“Why don’t you stop talking about it and just do it!” These words were like a slap in my face. Sylvia was right – I had been talking for months about starting this business and never really progressed to make it happen. Sure, I had done some market research which demonstrated an almost unanimous “yes” to the idea. I had a laptop with the latest Windows 95 and Office software, a printer and some accounting software. I had researched the idea in England and even went on a three day seminar there on recruitment strategies. So what else did I need to start?
I needed moral support. Working out of my home was not an option and I couldn’t imagine being all alone in an office making a go of it. I really wanted my sister, Karen Jackson, to work with me but she had a good job with a salary that I couldn’t match. These thoughts were going through my head when the phone rang. It was Karen saying she had decided to resign her job. Talk about fate!
We cracked open a bottle of wine and toasted to the success of the new company! It was a Friday in March 1996 and Karen agreed to work with me to fulfil my dream of match-making I.T. professionals and companies needing their services. I decided to name the company “Caribbean Resourcing Solutions” as it would operate throughout the Caribbean to provide the best resources for I.T. jobs and thereby solve the problems that I.T. employers have in finding suitable talent. I planned to expand our services to other technical professionals like engineers so the name allows for that too.
Why did I think I was qualified to establish the first technical recruiting company in Trinidad & Tobago (and probably the Caribbean)? Well, I was an I.T. person with a Computer Science degree and over 20 years I.T. experience at the time. I had worked as a Computer Consultant for the previous 9 years, the last 2 years as a free-lancer in Trinidad and the U.K. I knew what kind of quality service I wanted from an agency to find me my next contract job, and I wanted to offer this type of service to make a positive difference in people’s lives.
It’s amazing how things move to facilitate you once you’ve made the decision to do something. That weekend, Karen learnt of a small office for rent in Diego Martin. I went to see it on the Monday and I was in there a couple of days later. Karen didn’t join me as my Office Manager until mid-April as she was working out her notice.
Being an I.T. person, I had contacts to start establishing a Candidate Database, and I distributed brochures at every possible opportunity to attract more. Then I sent out a mail-shot to about 150 companies, following up with phone calls. I’m not a sales or marketing person so this was the hardest thing for me to do. That’s why I needed Karen there – to keep me going.
Not many people know this, but in the beginning, CRS only offered contract services, a new concept in the I.T. world in Trinidad at the time. I nearly starved! I had my first contract job in August with my brother’s company. It was for a 5 hour job and I made TT$400 after paying the contractor. My brother said I should frame the cheque! We also launched the first version of the CRS website www.crsitjobs.com in August 1996 – the first job site in T&T.
When I realised that companies were asking for permanent staff, I wised up and catered for that as well. Interestingly, these days most of our revenue is from contract sales, but I was a little ahead of the times back then.
While I got quite a bit of interest from various companies there were also many disappointments. What I thought was going to be an easy money-earner turned out to be a lesson in surviving in a tough business world. I tried to make each mistake or disappointment a learning experience.
By November, I had several “sure” projects collapse all at the same time and I was thinking of quitting. That’s where Karen earned her keep. She persuaded me that I’d been very unlucky so far and I should give it at least 6 more months as I had already invested so much effort and money into this venture. Our first Christmas staff lunch was at an Indian restaurant and was funded by 2 vouchers for free lunch that Karen had acquired.
We also had our good times. When I got my first business enquiry in June 1996, I celebrated by inviting all the other tenants in the building to share in some wine and snacks. They couldn’t believe it wasn’t even a sale! Since then, we always celebrate first/big events with wine (bubbly these days).
We got our first permanent sale in January 1997 and then they started pouring in! It was like I had been humbled and been taught lessons so now success was coming my way. By July I was so swamped with work that I hired a Recruitment Consultant. Pretty soon, we had to move to a much larger office in the same building and hire more staff. In December 1998, we moved to brand new and much larger premises in Woodbrook, and we stayed there for the next 10 years.
We continued to learn lessons and adjust our business practices to suit. In 2003, we expanded our services to include technical recruiting (engineers, drillers, geologists, technicians, etc) in the Oil & Gas sector with its own website www.crsoilandgasjobs.com. This was the next step in my dream to establish a quality recruiting service specialising in sourcing technical professionals of all kinds, not just I.T. This has naturally expanded to include the petrochemical and construction sectors as they employ similar skills.
While we don’t market our services regionally, we still get quite a few I.T. jobs for other Caribbean islands from referrals. Over the years we have placed Jamaicans in Jamaica, a Bahamian in the Bahamas, and Trinidadians in Barbados, St. Vincent and Mustique Island. We’ve had enquiries from islands as far apart as the Dutch Antilles, the Cayman Islands, the Dominican Republic and Grenada. We’ve been approached by several North American agencies to supply talent to their market.
Our success has been a result of the efforts of our staff who strive to ensure that our clients and candidates like the way we do business and deliver results, and therefore choose CRS to give them the service they need.
So where do we go from here? Let’s just say that CRS has eyes on the world! Watch this space.