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James Thomson awarded Founders Cup 2013

Thursday, 03 October 2013   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Natalie Singer
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James Thomson, MD of Status Staffing, was awarded the Founders Cup for 2013 at last month’s Annual General Meeting.

This award recognises an individual’s outstanding contribution to APSO and is awarded annually by the APSO Council. James was recognised for Leadership and in particular his role as Western Cape Chairperson from 2003 until 2012. I asked James to share some of his recruitment journey… 

Natalie: Status Staffing was established in 1975 and owned and managed by your father for over 20 years before you joined the business in 2000. It continues to be a premier owner/managed staffing business in Cape Town, were you "born” to be in recruitment?
I suppose it may seem that I was always going to be involved with Status, but I don’t think this was necessarily apparent when I was growing up. Over the years I was obviously very aware of what my father did and enjoyed finding out about the business and its successes from a young age. I used to love going into the offices and interacting with the team members. As I grew up I was never pushed into recruitment and instead I vividly remember how my father encouraged me to think about business from a more general perspective.  He often challenged my ideas, but always instilled in me a sense that I could do whatever I wanted and make a success of it. 

Natalie:  Most recruiters have a "life before recruitment”.... tell us more about yours
I did not have a set career before entering the recruitment industry.  I studied my degree at Stellenbosch and followed that up with a three-year stint travelling the world.  I did many different jobs during this time, but expressly decided beforehand that travelling was the priority, not my career, and as such I met the most incredible people and had countless amazing experiences.  When I came home I decided to take some time to work out what I wanted to do and my father offered me a marketing assistant role in Status on a temp contract whilst I made up my mind.  I honestly had no intention of working in Status full time, but one thing led to the next and before long I was managing the entire business and one of the majority shareholders. I quickly fell in love with the industry and the vital part it plays in any successful economy.  I always get a huge buzz out of seeing Status’ teams doing great work and impacting the lives of our fellow countrymen.  Even though I have been involved with other companies and sit on other boards outside of the recruitment industry, recruitment will probably always remain my primary passion.

Natalie: As long-standing APSO members, Status Staffing has been actively involved in the industry since inception but what prompted you to get personally involved at committee level? 
I have always been and continue to be actively involved on various committees, primarily because I just don’t understand why you would not want to be! I have observed how the most successful business people seem to make time for involvement in pursuits that don’t directly give them any monetary compensation.  I soon found out that being involved on committees and with similar voluntary pursuits you gain many things that are far more valuable than money.
Involvement on the APSO regional and national executive committees have given me a sense of community, an immense broadening of my business knowledge, pride in contributing to the betterment of the industry, exposure to some amazing experiences and most importantly I have gained lifelong connections and friendships.  My APSO committee involvement has been one of the single biggest contributors to my growth within the industry.  From the first very first regional and national executive committee meetings I have enjoyed learning from my peers and being inspired by some of the top business minds in the country.

Natalie: What do you believe the value is for members in belonging to an organisation like APSO?
APSO offers huge value for its member companies through the multitude of services and value adds.  Like many associations most of the benefits are only realized when one gets actively involved in the activities of the association, but even those companies that don’t get too involved receive massive value. Obviously the main reason for the association’s formation and existence is protecting and enhancing the industry’s interests and credibility.
This remains the greatest benefit that member and non-member companies receive from APSO’s existence. Ultimately membership for this reason alone is worth every cent and it blows my mind how some companies still choose to not be members, when APSO’s core mandate is to protect their interests and livelihood.

Natalie: Your involvement, as Western Cape Chairperson, spanned almost a decade, what are some of the highlights of this time?
Being part of the Western Cape committee was something special.  I was fortunate to be part of a team of hugely influential and experienced individuals who truly worked selflessly to develop and maintain the APSO brand and sense of identity in the region. The Western Cape committee has always been a strong and efficient one and I count myself very lucky to be a part of the team that delivered on the following highlights;
·         Growing membership by 50% over the period, and which now equates to over 20% of the national membership figure.
·         Maintaining sound fiscal management controls and processes which ensured that the region always funded their own activities and discounted prices for members for various services where possible.
·         Planning and running the hugely successful annual APSO Western Cape conferences and having the CIETT conference in Cape Town in 2005
·         Hosting monthly membership networking sessions – "Membership Forums”
·         Administering the old IPSC exams in the region which involved quarterly lectures and exam invigilation and marking.
·         Offering of bi-monthly training events on diverse topics pertinent to our industry.
·         Lobbying for and the implementation of a full time regional office structure.
·         Establishing and growing relationships with sponsors and regional influencers.
·         Contributing to multiple national task teams and interventions.

Whilst serving as Chairperson I also represented the Western Cape on the National Executive Committee, with just as many highlights, which included;
·         Seeing APSO grow from one part time employee and a small Executive Committee, battling to get people to serve, to its current head office structure and large pool of professionals willing to serve on the various committees.
·         The ongoing growth and development of the association’s lobbying and advocacy strategies and structures – including the setting up of CAPES, lobbying regional and national influencers and having fierce debates with those seeking to undermine our industry, or its right to operate (the midnight sessions at parliament vs COSATU being a big highlight)
·         The growth and development of new regions and the national roll out of training and other services.
·         The work done on professionalising the industry from a qualification and benchmarking perspective.
·         The transformation of the association and its membership base.
·         The multiple awards won over the years by the association, its member companies and individuals.
·         APSO’s representation and influence growth, which now means it truly represents its membership, not just on national boards and structures that influence industry, but also represents Africa at an international level.
·         The rebranding and realignment of APSO to grow its influence throughout Africa and remain, in my opinion, the leading industry association of its kind.

Natalie: The recruitment industry is changing daily and there appear to be new challenges on every horizon, do you have any advice to other SME business owners on how to remain sustainable and successful?
To survive in an industry that traditionally has low barriers to entry and, which is increasingly seeing clients attempting to do recruitment in house, SME businesses constantly have to work hard to stand out from the crowd.  There are a few bits of advice that I would offer.

1. Be Different.
First and foremost be relentless when it comes to seeking out and understanding your client’s needs and what value they would like you to add.  Once you have this, package into solutions that uniquely match that client’s specific needs. Clients are sick and tired of generic solutions and are crying out for innovation. Stop saying the same things that your competitors say, following the same fee structures, types of terms and conditions, guarantee periods, placement fees etc. and instead focus on developing tailor made solutions that work for each specific client and then deliver on them.  This will ensure that you will stand out. 

2. Specialise.
I personally feel that generalists do not have a great future in this industry and, unless you specialize, it will become increasingly hard to compete with those who have done so and with your clients.

3.  Don’t use lower prices as your primary selling tool. 
If you feel that you need to do this then your solutions and value that you add to your clients either aren’t what they need to be or you don’t understand what value you are adding.   There is a reason why the "cheap” companies don’t last and ironically it is normally because the owners of these businesses don’t value what they do. Rather focus on fixing this, then educate your clients to the value you can add/create then charge appropriately.  

4.  Say "no” more often.
I believe that "no” is the most powerful word in business and life in general.  Our characters and our success are defined far more by what we say no to than by what we say yes to.  Use "no” when you need to walk away from the wrong types of business, from your client requesting low fees, from anyone expecting unethical behavior or from accepting mediocre work from your team.

5. Hire the right staff. 
This is simple, but most recruitment companies get it wrong.  Any new hire must not only match all required competencies of the role, but they must also raise the bar and have the potential to be better than the best individuals in your current team.  In fact, as a SME owner, you should be constantly look at bringing on board people that can do the job that you are hiring them for better than you.

6.  Measure, analyse and take action. 
Whoever tells you recruitment is not a numbers game does not understand recruitment.  Measure anything and everything that you can and use the data to make more informed decisions, manage your team better and make more money.

7.  Be Ethical.
Apart from it being the right thing to do, being ethical is also the best insurance policy you can have when it comes to safeguarding your company’s reputation. There are many horror stories out there of unethical companies doing stupid things that harm the recruitment industry’s reputation and ironically by being ethical you will stand out as a company that clients and candidates want to be associated with.   

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