Amanda Lintott was a lawyer but decided to launch a recruitment company called Career Driven, specialising in the automotive sector.
The business has thrived despite launching just before the global financial crisis hit, with sales doubling each year to reach $2 million this year.
Lintott talks to SmartCompany about starting a business while five months pregnant, making pricing mistakes and why the rise of social media and LinkedIn does not mean the end of recruitment.
Based: Mascot, NSW
Position: Founder and director of Career Driven
What niche did you spot for Career Driven?
My family was in the car industry and my life is a really good example of pros and cons of family business. I never saw myself in the car industry but was persuaded into the family business and did my best and we did well. But ultimately I wanted to go out on my own.
I believe there are opportunities everywhere and auto was a good place to start, as I knew a few people and I knew the difference between people who were doing things well and those who weren’t. I had the idea to provide a new generation of auto staff to help promote the industry as well as providing service to businesses. It was quite a lofty ambition.
What was the toughest thing about starting out?
It was difficult to come from being the dealer principal of the largest Porsche centre in the Southern Hemisphere and to leave that to start my own little recruitment agency to provide salespeople for dealers. It was quite a gulp. Making the first calls was hard and I made a big mistake first-off with pricing.
What was that mistake?
I felt I needed to be conservative with prices and not be overconfident with what I could do. I went in too low, too early.
I had never done recruitment before and I just was not confident in what I was doing. I thought I’d test the waters and make it easy for people to use us and win people over with good service and good value. It made it hard to break out of that, so six months later I realised that we were charging less than our poorest competitor.
I had a meeting with a major client, [a representative from] Kia Motors, and she said, “Your fees are so low, it makes me feel uncomfortable.” She just could not understand why they were so low and we never got their business.
You started Career Driven just before the global financial crisis. How did you survive that?
I was also five months pregnant with my third child, which was a bit cavalier to say the least.
The financial crisis did not worry me as it was not like I had anything to lose; it was just a motivation to keep going in a way. I was growing when everybody else was doing the opposite, there was still work there.
In the car industry, dealers always need good staff even when times are tough. We were getting phone calls from people saying, ‘I just have to get the best team’ – there was enough activity to keep us going. It also prompted me to open my mind to temps rather than just permanent employees, so I launched our temp service at that time.
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