In this interview on The Logros Show – in association with The Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce – Lee Dinsdale talks to Lee Duckworth from Sebolin Consultancy – looking at recruitment and amongst things Corporate Social Responsibility.
Interview with Lee Duckworth at Unity Radio – The Real Sound of the City.
“Hugely enjoyable experience on The Logros Show on Unity Radio. Really refreshing to speak with Lee, a presenter from a commercial background who not only understands key business drivers but brings a strong sense of philanthropy and community focus that resonates with the Sebolin brand and with Unity Radio’s listeners.” – Lee Duckworth
Lee Dinsdale: Good afternoon this is the Logros Show and today over the power of zoom we have Lee Duckworth from Sebolin Consultancy, good afternoon Lee. Can you give us a bit of an introduction about yourself?
Lee Duckworth: I am originally from just outside Burnley, born, bred and raised there. I do consider myself an ordinary Mancunian. I’ve worked for roughly fifteen out of the last twenty years in Manchester. I’ve lived in Manchester for eight years so I think I can claim to be an honorary Mancunian. Most of my social circle is from this fantastic town. My business, Sebolin Consultancy LLP is a fairly new start up; we started in August last year. It came about as a result of having a discussion with somebody I have worked with in the past in a number of businesses. We discussed doing something completely different to our previous careers. I spent twenty years in credit and reached global processing levels so effectively responsibility across eighty countries to the value of around eighteen million euros. I got to a point in my life where I had reached senior level as far as the credit profession was concerned and wanted to do something completely different. I also wanted to do it from a different view point to what the rest of the industry was doing. So we decided to set up our partnership in August last year. We specialize in recruitment and we try to do it very people focussed. Every large recruitment business will tell you it is a sales business. We don’t describe ourselves as that; we describe ourselves as a people business because of the way we treat candidates and the way we match them to roles.
Lee Dinsdale: Great thank you. Let’s just take you back to when you were sixteen or seventeen and what you were doing.
The Early Years
Lee Duckworth: My childhood was not what you would label as normal. My step mum and I from a very early age had a troubled relationship. There was a degree of violence and certainly control and coercion which made that relationship more difficult as we got older. The violence was quite regular and got to the point where after being subjected to violence I would pick myself up and just ask for it again just to show; no matter what you do you cannot hurt me. I was always told by my step mum that I would never achieve anything. I was told on the day that I started high school that I wasn’t going to college or university. I ended being thrown out when I was seventeen and was homeless for a period of time. I managed to get on my feet with some assistance. I managed to get on a YTS training scheme.
Lee Dinsdale: How did you go about that?
Lee Duckworth: That was with some help from somebody who helped me when I disclosed I was in that position. It was a lovely gentleman who was a head teacher from my junior school days. He recognised me and asked what I was doing these days and it was difficult to hide the fact that I wasn’t doing anything. With his support and help I was able to secure a YTS scheme with a firm of solicitors and I stayed at that for four years studying how to become a legal executive. That took me to my early twenties. The reality was I took that opportunity with both hands because it was an escape from the predicament I was in at the time. The career itself was not as fascinating, interesting and as pacey as I would have liked, I wanted something a little bit different. I transitioned from there to my mid-twenties and set up a business serving domestic violence injunctions. For me that was very fulfilling and very good for the soul.
Lee Dinsdale: What does that involve exactly?
Lee Duckworth: I worked on behalf of local solicitors and typically if someone was a victim of violence and ninety nine per cent of the time that was a lady. She would get a court order through a solicitor. It would be my job to take those papers from the solicitor and to serve the person who was violent towards their partner and that would restrain them from going near the property or near the children or whatever. There were a few offshoots from that as well. I did some work for Lancashire county council that would involve executing court orders to remove children from dangerous situations. It was one of those kind of careers were you felt good.
Lee Dinsdale: What was that experience like overall when you think back?
Lee Duckworth: It was pretty dangerous work. I used to get threatened a lot. There was the threat of violence every time I had to serve some papers because of the nature of people that you were dealing with. I found ninety nine per cent of the time if you were polite and shook the hand of the individual and explained to them that, yes they are receiving papers that they don’t want but if they seek legal advice they will have someone fighting their corner and the whole thing hopefully can be sorted out. There was that small one per cent that were not interested in that and would react directly and instantly to you as a process server. In the past I have had knives pulled on me and guns and punches thrown but you learn very quickly to be fast and get out of the way. I’m six foot two and reasonably well built and in good shape in my early twenties, so I was in a good physical position to protect myself and get out of the way if needed.
Lee Dinsdale: Can you give us a little snapshot about Sebolin Consultancy as a recruitment agency?
Lee Duckworth: Sebolin is a new business and we started in August last year. It is a market and industry that myself and my business partner Jean-Marie and I have never operated in.
Lee Dinsdale: What was that like going into an industry that you have never operated in?
Lee Duckworth: We have been on the other side of the fence so we knew how the industry operated from the client side. We wanted to do recruitment but do it from a philanthropy perspective so we went into a business that was not only a vehicle to provide us with an income, but also a business that could really engage with the community. The reality is, and this is our viewpoint, recruitment is a people business and without people whether it is candidates or clients we have no assets, we are an asset less business so our stock in trade is people. For me that goes for every other recruitment business out there. I don’t understand, and this was one of the key pillars of our strategy when we were deciding the formation of this business, why people based businesses don’t engage from a corporate social responsibility perspective more than they do. So not only was the business a vehicle to challenge us and do something different in an industry and market that we were not experienced in, it also gave us an opportunity to really test ourselves. It also gave us the opportunity to do it in a way that we see is the right way to do recruitment with the right level of engagement with the community through a really strong sense of corporate social responsibility.
Corporate Social Responsibility
Lee Dinsdale: Can you give us a flavour of what you mean when you say the right amount of corporate social responsibility engaging with the community?
Lee Duckworth: We operate with the community in a number of areas. One of those areas is a partnership with a charity called Walking with the Wounded based in the UK and a strong presence in Manchester. The operations manager is a wonderful chap called Gary Lamb. I met him at the end of last year and we agreed that we would support his charity. Their primary function is to help service people who have been discharged usually for medical reasons and quite often for PTSD etc. Gary’s charity helps these people get off the street and secure property. They help secure employment and whenever we have a role that we think is ideal for somebody that is being supported by that charity then we will get in touch with Gary. He will have a look at the role and will reach out to of those beneficiaries of his charity and see if there is a match and some interest. It is philanthropy; we don’t charge our clients for placing somebody that comes through Walking with the Wounded. Otherwise it would not be corporate social responsibility it would just be another income stream. So that’s one area. We are also part of the governments One Million Mentors scheme. Once a month when the schools are open we go in and there are a number of pupils that we coach and mentor from a development perspective, career perspective. We touch albeit at an early age on leadership attributes and very importantly how to lead yourself. We are also supporting a government pilot scheme that is helping people back into employment that have been out of the loop for a long period of time. Typically so far that has been people that have had a long period of time off for personal reasons whether that is mental health or they suffer a serious bereavement or they are overcoming an illness. They come to us via the Chamber of Commerce which is a Chamber of Commerce initiative that we backed. We give them advice on CV creation and reconnecting with the market and we help them find a role. We have had a number of discussions with Manchester City Council and we have an agreement in principle as partners to their homelessness strategy. We are still working through the finer details but the plan is when somebody is relieved of their homelessness situation and rehoused by the council, and after a settling down period of a couple of months they come in our direction and we help them find employment. The wonderful thing about that is there are a number of businesses that are happy to support us in that because it plays quite well into their culture and values and their own sense of corporate social responsibility as well. So there are four key areas there in which we engage in the community.
The reality is, and this is our viewpoint, recruitment is a people business and without people whether it is candidates or clients we have no assets, we are an asset less business so our stock in trade is people.
Lee Dinsdale: That sounds amazing Lee. We have had a few guests on that have talked about corporate social responsibility but not so much in depth so the work that you are doing there is brilliant. If you are able to do would you like to give a shout out to some of the companies that you are working with in terms of the homeless strategy.
Lee Duckworth: Our biggest supporter is Timpson’s. They partner with the rehabilitation of ex-offenders for example and give a lot of people a chance where perhaps other employers wouldn’t. One of my previous roles was with a company called Sodexo; Sodexo have a hundred prisons and work closely with Timpson’s to train up people that are serving out their sentences. When they step out they can step straight into a role and effectively prove their worth to society I guess and to give them a chance to lead a life like everybody else does i.e. you get up, go to work you pay your bills, you go home.
Lee Dinsdale: What services do you provide at Sebolin Consultancy Lee?
Lee Duckworth: With regard to the operations side of the business it has been a challenging year from the corona virus perspective. If you put your hindsight glasses on and think has this been the best year to be launching a new recruitment business? The answer is probably no! The reality though is that things are picking up and we do have a number of roles. We don’t limit ourselves to specific markets. What we try and do is match candidates from a values perspective as well as from a skills and knowledge perspective to an organisation that might match their own values and beliefs. In terms of the kind of roles that we commonly place it’s a really wide range so it could be HGV drivers or LGV drivers, credit control positions or accounts payable positions or junior finance positions. We have some roles in marketing and IT. We are also very busy on the construction side of the fibre network cable surveyors. We have a number of those positions across the UK and that has business has continued throughout corona virus because those businesses that deal with fibre network have not had to lock down. I’m also currently recruiting for a clinical consultant to help medical software. We don’t get roles of that stature and that salary too often. The challenge for us is to really understand what an employer is looking for so when we get a role like that we have to really research it and understand what it is they are looking for.
Lee Dinsdale: If someone is listening and you have just described a plethora of different roles available, what are your contact details?
Lee Duckworth: The website is www.sebolin.co.uk. We have a strong presence on LinkedIn as well. You can reach us through Facebook as well. Our lives roles are updated regularly on the website. The reality is the market has changed over the last three or four months. At the start of this year it was what you would call a candidate led market because unemployment was very low and a lot of roles were available so candidates could to a degree be in a strong position to dictate their own terms and get what they need from a potential new position. That has changed around completely now. Everybody has far more candidates than they have roles so it is an employer led market now. For me speed is of the essence so don’t restrict yourself to just looking on our website on a daily basis, ring us, speak to us. It might well be that I have just come off the phone with a new role that is perfect for you so don’t wait for the website to be updated, talk to us on a regular basis. Jean-Marie and I live and breathe this stuff and we enjoy what we do. I’ve had calls at eleven o’clock at night on a week day and at three o’clock on a Sunday afternoon while I’m out walking the dog. We never stop.
Lee Dinsdale: Let’s talk about people going for job interviews. From a recruitment perspective as you have just described, it is an employer’s market so people are competing a bit more than they did do previously to get the job that they want. What are some of your top tips, to give yourself the best chance?
Lee Duckworth: For me it is important in a client led market where there are fewer roles than there are candidates to really find a way to differentiate yourself from the hundred other people that are applying for that role. The way to do that is to be focussed on your own development and never stop learning. You’ve heard the story of my background and I had to pick up most of my knowledge from reading books and going to libraries, this is pre-internet days of course when I was trying to get as much education as I could never having been to college or university. Today whatever age you are, there is so much knowledge available at your fingertips. There is so much you can do towards your own development that can really set you aside from other candidates. Employers really are starting to change the way they recruit as well. Twenty years ago it was a case in an interview of, can you do this job? Yes I’ve done it before- right you’ve got the job! A lot of big businesses are starting to turn towards behavioural based recruitment so they are equally as interested in what you do in your spare time; how you make use of it and how do you differentiate yourself. Those CV’s that come through and maybe have some volunteering work, or maybe have the Duke Of Edinburgh stuff or there is a certain amount of time every week that you spend watching Ted Talks on YouTube, they are the candidates that will grab attention. It isn’t just what you have done in the past. I think a lot of employers are looking at how you want to develop and how you want to move and progress in their organisation.
Employers really are starting to change the way they recruit as well. Twenty years ago it was a case in an interview of, can you do this job? Yes I’ve done it before- right you’ve got the job! A lot of big businesses are starting to turn towards behavioural based recruitment so they are equally as interested in what you do in your spare time; how you make use of it and how do you differentiate yourself.
Lee Dinsdale: So if someone thinks, oh I don’t do those things and I don’t do personal development what would your advice be?
Lee Duckworth: Start today and have a plan. The reality is very few people actually sit back and think, well actually what career do I want? What is going to tick the box for me? One of the reasons for me for leaving a nice comfortable well paid position to start a career in a market I had never dealt with before was because I wanted to recapture that sense of helping people as part of making a living as I did in my twenties. That sort of stuff is good for the soul. Before you do anything take a step back and ask yourself, are you thinking of applying for this job just because it is going to pay your bills or is it going to tick the box that means to you as an individual the things that excite and gets your heart beating? Why are you applying for that position? Is it good for the soul is it going to match your values and your behaviours? Is it going to make you happy and fulfilled?
Lee Dinsdale: Okay let’s say you are in an interview. I guess you get feedback from employers on how interviews go, what are some of the trends that you hear e.g.candidate did this?
Lee Duckworth: There are some common elements in terms of the feedback. Quite often, particularly at the moment because there are so many good candidates we will get feedback from a client that it has been a difficult decision for them and it has been an absolute knife edge decision between candidate a and candidate b, so it still comes back to that differentiator. How you make yourself different to everybody else and quite often it really is a one percent decision between candidate a and candidate b. There are so many great candidates at the moment and we can put four candidates through for the same role and every single one of them deserves it. It’s the one that is ambitious and can show that they have got a plan, isn’t afraid to ask questions and challenge, isn’t afraid to make it clear that if I join the organisation I want to grow and have a career and not just a job. They are the people who will secure the offer. Don’t be afraid to challenge in your interview.
Lee Dinsdale: Are you suggesting that the interviewee starts acting as the interviewer rather than the other way round?
Lee Duckworth: Absolutely it’s a two way street. The reality is anybody that challenges in an interview and has asked some tough questions back, if that manager or person that is interviewing you is upset by that, do you really want to work for that business? That’s possibly not the business for you and again it comes back to a candidate knowing what they want, what are their values and beliefs and is this organisation right for you?
Lee Dinsdale: Well thank you very much Lee for today. Any parting words of wisdom for young people listening?
Lee Duckworth: Yes the one thing that I have omitted in terms of things that are particularly relevant for people entering work for the first time is having a strong network. Get yourself on LinkedIn, it costs absolutely nothing. Build your network and LinkedIn allows you to follow businesses so you can track what they are doing, what strategic they are going with, the kind of people that work there. Don’t be afraid to build your network. Even the children we are mentoring studying in a high school environment, so pre college years, we are advising them to start on their LinkedIn journey at that age. If you know what market segment you want to go in, look for and follow those businesses. Build up your knowledge and your network and that puts you in a very strong position.
Lee Dinsdale: Thank you Lee very much for coming in today.
Article Transcription by Terry Capostagno
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