Shaking up a recruitment agency after decade in the industry

Claire Virdee at her office in Hanwell


Claire Virdee, managing director of CV Recruits Ltd., talks to Business Advice about her time in the recruitment sector, the challenges of starting your own business and her inspiration by her late mother.

Virdee began working for Greenford-based Excel Staff in 2006. In 2013 Virdee founded her first recruitment agency Ace Recruitment Ltd., based out of Hanwell.

Her current company CV Recruits was founded in November 2017, and focuses on finding temporary shift workers for businesses in Greater London. Clients range from smaller outlets to large companies such as John Lewis and the Fuller, Smith and Turner brewery in Chiswick. Virdee plans to expand her business, both in the sectors hired, and recruiting for clients looking for employees to work full time.

What were your early experiences as a recruitment consultant?

I’d never done any sales calls before when Excel Staff offered me a job. I told the boss I had no experience, however she seemed to think that I would do wonderfully well and gave me a trial. After a week she laughed and told me I could sell manure to farmers. It just went from there.

In time I was recruiting 1900 hours worth of temporary shift work by myself. The boss got rid of all her other consultants because they weren’t producing near as much as I was on my own.

I was headhunted and offered double wages at a new company. Unfortunately I became very unhappy there, and being a salesperson you have to be happy where you are or you can’t produce.

What made you unhappy?

It was the environment. Nobody was doing anything in the office, and the business was sinking very slowly but very surely. They brought me on to rescue them, putting all the pressure on me. It was also an all male environment. That doesn’t normally faze me but this time it did. They had impossible expectations.

My father and my husband were not impressed with my mood and the way the company were treating me. So we went to the bank for a loan so I could start up my own recruitment agency, known as Ace Recruitment.

How did CV Recruits come about?

My mother passed away eighteen months ago, and in November 2017 in honour of her I changed the name of my company to what my Mum originally wanted me to call it, CV of course standing for both my initials Claire Virdee and curriculum vitae. My mum always gets her own way, even from beyond the grave.

I had time off work after my Mum passed and the business suffered dramatically. However I knew she wouldn’t have wanted me stuck in a rut. I have new staff now and I am back to work full time, so the business is slowly but surely growing.

How do you see CV Recruits expanding in the coming weeks and months?

We have some very good staff now that I can trust, which is what any company needs. We have new clients coming on with us, we’re being recommended to other clients too.

Some of my clients such as Fullers, Tempur Beds and BTC I’ve had right from the beginning, moving with me from agency to agency. We used to have contracts with other large chains, and now I’m back full time I’m sure if I made a few phone calls in the right direction I could probably get these contracts back. Ace Recruitment used to specialise in driving and warehouse logistics, now I’ve now branched out where our clients have asked us if we can fill an admin position or an accounts position.


The author and Ms Virdee next to her advertising sign


What advice would you give to people starting out their own companies, especially in the local area?

Business rates can be a killer if you’re not careful. I’ve known many local businesses go bust in their first year due to the rates combining with high overheads, so you’ve got to ensure a consistent revenue from the outset. Keeping your tax affairs in order and having a good accountant is also a priority.

Your first business is a huge learning curve. When you have a 9-5 you can come home and forget about work. When you own your own business you are constantly at work, I run a 24 hour service for my clients. My phone is always on.

What issues have you faced while working in the recruitment industry?

A key one is late payment from clients. In order to pay the wages we factor from a bank using someone called TeamFactors Ltd., who I would recommend to any small business in West London.

If people don’t pay within thirty days it can cause a huge amount of problems, because the bank can then start charging you off the money you’ve borrowed from them. You’ll find the bigger the business, the longer they take to pay. Smaller companies will send you a cheque before their invoice is even due.

What are some positive aspects of working in the recruitment sector?

I’ve met some wonderful people and I’ve really changed some people’s lives which is the most fantastic thing about my job.

There’s a young mum called Susie who has three children. She hadn’t worked for five years, couldn’t afford to take her children on holiday, no extra luxuries as a single parent. She came to register with me. I really, really liked her. I was concerned about the children issue impacting her working time, but she reassured me her mother was there, along with her mother-in law and a neighbour, a very good network around her for the children.

She turned out to be one of the best workers I ever had. She went permanent and now rings me needing temps.

Where do you hope to see CV Recruits in 12 months?

I think getting to recruiting 3000 temporary hours a week is very doable, right now we’re at around 1500 dependent on the time of year. Recruitment of permanent as well as temporary staff has sustained the CV Recruits turnover. The first year at Ace Recruitment turnover was £250,000, and after five years we’re now on a £750,000 which I’m very happy with going forward.


Ms Virdee outside her office



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