This recruiter, who had never run a business before, shares how he quickly learned to be a boss
At Xero, we use the power of technology to foster innovation, connection and entrepreneurialism. To create beautiful work that makes a difference. This is why, each month, we speak to business leaders within our like-minded community. We want to see how they apply similar values to shape their businesses, and their future.
This month, we speak to Stephen Borg. He’s an experienced executive recruiter who, together with his two business partners, started Miller Leith. The firm aims to turn the recruitment industry on its head. They’re creating a more personal, community-minded and supportive experience for businesses and candidates alike.
Stephen tells us in his words why genuine connections make all the difference, how you can innovate work to be a force for good, and how a value-driven service can transform business challenges.
“A few years ago, I came together with the two other owners of Miller Leith. We were all in our early 30s and we’d all worked hard to establish relationships in the executive recruitment space for 5–10 years. But we were fed up working for large transactional firms that were all about dollars.
“We all shared a passion for the Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) industry. From the largest Tier 1 blue-chip organizations to the smallest food and beverage companies. We’re proud to be ingrained across the sector. Whether through speaking to businesses, going to seminars or reading the magazines. It gives us a solid understanding of the struggles the industry faces, and the diverse talents it needs to thrive.
“So we set up a business to support positive change. We identify the top talent from
Innovation, Marketing, Sales Packaging, New Product Development (NPD), Quality, Continuous Improvement (CI) and Production, and we connect them with the right businesses. Then we pick up the phone and ask how we can do better from there.”
Overcoming small-business challenges
“I’m 34 and I’ve never run a business before. I’ve worked for bigger businesses where I was employed to do the job I’m good at. But it’s something quite different to understand the whole foundation of what makes an organization work.
“Suddenly you’re asking, ‘What are our responsibilities about super and tax?’” When you miss things in business, it can have a catastrophic effect for you and your employees.
“One thing I’m really proud of, as a business owner, is that we’ve never taken a loan. We have been very successful in terms of growth, and that’s all because people want to connect with us.”
On the power of connection
“Recruitment is all about connecting the right people and opportunities. But to experience that lightbulb moment of the perfect match, you need to have felt that connection yourself.
“Almost all of us, at some point in our lives, will have seen a recruiter. And sometimes there’s just not that level of care. You have to take it personally. To truly connect with anyone, you have to immerse yourself in the time you spend together.
“Just think about what happens before someone visits a recruiter. They’ve put on their best outfit for the interview. They’ve taken public transport or got in a car and paid a ridiculous amount for parking. Maybe they’ve taken time off work. And now, here they are, sitting in front of someone talking about their life’s work. Putting it all out there on the table. They’ve done all that to improve their career and, by extension, their personal life for themselves and maybe their family. They deserve time and respect.
“So your reaction to others matters. Even your eye contact and the tone of voice can change someone’s perception of themselves, and that can have a lasting effect on their career. The opportunity to be connected in business is key.”
On making a difference
“From the outset we have strived to be very community-oriented. In addition to our work with the major players in the FMCG industry, we spend a lot of time recruiting in the regional areas of NSW and VIC. In towns that don’t always have the higher socioeconomic status of the cities. Many recruiters see a staff member getting in the car and driving for an hour and a half as a cost. That’s petrol. That’s time out of the office. But we meet people and we meet businesses, and those businesses give us all their recruiting work.
“We’ve also initiated a volunteer day every two months where the whole team leaves the office. We spent a day with Foodbank – a not-for-profit organisation that creates produce hampers and sends them to people who really need them. A lot of the businesses we recruit for actually send their unsold produce there. It gives everyone a warm feeling to know that we have personally contributed back to the industry that has given us so much. We spent a day in a line, packing, weighing and marking boxes. That’s the kind of thing that you take home and tell your wife and children. And it’s a positive opportunity that our business has created for the members of our team.”
On starting a business
“People always told me to take my time. I’m always in a rush – checking my phone or taking one last call. But I knew that if I were to commit to this, I needed to build good foundations and values that would stand the test of time. Our team all sat around a boardroom table recently and revisited those values. And we still stand for consistency, honesty and the strength of small businesses.
“If you always hold those values, you give yourself a chance to be successful. Because you will get knocked. You’re going to get that huge tax bill. If you let things like that defeat you or affect you, you become a statistic.
“Recruit people that innately share the values that you have, nurture their careers, then improve their life in the job that they do.”