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I can’t quite believe it – what a milestone moment. And what a journey it’s been so far. It’s had me reflecting on everything that’s happened, from setting out on my own to start up the business to reaching the point where we are today. All the amazing highs and really tough lows that I’ve encountered and overcome along the way: as a business owner, an employer but also as a woman and a mum.
I didn’t come from a family of entrepreneurs. When I began my working life, starting a business wasn’t something I’d particularly planned to do. But even quite early on, I found myself asking questions about the cultures I was finding myself in. I loved recruitment itself… yet some of the environments I was doing it in were so incredibly negative in many ways.
I was passionate about workplace culture and teams. I wanted to work in recruitment and help businesses improve engagement. I wanted to be happy in the culture I worked in and be part of a company with ethics and values that felt right. I realised to achieve it, I’d have to create the company myself. So I set up McCarthy Recruitment.
The early days
It was scary and incredibly hard work. I got the equity to do it by selling my house. There was a time when I was literally driving around with all my clothes in the boot of my car. I lost count of the people who said to me, ‘I really envy you being able to come and go as you please now you own your own business.’ It couldn’t have been further from the truth! Starting up and running a business is not a lifestyle choice. My lifestyle at that point in time involved sofa-surfing! To make your business a success, you need to dedicate yourself 110% to it. And it can feel very lonely during those early days.
Here’s something I’ve learned that I tell other people setting up their own businesses. You might be passionate about it but there will be days when you just want to crawl back under the duvet then stay there for the next week. You will not love it all the time! There’ll be moments when you question what on earth possessed you. My advice to anyone starting their own business is don’t fear that feeling. It’s not a sign that you’ve made the wrong choice; it’s a sign that you’re human.
There have been some tough times and dark days
There were times when I didn’t think I could do it. Times when I sat there with full-on Imposter Syndrome, convinced I couldn’t find a way to meet the challenges I faced. Times when I felt daunted by the huge responsibility of making the right decisions for the business. Times when I felt the weight of my employees’ commitments: the mortgages, the bills, the families that need supporting. Times when I was struggling with personal issues: IVF, miscarriages and the loss of people I loved.
But all this helped me make a conscious choice to ensure everyone at McCarthy feels able to be themselves. We take care of each other. If any of us are upset or have something happen that we’re struggling with, there’s freedom to talk about it. There’s nothing that can’t be discussed or shared or talked through. Tough times happen in everyone’s lives. The more we can accept that, and integrate it as part of business as usual, the better.
This philosophy has really paid dividends
We’ve had 2 times when the business was seriously tested: the 2008 recession but even more so in 2018 when the retail sector was struggling badly. It was scary – but I realised the worst thing to do would be to hide how I felt from my management team, and ultimately the whole team. After all, how could I ask them to be open and honest with me and share their problems, yet do the opposite to them?
So we embarked on a journey, working through it together. There were no quick and easy solutions; we acknowledged it would be tough. But I committed to doing whatever it took. We needed to change and transform, but all while maintaining our culture and values, and taking the best care of each other that we could. At a time when some companies might have chucked wellbeing out of the window in a cost-cutting panic, we knew it was the best armour to put on. We needed to be resilient and strong. As a team, we evaluated what our new DNA profile needed to be – and how we’d develop it. Long story short: not only did we achieve it, but we also achieved amazing bottom-line results and had our lowest rates of absence and employee turnover ever. The team’s dedication and commitment were staggering and humbling.
Laugh and have some fun
Being a bit mad helps too though… while writing this, I started looking at some old pictures and thinking about the people that have impacted on me personally as well as on the business. There has been a LOT of laughter over those 15 years and in the 7 (yes, 7!) offices we’ve inhabited in that time (believe it or not, the first 5 offices were during the first 3 years!). I’ve fond memories of wheeling chairs that had been gifted to us second hand down Deansgate to our new office in the early hours of a Saturday morning (I had a lot on so sleeping wasn’t an option). Most people walking through Manchester at that time were having a rather different type of night..!
We’ve dressed up for awards. We’ve worn some quite magnificent costumes at Halloween. During team builds we’ve made up raps, sung songs, created pantomimes, sunk in poorly built rafts, taken egg and spoon races far too seriously, thrown lots of squishy pigs and laughed until we cried! It’s been amazing.
Be kind. Learn from failure. Celebrate success
Life as a business owner feels very different now compared to the early days. I’m the first to admit the plan was to have a small team – but somehow, like the business itself, it grew organically! I never set out for it to be all about the money either. Yes, the business needs to be profitable so it can thrive – but in a sensible, sustainable way. That’s exactly what we’ve achieved. The sense of responsibility for my team will never leave me and I’d never want it to. But I’m so grateful that I’m surrounded by such wonderful and capable people. Nowadays, I can switch the phone off and relax quite happily when I’m on holiday!
As a business owner, I’ve learnt the importance of being kind to yourself as well as to those around you. That includes not beating yourself up mentally when things don’t go to plan. Part of the McCarthy way involved developing a growth mindset. If things aren’t working out, learn from it. Know what your plan is– but also be adaptable and ready to rethink. There’s a huge amount of value in learning from things going wrong.
But of course, I love celebrating my team’s successes too! And wow, we’ve had some amazing times. I’ve been blown away by quite how many awards we’ve won: it’s been incredible.
Yet, despite this, I know I’m not very good at saying well done to myself. I don’t stop to draw breath. Instead of taking a quiet moment to reflect on how far the business has come, I’m too often wrapped up with thinking about what needs addressing next. This article is me, finally, pausing. And recognising just how far I’ve come. And saying thank you to everyone that’s been accompanied me on the journey so far.
15 Days of 15 things you didn’t know about McCarthy Recruitment!
We’re pretty open about the McCarthy culture. The team doesn’t generally need any encouragement to get posting about what they’re up to! But we got our heads together and realised there might be a few quirky things you didn’t know about us. And that’s lead to our 15 Days of 15 Things you didn’t Know About McCarthy Recruitment! Keep an eye on our socials over the next 15 days to learn more about McCarthy and what we do!
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