Shirley Parsons Ltd (and not Shirley herself) is fifteen years old on October 1st.
We caught up with Shirley and asked her to tell us a bit more about the formation of the business, its key milestones and what changes she has seen over the last 15 years.
What was your inspiration to form the business in 2005?
“With a degree in Chemistry and a Masters in Pollution and Environmental control, my first venture into Health & Safety recruitment was following a lightbulb moment over a curry with the Directors of Sypol, the Health & Safety Consultancy I was then part of, in the late 1990s. Several of our clients had commented on the challenges they faced in recruiting good Health & Safety professionals and I suddenly thought that we could provide a specialist H&S recruitment service. Fortunately, they were keen to work with us in this new venture and after a few years working as Sypol Recruit, the Company Shirley Parsons Ltd was created on 1st October 2005 with just 2 staff.
How did the business grow?
I would say that the key part of our growth has been the recruitment of talented people focussed on the delivery of an high quality service. We hired Liam, Gerry, Rebecca and Shona within a few months and I’m delighted that they are still with us 15 years later, along with 65 other staff in offices in Aylesbury and Reading in the UK, Boston and LA in the States, the Netherlands, Germany And Taiwan.
What key attributes made the business stand out?
In the early years, we very much focussed on the Health & Safety recruitment market in the UK. We became the market leader in the sector and built a reputation for delivering a high quality service. I insisted that we met candidates in person – so we built a personal relationship with them and we could be better informed about their strengths and personality when recommending them to clients. We still have that focus on relationships – understanding both our clients and our candidates and building a true partnership with them.
My being a chartered member of IOSH has been a positive - a USP, enabling us to understand the roles more, to have access to members through conferences and seminars and keep in touch through networking. Prior to COVID, I had lost count of the number of dinners, exhibitions and events I had been to, enabling us to establish an H&S network that is second to none. Over the 15 years, we have helped over 3,000 people gain new roles.
What have been the key milestones?
We recruited Ben Hiner from S3 in 2013 to establish an office in Reading to focus on providing contract H&S professionals worldwide. This has been a real success and last year we had an average of 130 contract professionals working in more than 10 countries worldwide. Ben has been promoted to UK Sales Director and is a driving force in our business now.
In 2014, setting our sights on the International market, we opened our first office in Boston in the USA with 2 consultants from the UK, Sam Chappell and Tim Melvin. Tim now runs our LA office and Sam continues to run our Boston office we currently have 20 staff in the USA providing recruitment services to the US EHS sector.
We have also diversified away from Health & Safety to provide expert services within Sustainability and Quality. We have dedicated teams providing expertise in these sectors and they are growing very well.
We also have a dedicated Search service for key and senior level recruitment which has grown significantly even during the lockdown. Clients appreciate the benefits that a dedicated retained search consultant provides.
And in 2019 we created a Consultancy and Projects division using very experienced industry professionals as key retained associates. We are now able to provide consultancy and project management services to customers and can offer a more wholistic partnership within HSEQ.
How has the market changed in 15 years?
Over the last 15 years, recruitment has changed significantly. Social media plays much more of a key role as do webinars and now of course online interviews and appointments because of COVID. I have been so impressed with how our team has thrived using Microsoft Teams and Zoom meetings and working from home. Our traffic through LinkedIn to our website and webinars is 900% more than in 2019 which shows that people are interested in engaging with us digitally. In spite of all the technology of online portals, job Boards and the web - at the end of the day, people still do business with people, and delivering a dedicated, focussed and personal service is still the lifeblood of our business and will continue to be so. I am grateful to all our clients and candidates who have supported us over the last 15 years, and we look forward to a bright future together.