JP Trett: "We're looking at all possible angles to ensure there's a business to continue after this"
This pandemic affects every individual, every professional and every business in different and unprecedented ways; the only common thread between every single instance is that we know for sure that it is affecting everyone. This is true for agriculture recruitment consultancy and Parliamentary Review representative JP Trett Ltd, who spoke to the Review about what he described as "the most harrowing period" in the company's history.
We are looking at all possible angles of the business for now, short and medium term, to ensure there is indeed a business to continue when we see the light at the end of the tunnel. So much support has been announced by the government, but I do find myself asking: is it enough?
JP Trett is a recruitment and business consultancy that specialises in executive-level agriculture and the associated industry sectors. As a company, we were already in the throes of adapting its business model to start a pioneering new process in what is traditionally known as "recruitment".
The coronavirus arrived at a critical time in this process. We have been focusing on "blending" our recruitment and consultancy divisions, as well as experimenting with other methods to expand our resources, assist businesses with expansion and change management as well, above all else, adding value for client and candidate alike.
Having recovered from a spell in the "doldrums" during and after Brexit, it was a bold move but one that I thought was pioneering. I always thought that to move and progress in these technological times, a business needed to accept change, not be averse to risk or doing what its team truly believed in. No business ever flourished and progressed by doing the same thing and using the same methods indefinitely -- change is good.
At JP Trett, we believe that the traditional methods of recruitment are drawing to an end and that a more transparent and lateral approach is needed -- even more so in this time of technological necessity. By including our expansive network in our campaigns, we have a greater reach within the agricultural network than ever before, and one more openly usable by the clients we have built a strong relationship with. By the addition of some key senior consultants from the worlds of agriculture and fresh produce, our team now has gravitas and credibility in these sectors, and are able to offer many years of experience to most businesses within our network.
All that is great, of course -- but what is actually happening on the ground today? We're at a standstill. Since the lockdown began, most multinational companies beyond the fresh produce sector have frozen expenses on consultancy and recruitment. We've also found that any new starters or people in recruitment phases, including second or third interviews, have also been stopped in their tracks, bar a select few.
The knock-on effect is likely a six-month delay in cashflow and business for us, but for the industry more largely as well. The whole process of recruitment typically takes at least six months from commencing a campaign to actually getting someone into a new company. That includes a month or so to use all resources to find the correct number of profiles to present to the client, a month to arrange and conduct interviews and then a three-month or more notice period to work through until the first day of new employment for the successful candidate. If the lockdown continues for much more than another two to three weeks, then we are going to have to restart everything -- which means having to resurrect our business once the curtain is lifted and we go back to normal.
As a recruitment business, along with others in the industry, we have high cashflow and slim margins most of the time. When this cashflow stops, there are many consequences along the supply chain of our business alone. Subscriptions to the many resources needed to scour the talent market are still payable, and at quite a rate compared to the ROI when accumulated. Then we also have advertising and PR costs, which continue to be requested through these times. With lower cashflow and the machine of search and selection still whirring, who is set to foot the bill? The way that this roundabout of networking, branding and PR works just means that it will be harder to restart the process the longer it is down. The financial institutions have given payment holidays or the promise of interest-free loans to SMEs, but what about the smaller recruitment firms that are facing a large gap in their budgeted year? An interest-free loan may help for 12 months, but will this be enough? Even so, how accessible are they and will the funds arrive too late?
So, the problems we face are similar to most businesses presently. There are no sales of goods and there are no services or leisure activities to attend. Agriculture and food production is seen as a necessity at present, but this is unfortunately not the market sector we function in. Yes, there are requirements for pickers, packers and processors, but recruitment for the operations, senior management and other executive roles and any other changes just are not happening.
As much as we would like to help the lower end of the industry, we are not geared up for it, cannot offer much support and if we do or can, it will not do much for our cashflow. We have referred applications and advertised these roles for others, and can only hope that their post-Brexit woes are not further compounded when this debacle is over and we return to what may one day be called normality.
All things considered, we strive to stay at the forefront of our industry and pride ourselves on being ready to awaken the machine when the floodgates open again. For now, however, it is time to take stock, hunker down and prepare for the long days ahead, with little but meagre scraps of business that may arrive for those industries able to function presently as a result of sheer necessity in this hour of need.
You can read JP Trett's best practice article here.