H9 Technical recruitment
Technical and HR recruitment

We spent some time talking to Mark Hunt, MD at H9 Recruitment based in Manchester about his recruitment background, motivations and life in general.

Background

I have been married for just under two years, and we welcomed our first baby (Owen) to the world in December, so he has been taking up most of my spare time lately! When I do get some time to myself, I try to keep as active as I can. This involves playing golf, tennis, football and getting to the gym when possible. Staying on the football theme, I am a lifelong Manchester United fan. This used to bring me a lot of pleasure and enjoyment but has the exact opposite effect these days! My motivation has always been my family; to try to give everybody around me the best opportunities in life. This is what drives me to keep working hard every day.

Getting into recruitment

After leaving University, I’ve spent my whole career working in recruitment. It was the typical story of not really knowing what direction to head into after finishing my degree and ‘falling’ into recruitment. I got a job as a trainee working at one of the big global FTSE agencies on a contract engineering desk. This was a real dog-eat-dog, high-pressure environment but I had some fantastic people around me to learn from. Achieving some good results really helped me to catch the recruitment bug.

After four years in this business, I ended up joining another large recruitment company in a managerial role. Another great learning curve, focusing more on permanent recruitment but also with direct P&L responsibility, reporting into the national MD. During that time I began to have doubts about the way some of these big recruitment companies operated. They seemed to offer very little reward and had a huge churn in headcount. They were also very narrow-minded when it came to engaging with clients.

Starting H9 Technical and HR recruitment

After a year or so I started having conversations with SSG. Eventually those conversations led to me setting up H9 in 2016, specialising in Technical and HR recruitment. H9’s fantastic head office is in Manchester City Centre, near to Spinningfields for anybody who knows the area. Manchester has been our home since 2018 and has been a brilliant location to build our business. There is so much going on in the city, and such an exciting, vibrant atmosphere.
We have a team of 12 currently split over two divisions- ‘Technical’ and ‘Human Resources & Professional Services’.

The Technical team focuses on several areas including Engineering, Construction, Advanced Manufacturing and Plant Operations. Predominantly within the Power and Energy sectors, but also supporting a diverse range of industrial businesses across the Northwest.

HR & Professional Services as the name suggests focus’s on the recruitment of HR professionals. We recruit from junior right through to executive levels (generalist and specialist). We also cover key business areas such as finance, payroll, customer services and other associated roles. They may sound very different, but we promote great synergy between both sides of the business. H9 offers a turnkey solution to several clients who partner with us on both divisions.

Our mission statement is “To disrupt the established hierarchy, and challenge preconceptions of the recruitment sector, creating a brighter future for all those we work with.”

Disillusioned with large recruitment companies

As mentioned, I was becoming disillusioned with the approach of the big companies I had been working for. My feeling was that not only could I personally be receiving more of the financial return that I was generating, but also that I felt we could be doing better when it came to the service being provided to candidates and clients.

I had been aware of SSG for 18 months or so before reaching out and engaging in an initial chat with them. Even then, it was just an informal discussion about my background and motivations.

Lucky in the sense that I was relatively young, I didn’t have a mortgage or any dependents, and was able to move back into my family home for a while to save costs while my partner (now wife), went back to university. I was walking away from a good package and senior role, but really it was a bit of a free swing. If I failed a few people might laugh and say, “I told you so”, but who cares?

Once I had made my mind up things moved quickly and the rest is history.

Support from SSG

I like to think I am more self-aware than most. With my knowledge of recruitment, how to win business, and how to bill, I had a lot of the skill sets required. However, I also knew that I had no idea of how to set up or run a business! The support service that SSG were offering seemed like a perfect partnership and remains like that to this day.

The onboarding process started almost 8 years ago now. Travelling down to Berkhamsted (as was the SSG office location at the time), we did a full ‘launch day’, meeting all the team, confirming some of the last-minute branding ideas, and making the website live. I remember it was an exciting occasion, the whole team were so friendly and welcoming, and there was absolutely no stress involved, everything was mapped out and made simple.

Building the partnership

Working with SSG has always been enjoyable, they provide all the support and infrastructure needed to grow and develop your business without being intrusive or overbearing. I have always retained full control over decision-making and strategy. Having the safety blanket of knowing that we have great people with many years’ experience and expertise available for any issues, small or big is a real benefit. There has been a lot of change both at H9 and SSG over the 8 years we have worked together. Their value proposition has honestly got stronger and stronger during recent times, and we are delighted to benefit from that development.

Business growth

We will hopefully be looking at growing all teams over the coming year with particularly exciting plans to start getting a foot hold in the US energy market. There is the possibility of even opening an office out their soon…why not?

It’s not all about increasing headcount however, it is about allowing our current team to reach their maximum potential. The more successful they are then the more successful we will be.

Advice for anyone starting out in recruitment?

Two things I would say.

Be clear on your motivations. If you are setting up your own business to make more money and have more freedom then that is great. Be aware however, of the challenges and sacrifices you may have to make to scale up the business in the future. If you are looking at setting up more of a lifestyle business, working around childcare or something else then be very clear about how that would look. What difficulties might you be facing? If you want to build an empire, then go for it but be realistic in terms of time frames and obstacles that will inevitably come up from time to time.

You can only go out and deliver results effectively if you know exactly what your plan is!

The second thing I would say, is don’t be afraid to fail. Nothing in life comes easy, but with the support and dedication of SSG you will have every chance of being a success. Life is too short, take that leap!

What has been the impact of starting your business?

I’ll keep this one simple. I have made much more money from setting up my own business than I would have done in my previous jobs. My stress levels are much lower working for myself as it has always been my vision to have my own personal accountability, which is very different from many agencies who don’t allow that level of freedom. I have been able to build an asset which continues to allow me and my family to live comfortably and do all of the things we wish to in life.

The value of partnership

SSG have been a valued partner of H9 from day one and this relationship is only getting stronger. They do exactly what they say on the tin. Supporting you with every aspect of managing and running a business, whilst allowing you to concentrate on the important bit- recruitment! I have always found their approach to be warm and welcoming, and they have provided me with a solid platform for success.

If you are looking to start your own business, then I can assure you SSG will only add value to your venture.

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H9 recruitment team