This year Howett Thorpe celebrates 30 years in the accountancy and finance recruitment industry, so we find out more about the man behind the business and how he has built a successful company from nothing.
Greg Thorpe, the man behind the business.
How did you end up in recruitment?
Whilst attending Guildford Technical College in 1977 studying Business Studies, I discovered a talent for recruitment. I was convinced that I hadn’t done enough work to be allowed to continue the course so decided to look for work. After being invited for several interviews, I realised I was being given all of the positions I went for, I then tried to purposefully ‘throw’ the interviews and see how difficult I could be, this also proved to be effective and lead to me being offered more roles. I turned down all of the roles to continue at College and subsequently ended up offering advice to others on the course.
At the time I didn’t realise recruitment companies even existed and assumed these skills may lead me to go and work in HR.
What other jobs did you do before starting Howett Thorpe?
From the age of 19, I worked in the Cabinet Office in Whitehall answering parliamentary questions and had 5 people reporting to me and a further 35 – the days of typing pools! This furthered my interest in recruitment as I discovered that if you have the right background and do a good interview, the world of work is opened up to you.
It was after seeing the Alfred Marks office in London that it reinforced my idea of what I wanted to do. I secured a role with Accountancy Personnel, leaving my Business Management Degree course at Brighton University to begin the career I had set my sights on.
How did Howett Thorpe start?
I set up the business with my wife in Farnborough, we had one table and two phones that was it; we worked tirelessly and managed to get our first vacancy after six weeks. We began with a typewriter and reluctantly invested in a PC to make the Secretary’s job easier. We even used to hand deliver letters to clients and I would still have paper records for candidates now if I could.
The company then grew to six people in two years and managed to survive a recession and the threat of office closure.
You have many offices now, why did you decide to start in Farnham?
We moved to offices in Farnham in 1991 based in West Street, then relocated to our prestigious head office, where we are now, in 2015. This large venue gives us the scope to increase our staff and grow further.
There is no particular reason why Farnham, other than it is ideally positioned to service the Home Counties.
How does your life differ now from 30 years ago?
For the first five years I didn’t have a holiday and worked constantly to build up the business. Now I have a fantastic team who work across all the locations taking some of the daily strain, although I never quite switch off.
I also don’t work Mondays, something which I never thought possible. I enjoy being able to spend time with my youngest children, which was not afforded to me in the early years of starting Howett Thorpe. Getting to see my children grow up is a real bonus for me, doing the school run really is something to treasure.
What advice do you have if people want to follow in your footsteps?
To work in recruitment you genuinely need to like people and have their best interests in mind, be it a client or a candidate, be a good listener and adaptable. At the end of the day starting any business is hard, but I remember seeing that first cheque with Howett Thorpe on it thinking, ‘somebody has paid us to do something I love,’ it’s really rewarding.
How do you relax?
Family is obviously key other than that, I like Golf, eating nice food and great wines, but I would say my weakness is definitely Champagne. I am also a big fan of comedy. I enjoy the total escapism of just relaxing in the house watching Michael McIntyre on a Saturday night, as well as the fantastic Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon travel programme. I recently enjoyed the BBC Drama, The Split and have a penchant for an engaging box set.
Who are your heroes?
Obviously everyone at Howett Thorpe are my heroes for all the hours they give me; but I love Charlie Chaplin, JFK for his youth and enthusiasm and the fantastic oratory skills of President Ronald Reagan and the genius of Don Rickles.
They say never meet your heroes, but I was lucky enough to meet one of mine, Geoffrey Boycott. I met him for the first time last year at G-Live, which was an absolutely brilliant experience.
What does the future hold for you?
Growing the company and looking forward to all the things we can achieve in the industry, I think the future holds great things. I always tell my staff that their desk is their own small business, we don’t run like a corporate cog, people can work how they think is best for them and it gets great results. I want to continue working like this, taking on more staff and watching newer offices like Reigate really get their feet under the table in the industry.
Lastly, what is your best piece of advice for someone looking to get into the recruitment industry?
Don’t be afraid of ‘no,’ never give up and you’ll be successful – ‘the candidate of today is the client of tomorrow.’