The Recruitment Specialists Make Flexi-Time Work, Profitably

The Recruitment Specialists Make Flexi-Time Work, Profitably


Vital stats

It sounds too good to be true that a company of four women who all operate on flexi-time are able to run a profitable business.

What makes this company even more out of the ordinary is that there’s no central hub, no basic salary, targets are low, and commission ranges from 50% to 60%.

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Nicole Stephens (Berlin), co-founder of TRS, explains how she and her business partner Sally Kuschke (Mossel Bay) and their two recruitment agents (Durban and Tokai) make it work.

Time and freedom

“An article by Richard Branson explaining that time is the new money really resonated with me. There are many talented women who are forced to choose between family responsibilities and having a fulfilling career because existing business formats can’t accommodate their needs. And it’s not just mothers, but also people whose peak performance times happen outside of the nine to five, or those with long commutes.

“I was pregnant with my first child when we founded TRS and it was with the intention to create a business that provided us founders and employees with freedom and flexibility,” says Stephens.

Making flexi-time work

“The key factor in making flexi-time work in your business is ensuring you pick the right people. My business partner has an amazing energy and she’s strong where I’m not, and together we were able to identify others to work for us.”

The theory behind successful flexi-time, says Stephens, is respect and empowerment. “We don’t micro-manage, and we offer really high commissions – between 50% and 60% of what they bring in – because we respect our employees’ time as much as they respect ours.”

Where the money comes from

“Targets anywhere else are often really high and create stress and demand. We deliberately set low targets because of the personality types we hire. They’re self-starters, have outstanding work ethic, and are over- achievers – we just give them the tools and the space to build their own businesses.

“The incentive to meet their target is that we’ll pay for their expenses if they meet it, they’ll pay for expenses if they don’t. There’s no basic salary, so they set the pace for how much to achieve monthly based on how much they need and want to be paid.

“We’ve made some recruitment mistakes in the past because it takes a specific personality to make flexi-time work. Some people need a lot more support than others – they need the office space, meetings, face-time, and so on in order to be their most productive.

“Nevertheless, community is really important too, even if there’s no central office and staff are driven, ambitious and responsible. We have Skype chats almost daily, sometimes we’ve sat at our desks having lunch together or a cup of coffee and a catch up. It’s important to be able to flow from work to life in one conversation and support each other. The result is a really positive work environment that’s conducive to work.”

Getting hold of each other

“You don’t need an office for that,” laughs Stephens. “We use Skype, WhatsApp, cell phones, and email, and all of our roles are clearly defined. I do the finances, negotiations for contracts and putting out fires, Sally does the marketing and advertising, and placements are individual projects that our agents work on from start to finish.

“If they have a problem, they know which one of us to contact. As for the flexi-time, we’re fortunate that there’s no problem that can’t wait an hour, and if it really can’t wait we can make a plan to be available. It’s also important not to try to juggle work and life because one of the two will come off short.

“In the day I get three hours of work time while my youngest sleeps and the other is at school, and then I work in the evening when they’re asleep. For the agents it’s a little different – they understand the need for professionalism and a quiet space while working, so they manage their responsibilities around that.”

Related: Time-saving Tips from Santie Botha

Tips for getting flexi-time right

  • You should hire for flexi-time rather than retrofit.
  • Ensure the candidate has the right personality traits to work without support or supervision.
  • Have a six-month or longer probation period. You can’t know who you’re hiring simply from a few interviews.
  • Be very selective and trust your gut. Develop your own red flags to help narrow down your candidates.
  • Be clear about your expectations for the new hire, and what you want to achieve in the business.
  • Your employees are your business, so pick right and show your appreciation for their work.
Tracy Lee Nicol
Tracy-Lee Nicol is an experienced business writer and magazine editor. She was awarded a Masters degree with distinction from Rhodes university in 2010, and in the time since has honed her business acumen and writing skills profiling some of South Africa's most successful entrepreneurs, CEOs, franchisees and franchisors.Find her on Google+.