Founder of Suffolk recruitment firm Seven Resourcing now supporting others on the road to success
- Credit: Archant
A Suffolk entrepreneur has built a successful recruitment business after beginning his working life as a shop worker.
And Richard Cooke, who admits to having left school with little by way of qualifications but is now managing director of Seven Resourcing, is now trying to help more people from unpromising backgrounds to make a success of their careers.
Mr Cooke launched Seven Resourcing in 2011 with a team of just four people, including himself, operating from a small unit above the Tesco Express store in St Matthew’s Street, Ipswich.
It was a difficult start with no IT for the first 48 hours as their computers, the best he could afford, we so old that they did not accept Windowns updates online.
Initially focusing solely on the social care sector, the number of clients and candidates grew during the next six months to a point where Mr Cooke realised that more employees would be required and so he relocated Seven to the Basepoint Business Centre at The Havens, on the edge of Ipswich.
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“We were still only four people at that stage but we moved to a slightly bigger room where we would be able to hire more people,” he said. “I could see that the original office would restrict our growth.
“Baspoint also offered car parking space which was always a problem in the town centre - guys were coming in stressed before they had even started work.”
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The business remained at Basepoint until May 2014, during which time it graduated to a larger unit with space for 22 work stations and a staffroom.
However, with the workforce still only at 18, Mr Cooke decided once again to pre-empt any pressure on space by moving again, to Seven’s current offices within Columba House on BT’s Adastral Park site at Martlesham Heath.
And another relocation is now in prospect with the current team of around 50 staff, still comfortably within capacity, due to move into a larger unit elsewhere on the Adastral Park site during early spring.
“Again, it is a case of knowing that, if we don’t move, it will be a restraint on growth,” he said. “We also now have the money to spend to make it an environment people will not be desparate to get away from.
“The work is very stressful - recruitment is the the one job where the product you are selliing can refuse to be sold - so we aim to provide an area in the new office where they can unwind.
“There will be work space for 100 people, which should be enough for three to five years’ more growth. I would then look to build my own office after that, somewhere where we can extend - up or out - if we need to.”
Having started out in social care, Seven Resourcing branched out into healthcare, then criminal justice and then nursing. More recently it has moved into permanent placements, having previously focused on the temporary jobs market, and it has also just added a further specialism, in animal health, with a move into education now in progress.
Before launching Seven Resourcing Mr Cooke already had more than five years’ experience in the recruitment sector with Ipswich-based Sanctuary Personnel, having previously worked in sales roles in retail and insurance.
He grew up in Ipswich and attended Chantry High School but it the first to admit that he was anything but a high achiever when it came to exams. His first job was at the Ipswich branch of fashion retailer River Island where he quickly made his mark when put in temporary charge of the women’s footwear section.
“You know the shoe cream people are always offerd with a new pair of shoes but never buy? Well I sold out of cream every month, because I used it and would show people how my shoes had no creases in them,” he said.
“I also got a reputation around Ipswich as ‘the man who can help girls with big feet’. Today, it wouldn’t be a problem; you’d just go on the Internet. But then, stores stocked few women’s shoes in size eight and almost nothing any larger.
“I would phone around other branches to find out which of them had larger sizes in stock and then got the bar code from head office so that I could sell the shoes before we had them. As they had been sold, the other shops then had to send them to us.”
The result was that, at the age of just 19, he was offered the opportunity to launch River Island’s menswear department at the new Bluewater shopping centre in north Kent.
However, he found his salary did not go very far so close to London and he later moved to the Chelmsford branch of River Island, where be was better off despite a small cut in pay, before returning to Ipswich to join insurer National Direct, which was later taken over by Churchill, and then Sanctuary.
Mr Cooke remains grateful to his first store manager and the regional manager at River Island who set him on his way, and now, at Seven Resourcing, aims to offer opportunities to other young people who are prepared to put the work in, regardless of their educational background.
This includes giving successful employees an opportunity to set up and run their own business division if they have an idea. They become employees of the new business and are free to find their own premises and hire their own people, but retain the support of Seven’s main office for “back office” functions.
There are two live projects, Seven Life Sciences, based at Elmstead Market, near Colchester, which is now in its second year and doing well, and Seven Data Science, based on the Ipswich Waterfront, which is still in its early stages.
A third is due to launch this summer, in Australia, where a former employee is keen to live after taking time out to go travelling, and a fourth could follow, this time in the United States, later this year or early next.
“Of course they need to have a few years’ experience in order for them to be able to make the decisions but it is a massive opportunity that we offer,” says Richard.
“I come from a council estate background and left school with low self-cofidence and low self-esteem. From that, I’m now running a business with a £25m turnover and a target of £100m.
“I have a fundamentally better life than the life I was destined to live, and I want to give that opportunity to other people too. In my career, people have opened doors for me. I have worked hard too but there has alway been someone opening a door for me and I want to do the same.”