2019 Round-up - Gordon Brown

2019 Round-up - Gordon Brown, Founder

Nicola McCuaig

What a year 2019 has been; Brexit dominated every aspect of life in the UK and forced a General Election, Scots potentially face another IndyRef, our Planet remains in crisis yet we explore the possibility of vacations in space, technological advance rampages on regardless - electric & driverless cars, robots in the industrial workplace, a rapidly expanding app economy with 250 billion app downloads, embracing 5G and the debut of the bendable mobile device, impacting massively on the delivery of and online payment for digital services, and an increasing migration from Cloud to Edge Computing. Oh, and finally, Ant & Dec have been tipped to replace Caroline Flack on Love Island, I simply can’t wait!


So, during this last business week of 2019 and with our Xmas party looming on Friday - it’s now time to reflect from a business perspective and to look ahead with genuine optimism to what lies in store in 2020! A quick revisit of last year’s presentation and the slides “Key Objectives for 2019” begs the question(s):

  • Did we deliver? 
  • Have we moved forward? 
  • Have we made a real difference?

Admittedly, 2019 has been at times quite frustrating albeit extremely enjoyable! My core objectives focused on continuous staff development, improved stability and consistency in business performance. This was facilitated via an approach based upon empowering my business partners, which meant taking a step back and allowing them to forge ahead and drive initiatives designed to take Nine Twenty forward in new directions. Has this been a success? The devil is always in the detail so let’s examine a couple of key metrics and I am absolutely thrilled to report that our vacancy fill rate across the group and our client retention rate have achieved their highest levels for several years and both sitting proudly with scores recorded at over 90%.

Nine Twenty boasts an enviable track record having been built on its passion for industry knowledge within its chosen sectors. It prides itself of going beyond the call of duty for candidates and clients alike; meeting people face to face, building solid and lasting relationships and by delivering value back to our sector(s). It may not seem like rocket science, but I firmly believe that a return to basics has helped to rekindle our love affair with our industry. I am so proud of everyone connected to Nine Twenty and offer my personal thanks group-wide. It is no secret that we care about our people and that we always endeavor to treat people properly; we offer flexi-working, we offer home-working, and our candidates and clients have witnessed an overall improvement in the resulting service that they receive as Nine Twenty continues to make steady progress.

Perhaps a slightly cynical view but in my opinion the recruitment sector in general continues to regurgitate the same BS year on year! Contrary to popular misconception, providing a superb service need not be all about KPI’s, nor specking out candidates, nor about databases and talent banks! It really doesn’t have to be sell, sell, sell at any cost nor what would appear to be the latest trend of LinkedIn being leveraged as a competition by those who like to indulge themselves, seeking to create the most cringeworthy of self-promoting videos! No, the Nine Twenty ethos is relatively simple and straightforward and based upon being honest and transparent with your clients and candidates, taking the time and effort to truly understand their respective needs, and then going that extra mile to ensure that you surpass their expectations. Job done.

I am also delighted to note that some of our main competitors seem to be doing well in 2019 since this can only serve to promote a positive impact within our industry. That said, I am a firm believer that we all have a duty of care towards our candidates and I am saddened that they are often abused and sometimes regarded as a commodity by unscrupulous recruiters! 

Turning my attention internally, I am delighted that Karen Stewart is now entering her 3rd year as Managing Director of Nine Twenty Manufacturing & Engineering where she and her team continue to dominate the FMCG marketplace. Karen was also the brainchild behind our 15-Year anniversary event INSP-HIRE, where over 900 people came along to GCU to learn about our STEM verticals and kids ages 4-14 were offered a platform to engage with over 55 businesses. This also marked Karen’s coming-out party to the business community as one to watch. It really has been rewarding to see her develop and build a great Nine Twenty Business. 

Chris Lowden enters his 2nd year as Director of Nine Twenty Technology, having grown the business by 25% from 2018, and hiring several new key appointments. The ‘Boom’ man has worked hard to ensure that our SLA’S have been delivered against, largely through his focus on encouraging his team to grow and learn thus improving output and quality overall. It is reassuring to note that there is a huge demand for software developers/engineers and that our technology team continues to deliver exceptional performance in this area. His Head of Delivery Rachael Baxter will now drive the technology team in 2020 with a variety of new products to be announced in the new year. Watch this space!

Nine Twenty also provides a robust platform for boutique recruiters to successfully manage their own business. Laura Armstrong continues to excel within this arena with Nine Twenty Assured offering outplacement recruitment support and technology project resource recruitment. This is now going into its 3rd year and Laura works only on a project by project basis, another successful year with 95% conversion in 2019.

I’m also very pleased to announce the return of Lynne Rae to the Nine Twenty family, she joins following a successful spell at Student Loans. Lynne is delighted to have re-engaged with ourselves having created a small boutique business that provides an inherent flexibility to achieve the perfect work/life balance and ultimately that allows her to spend more time with her kids and family. She’s a great recruiter and has a passion to grow the business development/commercial sales market within Nine Twenty.



So, looking ahead to next year, what’s the forecast for 2020 @Nine Twenty. My message is loud, clear and hopefully concise:

  • Continue to build Nine Twenty as a facilitator for ambitious hardworking professionals 
  • Encourage everyone to work hard, learn and improve
  • Work with my business partners and allow them to take Nine Twenty to the next level, not just a change in guard but a platform to shine
  • Encourage change and continuous improvement by fostering an environment that supports and rewards our people whilst advocating never to fear failure

I’m passionate about technology and how we can leverage new processes, techniques and tools to improve our service. To that end, we shall continue to invest in our infrastructure and our people development. I foresee Nine Twenty building an Employer Branding Agency offering professional employer branding video solutions and inbound marketing techniques. There is no doubt that our partnership approach is working well and 2019 has shown clear evidence that less is more!

My personal thanks go to our partners that have helped us this year: - Firefish, Firefly, Jones Whyte Solicitors, Metis Partners, Indigo Black, KPP Accountants, Smart Stems, Seric Systems and GCU. Also, my special thanks to Alan Crockert our Non-Executive Director who continues to provide training and guidance to our business and promotes our Franchise offering.

Last but certainly not least, to our Nine Twenty people. My sincere thanks for all your hard work and support, I look forward to an exciting 2020 and the opportunities it will bring. 

Finally, may I take this opportunity to offer all our clients – existing and prospective, our candidates and indeed everyone within Nine Twenty my very best wishes for a Happy & Peaceful Christmas and a Healthy & Prosperous 2020. It really has been my privilege to serve you and to work with you in the past and I look forward to doing it all again next year, but better.





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