The Agony and Ecstasy of Setting up a Recruitment Office in the US

The Agony and Ecstasy of Setting up a Recruitment Office in the US

Originally published by The Recruitment Network, Finlay James' Nick Guy was asked what it has been like setting up our new office in San Francisco.

We’ve been following the journey of TRN member Finlay James’ expansion into the united states of America. Setting up a fresh vibrant office across the pond is the ambition for many recruitment agencies, but there’s a few bumps and lessons to be learnt along the way.

So, we thought we’d catch up with Nick Guy, Director of Business Development for Finlay James, who not only set up the Manchester-based office in London but has also helped build a team over in San Francisco.

Thanks for taking the time to answer a few of our questions Nick, what’s it been like setting up shop in the US so far?

“Opening an office in London seems like moving next door compared to moving to the US. Well at least in my experience having opened up an office in London and San Francisco in the last 18 months. That’s not to say that London is easy at all as I am sure it would be the opposite for US based firms coming here but there were certainly a lot more challenges for me setting up in the US.”

What were some of the biggest challenges you faced setting up in America?

“Some of the big challenges I faced were:

  • Visas – get your application in early, it’s a long process. You may even need to throw money at your US project in advance to make it easier to get this. Show them you’re serious!
  • Hiring – have a firm start date and get a few to start on day one of opening
  • Time zones – this is something you’d typically think about but communicating with the rest of the business is essential. Book in times to have the calls you need and don’t move them or you lose a full day”

What made you decide on your current location?

“The market in the US is so big in comparison to the UK, it’s much harder to decide where to set up. Although New York may have been easier for us from a time zone perspective, we picked San Francisco for a few reasons. 

  1. Silicon Valley – the tech hub of the world, for our industry it made a lot of sense.
  2. Existing client base – we have more clients in the Bay Area than any other part of the US so we wanted to be near our clients.
  3. The start-up scene – it seemed like the perfect place to do our own US start up.”

What things that are done over there, that are completely different to the UK?

“I did find a few differences when hiring out there. Our interview process was much less formal than a lot of companies based on the feedback we received. We were able to get the culture of our business over in the interview process really successfully and candidates interviewing for us were shocked to have met me as well as John & Sara Gaughan in the very first interview.

One of the biggest differences when hiring for yourself or for clients is the amount of money that is out there. The salaries are hugely different to the UK and can be 2-2.5x what you would pay here. From conversations I have been having it is due to the start-up scene and the investors our there being able to throw money at candidates trying to get the best talent. This and the fact it is “an at will state” means that in some cases there is less loyalty from both candidates and clients. ”

What’s it like hiring an American team, the challenges, opportunities and interesting parts of that?

“It’s been very challenging so far trying to build a team and grow the territory from the UK with limited time in the US so far. The main challenges I’ve experienced have been

  • Remote managing from the UK – time zones are the biggest factor here. Expect a lot of late night calls if you’re in the UK!
  • No one in the office – we have 40+ consultants in the UK so when someone joins, they have a lot of experience to learn from here but not in the US.
  • Cost – much more expensive to bring someone on board in the US.
  • HR/Processes – everything is very different in the US. Make sure you get advice or outsource it like we have done.

For all the challenges, the opportunities are also huge.

  • We are an exciting British start-up over therewhich is a great attraction to candidates in the US.
  • Salaries are much higher and so are fees.
  • Sales cycles are faster because it’s an at will state.

It’s been exciting so far and I am sure it will continue to be with fresh challenges along the way.

The most interesting thing I have found throughout the process has been:

College culture

The US college system is very different to that of the UK. Grads seem to come out more prepared for the working world and the interview process, they’ve been put through a lot of extracurricular activities much more so than I see in the UK”

And the unexpected parts?

“The most unexpected thing has to have been the speed we have done it and the late night calls!”

Finlay James have been a long-standing member of The Recruitment Network. It’s been fantastic working closely with such an exciting organisation who’re truly taking it to the next level. If you’re interested in transforming your recruitment business, realising your strategic objectives and building a network of likeminded peers then get in touch with us now for a conversation here.