For this month’s journey into the entrepreneurial stories behind South Yorkshire businesses, unLTD caught up with Simon Gillott, founder of industrial recruiters Steel Cactus, to discuss what inspired him to take the plunge and set up his own company.
You’ve worked in recruitment for the best part of 20 years. What made you take the decision to set up your own industrial recruitment firm?
I think the desire to do it just got louder and louder. As for a lot of people during COVID, I had a chance to reflect and think about things. I got to a point where I just thought, ‘If not now, when?’
When the opportunity came along, I took it. People were saying it wasn’t a good time, but when is a good time? I just felt really strongly about it and took the plunge, as I didn’t want to get to a point where I was past it, then look back and regret the fact that I didn’t take a chance.
“That’s where the name Steel Cactus comes from; the steel part obviously represents our Sheffield industries, but the cactus is something that thrives in difficult environments and that’s what we’re doing.”
How did you find the process of setting up on your own?
There was a real a spirit of adventure. It was really exciting, as well as being scary and nerve-racking – all of those things.
There were tons of things that I didn’t necessarily know how to do. Fortunately, I had support from a company that specialises in doing just that. They’ve provided backing both financially and in terms of expertise, and back office support. They made it really easy. Without them, it would have been a much more difficult and different journey.
I’m lucky that my family were really supportive. My wife was even helping out in the beginning, and that was nice to have somebody familiar that I could trust, helping me become established.
She stayed with me until May this year, when we made the decision together that I needed to go it alone so that we could share time off and let her go back to what she was doing before. I brought somebody in to help me, so it was a good start. We just kind of continued from there.
“I’m lucky that my family were really supportive. My wife was even helping out in the beginning, and that was nice to have somebody familiar that I could trust, helping me become established.”
You’ve been trading for nearly a year now. What have been some of the challenges you’ve faced?
Firstly, the market – it’s been a tough year for business, generally. I think it’s been more difficult than it would have been in previous years to actually find business. But having said that, we have done, through a lot of hard work in a difficult environment.
That’s where the name Steel Cactus comes from; the steel part obviously represents our Sheffield industries, but the cactus is something that thrives in difficult environments and that’s what we’re doing. I’m really grateful to people for giving us a chance and will always remember that.
The candidate market is tough as well. There’s not as many people looking for work as you might imagine. But again, it all kind of boils down to getting stuck in and just being relentless in looking for candidates, but then also treating people well. That has always been my goal from the beginning.
What’s the plan for the future?
More of the same, and to get more established as a recognised service provider in this industry. We also want to reward the loyalty that people have given us by continuing to deliver, and then continue to get new business and new clients on board.