Ryan Adams CEO of Signify Technology, asks to reschedule his interview with us so he can whisk his top performers off to a corporate retreat in the Caribbean. That appreciation for staff, so rare in 2021, has earned Signify major industry awards and driven massive growth in the company’s five short years of existence.
This year Signify, an IT recruitment specialist with offices in the UK and the US, was certified as a Great Place to Work and Adams was named recruitment industry entrepreneur of the year.
The last 12 months have seen the business posting back-to-back record quarters, growing turnover to £17m a year, with £7m in gross profits, and expanding headcount to 60 staff across four offices, with a 65% focus on the US. Here Adams outlines the keys to his company’s success.
We spoke with Ryan Adams, CEO of Signify Technology
Can you talk about your business growth story and the journey your company has been on over the past 12 months?
The pandemic forced us to make a lot of changes. After slowing operations down for the first six months, we were able to double down on all the things we were doing well. We’ve managed to double our headcount across the business in the last 12 months. We’ve opened two new offices overseas and doubled our revenue as well.
I’m very proud of that, because at the start of the pandemic I think most of us in the world were taken back and worried about the security of our jobs, our companies, and the economy in general. Looking back, it was an emotional rollercoaster.
During the tough times, we made zero redundancies, which I think is a rarity in the market. We didn’t use the furlough scheme whatsoever. We didn’t make many cutbacks. The reason we are having a record year this year is because of investments we made during the pandemic.
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Do you feel that the changes in your sector caused by the last two years are here to stay or were these just crisis responses?
I think most of the crisis responses have now passed: the furlough scheme, making company redundancies, cutting back on cost and tools. Some of the things I think are here to stay are flexibility and hybrid remote working. We use Slack now as a communications tool, which has been phenomenal.
It allows you to communicate with your colleagues, whatever office or time zone they are based in. Video technology, the likes of Zoom and Teams, is here to stay. It helps you communicate with your colleagues, interview people, hire people.
And a candidate-driven market will be here to stay. It’s an employee-driven market.
The fact that employees can go to the market and demand good compensation levels, are able to get multiple offers on the table and are even able to get a counteroffer if they are going to leave their employer, those things are here to stay.
It’s the craziest market I’ve ever worked in, and I’ve been working in the recruitment industry for 14 years. I’ve never seen a market as buoyant as this. The economy is bouncing back.
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Many sectors continue to experience a skills shortage coming out of the pandemic. How do you think the situation will change over the next 12 months?
I’ve always believed there has been a shortage of talent, especially in the technology industry. To navigate around that, we have created online communities.
When the pandemic happened, of course, all the face-to-face meetups and conferences stopped, so we pivoted and created online communities.
Whilst doing that, we created online meetups and online conferences. A lot of them were free to attend—we made them donate-only, so we could donate money to COVID-19 charities, NHS doctors and Doctors Without Borders. We saw an immense response from that.
What we were trying to do in those events was bring people together that were maybe feeling a bit isolated while working remotely and missing their colleagues and friends and family. Our aim was to help our clients interact with engineers, and engineers interact with clients.
It helped our engineers to get more jobs and our clients to fulfil more of their job shortages. During a talent shortage, what you can do is go and harvest your own. Create learning events, teach people and cross-train them into new technologies.
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What is your advice to tech companies facing a skills shortage?
I do believe that things have changed fundamentally, forever. I have the luxury of working in the technology industry, partnered with some of the best technology companies in the world, such as Twitter, ITV, Sky, Capital One, eBay, Credit Karma, Airbnb and many others.
Nearly all those companies and their stakeholders are telling me the same thing: that they are going to offer fully remote opportunities or they're going to offer flexibility. If people do want to come into offices, they're allowed to, but they won't be forced to.
I honestly have never seen a market where salaries are so high. I do believe that there has been an evolution. I have seen some companies move into flexible working hours, and even some moving to four-day working weeks and having offices closed on every Friday.
There's been a lot of change and if you don't change then your company will get left behind. You're going to lose a lot of your talent to your competitors. There is a massive talent war, one that I've never seen before. The main thing is being open and flexible.
That sounds basic, but if you are looking for a senior engineer with a skill set and you can’t find that skill set, you have to pivot and do something different.
We’re operating across 22 countries, so let’s say there’s a skills shortage in the UK—if the customer is open and flexible, we can move someone from anywhere in Europe or maybe South America to England for a reasonable price and the customer can pay for their relocation.
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What do you see as being the main growth opportunity for your businesses in the coming 12 months?
To continue our global expansion is the main thing. In the last two years, we’ve moved from being a UK business, focused on the UK and European markets, to opening operations in the US as well. We’ve been in the US now for 24 months.
In that time, we’ve opened two global offices, the first in Los Angeles and the second in Austin, Texas. Our plan for next year is to open our third office, in Miami, Florida, and then we are going to continue our global expansion. We have ambitious plans: 65% of our revenue now is from US operations.
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How do you inspire your people to believe in your vision?
Our business has won a lot of awards recently, including the Recruiter Awards, APSCo [Association of Professional Staffing Companies] Awards, Investors in Talent Awards and many others. All of that has been really geared around everything we do for our staff.
When they start, we help all our staff to set personal goals. Working in the recruitment industry is more than just a job and finding someone for the job. It’s about you, thinking about your future and what you want to get out of this. At the end of the year, we review the goals all our staff have hit.
It’s an amazing time for me because I can see staff have started families, got married, bought houses, gone on holiday, passed driving tests. You might think: why does a leader care about that? But I do genuinely care about my people, dearly.
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If you could share a single lesson for business leaders, what would that be?
To invest in your people. Take good care of them. If you do, they will take care of your business.
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