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An Interview for The Brathay Apprentice Challenge with Ricky Martin

Ricky Martin won The Apprentice in June 2012, securing an investment of £250,000 from Lord Sugar

Ricky Martin used the investment from Lord Sugar to create and expand his own specialist recruitment company, Hyper Recruitment Solutions (HRS). 

Sarah Lee and Conor Murphy, from CBRE GWS, interviewed Ricky Martin on his impressive success over the years.

Personal Questions

Conor Murphy: You have set up a very successful company; did you always want to set up your own company from an early age?

Ricky Martin: I definitely always wanted it. I always wanted a business, as a young man I thought it would be great to have something I could call my own.

I never knew what it would be until I grew up though. Like a lot of young people I had the dream – can I be a business person & have my own company? It was only when I got older and started going into the workplace that I realised what I did & didn’t like & what I wanted my business to be based in. I think it’s what a lot of people are like.

Conor Murphy: Being a qualified biochemist and a certified professional recruiter, how did you feel being classed as an apprentice?

Ricky Martin: Didn’t bother me whatsoever, I really don’t mind. I’m a humble guy and job titles, tags don’t mean a lot to me.

Yes, it’s good to having this in recruitment & this in Bio Chemistry, but I’m going to do something that’s very different and therefore I have to be humble & I have to accept the fact that I need to learn, that I need to be able to learn and being called an Apprentice, is technically naming what I actually have to go through.

So if anyone is too pig headed to think being called an Apprentice is an issue, no matter how old, experienced or wealthy they are, they shouldn’t do it because they don’t deserve it.

Conor Murphy: Going into schools, universities and holding conferences about employability and jobs in science you are yourself an advocate for apprenticeships & further learning? What drives you to do this?

Ricky Martin: Good question! You have to go to your roots in life – I come from a modest background; my dad’s a bricklayer and my mum’s an administrator.

I haven’t come from any particular stature – a very happy family is where I’ve come from and I guess what I like is that I’ve had opportunities in my life which helped me grow & develop so things like Apprenticeships and the Brathay Challenge, if I can help people to make good decisions, it’s an amazing thing.

Even longer term, families are all about people being happy, so if you help people make good choices I think whether it’s karma coming back or everyone is getting more things out of life, we need to be more likeable in the world. We are all sometimes too focussed on self and I like to try to give back because I’ve had the opportunity and I think what goes around comes around.

I’m pretty sure that anyone I’ve supported or anyone who goes into these things to support, there will come a time when they will help me. That’s not a selfish request, we work with pharmaceutical companies who make drugs to save lives; I think if I was at that stage where I needed that drug because I may be older or ill, I may be able to use that. It’s what goes around comes around, if we all could be a bit more giving, everything would fall into place.

Sarah Lee: It’s only taken you four years to grow your company into a successful recruitment company with 28 staff and expanding to two more offices overseas, is there anything along the way you would have done differently?

Ricky Martin: Probably a whole host of things! There’s times when we started in particular, it’s hard, but balancing the personal and professional balance. I made the decision when I started that I was going to sacrifice lots of things – that the days were going to be long & I moved location to set it up & in a way I probably severed ties with some people because time was so precious.

In reflection, I realised that having those relationships outside of work are of value and very important. Having those things actually give you better wellbeing in work. Understanding my own wellbeing at the start would have been a better thing.

We haven’t take too may risks as a business – we haven’t hired and fired quickly just to grow the business, we’ve been methodical in how we’ve approached that, so I’m happy there.

Probably the wellbeing is the most important thing – I say I’m the most optimistic person in the office but there have been times when there are chinks in my armour and if I could have avoided those chinks it may have helped someone else in the business.

So get your own balance right & go for it! One thing I did a lot of before the business and this is where The Apprentice helped me, is to focus on a very structured business plan.

I didn’t have to put this together but I felt I had to put the building blocks in place as it’s a serious business and a serious investment so it has to work. I thought at the time it was invincible & almost bullet proof, but there are still parts of it if I look back now where I could have made smarter decisions & asked for help from external people on what they would do in the situation. So, first year – get my wellbeing right and probably ask for help more.

I’m not too much of a male or proud to think I can’t ask for help. I probably ask for help more than anyone else in the office. We’re all sponges and need to absorb everything and keep the things that work for us. In that first year, if I’d asked better questions earlier on, I would have had quicker results but I’m four years on, happy and can’t complain!

Conor Murphy: As a recruiter what particular skills or behaviours do you look for in an employee?

Ricky Martin: Most important thing for me is attitude, as much as it’s nice to have certain qualifications, it’s all about the individual, about the person behind it. It’s a little bit like The Apprentice, the CV is to get onto the show, once you get on the show, no-one looks at the CVs until the end interview in week 11.

There are 11 weeks of looking at the individual personality and individual ability. That’s what I look for, do they have the right attitude and for me, the right attitude is positivity, because recruitment is a role that has a lot of knockbacks. I don’t see it as sales, but it is sales – you speak to a lot of people and get a lot of kickbacks, so if you are not resilient you are going to struggle. I need people who are positive, optimistic & have to be tenacious, they have to be prepared if they are going to do a day of cold calling, which is probably the

I don’t see it as sales, but it is sales – you speak to a lot of people and get a lot of kickbacks, so if you are not resilient you are going to struggle. I need people who are positive, optimistic & have to be tenacious, they have to be prepared if they are going to do a day of cold calling, which is probably the most crudest level of sales, they will make 100 calls and are they prepared to be as positive, if not more so, on the 101st call.

Everything is attitude and every time we hire, whatever level, the one thing I ask for is energy – I’m a positive person & need positive people around me. So, ultimately – attitude – if anyone asks my advice how do I get this job? You get hired because you are a good person – your manners & personality get you everything. CVs get you an interview; your personality gets you the job. That’s what I look for – that X Factor of a person.

Sarah Lee: You had a successful wrestling career, what are the transferable skills or behaviours you have been able to bring into your business life?

Ricky Martin: Good question! I guess, wrestling is a show, good vs evil or whatever you want to call it. People come to watch it to be entertained so everyone has a character and a personality. The one thing I’ve learnt is to do well in your job day to day you have to have a personality.

To do well in our jobs in our own environment, when there is 100 Ricky’s trying to do the same thing as I do, I need to stand out so it’s taught me I need to have my own X factor. At the same time in wrestling, it’s about presentation; how you present what you are doing – so if you’re the bad guy, you want to make people hate you, if you’re the good guy, it’s the bad guy’s position to make everyone love you!

We do a lot of pitching & present to business – a lot of the big corporate companies ask you to come and put some slides up & present to them, so wrestling has probably given me the ability to stand up in front of a room and not worry about what I’m saying, because there’s nothing worse than in wrestling being stood in your pants!

Conor Murphy: Do you have a motto on how to live your life that you would like to pass on?

Ricky Martin: #Thinkpositivebepositive I’d rather regret doing something than regret not trying. It’s the same with the Apprentice – 100,000 applicants so 1 in 100,000 chance of winning it – a very small chance. If you do get on it, a 1 in 16 chance.

There’s every reason not to do it, every reason to say if you are not the 1 in 16 that wins it, there’s every chance you may look stupid – you may say something or do something that people think is stupid – I’d rather regret saying that thing and made to look an idiot, than never trying and not knowing. That goes back to the #Thinkpositivebepositive – everything has a silver lining.

Conor Murphy: Do you have a motto on how to live your life that you would like to pass on?

Ricky Martin: #Thinkpositivebepositive I’d rather regret doing something than regret not trying. It’s the same with the Apprentice – 100,000 applicants so 1 in 100,000 chance of winning it – a very small chance. If you do get on it, a 1 in 16 chance. There’s every reason not to do it, every reason to say if you are not the 1 in 16 that wins it, there’s every chance you may look stupid – you may say something or do something that people think is stupid – I’d rather regret saying that thing and made to look an idiot, than never trying and not knowing.

That goes back to the #Thinkpositivebepositive – everything has a silver lining.

Apprenticeship Questions

Sarah Lee: What would you say to someone interested in an Apprenticeship and what would you say to Employers thinking of introducing apprentices into their work place as a recruitment strategy?

Ricky Martin: To employers, the main thing to consider is what do they actually want from the scheme? Some employers put an apprenticeship scheme in place because they think it’s a good idea or they want someone to come and work for them.

An Apprenticeship scheme to an employer is a big investment – I don’t mean a financial investment, I mean a time investment. We are a small to medium sized business who are four years old, to have an apprentice in our business it takes a lot of time to support and coach, so if we can’t support that, we are doing them an injustice. So to an employer – what do you want from your scheme?

I want great people to understand recruitment and want it to be part of their future. In an ideal world, for me it’s a way for me to develop my future talent – I bring people in who want the skills and we can give the skills and see what they are like before they are in that permanent long term role & see it as my duty to upskill them, whereas some employers who are thinking about apprenticeship schemes may see if for the wrong reason – is this a way to get cheaper labour?

There is that thought process no matter what people are trying to hide, some employers think that way. I’ll tell anyone – it will cost you more if you get it wrong than it will if you get it right, because the time it takes is worth more than the money you spend. For me it’s about future investment; apprentices are a huge part of our future, we don’t just want people from university, that’s the route I took but it doesn’t have to be the route in.

Good people with a thirst for knowledge is actually an advantage for an employer – you can get that trainee into your business, it doesn’t matter their age, with less qualifications, less investment of time and 2 years workbased experience, they are invaluable to your business. So to an employer, think about this carefully and don’t go into it for the wrong reasons, go into it for the right reasons.

To an apprentice thinking about it, it’s hard to look at the future because none of us have that crystal ball, if you can think of a job you might like, an apprenticeship scheme gives you a chance to see if you really do like it.

If you really know what you want to do, such as recruitment, go and do a recruitment one. If you don’t know what you want, then why don’t you do a course which is transferable, like business administration or sales – these are skills you can put into any job.

Go & get work based experience, do it for a few years and get the skills you will need for the future; I can’t see any reason why anyone wouldn’t chose one if I’m honest.

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