Your Business With James Caan 2017 - 153

ENTREPRENEURS

LAURA DRYSDALE, 38

DIRECTOR OF MERAKI TALENT IN GLASGOW AND EDINBURGH
Why did you want to set up your
own recruitment business?
Throughout my career all I've done
is set up businesses. In one agency,
I was the only person doing
international recruitment. I built that
up from one consultant to 55. There
was a big brand above the door, but
I'd essentially started up my own area
from scratch. I later became a board
director there and we went through a
management buy out.
I've been through the school of hard
knocks and learned how not to run a
business. That experience made me
realise I wanted to do it for myself.
Why do you and your business
partner, Andrew Welsh, work so
well together?
Andrew and I are partners outside of
the office too. We have the same beliefs
- we value our staff and know our
market. Andrew's market knowledge is
second-to-none - and I don't say that
as a gushing partner! Personality-wise,
we're complete opposites. My fiery drive
complements his calm personality.
What impressed you about James?
We opted for James as an investor
because of his reputation and market
knowledge, as well as the financial
investment and business support. He
was aware of the company we'd come
from, and he also understood our
motivation for making the leap.
I walked away from our first
meeting thinking "I'm going to do this."
It isn't a case of joining the portfolio
and never seeing James again. He
doesn't just disappear. We have regular
video conference calls for training and
general business updates.
I feel strongly that I want to make
the business a success for me, but
there's also a part of me that doesn't
want to let James down.

What about James's best advice?
Focus on the quality of the people you
hire. It's imperative to train and retrain.
What's your biggest achievement?
The successes of my teams and
watching individuals flourish. We have
taken them from steady consultants to
potential leaders of the future.
Is there anything you wish you'd
done differently?
I wish I'd gone bigger sooner, used
more of our investment earlier and
had more belief in certain areas of the
business. For example, I wish we'd set
up the international division sooner.

Did you encounter any hurdles
when you launched?
Our major hurdle was not choosing the
correct customer relation management
(CRM) database system at the start,
which significantly held us back. It
hampered the quality of data we had,
and impacted decision making and
marketing. It was a painful process but
our investors listened and we now have
a cracking system in place.
What's the biggest lesson you
have learned?
That you don't appreciate the support
you have when you're working in a
bigger business. However, as a result
of that I've learned that I can turn my
hand to many more things than I
thought I could. Personally, I've learned
I should have had more confidence in
our ability as team - but when you're
starting from scratch you're essentially
pushing jelly up a hill!

Where do you see Meraki Talent
in five years?
We're opening a London office in
2018 and are considering another
addition, potentially in Manchester.
I'd like a European location too, in
Luxembourg or Amsterdam. We could
double or quadruple our headcount by
opening in the right spot.
Was the business in profit after
your first year?
Andrew started at Meraki Talent in
January 2015 and we appointed team
members in the April. I started a bit
late, in July of that year. In our first
year, turnover-wise, we were on budget;
profit-wise there was more expenditure
than we'd budgeted for. We have come
into our own in year two.
Do you have any advice to
someone starting a business?
Make an honest and critical analysis of
yourself - there's a massive difference
between a manager and a leader. And
surround yourself with people who, in
some areas, are better than you. You'll
get wherever you want to go so much
faster that way.

153
150 YB2017 James entrepreneurs jw2.indd 153

03/10/2017 17:05



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