The Business Owner: Lee Biggins, CV-Library
The founder explains how his company has stayed ahead of the crowd and offers some of his time-worn finance and marketing tips
Based: Fleet, Hampshire
Founders: Lee Biggins and Brian Wakem
Location: Fleet, Hampshire
Proposition: The UK’s largest independent job site connecting leading UK businesses with qualified candidates, covering over 70 different sectors
Size: 120+ employees
How is your business different from what’s already out there?
Every year we look at what can be done to advance the website and bring new innovations to the industry, and by doing so we have always led the way in technological advancements for the industry (we were the first UK job board to launch a fully responsive, mobile-ready site). And the first to offer the ability to apply for jobs through our award-winning mobile application. We’re constantly adapting our service to align with what clients and candidates expect from the recruitment process.
Customer service is where CV-Library excels; recently 95% of our clients listed the service they receive as good or excellent. I believe it’s essential that each client has their own personal contact, someone that understands their business and is available to ensure they make the most of their CV-Library account. Social and digital integration is becoming increasingly important in recruitment – we make it easier for our clients to attract candidates by sharing job adverts on social media and providing unique video integration services.
How did you finance your business?
Fifteen years ago I started the company with a £9,000 business loan, since then we’ve been fully funded by the company’s profits. Organic growth is important for any company to become a strong and sustainable business.
What is the most important thing to keep track of in business and why?
Your finances are the most important thing to keep track of in your business, you have to constantly be aware of where you stand and be smart about keeping the business lean. I keep a close eye on the number of clients we have on board to make sure we’re consistently growing – for online businesses it’s tempting to use site visits as an indicator of success but the reality is, traffic doesn’t always result in profit as it has to convert!
I’m also passionate about staff motivation and productivity – with a combination of structured work days and regular social events we’ve found a formula that really gets the most out of our staff.
What is the biggest day-to-day challenge you face?
I’m still very much involved in the day-to-day activities at CV-Library and as we continue to grow I find it challenging to dedicate enough time to each division of the business. In recent years I’ve focused on finding and cultivating department managers who fully understand my vision for the business and can take on a lot of the day-to-day management.
What marketing techniques do you use to attract new customers?
Marketing has been a critical driver of success in recent years, and investment in new and innovative marketing techniques has proven extremely valuable to the business. We have ongoing online and offline campaigns that lead to a direct response from candidates and ultimately benefit each of our clients.
•Online advertising campaigns are run on an ongoing basis whether it be an Ad Words campaign to attract candidates or digital banner ads to build brand awareness; we also use our network of 200 online partners to ensure maximum reach.
• Offline marketing has really taken off – visibility across popular footfall sites, public transport and television, along with growth in mobile access has resulted in increased site users and helps support ongoing brand awareness.
Do you think it’s important for small businesses to export, any tips?
It’s different for every business and exporting outside of the UK can be a challenge for a lot of smaller companies. Now that we’ve really captured the UK market, I believe the next step is to become a global brand and tap into the international markets. Earlier this year we launched a US subsidiary, named Resume-Library, and are constantly learning about the challenges of breaking into a new market.
My advice to anyone thinking of expanding internationally is to make sure you fully understand the UK market first, and use that understanding to inform and adapt your international strategy.
What’s the business app you couldn’t do without?
Email is by far the most important application I use in business, and in the last five years having access to email on mobile has really revolutionised how I use my time – I can get work done from anywhere and by being constantly connected to the business I can eliminate dead time.
Describe your company’s culture in three words:
Passionate, driven and innovative
What would you like the government to do for small business?
The political climate can often have a direct impact on small businesses in the UK, this year’s election and the recent Summer Budget brought a mixed bag for the small and meduim enterprise economy. However, I feel the government has made a real effort to create an environment in which smaller businesses can flourish.
It’s essential that business owners stay on top of political developments to ensure they know how their business will be impacted, and to ensure they’re aware of the resources available to help them grow and succeed.
Who’s your biggest small and medium enterprise hero?
I spend a lot of my free time reading autobiographies about business people, like Lord Sugar, Nelson Mandela and Richard Branson.
At times, I’ll pick a book about someone who I don’t like on face value and see if reading their life story changes my opinion about them. It’s important to me that I keep learning from the experiences of other successful business founders, I find autobiographies consistently provide new inspiration for me and the business.
Where do you want the business to be in three years?
In three years I hope the company will continue to uphold its title of the UK’s largest job board, bringing even more innovation to the industry. As we continue to focus on expanding the brand internationally I believe our American site will have a strong foothold in the US market by leveraging the industry knowledge and experience of the CV-Library team.
What’s your top tip for keeping it lean and making profit?
There are so many factors involved in keeping a business lean, from the beginning I’ve put a big emphasis on keeping a close eye on all invoices, being smart about suppliers and ensuring staff is operating at optimal productivity levels.
As soon as a small business begins to gain brand awareness suppliers are quick to raise prices – it’s important that every deal you make results in a good margin for the business, don’t be afraid to be aggressive in negotiations!
Do you want to feature as our next business owner? Click through for details here.