National Business Awards SME finalist Focus: Simon La Fosse, La Fosse Associates

Tell us about your business
La Fosse Associates is a full service Technology and Digital Recruitment company. We are six years old. Our turnover has increased on average by 68% per annum and our head count by 46 per cent per annum. We are self-funded, highly profitable, and have grown through re-investing profits. We are different in a number of ways:

  1. Where almost all recruitment businesses work at one level or another, we have a world-class offering from top to bottom
  2. 40 per cent of the company equity will be gifted to the employees over time and every employee is a share holder
  3. La Fosse is a values-led business: our mission is to achieve a step change in candidate care in our industry through leading by example

How did you fund your business?
The business was self-funded and has grown purely through re-investing profits. So far we have been able to support our rapid growth without any external capital injection (other than invoice discounting) and this has allowed us to keep 100% of the equity which in turn allows us to make this available to staff rather than financiers!

What is the biggest challenge SMEs are currently facing?
The biggest challenge that SME’s are facing is the age old one of having to compete with larger companies without the same benefits of scale and brand. However I think these disadvantages are outweighed by the energy and determination that I see in fellow SME’s. There’s less complacency and generally more of a sense of mission and focus in my view. Decision making is also faster which helps with innovation. That underdog spirit is a very healthy one to have and I think helps us all to raise our game. Lastly, I think there is less room for company politics which makes more a more effective and more rewarding work environment. Long live the SME’s!

Can you give any advice to others starting up businesses?
Strong business ethics underpin a business. For us our key value is integrity and we feel it is vital with new businesses to ensure the ethics and foundations of the business can be retained as the company grows.

A strong focus on delivering the best employee experience possible is crucial in attracting, retaining and motivating the best people. As a company we firmly believe that well motivated staff who have the best interests of the company at heart is our most powerful weapon to ensure our continued future success. We are jointly owned by the staff and encourage them to think with an entrepreneurial mind-set and to make their own decisions.

How do you foster innovation throughout your business?
Our company has been founded on the principle that a company with a high employee engagement with ambitious, motivated individuals who genuinely enjoy coming to work is the best vehicle for innovation as well as growth.

Every employee is a shareholder in the business and over time, 40 per cent of the company equity will be gifted to the employees. By making equity available we have been able to attract and retain an outstanding team. Co-Ownership is also energising and encourages innovation through better focus on the benefit to the company rather than just the individual.

This focus on innovation is runs through our weekly team meetings and weekly workshops, which allow for candidate and client experiences to be shared so the whole company can learn from these and to ask advice on how to approach challenges.

Our monthly ‘town hall’ meetings and annual strategy meeting enable the teams to discuss ideas or any challenges they may have. This kind of open discussion, we feel, strongly encourages innovation across the business. As a result of the above examples the company is largely self-managing .

Our employees are encouraged to think with an entrepreneurial mind-set and to make their own decisions. This ‘entrepreneurial’ spirit has been created by our CEO’s style of leadership to empower employees to have the flexibility and the autonomy to drive the success of the business whilst ensuring he leads from the front.

Additionally, we have recently started to incubate seven digital start-ups within our offices and this has allowed us to expand our network into the industry but also to draw on some of the inspiration these smaller businesses use to innovate and grow.