Starting A Business During A Pandemic

6 months in Ireland... starting a business during a pandemic

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6 months in Ireland... starting a business during a pandemic

  • Publish Date: Posted about 2 months ago
  • Author: Steven Garland
​6 months ago, Divisional Manager Steven Garland took a huge leap of faith – signing up to become NRL’s first Ireland based colleague in the middle of a global pandemic.

With NRL keen to establish an Ireland business operation to meet growing client demand, Steven made the bold decision to move to a newly formed business – having been impressed with the industry track record the NRL Group had already gained across the UK and internationally.

As Steven reflects on the first 6 months, it wasn’t exactly plain sailing.

Trying to make a start when everything stopped

I was keen to hit the ground running, but the continued lockdowns and local restrictions made it difficult to get even some of the basics up and running – like office space and visiting other colleagues to see how they do things.

I’d met NRL Directors Daniel Redmayne and Will Fossey just once in person, with everything else done over the phone or online. When I heard the clients NRL were already working with in Ireland though (which are all well known over here), and they explained their vision for growing the new Recruitment business, I just knew I wanted to be a part of it.

So, we took on the huge challenge of trying to set-up a new business entity in Ireland - which involved trying to navigate Government departments and legal paperwork, whilst most offices we called were closed. Through pure perseverance and a big group effort, we finally managed to sign up for a recruitment licence, insurance, VAT number, and all the other crucial legalities needed to ensure we could operate compliantly.

Navigating the business without actually physically meeting anyone

Anyone who’s started with a new employer over the past 12 months will understand how strange and unfamiliar it is to meet new colleagues and take part in an induction programme, entirely through video calls.

If a global pandemic wasn’t restricting movement, I’d have packed my bag and headed off to meet my new peers and understand how they look after their clients and candidates. NRL is involved with so many large engineering companies across vast industry sectors, so there is already so much best practice and innovation happening, which is hard to learn about through a laptop screen.

That said, Microsoft Teams is now where I spend my day instead of the office, but it is a fantastic tool and has helped me develop relationships with colleagues, share ideas and importantly meeting clients and candidates every day. It is a completely different way of working, although I have found it to be just as productive as an office environment - but sometimes you can miss the office banter and the Friday pints!

I work closely with the team in the Woking branch in particularly for our advanced facilities and life science recruitment, so it’s been great getting to know the team and working together each day to keep our clients and candidates in this sector happy.

Understanding the world of contracting

From speaking with a lot of candidates each day, especially Irish people in the UK, several of them work as a limited company contractor. This is something that’s not as common in Ireland, however there seems to be a real appetite from these people to remain self-employed. We’ve successfully established solutions with clients however whereby they can continue to remain self-employed and contract through NRL for specific projects. This has been really well received.

Reflecting personally on the past 6 months

Starting a new role in October whilst a lot of sites were closed, felt like it was going to be an enormous challenge. There was a genuine concern as to how much hiring would be taking place, but I very quickly found that many of my contacts in Ireland had immediate requirements and were only too happy to work with me again, and with NRL. This gave me a big boost at the beginning as there was a big demand for talent in both the residential sector and the life science area’s we predominately focus on.

I am fortunate to work with some of Ireland’s largest developers and residential contractors. We know there is a skills shortage in this area for residential housebuilding and high-rise apartment construction in Ireland. Through active engagement with clients to understand what they need, we have managed to source a pipeline of professional construction workers through our UK offices - and successfully found them employment back home in Ireland with residential developers and residential housebuilders. Typically Project Managers for Housing, Apartments, Development Managers, Site Engineers, quantity surveyors. Interestingly, for the right candidates’ employers have been willing to make offers and push start dates to July, August and even September in one case. If any construction companies in Ireland are struggling to secure the right workforce to progress their projects as restrictions begin to be lifted, I’m always on hand to provide advice and support.

The first 6 months really have flown by, and I’m now comfortable in my new work environment and have a good understanding of how NRL works and how we can support local candidates and clients. Despite COVID-19 bringing with it a number of challenges, I’m pleased to see our Ireland targets and KPIs being exceeded, and a wealth of new clients and candidates coming on board. Hopefully by the summer I’ll be able to get out and about to meet people, and start looking for the ideal office space to continue to grow our operations. If you’d like to come and meet us in person, when it’s safe to do so, then please get in touch.

Read part two - Recruiting from the kitchen table
Read part three - Light at the end of the tunnel