Dream Believe Create is an online magazine for women entrepreneurs, creatives and change-makers. It’s for women who want to start sustainable, mission-driven businesses or creative practices without sacrificing their principles and avoiding the profit-at-any-cost / business-as-usual model that we’re all so tired of.

Simply Elite: Shaking Up HR

Simply Elite: Shaking Up HR

{3 minute read}

Earlier this year, Leng Rubelj and Ilona Kocsis made the courageous decision to leave behind the security of full-time employment to start their very own business.

With backgrounds in marketing and communications {Ilona} and insurance and HR {Leng}, they combined their experience to start a boutique recruitment agency with a difference! 

Founding a start-up suited their ambitious and driven natures; and their decision to open the agency was driven by their own personal experiences in dealing with recruiters, and their realisation that the industry had much room for improvement.

They’re a highly motivated duo, and determined too. Leng is the child of refugees and migrants from Cambodia and Vietnam, and she grew up in with parents who had to work hard to provide for their family.

 “My family didn’t have a safety net, so my parents had to hustle to make their way in life. They had to forge their own way, and those values were instilled in me growing up.”

The two would-be-entrepreneurs met at work, and it wasn’t long before their lunchtime conversations began to take a more meaningful direction.

Both felt they were destined for something other than working in someone else’s company. Neither of them wanted to be subject to limitations. Instead, they wanted the freedom to create and control their own careers, and not be constrained by the expectations of their employers.

From the beginning, Ilona and Leng shared a strong sense of purpose about their work. They knew they wanted to explore that, and to follow their instincts.

Skip to April 2018, and the birth of Simply Elite. It’s a boutique recruitment agency focused on connecting elite individuals to businesses and corporations bringing a tailored approach that prioritises delivery of an exacting standard of customer service. Ilona and Leng are committed to connecting the very best candidates to the right businesses.

In practice, this means treating job candidates as people, not commodities. It also means going the extra mile with each employer. Neither Ilona nor Leng wanted to replicate their own experiences with recruiters, where the emphasis was on filling the role, irrespective of the individual’s career fulfilment or the employer’s strategic needs. 

This is why, before recommending a candidate, they spend significant time on work sites, drilling down into what makes the employing company tick. They get to know the company culture and gain an understanding of the type of person who will thrive within it.

Something they particularly like to do is to meet the staff members that the new candidate will be working alongside. This allows them to understand the personalities involved, the company dynamics and whether it will be a good cultural fit for both candidate and employer.

“We go the extra mile from both the employer and employee’s perspective.”

However, their competitive advantage extends far beyond the initial placement. They ensure they maintain regular touch points, site visits and on-going management of their placed staff.

Transparency is also key to their success, meaning they give honest feedback to candidates and are discerning about the employers they choose to work with. Simply Elite aims to connect with candidates and employers that exhibit a high degree of professionalism, creativity, passion, practical insight and experience. The candidates they choose to work with are career-minded and seeking a role that aligns with their core values.

Ilona describes their approach with candidates as

"Let's not think about your next job, let's think about your career.”

Sometimes that might mean a change, not just of role, but of industry. Ultimately, the right job choice gives candidates a sense of satisfaction and achievement that goes far beyond paying the bills.

“The reason we launched this business is to make a difference. If we're not doing that, if we're not contributing to someone's career growth in a positive manner, then it's probably not for us, not part of our journey. We're selective in choosing the employers we work with as well. If we connect to an employer on their values, and we connect with a candidate, it's always going to be a positive outcome.”

It’s both a principled and a pragmatic approach and one that’s necessary for playing a long game in an industry where credibility and reputation are essential.

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“At the end of the day, we really want people to be enthused by our approach. We want others to be inspired by our journey, and we want to be inspired by theirs. It’s important for us to stay connected to employers and employees over time, and to follow how our candidates are growing in their new careers. This is fulfilment.

One of their major challenges, but also one of the most rewarding aspects of the journey so far, has been getting to know each other better. It’s been critical that they understand each other’s personalities and work styles, as entrepreneurs rather than employees. This, says Ilona, is destined to be an ongoing learning process.

“We’re trying to figure out our respective strengths and weaknesses, and identifying what needs to be developed.  It’s fantastic from a personal growth perspective.”

They also recognise that their co-founder relationship is a critical component of future success.

Leng described it like this:

 “I probably spend the equivalent amount of time with Ilona that I do with my husband and family, so you've got to nurture that relationship, and you've got to love your business partner and appreciate them for the good and the bad. You must genuinely want them to succeed.”

Many start-up founders dream of the day they can hire their first employee. It represents business success and growth, and it’s also a time when the founder can take a breath to focus on the bigger picture as they step back from being the person who does everything in the business.  We asked Leng and Ilona if they had any advice to share when it comes to hiring that all-important first employee:

Ilona:    Get the foundations right. Before you define the role, assess everything in your business:  your processes, your procedures and the level of quality that you're providing to your clients. Also, run as leanly and straightforwardly as possible. Make any structural or efficiency changes before bringing someone else into the equation. Make sure everything’s streamlined for them.

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For the on-boarding process and the training process, you must have a clear understanding as to what the new employee’s involvement and role are going to be in the business. If not, it's just going to get harder from there on in. Invest in getting the foundations of the company absolutely solid before you employ someone else.

Leng:    Think things through from the new employee’s perspective – is their environment set up correctly? Do they have what they need to do their job properly?

Also, be mindful that they are an employee and not a partner in the business. Some aspects of the business are not appropriate to share. You need to filter what you say so as not to burden employees unnecessarily, or cause unnecessary confusion, although this can be difficult in a small, intimate setting.

Remember, they have chosen to be employees, not founders. Respect that and don’t expect them to put the same blood, sweat and tears in the business as you. After all, they aren’t the entrepreneur, you are! 

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