Dovetail Human Resource Services
14th June 2012
John O’Brien is the owner, founder, and managing director
of Dovetail Human Resource Services, which started in Newbury in 1989.
Dovetail has grown from a one-man business in 1989, to a £3m a year turnover business with a staff of 14 at their head offices in Newbury and more than 100 contractors working at various sites across the UK and in France, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Ireland, Turkey, Greece and Slovenia.
In the past year Dovetail has placed candidates with their international customers in various European locations as well as Singapore, Hong Kong, China, India, USA, the Middle East, the Far East, and South Africa.
Dovetail offers its customers a total recruitment solution, and supply the usual admin, secretarial, sales, managerial, industrial, and catering staff that you would expect a high street agency to provide.
It also has specialist divisions operating in the facilities management, corporate real estate, environmental and IT markets locally, nationally, and internationally.
Q. What made you start Dovetail?
A. It was not just Martin Luther King who had a dream! I always had a dream of running my own business. In the late 1980s people were talking about the demographic time bomb and the skills shortage. I recognised that the fantastic talent pool that was being under-utilised was parents who wanted to return to work but were unable to do so due to the lack of high quality and flexible childcare. The idea of Dovetail ‘The agency with childcare’ was born. At the time I was working as a sales executive for Reed Corrugated Cases (now Saica) in Thatcham, but did not have the resources to finance this new business, and the banks were reluctant to back someone with no track record in the recruitment industry. However, two of my customers invested in the company and Dovetail opened for business on the June 30 1989.
Q. What makes Dovetail special?
A. I touched on it earlier; initially our unique selling point was having an agency with childcare. This meant we had access to the same pool of candidates available to the other agencies but by providing a good flexible childcare facility ‘School’s Out’ gave us access to the fantastic pool of labour that parents returning to work represented. We employed a qualified teacher to run ‘School’s Out’ and had a minibus to collect children from schools and had a facility based at a local school where they could undertake work, play and fun activities.
Parents collected their children after they had finished work. During the school holidays, we had activities every day either going to places of interest like Chessington World of Adventures or arranged various activities and sports days. We subsidised the scheme extensively to ensure it was of excellent quality and affordable. To my knowledge it was unique and the first of its type in the country.
To say the concept went down well was an understatement and at a time of real skill shortages it gave local companies access to a fantastic pool of talent that was previously unavailable. Many of our customers said they’d wished this facility had been available when their own children were young. During the next five years several childcare facilities were opened in the local area based on the ‘Schools Out’ model including one run by the local council, so we decided to discontinue ‘School’s Out’ and concentrate on our core business - recruitment.
Over the years, we have continued to develop innovative solutions to our customers’ staffing requirements and work in partnership with them to find the most effective recruitment solutions. This, and the fact that the cornerstones of our business are honesty, giving our customers exceptional service and fantastic value for money have been the key to our continued success.
Q. How did you manage to diversify from a small high street agency to the broad based recruitment business you are today?
A. We have always worked in partnership with our customers to deliver a total recruitment solution that suits their needs. This long term collaborative approach has meant we identified some key areas which were crucial to the growth and success of our customers businesses and developed them. Our facilities management division was established 15 years ago, and has expanded over the years to service the entire global corporate real estate market. We have developed and expanded our business in the IT, technical, environmental and managerial areas to include senior level and executive search assignments.
Q. What advice would you give to anyone recruiting staff?
A. Always recruit people who are more intelligent and better looking than yourself!
Q. What business tip would you give our readers?
A. Use honesty and integrity in all your business dealings, and give your customers exceptional service and great value for money.
Q. What is your proudest achievement?
A. My proudest business achievement is starting Dovetail and developing it into the most successful independent recruitment company in the Berkshire area. The fact that we have diversified into specialist areas and established ourselves internationally gives me particular pleasure.
Q. What has been your most enjoyable role?
A. Being a dad, I am really proud of my children and what they have achieved and the people they have become.
Q. What would you change if you could?
A. The excessive legislation and red tape that has been introduced by the government over the last 10 years. It is such a burden to all businesses, particularly small ones, and is the main reason our economy has not seen any real growth and has stagnated over the last few years.
Q. What do you enjoy most about recruitment?
A. The recruitment industry is the one industry that probably makes the biggest impact on people’s lives. There is no greater pleasure than placing the right candidate with the skill set and attitude to perfectly fit a customer’s requirement and it gives me great pleasure to see the really positive impact it has on our customers businesses. Dovetail has successfully placed tens of thousands of candidates in the 23 years we have been trading, which has had a really positive impact on their career paths and lives.
Q. What does the future hold for Dovetail?
A. We are lucky to have a fantastic team of people at Dovetail who have adapted brilliantly in a recruitment market that has changed dramatically over the last ten years. With the way technology is developing, I am confident our team will continue to rise to meet the challenges ahead. Together with the great customers we have, I can see us continuing to grow and develop our businesses together. We plan to further consolidate our position as the leading recruitment company in West Berkshire and increase our market share whilst continuing to develop and grow our specialist divisions and overseas markets.
n John O’ Brien is a fellow of the Institute of Recruitment Professionals and is vice chairman of the West Berkshire Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Dovetail has been accredited as an Investor In People for over 17 years and are corporate members of The Recruitment and Employment Confederation, The British Institute of Facilities Management, The Employment Agency Movement and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry whom they have been member of for over 22 years.
For more information on Dovetail Human Resource Services visit its websites www.dovetailhrs.co.uk
www.environmentaljobs.uk.com or telephone (01635) 43100 or email firstname.lastname@example.org