The story of Octopus Personnel – An Unexpected Journey
An Unexpected Journey
Wow, what was I thinking 15 years ago? We were rapidly heading for a recession, and I decide to start a business! I had never planned or had any aspirations to run my own business. A throwaway comment from a colleague who said, “if you were to ever open your own business you know I’d come and work for you don’t you?” was the catalyst for it all. I remember laughing and saying I’d never be able to do that.
However, something must have lodged in my crazy mind as I mentioned it to my family and their response was, “well why not do it? You work so hard for everyone else why not do it for yourself?”
“Passion was not on their tick list!”
I remember getting a notepad and starting to write a pro and con list – getting a dog was very much in the pro column. I excitedly started putting a plan together of what I would need to get started. The list got longer and longer and scarier and scarier – I didn’t have a pot of money ready and waiting so I scrambled together what I could and put together a business plan of sorts and went to the bank. They did not want to know. The bank wanted me to have guaranteed clients – I guess they saw through me and knew I didn’t have a clue on how to run a business. Passion was not on their tick list!
I have since reread that first business plan and it makes me laugh – what was I thinking??!!
My first footsteps
The Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) ran a course (and I think they still do) – ‘How to run a recruitment agency’ – so I signed up. It was fantastic, and I still refer to that lever arch folder for snippets of information. Top of the ‘To Do List’ was an office. I knew I wanted to be in the High Street in Gillingham. I had always believed there was an opportunity in the area, but when I spoke to the management team of the agency I was working for, they wouldn’t listen to me.
There were a few options for office space – one in fact was the shop that is now Costa, but a friend heard through the grapevine that number 1 Newbury Court (where Dorset Tech is now) was going to become vacant. I remember speaking to the proprietor and next thing I know I’m signing papers, and I have myself an office. It makes me laugh now when I think about it – I really didn’t have a clue.
A new place to call home
I spent the next few weeks in the office space getting it ready, pulling in favours from friends and family to gut the space and turn it into a high street office. I spent so many hours painting and planning. It was so funny planning where we were going to put desks and office equipment. It was difficult to visualise, so we made life size templates from newspaper to represent the desks, chairs and other necessary items we needed, and moved them around the floor until we had it nailed. We had a small kitchen area, a loo, a front office with floor to ceiling glass windows, and a small back office that became my space.
It was an exciting day going to the office furniture shop in Blandford and ordering 3 desks, 3 chairs and a filing cabinet, and while we were there, we spotted the perfect reception furniture. The shop owner took pity on me, and I got a good price for the lot.
Getting ready for opening day
A date for opening was basically plucked from thin air and then everything had to be sorted for that date.
We used a well-known telecommunications company for our first computer and telephone set up – it took a huge chunk of the money I had and if I had known better, I would have done things differently, but I was green and didn’t know any different.
We did lots of research on CRM systems, we had lots of demonstrations but one stood out, and we are using them to this day! The company has been really supportive, and the system has grown with us. I remember one of the team came to my home in Mere and sat at my kitchen table to show us the system. My daughter Katie was very excited about it, personally I was still old school and liked to work with paper files and index cards! I am delighted to say I have most certainly progressed from those days.
“I still try and use local businesses”
The next thing we needed was a website of some sort. I remember driving around the industrial estates trying to find a company that would help me, and I came across LA Marketing in Shaftsbury. They were fantastic – very supportive and agreed to help with a 2-page website to get me started. During our meeting it also came to light that they could also help with signage and our much-needed window display set up.
I still try and use local people and businesses – I think its so important that we support one another.
“I felt like Super Woman!”
While all this was going on I felt like Super Woman and thought to myself, ‘do you know what, I am going to learn book-keeping and do it myself!’
I enrolled on a course that was one afternoon a week. I lasted 2 weeks! There’s more to my bookkeeping journey so I will save that story for later.
It was just another example of how green I was in those days, my idea was to offer permanent recruitment and then maybe explore temporary recruitment later as I had never ever dealt with temporary workers before – did I have a shock coming!!
To be fair it was so much fun in those first crazy weeks and months. I was so excited about it all but of course I did have this sick feeling in the pit of my stomach – the voice in my head was saying, ‘what are you thinking, you are never going to be able to do this’. But I’d gulp and say ‘YES I can, and I will!’
Opening day was rapidly approaching – the carpet was down, furniture was in, and the systems installed. I remember thinking that we needed some plants so I popped down the road to ‘Focus’ (ASDA is there now) and bought these cheap plants thinking they will only last a week or so but will look good for the opening. We still have one of the plants in the office today – it has stood the test of time, a bit like me really! When it’s looking a bit bedraggled and sorry for itself, we give it some nourishment and a drink and its soon flourishing and doing what it needs to do.
Before we opened, we spent every Sunday going door to door delivering small leaflets to let people know we were opening. The leaflet was to be frank, awful, and so small. I remember visiting a client a few years after we opened, and she told me she still had that leaflet on her fridge, which gave us both a giggle.
The Blackmore Vale Magazine was the place to be. For a half page it was £500 and that was an awful lot of money for me. I really struggled with making the decision to go ahead with the article, but so pleased we did. We opened on the Wednesday and the article went out on the Friday. I still have a copy, I was so proud – there were a couple of photos and a nice piece about the company and how I wanted to be different from your average high street recruitment agency. It certainly got us noticed… and then we full speed ahead.
The story of Octopus Personnel will continue….
Octopus Anniversary Party
Ain’t no party like an Octopus party.
We are celebrating 15 years of Octopus Personnel this month and to celebrate Sandra threw a fabulous party with the team and some special people who have supported us through our 15 years.
Rain may have been forecast but that didn’t dampen our spirits and Sandra proceeded with Octopus enthusiasm with our Summer Garden Party!
There was amazing food, garden games, assault course bouncy castle and great company. What more could you ask for? We had an amazing time celebrating Sandra and the team’s fantastic achievement.
Sandra had some special words for the party goers and then the party really got going with most of us being dragged on to the bouncy castle for a spot of special bonding!
Here is our 2021 Video Advent Calendar full of our favourite Octopus moments from this year. We hope you enjoy watching.
The Jobsmobile at the Job Fair in Sturminster Newton
On Thursday 21st October, The Jobsmobile took its first outing to The Job Fair at The Exchange in Sturminster Newton. After the previous day’s torrential rains Sandra would have been forgiven for being a little nervous about the local flooding, but the sun came out and Sandra and Alice arrived smiling, excited to attend our first Job Fair since lockdown began.
With a prime position reserved at the front of The Exchange for The Jobsmobile, our new mobile office created a lot of buzz from the offset, and Alice was inside the hall to chat to visitors about our current jobs.
The Job Fair was just the job to talk to local people about their job hunting and how we can help everyone on their job search.
Many people think that recruitment agencies are only for those in senior positions, but recruiters can actually help you find full-time, part-time or temping opportunities, no matter what stage of your life.
If you missed the Job Fair, here are a few of the tips that Sandra and Alice chatted with visitors about.
Job Hunting with Octopus Personnel
Recruitment agencies essentially exist to help companies fill their vacancies – and to help you find a job.
We work with a wide range of the best employers in Dorset, Somerset and Wiltshire. They are busy driving their businesses forward and use us to meet and select the best candidates they can short-list from. This offers a significant time saving – especially when they’re hiring for lots of roles.
At Octopus Personnel, we meet with every single person we register to get to know you – your aspirations, personality, talents and experience – so we can make the perfect match between you and the employer. Then we help you with preparing for work, ensuring you are interview-ready by helping you with your CV and giving you interview tips.
Our service is completely free to job seekers! It’s the employers who pay us to find them workers.
- We have jobs you won’t find elsewhere! Many companies choose recruitment agencies as their only method of sourcing new employees.
- We are experts in the local job market. We have an extensive client list and work with some of the best employers in the South West. The cornerstone of our success is our knowledge and special relationships we have forged with employers and job seekers in the local community.
- You’ll get expert guidance from a professional. You’ll have a dedicated consultant who’ll be able to give you loads of information, including where the best jobs are that fit your profile, what particular employers are looking for, and how to gain that all important experience and qualifications to boost your CV and show you are prepared for working.
- Your success is our success! We want you to succeed, and will always go that extra mile in terms of advice, support and finding the right fit. We can help you to improve your CV and coach you for interviews – our support can be a great bonus in a competitive job market.
The process is nice and simple.
- Try and have your CV ready. There are lots of guides on the internet and our website has handy tips and advice. Make sure you’ve had a go at getting the basic information down, then we can help improve it! Submit your CV to firstname.lastname@example.org
- Book an appointment with one of our consultants on 01747 825568 if you haven’t already done so at the Job Fair. We can meet you at the office or over video call such as FaceTime, Zoom or WhatsApp.
- When you come to see us, relax! It’s easier said than done, but you’ll perform a lot better if you try to take the whole process in your stride. Use your experience with us as a practice run, and we’ll have plenty of tips and advice for you before you head out to your interview with an employer.
It’s much easier preparing for work with our guidance! Remember, we’re here to help so book an appointment to register with us and keep in touch. If you’d like to find out a bit more about the registration process, read our blog – How to register with a recruitment agency.
If you visited us at the Job Fair, we hope you found your visit useful and we’d love to hear what you thought. Give us a call or pop us an email if we can help.
Many thanks to Jacqui and the team over at Stur Biz who organised such a successful event to help local people. You can find out more about Stur Biz by visiting their website: sturminster-newton.org.uk
Our Jobsmobile is now officially on the move. If you’re an employer or community service and would like to find out more about our on-site recruitment drives with The Jobsmobile, give the team a call on 01747 825568.
Macmillan Coffee Morning 2021
Ready, Steady, Bake! The team at Octopus Personnel never need much of an excuse to get their whisks at the ready, but Macmillan Coffee Morning seemed the perfect reason to reinstate our office Bake Off.
Sandra, Alice, Anna, Erin and Bronya whipped up some fabulous cakes to raise money for Macmillan Coffee Morning.
We had some delectable treats on display for our Macmillan Coffee Morning, and our visitors were able to choose from Lemon & Raspberry Bundt Cake, Raspberry & White Chocolate Cheesecake, Fudgy Caramel Cake, Kinder Flapjacks, Brown Butter Apple Blondies, Strawberry Victoria Sponge and Mocha Cheesecake Brownies.
With all monies raised going straight to Macmillan Cancer Support, our visitors were very generous in their donations for our cakes. Our visitors then voted for their favourite cake to crown the winner of our first Great Octopus Bake Off of 2021.
Thanks to very generous support we were able to raise £72 at our Macmillan Coffee Morning and the donations have been sent to Macmillan Cancer Support.
All the cakes were scrumptious, but the winner of The Great Octopus Bake Off October 2021 is Sandra!
Thank you to everyone who supported our Macmillan Coffee Morning 2021. See you again next year!
Get to know the newly appointed Recruitment Office Manager
Lucie talks about work/life balance, her inspiration being a Recruitment Consultant and her new role as Office Manager at Octopus Personnel.
Congratulations, Lucie! How did you celebrate the news of your promotion?
Paul, my partner, and I had some champagne and shared the celebrations with our cats!
What made you decide to become a Recruitment Consultant?
I’ve always worked in welfare, supporting people to find the right jobs for them and Octopus Personnel mirrored my values. I have had a great couple of years!
What would you like to be known for?
I’d like to be known for making a change to how staff are supported in the working environment inspiring a positive, proactive attitude to mental health. Octopus are already a dynamic employer in terms of mental health, and I can’t wait to build on this firm foundation.
What inspires you to keep going when the going gets tough?
If people were to describe me, they would always say that I am resilient and I believe when things get difficult to focus on being the best that I can be.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
I am a true believer in the phrase “Everything happens for a reason”. It might not be clear at that moment, but reasons will reveal themselves in time.
How do you achieve work/life balance?
Octopus Personnel promotes a great work/life balance, but also having your own hobbies and interests outside of work is really important. Mindfulness and meditation, for me, has really helped and I’ve just started running!
What are the biggest challenges facing Recruitment Consultants and Agencies at the moment?
It’s a candidate’s market, so there is fierce competition to attract the best talent, not to mention ongoing economic uncertainty and candidates who know what they want from their job search, so recruiters are under a lot of pressure. At Octopus, we strive to provide an exceptional level of service to our candidates and clients alike to meet the challenges of the current market and find the right people for the right jobs.
What’s your best advice to job seekers?
Research the job you have applied for, have questions prepared – these are the things I would like to see more of. Dust your suit off and get the iron out!
What’s your best advice for handling rejection at interview?
Take some time to reflect. Was the role right for you? What can you learn from it so you can improve in the next interview? Your perfect opportunity is round the corner.
What surprising lessons have you learnt along the way?
Never to be surprised and be prepared!
If you are looking for work, or looking for workers, give us a call!
At Octopus Personnel, we are experts at presenting our candidates to ensure the employer is able to see all the skills and experience you are bringing to a role. Years of industry expertise and outstanding relationships with our clients, and grasp of the needs of their business, means we are perfectly positioned within the market to guide you to your new role or to the right employee who will drive your business forward. You can sign up here and call the office on 01747 825568 to arrange an interview.
Figgy Truffleberry arrives at the Octopus Office!
Greetings from the North Pole
Christmas time is here again!
That means it is time for me to move in
For Father Christmas, I watch and listen
So I can report back what he is missing.
The Elf Magic happens when the temps are good
So listen to Sandra like you should!
To keep the magic alive and your Elf safe
Get your timesheet in by 10 on Monday for goodness sake!
While the office work hard, you’ll find me each day
In a new place having fun or waiting to play!
Watch out for me, and as Christmas nears,
Open your eyes to the sky and hear reindeer with your ears!
#elfontheshelf #GoOctopus #elf #christmas #welcomelittleelf #winningtalent#joinourteam #christmasiscoming
Check back each day to find out what Figgy has been up to or follow us on social media.
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On Top of the World
The team at Octopus Personnel are celebrating after being awarded the prize for best small business at the recent 2017 Blackmore Vale Business Awards held at George Albert Hotel in Dorchester. Following a tense and in-depth assessment period, Octopus were adjudged to be the winners. This award is given to the business that is able to best demonstrate how it has overcome the challenges faced by smaller businesses and how it manages to uphold the highest standards of service.
Established more than 10 years ago by Managing Director, Sandra Smart, Octopus Personnel has gained an unrivalled reputation for providing high-quality recruitment solutions to an impressive array of satisfied clients time and again. Their service proposition is underpinned by a money-back guarantee to clients who aren’t completely satisfied with the standard of candidates supplied.
Following the Awards Dinner that was attended by business leaders from across the region, a beaming Sandra Smart commented
“This is such an exciting award to win and totally vindicates our novel service approach, which is quite unique in the recruitment industry.” We were so delighted pleased to be shortlisted for this award, but to win it has exceeded our wildest expectations and dreams”.
Gillingham & Shaftesbury Show 2017
Congratulations to Rosemary Burbidge who won our free competition at The Gillingham & Shaftesbury show this year.
She was the lucky winner of a luxury hamper – well done!
Freshers Fair Bournemouth Uni
The Octopus Personnel team from Bournemouth had a great day at Bournemouth University Fresher’s Fair on Saturday 28th September. The rain held off which was an added bonus.
The team were there to sign up students for work opportunities while they are studying over the next two or three years. There was an added incentive; the opportunity to win a Students Survival Box of goodies which included must-have items like beans, pringles, washing up liquid and of course an alarm clock.
Amy Davies (19) is studying Archaeological, anthropological and forensic sciences were delighted to receive the news that she had won the raffle and came back to the campus to pick up her box of goodies from Vickie Hopwood who is heading up the new Octopus Personnel office in Bournemouth.
Ozzy helps the Tadworth Childrens Trust
Sunday 13th April saw the annual children’s day at Wincanton Racecourse and what a glorious day for it! The days itself was filled with fun activities for children from a bucking bronco to a clown and there was even Shetland Racing to kick the day off in the paddock. However, one thing that nobody would expect to see at Wincanton Racecourse on a sunny afternoon was Ozzy and all of his friends ready to battle it out in a mascot egg and spoon race and a Somerset vs the rest of the world tug of war.
The mascots battled it out in the egg and spoon race, seeing Chalky the Panda from Salisbury City Football club win, closely followed by the rest of the gang with Tadworth the Hound representing the children’s trust following up the rear. Soon Ozzy and the gang were in the paddock battling it out in the Tug of War. Ozzy was lucky enough to choose sides as he represents all of our offices in Dorset and Somerset, clearly, his choice to opt for the Somerset team with the mascots from Bath Rugby, Yeovil Town FC, Wincanton Wolves FC and The Little Chef, was a good one as Somerset dominated the tug of war.
All of the mascots congregated for the prize-giving ceremony in the main paddock where 3 of the Bath Rugby team presented the mascots with prizes and medals. Ozzy was lucky enough to win Best Dressed Mascot, must have been down to his snazzy new swimming costume!
All of this was rounded off by a bucket collection at the end of the day in aid of the Tadworth Children’s Trust and charity that supports children with acquired brain injury, complex health needs and multiple disabilities.
Many thanks to everyone who supported the Tadworth Children’s Trust yesterday and to all of those who supported Ozzy throughout the day. He loved meeting everyone and was thrilled to be able to bring the Best Dressed Mascot award back into the office to show off this morning.
Octopus Personnel Extends it’s Tentacles for Cancer Research
Octopus Personnel Extends it’s Tentacles for Cancer Research
The Octopus Personnel Team joined forces to take part in Bournemouth’s ‘Race for Life’ to help raise awareness, fundraising and support for Cancer Research. Clad in pink vests and accompanied by the company mascot ‘Ozzy the Octopus, they combined with thousands of other runners and walkers on a beautiful Sunday morning to lend their support to this inspirational charity.
The Dorset based company’s owner Sandra Smart said “after last year’s event we’d talked about how much we’d like to have been involved and this time we made sure it happened. Most of us have family members or friends who have been affected by this life-changing disease and to take part in this year’s ‘race’ was such an uplifting and emotional experience as we swapped stories with complete strangers and listened to how they had coped with the adversity brought into their lives by cancer.”
“We had a few sore feet and aching limbs between us at the finishing line, which didn’t matter as it was a privilege to have been able to demonstrate our support for Cancer Research”.