Concrete Conversation with Richard Toy

It was a pleasure to find out about Richard Toy’s career journey, company structure and his top tips for scaling a recruitment business.

IM What’s your position within Auctus Management Group?
RT I am Chief Executive and Founder of Auctus Management Group Ltd, the parent company of RSS Infrastructure Ltd and INFRA Skills Ltd
IM Did you set it up alone or did you have business partners?
RT I had two partners who both used to work for myself previously, Sean Harrison and Pete Thompson.
IM When you started did you have a pipeline of clients?
RT I was fairly lucky. Previously I set up a company called SkyBlue, owned by Carillion, who I joined in September 2000, following the demerger of Tarmac. Carillion had inherited two labour and recruitment companies; NCS a construction and rail labour supplier and Pasco a white collar oil and gas technical recruitment agency. The two companies didn’t know anything about recruitment/employment legislation. I was recruited on a Project Director contract which had no restrictive covenants. Since we were owned by Carillion, quite a lot of our big clients were previously Carillion’s competitors, they only dealt with us because of the quality of service we provided. Once we left, the clients naturally followed to retain the quality of service and delivery.
IM What made you want to start your own company?
RT I’m not very good at being managed. Carillion left me alone for nine years.  I had previously built the company from nothing to the 33rd largest agency in the UK with a turnover of £118 million and making circa £11 million pounds in profit a year. The recession came in 2009 and Carillion decided that we were in a recession even though we continued to show strong growth. They decided we needed some ‘Carillion’ management and therefore imported three people to manage us. The three managers didn’t understand the value of people. We fell out fairly quickly with the company as a whole, so in October 2011 they offered me redundancy and I took it.
IM When you started was it the three of you or did you hire consultants quickly?
RT There was four of us when we started. Three partners and my old Credit Controller / Administrator.
IM So you had some infrastructure when you started?
RT Yeah, we had one desk with four chairs around it!
IM Did you have an office or did you work from home?
RT I started from home in March 2012, getting all set up. Carillion and SkyBlue had just built Birmingham Library where we placed about 450 workers over the project lifetime for Birmingham City Council (BCC). When BCC knew I had left they asked what are you going to do afterwards as they had just set up a fund to help new entrepreneurial SMEs. They loaned me the money to set up and buy a company called Rail Safety Solutions Ltd (RSS). Auctus Management Group Ltd was registered on March the 13th, and we completed the deal for RSS on the 28th May 2012. RSS is a specialist track warning systems supplier to the rail sector and has all the accreditations we needed to build a labour model into the rail sector.
IM Do you think your previous education has greatly helped your professional development?
RT So, I don’t have a degree. I started on a YTS and kind of fell into recruitment like most people starting with HMS Recruitment in 1988. I just worked my way up from a telesales role, then a counsellor interviewing sales candidates to branch manager, area manager then National Accounts then moved to Ecco which became Adecco. I ran major projects including the Channel Five TV Launch, TNT Jaguar Land Rover, Royal Mail before being headhunted by Carillion. I have attended plenty of formal training throughout my career including Certificate in Management at Aston Business School and the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business Programme.
IM Within your own company do you have training schemes?
RT I set up INFRA Skills LTD, our training company because we couldn’t find enough candidates. We now have contracts and funding for ex-forces, unemployed, NEET’s ex-offenders et cetera. If you look after the people they will look after you! In SkyBlue, I built my own leadership and management programme which was a level 3 and level 5 CIPD accredited. We have done the same within Auctus where we run a level 3 and level 5 leadership management course through the ILM. We empower all the heads of departments and managers giving them the opportunity to learn how to run a business, write strategies, manage a budget and build a marketing plan. We are building the leaders of the future.
IM One of the big challenges within the recruitment industry is finding recruitment consultant so I think it’s great that you develop your staff skills further.
RT I class our company as recruitment plus. We aren’t just a recruitment company. We have developed a range of services and products which make it more interesting. None of my staff would pick up the phone and cold call for a week or day. Everything we do is around servicing the clients and maximising opportunities.
IM I think with the number of recruitment companies out there it is important to be different and specialise.
RT We are a very niche company within rail and construction/civils projects. We are one of the eight alliance partners for the Midland Metro Alliance delivering the recruitment and training academy.
IM What are your ambitions for the company in the next five years?
RT We are looking at a minimum of 40% growth year on year. We began seven years ago, and this year we should turnover £19 million. We are always expanding. Our Head Office is based in Birmingham. We have new offices in Newport and we are just about to open in the South-East. I bought my old welding business out of Carillion when they collapsed, which is technical labour delivery and gives us a base for the North East, based in Doncaster. We will be expanding our footprint so that we have national coverage. Rail is a great market it has such high levels of clients and high barriers to entry. We are known as experts within our sector.
IM How are you feeling regarding Brexit?
RT I don’t see any impact on us. There are three areas where we import specialist equipment from Germany, Switzerland and Holland. The only thing that will happen there is there will probably be a tariff. That will just get passed onto the end user. Labour wise, we build our own labour pool so every month we are training between 40 and 70 people to go into the sector. If we have vacancies we use them if not we train for our competitors. At the end of the day, I don’t care where the candidates go as long as they are going into work! For me, Brexit isn’t a big area, we aren’t a high volume business like Adecco / Manpower so I don’t see any real impact, although we might see a hike in hourly rates.
IM Another big topic is the skills shortage, your training scheme is an impressive way to combat this but could you tell me a bit more about the effect the shortage has had on your company?
RT The rail industry has got a huge shortage so we are in a need for 13,000 engineers for the Rail industry, not including HS2. There are between 5,000 and 6,000 people retiring from the rail sector every year. The average age for signalling staff is 59 as an example of future opportunities. We developed and run an apprenticeship programme for our clients, so everything we look at is where we can add value, big clients just don’t know how to do these schemes.
IM What would be your top tips for scaling a recruitment business?
RT Invest in the right people. Treat everybody with respect. Be 100% honest with your clients. Don’t take on more than you can chew!
IM Thank you very much for taking the time to talk to me today Richard.
RT Thanks, Isabel.
 IM All the best Richard.

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One thought on “Concrete Conversation with Richard Toy

  • April 9, 2019 at 1:01 pm

    An interesting interview. Good to hear your thoughts on Brexit and the current skills shortage in construction recruitment. Apprenticeship programmes seem to be particularly valuable at the moment and so important from bringing the younger generation into the sector.


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