Spotlight on Sean Clare
I was born in Worcester, grew up in Burton on Trent and for the last 4 years lived in Nottingham. I have always worked, my first job was working as a warehouse operative in freezing cold salad factory as soon as I was old enough, I did that for the summer before starting college & then became part of the historic Woolworths, later River island, I had over 4 years in customer service before a year in Estate Agency, then got into Recruitment.
Blue Arrow was founded in 1959, it is one of the UK's largest specialist staffing companies. With over 500 recruitment professionals across more than 70 locations throughout the UK, including 54 high-street branches, Blue Arrow places over 60,000 people in work, each year. We specialise in staffing for Admin & Secretarial including Call Centre, Transport & Logistics, Hospitality & Catering, Manufacturing & Production and Public Sector.
Our Enhancing People's Lives mission unites staff under a profound appreciation for their part in helping people find fulfilling work. Blue Arrow has also proudly been placed among The Sunday Times' Top 100 Best Companies to Work For and accredited Platinum status by Investors in People, Blue Arrow values people.
Taking the leap
As many people that have done Recruitment for a long time, they will tell you they fell into it. That’s the same for me, I was thoroughly enjoying my time in estate agency, however, when the market crashed I needed a move, a former colleague and friend said I should try recruitment as she thought I had the skills to make that move. I loved it from day one, and continue to have the same hunger & passion 13 years later.
Where I am now is that after 6 years of working my way up in the Burton on Trent branch, my ambition and hunger wanted to make my mark in another way, I could have waited for another management opportunity to open up across our network, but I didn’t want to inherit someone else’s success or have to go into a struggling team. Instead, I pitched to my MD & CEO that after going through a year-long management training scheme, I saw an opportunity to start an operation in Derby, I had won clients in that area anyway and knew the market was there for Blue Arrow to make its mark.
While growing the new Derby Branch and developing new staff members who had no recruitment experience was really tough, we won clients and really hit the ground running, however being a manager at such a young age was a challenge, recruitment is an extremely hard job with no day the same, so it’s not for everyone. I had problems with getting the right people as well as learning what my attributes were as a leader & a coach. I also had very high standards knowing what I had done as a consultant before, I had fall-outs with people and ultimately it took time to understand what I needed & wanted from the people I took on.
To overcome these challenges I spoke to fellow peers to understand their journeys, but I also went on an internal 18-month long course which was the CMI level 5 in leadership, during this time made me realise my skills, and my manoeuvre from having a couple of strong leadership styles that weren’t matched to what my team needed, to honing the other styles to compliment my team, and enabled me to lead & coach. My hires were approached differently and since then we have gone from strength to strength, my longest server from my hires is coming up to 4 years and no leavers since early 2019 is a testament to that journey.
Drive and determination
I think my drive and determination comes from knowing that everything that we do each day has an impact, our day could begin with a care home needing a chef urgently because theirs is sick, and without us supplying cover, the residents may not get the right nutrition that day, the range and spectrum of companies and roles we work on could also lead to us placing a senior manager into their dream role and employer. That is immensely rewarding and offers such variety. Over the last 3 years, I would say my vision for my team, I am constantly looking to develop and progress in their careers and that gives me so much pride.
An important initiative that you feel passionate about
There are a couple, and it’s driven by our company vision & mission over the last few years, we want to enhance the lives of all that come in to contact with Blue Arrow, and that is all-encompassing, working with honesty, placing the candidates and clients at the forefront of what we do, working with the best companies, walking away from opportunities if they don’t align with our ethos, placing the right people into the right jobs for them and the company.
Aiming to be the worlds most trusted staffing company, the words trust often aren’t associated with our industry and a quick scan of LinkedIn can tell you exactly why, we aren’t perfect, we are humans, but we have the right approach of ensuring our flexible employees & clients alike trust what we do.
Three tips would you give to those starting their careers
Don’t worry about what you can’t control, in recruitment we deal with human beings every day, from clients to candidates, that presents a variety of challenges from people not turning up to work to you making a sales call at the wrong time. No matter how bad a situation may seem, it’s never as bad as you think.
Be patient & respect the no’s – I am proud to work in recruitment, others may tell someone what they do with their hands over their eyes, because it is an industry littered with horror stories and bad reputations, just yesterday I was told by a company I was the 7th agency to contact them that day, would I want that whilst trying to do my job? Of course not, my time is valuable, so we need to understand the rejections, but be patient that the opportunity may arise later, some of my best customers told me no, no & no again and took me years to work with, but they are now the best partnerships we have in our client portfolio.
Ask questions & learn, never be afraid to learn something new, find a new method of doing something that works for you, especially with sales, it’s about listening & personality for me, no one likes to feel they are just being sold to, if you aren’t prepared to build a relationship then your chances of success are limited.
Advice to people who are wanting to start a business
I won’t pretend that my situation is the same as someone investing all of their hard-earned money into a new venture, that has potentially left a secure career to make that move, but I would like to think my story still has relevance to the journey of starting up.
Be prepared that there will be highs, there will be lows, do your research of what service you are able to offer and is there a market for you. Innovate & don’t get complacent, as we have seen over the last 12 months you need to be prepared to adapt to changes in the market and circumstances, surround yourself with inspirational people that will push you but have your best interests at heart, I have found some amazing allies through local networking which has helped us grow in the city.
Advice for people aiming for leadership positions
Don’t rush into it, learn your craft, I believe that my journey over the last 13 years from trainee consultant to Business Director looking after two city locations has been enhanced because I have done every job and every step that my team is required to do. I honestly believe that earns an element of respect, but my team know that I am not asking anything of them I wouldn’t or haven’t done myself. Shadow other leaders, see what it entails, ask your current manager to see if you can help them with elements of their job.
Advice be to someone managing a team
Quite simply, treat people the way you would want to be treated yourself. Be someone that the team you are leading wants to follow, dictatorship styles may get an instant reaction, but that’s not the method to get long term buy-in. I also never really got delegation, in my eyes it was getting rid of the jobs you don’t want to do, until it was put to me in another way, empower your people, and that’s the method I have used for the last 3 years, empowering my team to learn parts of my job that will help develop their skills that will also allow me to do more.
The best and worst part of your job
The best part would be developing people, only one of my team had worked in recruitment previously, and so having a direct influence on their careers and development is so rewarding. Seeing people progress and hit major life milestones like buying their first house, something that may have taken a lot longer in their previous jobs.
The worst would be that people assume all agencies are bad. There are some fantastic recruitment companies in the market and they have my respect, however, it is incredibly frustrating when a client has had such a bad experience that they are determined to not give others a chance to change their minds. Coming up against agencies that price up with ridiculously low costs that are unsustainable and often don’t deliver what’s required to the client or the candidate. I would much rather know we are going up against competition that is great at what they do and price realistically.
The future is looking really good and that’s not recruitment bravado. We had to adapt quickly in lockdown one, one day we were in our offices, within 24 hours the whole operation was working from home. We have made that work superbly for 12 months now, with no negative impact to service or delivery, that has coincided with our branch having its best-ever start to a year. So I think that work-life balance has really supported our growth and will continue to do so. Right now we are continuing our focus on the permanent sector with over 40 live jobs on offer across Derby & Stoke, it is great to see that companies are still requiring temporary labour for long term employment, but that they are confident in the market to take on permanent employees and increase their workforces.