- Company: Marlin Green
- What it does in a sentence: We mobilise in-demand, highly skilled IT talent to in-need clients quickly, efficiently and at short notice anywhere in Europe.
- Founded: 2010, UK
- Founder/s: Toby Dixon and Lee Nania
- Size of team: 50
- Your name and role: Toby Dixon, Co-Founder, former CEO & Non Executive Chairman
What problem are you trying to solve?
Large-scale tech deployments and digital transformation projects require highly skilled IT talent to be successfully delivered. Our clients routinely need to bring in specialists experienced in niche technologies to get these projects over the line.
We help our clients to identify the best consultants in the industry and quickly air drop them into their business.
How big is the market – and how much of it do you think you can own?
The European staffing market is estimated to be a £140 billion market. With projected revenues of around £35 – £40m this year, we are only just scratching the surface and envisage continuing to scale and grabbing more of the market as we grow our physical presence across Europe.
How do you make money?
By matching and mobilising the very best technical talent in the world to a clearly defined niche of in-need clients located in 17 countries across Europe as quickly and smoothly as possible.
Who’s on your team that makes you think you can do this?
First, we have a brilliant internal team who live and breathe the Marlin Green DNA. The vast majority of whom we have trained ourselves. Many have grown from trainees to sit on our Management Team.
To compliment our home grown managers we’ve enhanced our Leadership Team with industry leaders from finance, operations and business development. We have not approached them. They are people who, impressed with our success and business model, have sought us out.
These talented individuals have been specifically brought in to help us achieve the next chapter in our growth.
Who’s bankrolling you?
We are! For two reasons. One, we wanted to be masters of our own destiny. We left our roles because we wanted to be the boss. Two, when you give up a lucrative role at an industry leading firm and use your own money to start-up, you spend it extremely prudently and focus on what’s important. Namely, getting out there and bringing in revenue.
What advice would you give other entrepreneurs trying to secure that kind of finance?
Seeking investment should be your last resort. When you have a good idea, you should back it and inspire people to join you. Don’t give away large chunks of your equity to people promising you money. It’s rarely a fair exchange and you’ll end up working just as hard for less reward.
What do you believe the key to growing this business is?
A policy of continuous improvement. We are never satisfied. There are always things that we can do better. We identify areas that are under optimised and tweak them. We pinpoint the obstacles that consistently slow-up progress and remove them. We monitor the market and adjust our approach when necessary. Every day we think, how can we be better?
What metrics do you look at every day?
The metrics we’re most interested in are the ones that help us improve performance. Our success is driven by a finely-honed set of systems and processes. It is essential that our people follow these processes if they want to be successful.
We monitor their behaviour at every stage and look at how well the process is serving them. This ensures that we continue achieving growth and can remove or improve any processes that aren’t working.
What’s been the most unexpectedly valuable lesson you’ve learnt so far?
Take advice but then trust your gut if it does not seem right. No one is more invested in the success of your company than you are, and no one knows your company better than you do. It’s always worth getting another perspective but ultimately, it is your call.
What’s been your biggest mistake so far?
We thought that everyone we hired would be like us. That they would be super focused on success and want to progress to a managerial role or become the top salesperson. The truth is a lot of people don’t and that’s made our job hard. It seen us bring in people who we thought would be superstars and then had to let them go because they never achieved their potential.
We’ve learnt a great deal and now are vigilant in our own recruitment. You can’t believe everything everyone tells you. We are always testing for the right behaviour and core values to ensure new recruits have the right stuff to be successful.
What do you think is on the horizon for your industry in the year ahead?
As soon as there is clarity around Brexit, the industry is going to go off like a rocket. We expect a massive surge in demand in all our geographies and we are poised for a significant growth spurt in our sector.
How would a no-deal Brexit affect your business or others within your industry?
For us, it’s the inconvenience caused by the increased administration. No matter how the cards fall, whether it be deal or no-deal, we are prepared. We’re building our physical presence in Europe and will continue to do so. Certainty is all we need. It isn’t Brexit that’s the issue. It’s the uncertainty.
For others, a no-deal will make it harder to enter Europe and for those UK firms that only dabble in the market, it will become less attractive to continue. We will likely see our UK based competition drop away as we continue to grow.
Which London start-up/s are you watching, and why?
None currently. Our full focus is on our business and preparing it for the next chapter in its growth.
Three reasons why we should be watching you?
1. Well positioned to capitalise on the growth of the European market
The European contract recruitment market continues to be strong. Brexit aside we have continued to accelerate quickly and currently enjoy 96% of our business outside of the UK. We have already built a strong presence and reputation in key markets and will further penetrate these buoyant markets as we expand our physical presence across the region.
2. Exponential growth in all areas
We do not run a ‘growth at any cost’ model. Revenue is important but profit more so. As a result of a lean approach and the execution of a highly efficient set of systems and processes, we have consistently grown headcount, sales, gross profit and EBITDA every single year since the business was founded in 2010. As we expand overseas and the market starts to move post-Brexit, we can see both revenue and profit increasing exponentially from here.
3. New CEO and the next phase in the company’s growth
Lee and I are entrepreneurs and skilled in jump-starting and growing a business quickly. We knew that we could grow Marlin Green to £10s of millions and launch its first foreign office or 2, which we have now done. However, we knew it would be critical to bring in the right people from within the sector for it to grow further.
Our Leadership Team has been specifically selected because they have the experience and expertise to grow revenues into the £100s of millions. With the exciting recent hire of Paul Hanley (previously of Hays Switzerland) as CEO, we have someone in charge who has successfully built multi-office businesses in multiple geographies and primed to roll out the same plan for Marlin Green.