“How do you find the time to manage all of this social media stuff?” That’s one of the most common questions I’m asked whenever I present. And sometimes, I get the sense that people are hoping that it’s so complicated and time-consuming that they’ll have a great excuse NOT to do it. Not to learn [...]
Interview With an Entrepreneur - Phoebe Lane, PKL
Wife, mother and businesswoman Phoebe Lane, started PKL in 1995 at the age of 25. She established PKL as a force in the highly competitive recruitment world and 14 years later, the company has revenues of over $13 million.
Briefly tell us about your business and how you got started.
PKL is a privately owned Australian company founded in 1995 that specialises in the recruitment of temporary and permanent office support and call centre recruitment and onsite recruitment solutions.
Phoebe Lane, Managing Director started PKL with the aim not only to understand its client's business, culture and needs but also to understand our candidate's needs and their careers.
When I started PKL I just went to ASIC registered the company, set up a bank account, sub-let office space, bought a computer and started cold calling. I worked an average 14 hours each day 8 days a week for the initial 8 months.
What have been your major achievements?
- As Managing Director, in fourteen years I have taken PKL from a one woman start up to a major force in office support recruitment with 41 employees, offices in Sydney and Melbourne and an annual turnover in excess of $13 million.
- PKL is now a preferred supplier to large corporations and chosen as PCW's and Deloitte's on-site provider over global agencies.
- Our employees are happy and loyal.
- PKL has a thriving culture that encourages learning and development.
- Our reputation has grown to become known as one of the best providers of office support staff.
- I am a self-taught businesswoman without a degree but a lot of intuition, confidence, ambition and strong work ethics.
- I successfully continued and grew the business from a distance. In 2001 I married a farmer, Ben Clift who owns a large cropping property on the Liverpool Plains near Gunnedah/Tamworth (5 hours drive from Sydney). It was a personal as well as a logistic challenge in that, I had to have the utmost trust with my management and staff in that they would continue running the business to the same level that I would have.
- I have managed to be wife, mother of two toddlers and businesswoman all together without sacrificing any of them.
- I have maintained my personal life and interests such as tennis, golf, horse racing, reading (member of a book club) and surfing (and just bought a new Malibu).
What have been your major challenges?
- At the start, I didn't have a credit rating so with suppliers I had to pay within 7 days.
- I didn't pay myself a salary for the first year and I moved back home with my parents.
- With increased business it created cash flow shortages in particular the summer holiday period when debtors would hold off paying until mid February.
- It was difficult retaining service levels and the culture throughout the growth phases.
- Technology problems and phone cuts due to electrical storms where I lived meant that I lived up a tree on my mobile for 6 weeks until Telstra fixed the line. I remember having to drive many kms to use the internet for a tender.
Who has been your greatest mentor or particularly inspiring / helpful?
- My parents and husband.
- Industry gurus Andrew Banks and Geoff Morgan of Talent2
- John Banks (Talent2) and Chris Slattery (Radar Resources) who have always been very supportive.
How do you stand out from your competitors?
- PKL is the only office support and call centre agency in Sydney and Melbourne that solely specialises in this field.
- PKL is the only agency that provides an on-site solution solely for office support.
- PKL has 33% candidate referral rate and 42% referral rate internally.
- 75% of PKL's candidates are still in their position after 3 years.
- PKL's marketing and branding is original and creative. Our logo represents the three heads: client, candidate and consultant. Our ideas are all from internal staff.
- It is no secret that we all share the same candidate pool but it is how PKL translates this pool into results. It is the people PKL employs and the technology we use. PKL encourages its employees to think strategically and to challenge processes.
- It is PKL's unique culture that is the crucial differential that impacts on all facets of our business. PKL is like a living family. It is our values and what we stand for that give PKL's employees a sense of purpose, accountability and teamwork.
Where would you like to see your business in five years from now?
- To be the agency of choice to our clients, candidates and consultants.
- To see PKL grow in all areas whilst retaining the service levels and culture.
What are your Top Five Strategies for Success?
- Manage your cash flow.
- Don't over capitalise.
- Treat others as you would expect to be treated.
- Don't lower your standards ever.
- Take calculated risks and fulfil your dreams. The worst that can happen is that you fail but at least you had a go.