One of my first jobs was as a trainee interviewer almost 35 years ago, and at the time I had no idea that this would go on to be the sector I spent most of my life in. It turned out that recruitment was something I was good at, primarily because I'm a people person and that's exactly what the industry is about.
A few years later I launched my own recruitment firm called Alexander Mann. In many ways it was a far cry from today. I was a one-man band, with nothing but a telephone and the Yellow Pages to keep me company.
Nowadays I invest primarily in people who want to do what I did - become their own boss. I'm a firm believer that if you are prepared to put the effort in, there is no reason why you can't successfully run your own business. I've recently launched an initiative offering up to half a million pounds to someone who wants to start their own recruitment firm. I did something similar last year and the response was incredible. What impressed me most of all was the hunger of the entrepreneurs who applied. They realised that running a business is not a 9-5; you need to be absolutely dedicated to nurturing and growing it, and if you have this then you have every chance of success.
Of course, the advantages today's entrepreneurs have make it an exciting time to start your own business. When I started my first business I had no brand and no real way of generating business other than cold calling.
Technology has since come on leaps and bounds, which means you can access data and generate leads like never before. And the advent of social media means that building a brand and marketing yourself has become that little bit easier.
But what you sometimes find is that the easy access to data sees people lose the personal touch, which I think is never an option in business. No matter what sector you operate in, people buy from people, so there should be no excuse for poor relationship building.
When I receive a business proposal, I ask the entrepreneur how hard he or she will work to build their database and brand. I want to know whether they're willing to go to all the relevant networking events no matter how much of an effort it may seem.
I also want to know if they will still keep in contact with clients once they've closed a deal. In any business, it makes good sense to take care of your customers even after a sale. They shouldn't be treated as just another number - in order to build loyalty there needs to be constant communication.
People skills are an essential part of any entrepreneur's skill set and without this, building a successful business is much more difficult.
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