really anyone in your industry that you can really go to and say should I be spending money on this, yeah, would you recommend I do my contracts this way?
Yeah, I suppose, yeah, going back to the original point, yeah, it’s about knowing what you can outsource. Balance sheet initially is the big driver, but having that understanding of you know if I could outsource this I would yeah and setting milestones to do that because I wouldn’t do it all at once. You wouldn’t suddenly go, you know this quarter I’ve made enough money to start outsourcing everything, again you lose control, so it’s about testing things one at a time.
Yeah, so as much as you have big crowd ideas as a business, I think it’s about not running before you can walk through.
I’ll put you on the spot a little bit here. So, if Steve of January 2020 walked into the room and you could talk to him about the things that you’ve done. Are there three key things that you think you’ve learned or major learnings that you think could hang on in terms of advice at the journey that you potentially may have done differently?
I’ve done differently, is an interesting one. Not set up a business during COVID, maybe a big one.
Unless you’re in Video technology. (Stve) absolutely yeah yeah.
Or you work for Amazon yeah, yeah, definitely, and I suppose.
Yeah, what would I change? There wouldn’t be a huge amount to be honest, I think would I go into business with so instead of my own?
And that that’s a debate I’ve had in terms of, you know, as I’m looking to maybe expand, it would be easier to do that. Yeah, I’d still probably advise you to Steve of 2020 so to do it on your own.
I’d say, yeah, embrace it. Learn. Probably start outsourcing things a little bit earlier. So like I said earlier, I think I probably yeah work too many hours, initially. And lean on other people a bit more. I’d say you know, don’t be afraid to go out and ask for people’s advice. Seek out industry experts. You know get their take on things. And and yeah, like so, just don’t be too proud to actually put yourself out there and ask for help, yeah.
I think one of the things that many entrepreneurs self about his failing fast and you know, as you’ve alluded to along the way, you kind of come across challenges, learn a lesson, done something differently, and have moved beyond it again and in a very short amount of time.
You’ve done that well, so it’s been a pleasure to watch your journey so far and I’m sure I’ll continue to watch it develop whichever, whichever way it goes. Thank you for coming in and taking part the podcast, I’m sure lots of people will take some sprinklings of information and wisdom from this. And if anyone has any questions, I’m sure they can send them through or find you on social media.
Check out my company page, Building Talent Recruitment, which helps me and you know, going back to a point there, if leaning on people. Yeah, I think it’s important to reach out to people have started a business, so that’s something that anyone interested in, I’m more than happy to share in my experience and help people out pass it on.
Very kind of you Steve, thank you very much.
Sure. Thank you for having me.