Chris Peace, managing director at award-winning Peace Recruitment, launched the business as a sole trader in 2009, offering recruitment advice to clients within the construction and propertY market. The Edinburgh-based firm has grown to become a multi-million pound business with 15 consultants. Here, Chris tells Project Scotland about the company’s incredible rise and hopes for the future.
Q) WHAT’S THE HISTORYOF PEACE RECRUITMENT?
A) I started Peace Recruitment as a sole trader in January 2009 when I gave up my job at Hays Construction and Property. I saw a gap in the market and believed that clients within the ‘built environment’ were getting a substandard customer service experience. It was my aim to deliver a more value added approach, by joining together my customer service skills (that I gained in my previous career at Standard Life and as a travel agent) and my specialist recruitment knowledge. After a couple of years working from my spare room, we opened our first office in 2011 when a couple of former colleagues joined me. This was a really exciting time where we laid the foundations for growth. In less than five years we have grown to a team of 15 staff, working through various economic and political challenges.
Q) WHAT HAVE BEEN THE FIRM’S BIGGEST ACHIEVEMENTS?
A)It’s a difficult thing to measure but I feel our biggest achievement to date is our market reputation; the positive feedback we get from our clients is fantastic. Another achievement would be when our clients and candidates voted for us as Scotland’s “Best Small Recruitment Consultancy” at the S1 Jobs awards. This was amazing for such a young business,
but I think I was even more proud of Matthew Gilchrist winning “Recruitment Consultant of Year” at the same event. Matthew had very little knowledge of the recruitment or architecture sector when he joined us two-and-a-halfyears ago, but through a lot of hard work and dedication he has transformed himself into a top recruitment consultant. We place a huge emphasis on the development and retention of staff, and this is an example of what can be achieved.
Q) WHAT ARE THE MOST CHALLENGING ISSUES FACING CONSTRUCTION EMPLOYERS?
A) Competition is high within the construction sector currently. Companies are still having to put in highly competitive tender prices to win the larger framework contracts, resulting in small profit margins. So in my mind, far too many contracts are being awarded dependent on price rather than quality or previous experience, which is hindering the development of the industry. Firms are simply not making enough profit to invest properly in recruitment or internal development of staff. As a result companies are all looking for the same “mid-level” candidate who has 2-5 years of experience as they don’t want or cannot afford to hire more experienced workers, or invest in graduates. This is hindering sector growth and having a detrimental effect on the long-term sustainability of organisations and programme delivery on projects. The solution? Firms need to plan further ahead andstart thinking longer term, ideally, planning their recruitment strategy for the next 12 months on a rolling basis.
Q) HOW WOULD YOU SUM UP THE COMPANY ETHOS?
A) Service before sales. What does this mean to our clients? We are honest, transparent and want to be a trusted outsourced partner that works hand in hand with them, while adding value to their business or career. Ultimately, I would rather have a great reputation for excellent customer service than make a few extra sales per month by implementing some of the negative working practices that do exist within some recruitment agencies.
Q) HAS THE BREXIT VOTE IMPACTED RECRUITMENT?
A) We have noticed a slight change in clients’ attitude towards risk post Brexit vote, particularly with our larger international clients becoming a little more hesitant. However, these organisations are still hiring, but recruitment does not seem to be at the top of their priority list currently. For the more local SME firms, it seems like it is business as normal and our clients that are involved in infrastructure projects are definitely still full steam ahead.
Q) IS ENOUGH BEING DONE TO TACKLE SKILLS SHORTAGES IN THE SECTOR?
A) Increasingly firms are realising that they need to invest in recruitment if the skills shortages are to be breached. Flexibility is key, companies need to look for a broader range of skills sets and level of experience, and put more trust in their recruitment process. We are telling our clients to invest in more junior team members and train them up. It might cost them more now, but they will be handsomely rewarded in the long run. Firms also need to reward and develop their existing staff, otherwise there is a good chance they could be head-hunted. I am also a big believer that there has to be a systematic advancement of promoting careers in construction and engineering in schools, like the “Building My Skills” programme we were involved in earlier this year.
Q) WHERE DO YOU SEE THE FIRM IN FIVE YEARS?
A) The company of choice in Scotland within our sector with around 30 staff plus operating a smaller office out of London.
Q) WHAT MAKES YOU DIFFERENT FROM OTHER RECRUITMENT FIRMS?
A) For our clients we are truly consultative, honest and deliver long-term results. For my current team and future colleagues we offer unrivalled commission, which
is about rewarding their efforts. We also have ambitious growth plans so I can offer real career development and promotion prospects.