Angela Middleton of MiddletonMurray
Angela Middleton, founder and CEO of employment agency MiddletonMurray, tells BQ all about her past in business, how she has grown the agency and what she puts the company's success down to...
What does your role involve?
As CEO and founder of MiddletonMurray, no two days are the same! I oversee the running of our seven locations, so I might be based in our Strand HQ, or visiting team leaders and apprentices at any of the branches.
I also have regular meetings with the wide range of employers who take on our apprentices, or new companies who are interested in finding out about the benefits of hiring an apprentice to their business.
I might also meet with local MPs, government ministers or our funding bodies, to discuss how we can best implement apprenticeships across the South East.
What is it the company does?
MiddletonMurray is a multi-award-winning recruitment and training solutions provider located in Central London, Sidcup, Canterbury, Romford, Greenwich, Enfield and Sandwich, with plans to expand further across London and Kent.
Launched in 2002, we now employ around 100 members of staff. The business has facilitated thousands of people to move into their dream job; whether a first job or a move up the career ladder.
Providing training and career guidance for young people has proved to be a highly successful market for MiddletonMurray, but we also pride ourselves on our ability to help companies find the perfect employee or apprentice, and help those already in work to move up the career ladder.
Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?
I started my career with BP Oil before being fast tracked into a senior management position. I was the first person in my family and social group to go to university, and I was very determined. I went to BP because of a desire to work for the biggest company in the UK.
I then moved to The Woolwich Building Society (later Barclays), where I was in charge of over 200 staff. In 2002, I decided to set up MiddletonMurray which has now grown into a group of companies across London, Kent and the South East. The desire to be my own boss, combined with a desire to help those at the start of their career, lead me to the recruitment industry.
I’m also the author of ‘How To Get Your First Job…And Build The Career You Want’, a guide for 16 to 24 year olds on how to choose the right career, get their first job, excel within that job and quickly progress up the ladder.
What do you believe makes a great leader?
Competitiveness, self-belief and energy.
What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?
During the recession all the things I thought would never happen did happen at once. The recruitment market changed and companies stopped hiring, the training contracts we had were abruptly ended – it was a lot of pressure but I learned a lot from it in terms of persistence, staying calm and just taking positive steps to improve things every day. I’ve emerged a more competent business person with a stronger business as a result of those experiences.
I took a large calculated risk when I took on a large office that needed a total refurbishment with all the associated costs and filling it up with new staff. This created a step change for the business and provided a launch pad for us to win larger contracts. Seeing it succeed when most people told me it wouldn’t was a great feeling.
It’s also vital to have a framework for assessing opportunities before plunging in. It doesn’t have to be too complicated and can be done quickly but it’s important that things are thought through before you act. My main questions are; what is the potential for growth? How innovative is it? What marketing is needed? How will I sell it and who to? What are the financial forecasts? How can I optimise delivery to be super-efficient? How can I delight the customer?
Then finally, do I trust that this will succeed (my gut feeling)? This is then condensed into Growth, Innovation, Marketing, Sales, Finance, Optimisation, Raving Fans and Trust, which forms the acronym GIMSFORT, which is actually a term I have copyrighted
How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?
I think that’s really important to make a really conscious effort to relax, have hobbies and spend time with family and friends. I go to the theatre a lot, I like spending time with my daughter doing girly things, like shopping and getting our nails done, as well as spending time with my wider family – I’m very family oriented. I also like to keep fit - I was at boot camp this morning. It’s so important to me that I spend a lot of time on non-work related activates, and make sure I find a balance.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I was always very ambitious…like any child I wanted to be any number of weird and wonderful things, but as I got a little older, I decided that I wanted to work for a big company, in the City, as I’m from the London area. As mentioned, I started to do a little research and that company turned out to be BP, so I made it my mission to get a job there. Ambition was always a driving factor for me, even from a very young age.
Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about them?
I can’t stand negativity – I’m a big believer in leading by example and I’ve worked incredibly hard to build the company culture I want at MiddletonMurray. Positivity and a willingness to work hard with a smile on your face is a huge part of our ethos. I tend to find that people really get on board with the company culture, as there’s a real ‘work hard, play hard’ attitude, but if people don’t fit in, often it just comes down to a frank conversation about what kind of company they want to be in.
Where do you see the company in five years’ time?
Business is really good currently, and we have had ups and downs as a business– we’re not under any false impressions, so we know when we’re doing well.
Currently, the political environment is right because we’ve got a stable government with very clear policies, which are very interested in doing something for young people so that’s great for us.
There are not that many businesses in our sector that really know how to get young people into great jobs and we’ve just managed to create modules that really work which are tried and tested now.
We established our Central London office at the start of the year in January 2016, and have recently developed satellite branches in Greenwich and Enfield. The next step will be more coverage across Kent and greater coverage in London.
Additionally, I think that there is also a big opportunity for us to open a MiddletonMurray sixth form business school and we’re currently investigating the viability of this.
What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?
Create something where you can add unique value and profitably. If, on top of that, you can work with partners you like and build something that is for the greater good then even better.
Things change all the time and you can never relax or think you are ‘done’ – change management is probably the most important skill you need as a business owner and this becomes ever more critical the larger your business becomes.