“One of my greatest successes is that I’m okay with the fact that I make a crap load of mistakes.”
I’ve never fallen in love with someone quicker than I did with Randy.
He’s a man from another era altogether. He’s charming and softly spoken. Completely humble, there’s absolutely no sign of an ego from him. He knows what he is, and what he has and hasn’t achieved. The bravado and peacocking of the business world is nowhere to be seen. And this is someone incredibly successful. He’s the CEO and Founder of Pocket Recruiter, a piece of software that uses artificial intelligence and still makes me gasp in amazement. Yet still, he’s humble, thoughtful and kind. By the time our conversation is over, I’m looking for possible vacancies in his organization and wondering if he’ll have me.
Randy you’re an incredibly busy guy.
No not really, I don’t do anything. I just sit at this desk.
Well you’ve perfected the art of looking busy.
Yeah true. I just gotta play the role.
I’ve heard so much stuff about…
Don’t worry, it’s all great stuff.
Good, I pay them well then.
(I laugh at this because the idea of anyone not liking Randy is the most absurd thing I’ve ever heard).
You’re a very impressive man Randy, and you’ve built something amazing.
That’s all credit to the people I have around me.
Well in that case, you’re very inspiring to have motivated all these people around you.
No not at all. I learnt a long time ago that you can’t motivate people.
What do you mean by that?
You can inspire people that are motivated, but you can’t turn them into motivated people.
I would always look for certain people when hiring. I don’t care if you’ve never recruited before, I can teach you that. But are you passionate? Do you have that zest in yourself? Do you believe in yourself?
What are you passionate about?
Back when I was building my business, the biggest passion I had was when someone would walk in and say, ‘I got a new car’ and I would think, wow, I was part of that. I trained that person and because of me helping them with their career, they’re doing well in their life. They’re having children and buying homes.
It’s lovely to be a part of that.
(This was probably the point I started falling madly in love with this guy, I mean, who wouldn’t). Would you say that’s your main motivator, your drive?
Well the whole reason I’m in this business is people. Your family comes first; my job comes second. I’ve got to feed that family, so it’s a very close second. So you have to put everyone’s job up on a pedestal. It’s their career and it means that much to them. If I don’t hold that true and dear, then I’m doing a crappy job.
Well in that case a lot of people must love you.
Ha, I don’t know about that. I’ve had people bring me amazing bottles from Russia, wonderful presents and little thank you gifts. That’s nice.
Yeah that sounds really nice. No one brings me presents from around the world.
Well I work with great people. I don’t like to work with folk who are just job hopping. If there’s a problem that’s causing you to go home to your family sad and stressed, then I’m going to find it and fix it.
You sound like a fairy god…father!
Well that’s kind of a cool thing to do. It keeps you passionate as well.
That’s one of the things I enjoyed the most about recruiting; watching people’s faces when they were so ecstatic about this new career after struggling at their old place.
Do you think recruiters today are as passionate about changing lives as you so clearly are?
I think they’re so worried about the commission. And as a recruiter you need to know when to step back, and off.
So how do we instill passion back into the process?
Great question, but unfortunately there’s not a lot of great answers.
One of the ways is through what we’re doing with The Movement, and being thought leaders. Some of the documentaries I’ve done with Top Recruiter for example. We’re talking about all the things that need to be talked about. More people need to share good stories. I think that good people need to not want to work with people that don’t have that passion. As more and more people start to focus on integrity, the bad ones will be weeded out.
Is that really realistic though? There’s no incentive for integrity.
I don’t care if you made one call today, but did you make that call great? I look at production, not the amount of calls. And this starts at the top and infiltrates down. You’re never going to change everybody, but if you can get one young person to turn up and be excited about their job and business, then you’ve done your job.
Basically you did what you came to do.
Exactly! It’s like when your parents taught you right and wrong. Some people want to follow it and some people don’t. I’ve never wanted to look over my shoulder though. I wanted to look forward.
What’s been your greatest success?
Probably that I’m okay that I make a crap load of mistakes. I’m the dumbest guy in the room.
(This is coming from the man who helped build an artificial brain that would source for recruiters) That’s not even true at all.
No I really I am, I swear to god. Especially now that I own a software company, forget about it. Everyone is smarter than me. But I’m cool with it.
I don’t believe you Randy. It’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. (What’s crazy is he seems adamant about this, as if he really believes it).
No honestly. I self-evaluate myself all day long. After every phone call I ask myself; what could I have done better.
And you have to understand that I’m okay with knowing I could have done it better. I put myself out there, and did the best I could with passion and honesty. Even if it’s a shitty call, I want to get better at it.
But not everyone can evaluate themselves like that.
Well I’ve always believed to be great at anything you have to have self-evaluation. You have to be okay that you’re not perfect and you’re going to make loads of mistakes over and over again.
So you’re a big believer in learning through your mistakes?
So what’s the biggest mistake you ever made, and what did you learn from it?
Oh God, I’ve made a million of them. Ones that I wouldn’t even want published.
Haha, we’re on record now Randy. There’s no hiding.
So many honestly, it’s daily.
I remember saying something once that wasn’t very nice about someone. It might have been true, but I still shouldn’t have said it because you don’t know how small the world is and it might come back.
Yes, yes it did. I learnt to hold my tongue that’s for sure.
Well you learnt that lesson the hard way.
Exactly! But I’ve also made the mistake of growing too fast. Boy that was a big mistake.
Surely growing is a great thing?
Of course, but it takes the right timing.
For example my managers needed more time, but our growth was so rapid, so I put some managers in place that weren’t ready to be leaders yet.
Have you changed that since?
Well all of the managers I’m building up now, I’m bringing through a much deeper process because it’s always my fault not theirs.
I think you’re being modest again Randy.
No, everything is my fault. I have to take ownership. If they failed, it’s my fault. I didn’t give them the right coaching and counselling. So that’s another thing. I learnt so much about managing people and managing managers. I used to walk into their offices and want to give all the advice but then all the recruiters would look at me and want to embrace what I did. It took the power away from my managers. I learnt to give them space.
What do you think is the difference between a manager and a leader?
Well a manager is a leader, but I think there’s only one way to manage, and that’s to lead by example. I’m picking up the trash, not leaving it for anyone else. I’m not asking anyone to do anything I’m not doing.
Leaders always say that, but do you think they really implement that?
I know I certainly do. I still get on the phone. I still do cold calls in front of my team and get beat up. Just so they know that even the boss can get beat up on a cold call. It’s about being vulnerable in front of your teams, and letting them know that it’s okay to be vulnerable.
(This is the part where I start secretly checking if there’s any job vacancies going).
What does The Movement mean to you?
There’s lots of voices out there that are not being heard. There’s a standard crew of folk saying the same thing they’ve been saying for a long time. But The Movement showed me there’s a lot of really talented people out there who do have something worth listening to.
When I go to these things I become a sponge. Always thinking what can I learn from this person so I can be better. Everyone can add you some value if you’re willing to sit back and allow them to do that.
And The Movement is about focusing on the positive, and working together. It’s not talking shit about each other as we’re all in this profession together.
Typically, recruiters don’t like to collaborate.
Yes, but it has to change. We have to stay positive.
I suppose you have to be positive to stay in recruitment.
You had better be! But I think you have to be in anything. If you want to be successful and you live in negativity, I don’t think it’s possible.
As a positive person, have you ever had a moment in your career when you thought, no, I’m fed up?
Nah. I love it. I did decide I wanted more out of life and created a software company.
That’s Pocket Recruiter?
Yes. I’m really trying to do something that’s needed for people like us recruiting away. I’m really passionate about AI too.
But don’t we need the human touch in business?
Bingo. As a recruiter I’ve built the software to enhance the recruiters experience, not replace it. I would never think of replacing the human. The humans are the very reason I came into this business.
I think that what you have to create is a human experience. If it’s not a human experience on the computer side, it’s just a rusty nail. I think they’re crazy to think that AI or tech will ever replace people. You can make things better and easier and save time, but never replace.
What does the future look like for you?
Oh God I don’t know; I don’t have a crystal ball.
Okay so forget the predictions, what would you like it to look like?
Everybody in the world is talking about Pocket Recruiter. And everybody loving the fact that it’s helping them. I want everybody out there to enjoy my teaching and my training through my system, so they can rise. I was one of those people that was able to reach very high up, very quickly, and I want to be able to give all that knowledge to other people.
Why do you think you managed to reach so high, so quickly?
I’m a big believer in believing you can do something. If you can put your mind to it, you can do it. I always felt like I could be the best at everything. I’ve always been that person. I’m going to be the first, the top the best etc.
I get the impression you’re exceptionally passionate about building people up?
I wish everyone in the world was better than me. It’s not going to be hard either I can tell you that. I expect everyone I hire to be better and smarter than me.
The idea of hiring people better than yourself is not often found in recruitment. It’s quite an ego filled industry.
I really hope everyone is better than me. It makes our business better. And it moves The Movement forward. If everyone is doing better than me, it means our whole business just moved up.
What has been the happiest moment in your career?
There’s so many of them, but I really enjoyed when I went to visit one of my customers, and he stood up and said, ‘there’s the mayor’. This person employees over 250 people and I’m walking down the hallways and everyone shook my hand and slapped me on the back. Sitting around in their breakroom they brought me bagels and coffee, and they all wanted to do something nice for me. It was a really great feeling that I’d made that many lives better in just one company.
And that company is number one in Fintech right now, and I know that I had a little bit to do with that. That’s a really great feeling.
I could continue to talk to you for hours, but I feel like I’ve eaten up so much of your time.
Nah I’ve got time. The only thing I’ve got is my daughters softball game. I don’t like to miss her games. She’s a 17-year-old kid and I know what it feels like to look out in the crowd and just know that someone is there. I mean, I don’t like to be the loud idiot dad, but she has to know that I’m there.
You mentioned that family comes first, and you’re super successful. There’s a general idea that if you want to be successful you need to forego family and down time. So how do you balance the two? How do you be successful and actually have a life?
I disagree with anyone that says you can’t have both. I’ve built up multiple startups, and still found time for my family. I’ve gone to all of my daughter’s games who played 2/3 games a week. For my daughters 8th grade dance I went out with her to get her hair done. I wanted to be a part of that. For their sweet sixteen I went out dress shopping with them. I wanted to be involved in helping her get her dress so I could watch her and enjoy it and soak it in.
I’ll do that and then at midnight go into my room, and work until 2 or 3 in the morning. Obviously you can’t not work, and startups are a lot of work. But I wouldn’t be the same person without those girls. Without them I would be half of what I am.
There’s not many businessmen who would take that much time off to go to football games and dress shopping.
I think that stuff is important. If my staff call me and say ‘can I go to my son’s game’, I’m telling them to get their ass there.
So it’s 2 o’clock, core business hours, and your employee tells you they need to go see their kids game or talk to their husbands…
Then I’ll see you tomorrow. We have a software that helps give them their daily tasks, and if you look and their tasks are getting done, then fine. If you want to go on vacation or work one hour a month. If you get all your tasks done, then I don’t care.
That’s a refreshing outlook. At the minute you could argue we’re trapped between two different working worlds. One of traditional methods, and one of millennials and beanbags and flexible working.
Yeah, I was born in the wrong era.
You seem to really trust your people.
Absolutely. Hire great people and get out of their way.
Do you think you have that attitude because you were managed like that?
I wasn’t managed like that at all. This is just who I’ve become through my self-evaluations of when I was a shitty manager.
Come on! I’m sure you weren’t a shitty manager.
I remember one of my people telling me, ‘you’re too intense’ and I thought, maybe I am. I can’t do that. That’s not cool. I want people to be inspired by me, not pissed off by me. No one can get anything done if they’re pissed off.
I totally agree, but I think you might be the exception and not the rule. Recruitment seems like a very old world that has a lot of rules.
I don’t know, because we just don’t act like that.
You’re definitely an exception. I’m booking my plane ticket and coming to work for you, whether you want me or not.
Well get over here already.
I’ve proven that you can make people very successful and create a very successful business this way. Some of my people have been around for years, they don’t stick around for nothing.
By the time I’ve finished talking to Randy, I’m blown away by his humility. It’s just not something that we come across a lot in our industry, and it’s amazing to see someone so successful, still so hungry to be better. I went home thinking about this conversation, wondering how I could be a better version of myself. If I was asking myself that question after an hour long conversation, I can only imagine what the people working with him must be like. It’s probably why he’s created such incredible businesses, filled with amazing people. I don’t care what Randy says about himself, the guy is a genius.