Ever thought of taking your business services expertise into a recruitment role? We share some of the experiences of those who did just that at Totum.

At Totum, we have several team members who joined our team from in-house roles at professional services firms (from management roles in functions such as BD & marketing, HR and recruitment). Why did they decide to join our recruitment agency, what did they think of the differences between a large firm and small agency, and how did the switch impact their careers?

Given the many roles we have placed across professional services firms, we know first-hand just how many great opportunities there are for business services professionals in the sector today. A number of the team at Totum enjoyed some of those roles themselves and their decision to go into a recruitment role with Totum was to some degree influenced by their love of this sector and their desire to work with lots of clients improving these same business services teams yet further.

At the same time, however, joining Totum offered something altogether new at a time in their careers when they were ready for a change. Shifting to a recruitment consultancy enabled them to take all that in-house expertise and apply it to externally-focused client-facing roles in which the priority would become relationship building across the professional services market.

For Deborah Gray, one of the three founding Directors at Totum, the move from working for a large professional services firm to a recruitment agency was the right step at a particular moment in time.
‘I’d got to a point where I’d been working as part of a team in a large firm for several years, largely doing recruitment. It had been great, but I wanted more responsibility, to work in a smaller, more nimble business, where decisions could be made quickly and in which building relationships would be paramount,’ she says. When she went into a recruitment role, it was to join First Counsel where she worked closely with Tim Skipper and Gary Jones. The three then joined together to launch Totum in 2012, as a firm dedicated to business services recruitment.

Making the choice

The Directors were keen to ensure that Totum would be different. Where many recruitment firms are transactional businesses underpinned by key performance indicators (KPIs) and sales targets, the Directors wanted Totum to be about building lasting relationships with clients and candidates that would secure revenue (via return business) for the long-term.

This ethos of ‘relationships first’ has reaped dividends through Covid, as clients and candidates who know and trust Totum have made it their first port of call as hiring needs have picked up since recurrent lockdowns. Indeed, the last quarter to September 2021 was Totum’s best ever in terms of revenue – a testament to the market loyalty and positive reputation Totum has achieved.

This ethos inspired more team members to join from in-house roles. Liz Chappell, a Consultant in Totum’s BD and marketing division, previously worked in marketing and BD roles for some major brand names in professional services. She also worked for a couple of recruiters before moving to Totum in 2015. At that point, Totum was the only recruitment firm she would consider. ‘It was a different kind of firm – I knew KPIs didn’t work for me by that point. I wanted a role in which I could look after clients long term and genuinely help people in their careers,’ she says.

Sarah Broad, who previously worked in large professional services firms but is now Totum’s Marketing & Project Manager, similarly knew Totum was the right kind of firm for her. ‘In my previous job as Senior Operations Manager, I did recruitment as part of the role. I always looked out for those recruiters who I could build a relationship with, so when I came to consider Totum, I could see straight away that it was a recruiter I could work with – they genuinely care about looking after their clients, candidates and employees, which results in both a very humane and sustainable business,’ she says.

Stepping up

There are challenges, though. It is quite a shift to move from a team that is part of a much bigger business, to join a smaller team that makes up a firm like Totum. Some may miss the structure that comes with being part of a large business. But for Deborah, Sarah and Liz, the benefits outweighed any concerns. ‘You get a greater sense of responsibility, more variety of work challenges (you have to be willing to get stuck in!), and you feel that your actions make a tangible difference to the success of the firm,’ says Sarah.

Deborah adds that despite the small size of Totum, it is incredibly proud to be able to offer good career opportunities, including attractive salaries and benefits, that compete well with larger firms. ‘Totum has a hugely open, supportive structure where we all share our knowledge and expertise, no matter what your level of seniority, and individuals are always given the training they need to progress (and are supported to pursue their own areas of interest – spearheading, for example, diversity and inclusivity campaigns or community projects).’

‘To succeed in a firm like Totum, you have to be self-motivated and enjoy autonomy, because you’re trusted to get on with the job; you don’t have managers on your case,’ says Liz. ‘But if you like that, you’ll get managers that really care, as well as a very rewarding advisory role in which you’re respected as an expert in your field. Clients appreciate your advice, seek out your insights, you get to be creative and take forwards your own projects… It was a great move for me.’

If you might be interested in joining our friendly, supportive team, drop us a line. We would be delighted to hear from you. Contact [email protected]  


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