Founder series Q&A

Two Rivers Recruitment

Eddie Finnigan, managing director

What does your company do?

We are a recruitment agency specialising in aerospace, engineering, and business support sectors with a global reach and dedicated to finding the best people for the jobs that help fire the economy. We provide permanent and temporary staffing solutions across three broad sectors, technical and engineering, office services and HR. Our mission is to make our customers in our chosen sectors more successful nationally and internationally by helping them to find the right people in the right place at the right time. We say on our website that rivers are the lifeblood of any city since they bring trade and prosperity to the people who live there. The two rivers in our case are the Rivers Clyde and Kelvin which both run through Glasgow.

What do you do there / what is your role?

Managing director

If you started the company, what was the aha moment that led to the company founding?

It sounds ridiculous, but I was sitting upfront in an aeroplane bound for New Zealand as part of my globe-trotting role visiting glorious, wonderful places all over the world including Brazil, Kenya and the USA, when I realised I was deeply unhappy and unfulfilled in the role I was playing. At this time, I lived in a spacious, sunny apartment on Palm Jumeriah island in Dubai, earning a tax-free six-figure salary while travelling to sort out HR issues for my employer. My Mum had recently died, and I found myself re-assessing my life. A critical part of me was saying I had to make changes and that an important part of that change would be starting my own business.

Why did you launch the company (if appropriate)?

N/A

Where did you get assistance when you started?

When you have worked in the Middle East for as long as I had, making good tax-free money, it makes sense to be a saver. This gave me the opportunity to get the ball rolling by funding the business start-up costs. 

Give us a brief history of the growth of the company

I formed the business in 2015 and we operated for three years on a franchise model. That was not as successful as we had hoped; the structure was wrong for us. As a result, we hit rock bottom, losing money and running out of resources. It was a challenging time and I began to lose confidence that I had the ability to run a successful business. Eventually, I consulted a leading Glasgow solicitor, David Kaye of Harper McLeod, who helped me plot a course which, from January 2018, has led to the success we are currently enjoying.

Have you taken any external funding? If so from who and when?

We use a facility via 1PS, which helps fund the growth of our temporary business.  This enables us to outsource our payroll and credit control which allows us focus more time on candidates and clients.

So, what does it look like now with regard to staff and turnover?

There are four of us based full-time in the office, and we have recently acquired the services of two advisors in non-executive roles.  This provides the team with access to a significant amount of experience both from a recruitment and HR perspective.

What’s the difference between when you started and now in your marketplace?

It’s a very competitive marketplace and it’s becoming even more of a struggle to find suitably qualified and experienced candidates.  The jobs market, particularly in relation to developing technology, is changing day by day.  As a result, we are now searching for a higher level of adaptability when we identify new candidates for our clients as well as for our own business.

What is your target market – Who is buying your product / service?

We have a range of current customers from SME’s to larger, global corporate organisations.  We have expertise in Aerospace and Technical Engineering.  We also provide staff for Business Support functions including HR, Finance, Marketing, Office Management, Commercial & Procurement.

What is your background?

I went to school in north Glasgow and worked part-time at Safeway while studying for Highers and then while I was a student at Paisley University, now University of the West of Scotland, where I studied business and specialised in human resources management.

When I got my degree, I started work at McDonald’s as a graduate trainee. Though I was only there for a year it was a great experience and I learned everything from flipping burgers to detailed cash management and how the business operated. I moved then to Brake Brothers in Bellshill as an HR Adviser and won promotion to be HR Manager covering Scotland and the North of England. I was there five years and learned more about HR management and life generally than at any other time in my career.

As a member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, I’m now a Fellow of the CIPD, I noticed a job advert in its publication, People Management, for an HR role in Saudi Arabia with BAE Systems. I was based at first in Tabuk, up near the Jordanian border where BAe worked alongside the Royal Saudi Airforce, servicing its Tornado and Typhoon fighter jets. I worked at BAe for five years before moving to Emirates Airlines, based in Dubai, where I was global Compensation and Benefits manager, [I also did stints at Zurich Insurance and Schlumberger] before returning to Scotland in 2015. Around the same time, I completed an MBA from the University of Strathclyde, Graduate School of Business.

What are your goals for your business?

To build it up over the years by filling as many quality job roles as possible. I’ve always liked the idea of “doing well by doing good”, and I think we can do that and still enjoy ourselves. Creating employment opportunities for individuals which can be life changing is a very satisfying way to spend your time. You just cannot beat the enjoyment that comes from telling someone, yes, the job is yours; I love it. Also, being free to make my own decisions on our future course.

What are your biggest current challenges?

To succeed we need to recruit the right people, maybe as many as ten, to grow the business as rapidly as possible; second, to diversify the sectors in which we are active to avoid being overly dependent on any one sector, and third, to focus on securing new customers and, of course, keeping them happy.

What has been the biggest challenge so far?

Getting out of the business structure we had signed-up to.

What do you do outside work?

I try to get to the gym five or so times a week and play seven a side football on Thursdays. I’m also involved with MCR Pathways which trains businesspeople in Glasgow to mentor young people from difficult family backgrounds and give them support to become all they can be in their lives and careers. I’m currently working with a youngster who attends All-Saints Secondary in Barmulloch, north Glasgow.

What do you know now that you wished you had known earlier?

That you should always trust your instinct. I think your instinct gets sharper with the more experience you accumulate. I wouldn’t say it is always 100 per cent right, but I have found it a pretty accurate guide to making the right decision.

What’s the secret to good leadership?

As a starting point, a good leader is one who can demonstrate a clear vision and direction. I think, however, that great leaders demonstrate a good balance between confidence and humility.  People respect, and can appreciate, a certain level of vulnerability, but they need to know you’re not going to crumble when the pressure is on.

Where do you see the company in five years?         

If our current growth pattern continues, then the sky is the limit.  Our aim to be one of the most respected and successful recruitment businesses operating in the UK within each of our specialist sectors including Aerospace and Engineering. We want to be recognised and appreciated for delivering great candidates and terrific service.

How can the Scottish start-up/entrepreneur landscape be improved to help more businesses start up and grow?

Late payment is such a blight on businesses generally, and we need genuinely effective legislation to improve the current situation and make it unacceptable to delay payment. We are members of the Federation of Small Business whose legal department has been effective in chasing up late payers. I also think the two governments should re-double their efforts to support anyone from a disadvantaged area who wants to start a business.

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