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16 May 2015

POSTED BY David Jackson IN Content, Our Team, S2M News | May 16th, 2015 | no responses

Shortlist chats with… David Jackson, S2M

David Jackson fell into recruitment at 28, after deciding it was time to stop “floating around”, managing bands, booking venues and filming underwater projects on the Great Barrier Reef, and find a career.


He was one of the first handful of employees at Parker Bridge (now Clarius) but after two years, decided to stretch his wings with his own venture, Global Job Network – a job board for travellers.


When that petered out, Jackson spent a few years freelancing, and in 2006, he partnered with Samantha Watts to co-found digital and communications recruitment specialist S2M, which has since grown to headcount of 18 across offices in Sydney and Melbourne.


You’ve been involved in the angel investor scene for some time now. How does that affect the recruiting side of your career?


“Back in ’99 when I started at Parker Bridge and I was doing accounting recruitment, I found a client called Spike Networks which was one of the first digital agencies in Australia, and I placed a couple of accountants there and became friendly with their CFO on a social basis… It just sparked my interest. These companies were rapidly growing; they went from 30 staff to well over 200 staff in Australia and the UK, Japan and the US, and it was a really interesting space to be in in that dot-com boom. So I naturally have since then always been attracted to people… that want to grow businesses that revolve around the internet.

A few years ago, I became part of [angel investment group] Sydney Angels and I now sit on the board of Sydney Angels. I’m an active investor, advisor and founder of start-ups. I work with them on a weekly basis. So that’s really a personal decision but it’s driven the growth [and] it’s driven the direction of our business… I’ve been able to learn a lot, keep in touch with the latest technology and the latest developments in the digital space, [and] been able to advise my staff and introduce them to clients.

“It’s a very small fraction of our turnover – the early-stage ecosystem recruiting for those businesses – but when they do grow, hopefully they’ll remember S2M and the assistance I’ve given them, and we can work with them at a later stage in their business when they’re going through the growth phase and employing lots of staff.”


What are the biggest changes you expect to see in the Australian recruitment sector over the next five years?


“We’ve all seen these companies trying to disrupt the service economy [and] the services businesses in various sectors, but in recruitment, our customers rely on us to determine the right cultural fit for an office and for that particular team they’re recruiting for… We go out, we meet the business, we have a look at their offices, we meet the team, we get to know them and that can help us hire the right passive candidates for our clients, but I don’t think you can build a website [or] an algorithm that can do that online, and if you could, you’d probably crack it and you may wipe out the recruitment industry as we know it today… I expect to see a lot more of these software and technology start-ups trying to disrupt our industry, and it’s interesting to watch how they go into the market, and it’s interesting to watch how they’ve captured millions of dollars of investment for ideas that I’m not sure will be sustainable.

There’s all these websites where you can refer a friend and get a referral fee, and that person will get a job, but it’s a two-sided marketplace. We all know in the internet industry two-sided marketplaces are extremely difficult to build unless you have mounds and mounds of cash, or a strategic alliance with the right partner that’s going to drive eyeballs to your innovative website, but more importantly not just any eyeballs – you’re going to be driving eyeballs that will convert to paying users. So without a lot of money or without the right alliances, I’m not sure these refer-a-friend websites will work.

You’ve even got those companies that are opening up databases online to potential clients and I wonder why any recruitment company would trade off their database and trade off their IP so easily to an independent start-up… You’re seeing companies are giving recruiters the chance to bid through their platforms for work. I think these guys are definitely wasting investors’ money because they’re not getting the good recruiters. They’re just getting recruiters that are either out of work or they work from home, and they’re not dedicated, they’re not driven, they potentially don’t have the solid networks of passive candidates… You may get the odd good recruiter, but I’m just not sure those platforms are going to crack it either.

So I don’t really see the industry being decimated by technology. Reduced, yes, but if you’re a niche player providing an exceptional service to your clients and your candidate, and keeping your staff happy, you’ll be around for many years to come.”


What advice would you give to someone entering the recruitment industry today?


“I’d advise people who are looking at recruitment to look at it as a career and not actually as something that they might do for a couple of years. We get a lot of people who come out of an industry and get approached to come into recruitment companies, and they go, ‘I’ll go and do it for a couple of years’, and they don’t look at it as a long-term career, and I think that’s a hindrance… [to] the recruitment industry.

Our associations need to work closely with the TAFE and create an actual course and a certificate in recruitment so that people can start to look at it as a career and that will build out the industry and give us some solid foundations to build the right type of consultants, so we can turn the naysayers and people that downgrade the industry upside down… [and create the perception that] the recruitment industry is a respected industry to work in.”


As a recruitment business leader, what keeps you up at night?


“I would say, the three Cs. Cash flow and funding those short-term cash flow gaps is always a challenge when you’ve got a contract book [and] clients potentially cannot pay invoices for 45–90 days but you’re paying those contractors every two weeks or four weeks. It starts to add up, especially when we’re working with contractors that are charging $1,000 or $1,500 a day, plus our cost on top of that… So cash flow definitely wakes me up at night.

My competition… may wake me up at night. I don’t think about it every night or weekly, but whether it wakes me up or not, I’m conscious of the competition. Competition is healthy; we enjoy competing against our competitors. We’ve got some great friends that are competitors and it’s something, as a business leader, to keep your eye on.

And then the final one would be culture. So the culture of our business and that definitely keeps me awake at night. It’s something that we pride ourselves on.”

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