The recruitment industry is booming right now, growing and transforming at an alarming rate. A few firms are leading the way. One such company – with a base right here in the UAE – is JBAndrews. A young business headquartered in the UK, it has blossomed in recent years thanks to the hard work of its two directors, Josh Bowerman and Ben Liggins. We spoke with Josh, a Dubai resident, about the incredible journey the business has been on, and the role it has played in his career.
From the Ground Up
What’s the idea behind your company, and how did it all start? We asked Josh.
“JBAndrews started 5 years ago” says Josh, “We began with two markets, logistics and diagnostics, working with clients all over the world to facilitate top level placements, all the way up to C-suite positions. Right off the bat we went international, with clients based in the UAE, the US, Europe and even Asia.
Before that, Ben and I worked for a different recruitment business, with the same majority shareholder, a company that always encourages successful employees to go out and start their own businesses. The seed of an idea was already in my mind, when the CEO called me up one day and offered me the opportunity to start my own company. It was the perfect shot. I was only 25. The first thing I did was call Ben – he and I had worked together in the past, and I knew immediately he was the missing component. All the skills I didn’t have, he did, and all the skills he didn’t have, I did. Combined, we would have all bases covered.
At first, Ben was a little apprehensive, but just 24 hours later he was on board and raring to go. So that was how it started; two phone calls, two friends, and plenty of ambition. Fast-forward 5 years and we now have 45 employees across 2 offices, one back in the UK and one here in the UAE, and we’re lining up a third for this year. It’s been great. We’ve also been very successful in terms of revenue – in 2022 we hit the £4.5 million mark for the first time. Best of all, though, are the people who’ve joined us, and the environment they’ve helped us create. Ben and I are very proud of that.”
Josh’s Career Advice
Next, we wanted to dive even further back. We asked Josh how his career began.
“I studied Law at University in London. After I graduated, I got a job offer for a recruitment company. I said yes and got stuck in right away. I’m competitive and driven, and that helped a lot. I found that recruitment was a prime case of ‘you get out what you put in’. For the first 2-3 years, I worked hard, put in the hours when things needed to get done, and it paid off. I’ve seen the same since. In recruitment, and I think in sales generally, focus, hard work, and making sure you go the extra mile, means you reap the benefits.” says Josh.
With this in mind, we wanted to know what advice he would give to beginners.
Josh continues, “Firstly, there’s really no substitute for hard work. But as well as working hard, you’ve got to work smart. Listen to the people who have experience, ask questions, collaborate, be proactive, that kind of thing. But also, you’ve got to be resilient. In any industry, and especially in recruitment, things go up and they go down. What we do is bring people together. It’s a little different to traditional sales because there can be hiccups on both sides. Clients will change their minds, and so will candidates you’re trying to help. Inevitably things will be out of your hands at times, and they won’t always go the way you want them to. It’s frustrating, and sometimes it makes you doubt yourself, but you have to weather those storms and not let them stop you from doing what you can do. That resilience and self-belief comes in handy out of the office, too. It’s very valuable. But it’s equally important that people don’t feel they have to go it alone all the time.”
Putting the Mantra into Action
Our next question was more future-focussed: What are your goals for the company?
Josh replied, “The goal today is to be the specialist provider of choice in all 3 sectors we work in: logistics & supply chain, scientific, and industrial. We’re not the biggest business out there, but we have some of the best people in the industry, and all of them are dedicated specialists in their respective markets and regions. They know exactly what they’re talking about and what to look for, and the work they do is always comprehensive and focussed. Most importantly though, we have a team that understands people. Which brings me to our other goal.
Our mantra at JBAndrews is ‘Putting People First’, and we aim to put this into action wherever we can. Recruitment for us is not about numbers or statistics, but about putting the right people in the right places. This means listening to our clients needs, getting to know the people we represent, and nurturing relationships – we always look for a partnership over a transaction. It’s a much more rewarding way to do business. On the other side of it, it also means looking after our own. That means, healthcare provisions, mental health awareness and support sessions, training, feedback, financial incentives, flexibility, and lots of social events in the calendar. We want people to feel looked after and motivated, and are always looking for ways to make being a part of JBAndrews something to enjoy and take pride in.”
Challenges in the Recruitment Industry
This was a wonderful response. As Josh mentioned being go-to specialists, we got curious about what particular challenges they face in the industry.
He says, “In the last few years the biggest challenge has of course been the pandemic. Adjusting to that was tricky for most businesses. It also had a significant impact on the industries we work in, so that changed things for us. At the time, our logistics division went through a quiet period, as moving cargo wasn’t happening at the same level as before. Firms weren’t really looking to hire. With one of our core industries struggling, we had a big hurdle to climb. We had to be dynamic and adaptable. We shifted our focus, putting more into our other sectors, especially the scientific ones. Diagnostics is another core sector for us, and that went the other way. The market was performing very well and a lot of firms were innovating fast, developing new technology and tests to respond to the pandemic. This mitigated the damage for us, and also taught us a valuable lesson – it’s great to specialise, but you’ve also got to have some diversity and be willing to adapt. Since then, we’ve added more industry verticals, whilst making sure to keep our industry knowledge to a high level. Compared to when we started, we’re much more diverse in our market approach, and yet we’re also more specialised than ever.”
The Day-to-Day Challenges
That’s excellent. Now we wanted to know about the day-to-day challenges.
“Funnily enough, our own recruitment can be a bit of a challenge. Ben and I focus on hiring young professionals, often straight out of University, or with around 2-3 years’ experience. It’s hard to figure out whether someone will suit the job or not when they only have limited experience. Ben and I have to have good instincts when we interview people for JBAndrews. That said, it’s gotten easier and easier over recent years. We now get input from our core leadership team, and also let more junior members of the office play a part in the interview process. This way we can all get a feel for how someone will fit into the team. Really, we’re looking to shape a team that works well, rather than just hire people with jam-packed resumes. The more open interview process benefits both sides, too, as it gives our candidates a clear picture of what they’ll be doing and who they’ll be working with. The results have been great.”
Employees as the Major Strength
What do you think is the biggest strength of JBAndrews as of now?
“That’s easy – our biggest strength is our people. Our employees are very focussed on hitting the numbers and pushing themselves, but they also care about each other. It’s a place for friends not just colleagues, and that’s the real key. It makes JBAndrews a positive and exciting place to work. Five years in, Ben and I would both say that we come into the office each day because of our employees. And it’s not just that they’re nice people; they’re the right people. We’ve been able to train them well mostly thanks to the environment in the office, and that’s a big factor that’s helped us specialise and perform more and more each year. They’re constantly going past targets – most years the company as a whole have reached at least 130% of target. Those targets go up each year, and they still get exceeded. The consistent progress we’ve seen over the years has been down to the people in our teams. JBAndrews’ biggest strength is definitely its people.” Josh replies.
Standing Apart from the Competition
Considering that we’ve interviewed recruitment agencies before, we know that it’s a competitive industry here in the UAE. Our next question for Josh: how do you stand apart from the crowd?
“We came to Dubai just over a year ago, and since then have grown over 300% in headcount. The Dubai office revenue has also gone from £1.1 million to nearly £2 million in that time. That’s almost double. So, we’ve got momentum right now. We’re getting ahead of the competition, and in a few ways.
First, as I said earlier, we’re specialists. Our teams are split by market, then they’re split within those teams to cover particular sub-markets, then they’re split again by regional focus. Each person is dedicating their efforts to a very specific area and will know that area inside and out. Our clients recognise that focus, and it also helps us work with all kinds of businesses, from MNCs to small disruptors. For example, we work with big names like DHL on their logistics needs, but also with start-ups and local players across the world.
Second, motivation. We take care of our employees, we train them well, and we motivate them. We are also always looking for young and hungry professionals. So, our people are not just specialists, but they’re motivated and driven. They know their stuff and they always look to exceed expectations. There are a lot of generalists in the market that are just looking for any business they can get their hands on – we’re not like that. There’s always energy in the office, and we run incentives on a weekly, monthly, and quarterly basis. Our consultants are well rewarded when they overachieve. We have a very lucrative commission structure, going up to 60%, meaning people can take home more than half the revenue they generate. Overachieving may also land you on the ski slopes, at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, or exploring a new city – last year some of our top performers went to Dublin for a long weekend, all paid for. We also plan whole office events every four weeks, so it’s not just about individual performance.
Another part of this also comes back to our people-first culture which I spoke about earlier.
In reality, that means a lot of different things. For one, we offer some of the best healthcare provisions in the Middle East. This means our employees can look after their physical and mental well-being, which is very important. We also provide training for our employees so they can be more aware of their health. We want our employees to be able to understand their physical and mental health and be able to deal with these things, either themselves or through a professional. We make sure that they can.
In short, we’re different because (1) we’re specialists, (2) we’re driven, and (3) we take care of our people; physically, mentally, and financially” Josh concludes.