As the pandemic brought the tech world to a standstill, Joey Tait was struck by a run of bad luck that threatened to ruin his business. The 15-year recruitment veteran faced major cashflow challenges as clients were unable to pay their suppliers and saw his live roles plummet as businesses stemmed their hiring.
After pivoting and refocusing the business, Joey and his business partner, Kevin Hammond, develop’s CEO, whom he met in school, have grown the business to a turnover of more than £10 million. Despite Covid continuing around them, develop is now a leading contributor to the software engineering community and a disruptive recruitment business, achieving 500 placements in the last year.
Tell us about develop, how did it start?
I’ve worked in recruitment for around 15 years, including with one of the largest recruitment groups in the world, and I am passionate about developing staff. In setting up the business, we wanted to create a high performance culture that everyone enjoys being a part of.
My business partner Kevin and I go way back – we met in school in a small town in Yorkshire and have been close ever since. It’s a relationship that has stood the test of time! I even went off to live in NYC at one point, and he went off to live in Japan, then we met back in London. But, while we’re close, we’re also different and our skillsets complement each other. I look after operations, marketing, finance, and internal growth, and Kev oversees everything sales related.
To start with, we both did a bit of everything, but splitting our roles to have clear remits has allowed us to each drive different areas of the business to a high standard rather than crossing over and stepping on toes. It means that our investments in company infrastructure and technology is more considered, our sales team is organised and motivated and our strategy from a growth perspective is clearer.
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What challenges have you faced along the way?
So many, they’d be hard to list! But that’s the nature of business – you don’t succeed without some failures along the way.
The pandemic was the biggest challenge Kev and I have faced in ten years of working together, namely when clients started putting all their recruitment on hold and weren’t able to pay us. In April 2020, a major British fashion retailer owed us around £500,000 and announced via a press release to the media that it was ‘suspending payments to suppliers’. Fortunately, we managed to secure all of what was owed from them before they went into administration.
We also had 150 live roles at the start of April and our clients cut this to 10 within the space of a week. It was a stressful time, but being open to the idea of continuous learning has allowed us to adapt to different outcomes throughout our careers. That’s still the case, even more so now that my career is so intertwined with develop’s progression; the business drives my learning and vice versa.
How did you pivot the business during Covid?
Our industry moves so quickly that dwelling on failure sets you back, so we made the decision to refocus the business, pivoting from general tech recruitment to specialising in software engineering. When you work in a very congested marketplace you need to carve out a niche, which we have now done successfully. Learning from failure quickly and decisively will put you in a strong position to move everything forward despite any perceived setback.
What makes you different?
We take more of an active approach to knowledge than other recruiters, and all our Consultants learn the coding language they specialise in. That culture of learning ensures our Consultants have an in-depth understanding of their field of expertise. We’ve seen it all too often in the past where Software Engineers and the companies they represent get frustrated with the communication they receive from recruiters. This understanding enables us to give the software engineering community the respect it deserves and the growth it desires.
What can we expect to see from develop in the future?
The growth that Kev and I have planned for the business over the next few years is super exciting. We’ve now got an incredible platform to build on and we’re continually striving to create something really special.
We have recently opened an office in Miami, which is a burgeoning tech hub, and we are planning to expand into Germany in the next 12 months. We’re forecasting to triple in headcount as a business by 2025 to cater to growing demand as tech markets thrive.