In Touch Networks, the Manchester firm which was recently named as the fastest growing technology company in the North West by Deloitte, is eyeing overseas success after turning the UK recruitment industry completely on its head.
Its first network, NonExecutiveDirectors.com, was launched in 2013 and changed how non-executive directors are recruited by allowing companies to post roles for free. It is now one of the UK’s fastest growing technology companies.
The company was founded by executive head-hunter Ian Wright back in 2013. Ian was constantly being approached by companies who needed the services of a non executive director but never wanted to pay a recruitment fee.
“Ian thought ‘what I’ll do is put together a list of candidates who want to be non-execs and if anyone ever asks for once I’ll just introduce them,’ it complemented his existing business,” said CEO Matt Roberts.
“He then took the concept a stage further and bought the domain name NonExecutiveDirectors.com and started charging candidates to be part of his list. He then headhunted me as MD. We met and immediately got on.
“He told me about this little business he had which had 21 members and was turning over a couple of grand a month. Ian explained the business to me and I thought ‘wow, there’s so much I can do with this.’ It’s not just non executives, there are a million different sectors you can apply this model to.
“Ian and I decided to work together. He went out and got some investment from private equity investor John Laithwaite, who went on to become our chairman. We started working together and three years down the line we now have 23,000 members.”
One of Matt’s biggest challenges was taking the business model that had spawned NonExectuvieDirectors.com and making it applicable to other sectors. This led to him looking at how he could use the concept to cater for all kinds of recruitment and staffing needs.
“Our biggest achievement was launching theconsultanthub.com which was our second network that we launched,” said Matt. “Up until that point all of the success had been through nonexecutivedirectors.com, where there was an obvious gap in the market.
“We started slow and got to understand the market. For most businesses when they transfer their model into a new sector you never know if it’s going to be transferable. Theconsultanthub.com is now our fastest growing network and we’ve expanded from there. It’s been massively rewarding.
“Our portfolio now includes NonExecutiveDirectors.com, TheConsultantHub.com, WomenDirectors.com, FinanceDirectorNetwork.com and InvestorDirector.com. We have flipped the typical recruitment model on its head.”
The company’s rapid growth also saw it named the fastest growing technology company in the North West by The Deloitte Technology Fast 50, now in its 19th year, which ranks the country's fastest growing technology companies, based on revenue growth over the last four years.
Looking forward Matt is hoping the company’s success continues and will be hoping to retain its position as the North West’s fastest growing company as it expands its horizons overseas in the USA and China.
Speaking about their overseas plans, he said: “Early next year we’ll be establishing our first US office in Charlotte. We already have 3,000 members on the East Coast, mainly in New York and we’re hoping our new office will help us expand across the country. That will be a major challenge for us.
“Our chairman John also has businesses in China and we’re looking to partner with a business over there with the view of hopefully next year opening up an office. I believe that by this time next year, 80% of our revenue will come from training and events as opposed to membership fees. I see the business really really changing in that respect over the next 12 months.”
And the company is still committed to Manchester, its hometown that has served it well since its launch…
Matt concluded: “We will definitely stay in Manchester, 100%. By the end of next year we’ll employ 300 people in our Manchester office.
“It’s a city I love, I’ve spent all my life here. If I moved anywhere else I wouldn’t be able to see City week in week out. I’ve been there 23 years I’ve seen everything!”