Today, continuing with my NEF interview series, I speak to Gordon McQuoid. The Zimbabwe born 28 years old grew up in Harare before moving over to the UK just before his 19th Birthday.
Gordon is currently part of the New Entrepreneurs Foundation, while also pursuing his own startup ‘Jobs in Network’ after selling his shares in a recruitment business he set up a few years ago.
Hi Gordon, Its great to finally have you on YHP, how are you doing today?
I’m great, thanks for the invite. It’s good to be here.
So tell us about how you got into entrepreneurship, what was your inspiration?
I’ve wanted to have my own business for as long as my mother can remember! When I was growing up people would always ask “what do you want to be” and I would always say that I just wanted my own business. It’s always just seemed like the natural path to pursue.
Why did you decide not to go university and head off straight into the working world?
I finished school in Zimbabwe after GCSE’s and went to college for a year. Neither of my parents went to university and it was never something that was pushed. In Zimbabwe going to uni isn’t as accessible as it is over here. I was eager to leave school and start earning money.
You worked for Ezek for over 3 years, how was your experience working for a Head Hunting company?
Ezek was a great place to work; I still regularly keep in touch with the two Directors. They really took a risk employing me and a colleague. We joined them to set up a new area in their business, which was recruiting in the defence industry, which they hadn’t done before. It was exciting and scary but we were given a lot of autonomy to get things done.
What are some of the key things you learnt from working there?
The key thing I learnt was really about was sales. When we started there we were given a computer and a phone, and managed to bring on board some large defence contractors as clients.
How did you know that was the right time to leave?
It was just as the recession really kicked in and the business was being restructured, which meant they we making cut backs. It felt like the right time to set up on our own, so we made a timely approach to the two directors who turned out to be incredibly supportive which definitely made it easier.
Tell me about Latronis then?
Latronis was born following the work I had been doing at Ezek. We focused on recruiting technical engineers and management in the defence industry. The roles we recruited for were quite specialist skill sets, which included Systems Engineers, Software Engineer and Programme Managers.
What would you say was probably the most difficult part of starting the business?
The hardest part was getting the cash flow and pipeline of sales again. I used my savings and borrowed some money from my parents to give us 6 months’ worth of money in the bank - just enough to live on and run the business. We came very close to running out of money. Fortunately we had our first invoice paid just in the nick of time to keep us trading!
What has been some of the key things that you’ve learnt running the business?
Getting those initial few clients is critical for cash flow! It’s an obvious one but until it was my business and I had to deal with it, it became very real. Also having a good accountant makes life so much easier.
Why did you decide to exit the company and how successful was the company?
It depends how you define successful. Deciding to exit wasn’t an easy decision. The New Entrepreneurs Foundation was a catalyst for change. I had been looking at the online recruitment industry for a while and things had started falling into place. I could see an opportunity and was sure that if I didn’t get on with setting up the “Jobs in Network” now then I’d kick myself in a few years.
What has been some of the differences working in a company compared to starting your own business or running a startup?
In your own business you get out what you put in. The harder you work the luckier you get. I guess you are limited when you work for someone else.
Jobs in Network Ltd was Started in March 2011, tell me how the idea came about and what it is?
The Jobs in Network is a company I set up to launch regional and local online job board services, joining job seekers looking for local jobs and employers looking for a cost effective way to recruit online. I had been kicking the idea around for a few years and when I started doing more and more research things started falling into place. It’s nothing revolutionary, but I see an opportunity for a variety of services which no one has really nailed (yet!).
The first job board to launch is Jobs in Cheltenham launched September 2011, how’s it going?
It’s going well, so far we have a number of local agencies using the service and we are delivering applications for jobs posted. I’ve learnt a huge amount and continually improving and tweaking things for the next job board, which will go live in a couple of weeks.
Tell me about NEF, why did you decide this was the next step for you, what was the process?
I saw Oliver Pawle, the founder, and Ed East on Sky News with Jeff Randall discussing the NEF and knew it was something I wanted to be a part of. I found the link to the website the following day via Twitter and sent in an application. It was a pretty intense interview and assessment process.
What opportunity has the NEF programme presented you with?
The NEF has presented all sorts of opportunities; the networking with other entrepreneurs is awesome. They also host speaker events, where we’ve had the likes of Luke Johnson from Risk Capital Partners and Al Lukies from Monitise sharing their experiences which is also very inspiring. Then there’s the training from companies like Deloitte, McLaren and LBS who have hosted events for us.
What would you say has been some of your most memorable moment so far?
There have been lots of memorable moments but one funny one was when Luke Johnson was telling us when he worked for a bank, when he was younger, he used to get so bored he’d go and sleep in the toilets.
What advices would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs looking to start their own business?
Get on with it, look for advice and help, there’s plenty of it out there.
What can we be expecting from you in the future?
Lots hopefully. Right now my focus is getting the Jobs in Network off the ground and then I’ll go from there.
If you’d like to follow Gordon on Twitter it’s @gordonmcquoid
APPLICATIONS ARE NOW OPEN! Applications for the 2012-2013 programme opened on 23 January 2011 at 9am. They will close at 12pm on 27 February 2012