In conversation with Harrington Starr
We have the opportunity to work with many amazing recruitment businesses at Sonovate. Each an expert in their respective fields and full of insightful information and industry knowledge. We recently sat down with Toby Babb, the CEO of Harrington Starr. One of the first agencies on our portal, Harrington Starr have gone from strength-to-strength.
Toby shared with us why he thinks they have done so well, as well as his opinion on recruitment around the world and the impact Brexit is having on the industry.
How did you come to launch Harrington Starr in 2010?
I was in recruitment for 10 years before launching Harrington Starr. Two companies in the first group I worked for were startups, and I was very inspired by the entrepreneurial spirit and decided to build my own business.
Were there any barriers you faced when setting up? How did you overcome them?
Surprisingly, it wasn’t too bad. Having complete trust in my team helped a lot. It was tough in the sense that I was starting from scratch, having walked away from all existing clients, and starting with a database of zero. That, combined with the economy, were the greatest barriers we faced. But we used this as an opportunity to prove ourselves. We worked hard to do the basics really well and took it from there.
How has your headcount at Harrington Starr grown since launching in 2010?
We started out with four people in London, and now have over 50 across London and New York. Over the next three years we hope to add an additional 65 people to the team, and we’re planning on launching a new office in San Francisco, the tech capital of USA, in 2018.
And has your product offering changed as a result of this growth?
We initially only worked on permanent roles, but launched the contract branch of Harrington Starr in 2013, after bumping into a few contractors along the way. We’re about to launch contract in the states too, which will be interesting.
For the first six years we did strictly financial services roles. We now have a group of companies and launched four businesses last year:
- Harrington Starr Inc: based in New York.
- North Starr: a business to cover roles in commercial technology, such as cyber security, data science, software development and sales.
- Harrington Starr Tech Consultancy: a joint venture with another business, which specialises in consultancy. This new consultancy offers agile transformation and tech delivery solutions.
- Harrington Starr Executive Search: a business that looks at the senior end of the financial services market.
Since setting up in 2010, Harrington Starr has continued to grow and expand. What would you say has been the key to success?
People. Any company can have a great reputation and a great product, but if it has bad people in it, that reputation vanishes and the product gets destroyed.
I genuinely believe the sole thing around how we’ve grown and we’re going to grow is based around the quality of the people we bring into this business.
My most important job in this business is people, we’re constantly changing things based on feedback on what works and what doesn’t, as well as looking for A players to join us.
What are your thoughts on Brexit and hiring?
Brexit is an interesting one, because what it can’t do is slow down tech hiring. The danger is that a lot of the talent in the British Fintech industry comes from overseas, as the infrastructure and education around technology isn’t strong enough around here. As a result, we’re in a sector that’s talent short. So, with Brexit, we need to figure out where that talent is going to come from.
Saying that, I would much rather be in a talent short industry rather than the other way, so I think Brexit has put recruitment in a good position. It will make the industry stronger and more skilled.
What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve received?
One is from my father-in-law. I hadn’t run a business before, and he told me that the sole part of my job is to make sure that there’s more money coming in than going out of the business. Simple as it sounds, it’s important that you are sensible when running a business. This is something that I still think about everyday to make sure we’re not limiting our growth on stupid decision making.
What advice would you give to established businesses at a standstill/ looking to grow further?
There are definite bottlenecks when growing your business, and you’ve just got to grow through them. Keep a clear eye on your goals and where you want to be. It’s when you lose focus that you go off track in terms of growth. I read something yesterday that said that the number one killer of business is complacency. I also try to thrive for more relentlessly.
What trends or patterns do you think we might see in recruitment over the next five years?
What’s obvious is that there will be more technology in recruitment, that’s for sure. We’re always considering how we can use data, technology and artificial intelligence to make better decisions for our customers. I also think we will also see the industry lean more and more towards RPO. I think recruiters will need to increase their true consultancy offering and be faster, better and stronger.
I think recruitment over the next five years will continue to thrive as a professional industry. We’re going to have to be better with technology, have proper market expertise and there will be more social recruitment and digital techniques that comes through that people will need to adapt to.
Since expanding to NYC last year, what differences and similarities have you spotted in recruitment across the two markets?
There’s definitely nuances between the two, but our customer base is the same. The beauty of New York is that in Fintech, I’ve found that London and New York are almost twins, so the companies we’re working with out there are similar to the ones we work with here. This allows us to enter that market with people knowing who we are, which is good.
Harrington Starr and Sonovate
Harrington Starr partnered up with Sonovate in 2014. You can find out about how we’ve worked together here.