May 23, 2018

Small Is Beautiful

Google was founded in 1998 by two PhD students at Stamford University, Larry Page and Sergei Brin. They founded the company in the garage of a friend somewhere in California.

One version of the start-up story goes that they went out for funding and Andy Bechtolsheim, the co-founder of Sun Microsystems gave them a cheque for $100,000 but they didn’t even have a bank account. Today, Google is has a market cap of £750 billion and they employ 85,000 people. We bet Sergei and Larry don’t know all their names.

What about Apple? They were founded in 1976 by Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak and Ronald Wayne. In less than a year, Wayne sold his 10% share of the company back to Jobs and Woz for $800 because he needed the money and later accepted a further $1,500 to forfeit any future claims against Apple. If he’d have kept hold, today his 10% would have been worth as near as makes no difference $100 billion.

Today, Apple has a market cap of $922 billion and they employ 123,000 people and even though Jobs is dead and Woz doesn’t work there anymore, we bet they wouldn’t have known everyone’s name.

Amazon was founded by Jeff Bezos in 1994 to sell stuff. Today, they are the second-largest employer in the US (with almost 600,000 on the payroll) and they have a market cap of $770 billion. Do you think Bezos knows the names of everyone who works for him?

No, of course he doesn’t, and it would be ridiculous to suggest that any of these guys would, but we’re getting – slowly, granted – to a valid point.

Paul and Danny Sherman, the founders of Liquid know the names of everyone in the Liquid operation. Everyone. They’re at the coal face. They know what’s going on, and that’s just the way they like it.

We Actually Want To Stay Small

Listen, don’t misunderstand. We are a very ambitious business, hell bent on disrupting the recruitment game for the better and we’re making a noise that’s being heard. But, and this is a big BUT, our founding ethos was based on a two-year process of developing a way of working combining innovation, efficiencies where we can find them and the creation of ‘big ideas’. Also, and perhaps most importantly, it was about creating relationships, and we can’t create relationships with 600,000 people…

We don’t buy into the philosophy that ‘the bigger the business, the better the business’. In fact we think just the opposite. We’ve found our sweet spot.

‘Because we run a small recruitment firm, we actually get to do what we set up the firm in the first place for – recruit.’
Paul Sherman (and Danny agreed)

 So Why Do We Want To Stay Small?

We read the business press. We read the stories of the multi-million pound IPOs and multi-billion pound exits and it would be ridiculous to suggest that we don’t want to be rich beyond our wildest dreams but honestly, we’d rather take our chances with the lottery than compromise the integrity of our business.

Here’s why –

We Have Flexibility

We didn’t create the recruitment market, we just put ourselves in it and by staying small, we are afforded the flexibility to grow into the market at our own pace rather than define it and not be beholden to shareholders or a board of directors who are only interested in lining their pockets.

If something doesn’t work, it gets fixed. It doesn’t go through a tender process or a shed-load of bureaucracy. Decisions are instant, changes are affected quickly and seamlessly and we are fast and agile. Gazelle-like.

We Can See The Whole Board

Like we said earlier, we got into recruitment to recruit, not to be managers or administrators. In order to be a good chess player, you need to see the whole board, not just the piece you intend to move. One wrong move and it will affect what you do eight moves away. We see the whole board. We know what’s happening on every phone call and around every corner. Everything is within our grasp.

We Offer The Personal Touch

Paul and Danny see every CV, talk to every client and know who we’ve placed in every job. It’s a knackered cliché for sure but we are ‘big enough to cope yet small enough to care.’

Yeah, we think that’s a steaming pile of Hong Kong Phooey as well but the theory is solid enough. We do talk to our clients and candidates and we do tailor our business around what they want and what they need. We honestly can’t think of another way to do it.

There’s Much Less Risk

If we were a 100-person firm we’d still be doing exactly the same work but the risks to the businesses would cause sleepless night after sleepless night. By staying small we can manage risk in very small doses. We only have to answer to each other and we can sleep at night.*

*Actually we both have very small children so we can’t, but it’s nothing to do with the business and everything to do with crap-filled nappies and burping.

We Want Control

Not in an Arsene Wenger, control-freak way (a rumour went round a while ago that he had to be consulted when lightbulbs needed changing), but in a way that lets us run our business how we want to. If a business takes investment, the investor usually wants a say in how things are done, the strategic direction of the business and the five-year plan. The goal of an investor who wants to maximise ROI is very rarely shared with the founder whose goal is to maximise vision. The textbook immovable object in the way of the unstoppable force.

We Like Niche Domination (and it sounds awesome)

If we grew to even a 20 or 30-person business, there’s no question that we’d have to dilute our service offering. The way we operate now means that we can offer greater levels of knowledge, expertise and experience to our stakeholders as well as penetrating deeper into the key markets we operate in. No-one wants the guy that does half a thing averagely well.

We Don’t Want To Overreach

We know that we do what we do very well. If we grew we’d have to spend more and more time on systems and processes, HR, customer service, business development and infrastructure and less time on getting great people great jobs in great companies and that’s what makes us happy.

Stick or twist?

Stick. For all the right reasons. Chief among which is that we know everybody’s name.

Catch you soon.

The Liquid Team