Two industry sectors in recent years, construction and hospitality, have found it particularly hard to find skilled workers in Jersey’s tight labour market. So, the arrival on the commercial scene of a company dedicated to solving their problems is the best possible news.
Located in offices overlooking the bustling square of Wests Centre, GR8 Recruitment is the brainchild of Lee Madden – a man whose background does not immediately suggest that recruitment would be his eventual professional destination.
‘I was in the Military Police for nine years,’ Lee said, ‘and served my country in varying global theatres, I eventually left the service in 1996.’
There then followed another nine-year period of duty, this time in the UK civil police force, before Lee headed to Jersey in 2003 and joined the local constabulary. Then came the first of his forays into new and unchartered territory.
A change of direction
‘I decided to leave the police force and I opened a restaurant in Colomberie,’ he said. ‘Within 18 months I sold it as a going concern.’
Lee’s next career move was to work with his brother setting up a busy sign making and graphic design business which he handed back to his brother following six years to return to a role where he would be satisfied by supporting people. Lee was to join the Social Security Department where he created a programme named Foundations, an employment project as part of the Back to Work Scheme, a task which he fulfilled very successfully for the next five years.
‘GR8 was really born from the experience that I gained from running that scheme,’ Lee explained. I just thought to myself that I might as well do this sort of work for myself. The concept for GR8 came to me with help from friends and eventually became GR8 Recruitment.
Lee left his position with Social Security in September 2017 in order to pursue his plan. He downloaded a five-year business plan template from the Jersey Business website and then arranged a meeting with the organisation’s Cedric Bird, who guided him through the incorporation documents and showed him the direction that he needed to take over the coming five years.
GR8 Recruitment was then incorporated and the business started to create momentum.
An eagle eye on business
‘I had a lot of help in the early days from the Barclays Eagle Lab, which operates from the Jersey Library and makes available work stations for new businesses like mine to get themselves up and running.
‘In the early days I was working principally from my home in St Mary but found that I kept having to come into town for meetings. The space at the Eagle Lab gave me the more central position that I needed and meant that I didn’t immediately need to consider taking on expensive commercial premises.’
Lee’s new recruitment company was initially aimed solely at the Island’s construction sector. ‘I went out and about and started knocking on the doors of local builders,’ he said. ‘In March 2018 I landed my very first customer – and made my first £2.75 profit.
‘But it was the right service coming along at the right time. I made mistakes but I also set very high standards.
Lee’s client base of builders anxious to find the right staff quickly grew from one to 25 within the space of three months. He discovered that the buoyant construction industry was especially looking out for labourers and semi-skilled and unskilled employees.
‘I started to branch out by recruiting staff for the hospitality sector – I very quickly managed to find a chef for one early client and so was born the Hospitality side of GR8. – The company grew fourfold overnight having sought out and maximised on dynamic opportunities.
Lee took on an operations director and now has five staff working in the business with him. They are, as he quickly points out, ‘a great, hard-working team’.
The people are the key
‘It all comes down to the people around you,’ he stressed. ‘Construction remains the core part of the business and I am very optimistic about the future. Apart from the large firms, we also work with one-man builders who need the help of a labourer on site for a few weeks.
‘I have always been keen to promote Jersey and the staff we find for our clients come from all over the place. A lot of the jobs can’t be filled locally so we have people from Spain, Bulgaria, Kenya, France and the UK. Businesses need to be able to fill vacancies and you have to find these employees from somewhere.
‘I will consider recruiting into any industry that is not white-collar. The hospitality sector is seasonal but the construction industry is always very busy.
We also work with those who need support to gain employment and believe in our adage of ‘supporting the community into employment’ and engage with various agencies including Jersey Employment Trust, Back to Work, Jersey Careers and Highlands College.’
Throughout this journey to success, Lee has been extremely grateful for the expertise and advice provided by Jersey Business.
‘They are very valuable,’ he confirmed. ‘At the beginning I went to a number of meetings with them and attended workshops. They were always able to point me in precisely the right direction.
‘I recommend Jersey Business constantly to anybody considering starting up a new business.’