Russell Crowe is the founder of CVWOW, an online recruitment firm. He was a finalist in the Sage Ambition competition, which had a prize of a business advice meeting with entrepreneur Peter Jones. Here, he talks about his business and shares advice on challenges he’s overcome and how his ambition has kept him going.
CVWOW is a disruptive online recruitment business that does not charge commission. We started eight years ago because companies don’t need to pay high agency fees on a pay-per-hire basis.
Companies can now recruit any member of staff for just a few hundred pounds and our clients can hire as many candidates as they like from each campaign we run for them.
We promote our clients’ brands using online job board channels and social media channels, and we use big data tools to understand exactly where our clients’ candidates are online.
We cover all industry sectors and have clients ranging from FTSE 250 companies to small and medium-sized businesses. We now fill roles across Europe and the US, and we advertise and fill thousands of jobs every year.
7 pieces of advice to overcome business challenges
1. Surround yourself with positive people and believe in yourself
Negative people drain you – if you have a bad egg in your team, it can bring down the entire morale and culture of your business.
I studied and attended a neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) course with US entrepreneur and life coach Tony Robbins, which taught me lots of valuable lessons including how to stop limiting beliefs in yourself. One of the tasks saw us walking across 15ft of hot coals with bare feet.
The biggest learning I took was that I could achieve anything. Tony teaches you how your brain works from birth and why you make decisions based on past experiences – in short, we limit our own ability to achieve based on our experiences and thoughts and those around us.
2. Never give up on your mission
If you believe in your service or product, keep going. Others may be negative but ignore them.
During an awards evening at a recruitment industry event, there were a number of traditional recruitment companies in attendance.
As a recruitment industry disruptor, one individual made it clear that he didn’t feel we should have won any award as we were “destroying his market”. I guess us not charging commission was enough to send him over the edge. We won the award for Best Online Candidate experience, by the way – so don’t give up.
3. Join a networking group
There are a number of local networking groups run across the country that are worth attending. Some are free, others have a small charge, while some groups can see you paying more (some charge £800 per month).
I have participated with numerous groups and have gained valuable contacts and feedback from various individuals. One day out of the office each month is all it takes.
4. Hire people who are ambitious and driven
In the early days, we could only afford to pay minimum wage to our employees. But our focus was to recruit ambitious, driven and positive people – traits we still look for today.
It paid off as some of those staff stayed with us for five years. Others joined then left and have now come back. Take people on who have the qualities that will help your business succeed.
And it’s worth employing people who are more skilled than yourself – those with skills that will help your business to keep moving forward.
We’ve recruited a number of apprentices who have developed with the business, too. Beth now runs our entire customer experience team and says apprenticeships are a great way for young people to start their careers.
5. Consider alternative funding
Banks can leave a lot to be desired when you’re trying to find extra funding for expansion. If your bank can’t help, don’t despair – other funding platforms can be great. I spent weeks asking banks for help but each meeting ended in a no.
I later went online and spent 10 minutes on a well-known funding site – within 15 minutes, they had agreed to lend us £150k. It was a little more expensive in interest terms but considering all the wasted time I had spent elsewhere, it was worth it.
6. Be confident and ask for contra deals
In the early days we’d swap our services for marketing support. We helped a small marketing company with their recruitment and in return they produced all our literature and materials – a great deal for both of us.
If you’re worried about approaching the conversation with a supplier, don’t be. If you have a similar arrangement with another supplier, tell them and ask if they’d like to do the same. Worst case, they say no. But if they say yes, it’s another opportunity for your business.
7. Ask for help and referrals
Your customers are your biggest advocates, so it’s always worth asking for help and referrals from them. If you can get them to become walking adverts for your business, you’re doing something right.
What would Russell have asked Peter Jones?
As a finalist in the Sage Ambition competition, Russell didn’t get the opportunity to have a business meeting with Peter Jones. However, if he did, here’s what he would have asked him:
“When it comes to funding, what’s the best option to choose – a private investor or private equity?”
Help from our Sage Business Experts
We’ve asked our Sage Business Experts, who have business and entrepreneurial expertise across a wealth of areas, to answer his question. Want to find out their answers, which could be beneficial to you and your business too? Download the Ambition in Action e-book to get them – along with more details on Emmerson’s business story and advice that will inspire you.
Ambition In Action
Want to grow your business but struggling to do so? Download this free e-book for advice from Peter Jones and the winner and finalists of the Sage Ambition competition who faced challenges and overcame them using their business ambition.