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10 Lessons from 10 Years - A Decade of Digital Learning

On 4th January 2021, Instinct Resourcing turned 10 years old. This milestone is not only worth celebrating from a business perspective but from a cultural and transitional perspective.

Hitting 10 years old has allowed time to reflect over the past decade of Instinct Resourcing, finding not only fond memories but valuable lessons.

Lessons from downturns, stumbling blocks, and market shifts, each and every one of them shaping Instinct into the future-proofed business that it is today, as well as the UK’s leading Learning Recruitment agency.

We’ll share these invaluable lessons with you now.

It was a snowy day on the 4th of January 2011 when company founders and directors, Mike Ward and Matt Owens, first opened the doors to their “brand-new” office.

The aesthetic appeal remained on the outside of the building.

Instinct Resourcing's first office: St. Baldred's Hall

It was a serviced office space, offering little more than a glass box.

Though the set-up might have been small, the dream was big - and so the work commenced.

But this wasn’t the only office space to be graced by Instinct’s grit and determination in the early days. In fact, Instinct would name a further three locations ‘the central hub’ before finally landing where they are today: York House, Manchester City Centre.

These included two more short-term serviced offices and one longer-term leased space - the latter lasting for over five years (possibly due to it's much more aesthetic appearance)

Instinct Resourcing's previous office, Portland Street, Manchester

(The differences between serviced office spaces and leasehold office spaces can be found in this quick article HERE)

The current and final home of Instinct Resourcing offered a solution to all requirements. It has provided an outstanding location right at the centre of Manchester, a modern layout, the space to continue to grow the team, break-out / focus areas, and of course, a pool table. 

Instinct Resourcing's current office - York House, York Street, Manchester

Placing culture right at the centre of operations is not only the right thing to do but a proven and crucial strategy towards true business growth. It keeps staff retention high, encourages collaborative work, and keeps everyone driven towards the same goal - but more on that later.

As with most businesses, Instinct’s niche of operations wasn’t solely predetermined from the start, it was found along the way.

Back in 2011, online learning wasn’t the big deal that it is today. It was rather insignificant in the grand scheme of things and was very much overshadowed by the more encompassing world of digital technology, which is where Instinct began its journey.

But competing in this over-saturated market eventually proved counterproductive. Instinct, a start-up at the time, was competing against master vendors, who were operating on poor commercial terms in a skill-short market.

More specifically, clients across the wider eCommerce and Digital Marketing space offered unreliable market conditions to play with, such as the risk of going out of business during market changes, not paying invoices (even on 90-day payment terms), and generally unfavourable commercial arrangements.

A man working on a business plan

This continuous uncertainty helped Instinct to make what turned out to be the most business defining decision in the company's history.

Noticing the strong suit that kept clients coming back for more, in 2017 Instinct strategically reduced the overall service offering and went all-in on Digital Learning, dedicating their focus to a sole niche with a solid and strategic plan to win serious market share.

Though Instinct had specialised in eLearning and Digital Learning from day one, the clear cut-off provided one coherent message from the Instinct brand; that it only operates within the Learning and Digital Learning space, providing Learning Professionals on an interim, fixed-term, and permanent basis.

The niche was selected, the plan was laid out, and the rest was history.

10 years and 3,000+ candidate placements later, Instinct Resourcing reigns supreme as the UK’s leading learning recruitment agency with a 14-person expert team spanning across; resourcing, consulting, marketing, operations, and strategic business planning.

The Instinct Resourcing Specialist team of experts

10 Lessons for 10 Years

Reaching the 10-year milestone didn’t come without its fair share of ups and downs, but with them came invaluable lessons.

Company founders and Directors Mike Ward and Matt Owens have given their top 10 lessons learned over the 10 years since Instinct’s inception.

Matt Owens - Instinct Resourcing

1. A coherent business strategy is fundamental to any business venture


Quickly learned upon the inception of Instinct Resourcing, having a clear vision, and identifying a set of actionable objectives is paramount. The tides of change will always aim to sweep you off course, but with a destination in mind, determination will prevail. 


2. It’s never as bad (or good) as you think it is – consistency and balance is key


A notion applicable to both the business world and personal life. There are times to celebrate the highs and times to re-evaluate the lows, but the key to moving forwards is in the commitment to consistency.

The acceptance of both the good and bad to mediate a consistent level of progression (and happiness) is an age-old philosophy and is well-depicted in the Hedonic Treadmill:

3. Having a specialism is a vitally important differentiator - don’t try to be all things to all people


Finding your niche and fine-tuning your service offering will provide consistent clarity and respectable boundaries in terms of what you offer. Being a ‘yes man’ in business typically leads to being taken advantage of or even exploited. Specialising in your chosen field helps you block out what doesn’t work for you, and focus on exactly what does.


4. Making an informed decision and doing the right thing by your employees and customers is always the best approach in the long-term


Doing the “right” thing sounds easy, but it’s not always so clear cut. Sometimes there are initial (and usually temporary) repercussions when making a tough decision, but if you’ve thought it through and are confident that it’s the correct decision for either your employees or your customers, you’re on the right tracks.


5. Hire people for their attitude (and potential) over experience


Hard work and culture are two of the most important factors to have working in tandem. During our hiring processes, we appreciate experience, but the right positive attitude and promising potential wins out every day of the week.

Partnering these attributes with a person's fit for the culture and you're onto building a winning team.

Mike Ward - Director of Contract Recruitment


6. Cash is KING. Credit control is the most important part of any business operation


It’s ground-level advice. Without a strong grasp on Credit Control, you run the risk of missed or late payments, subsequent cash flow issues, and the inability to make correct financial projections.

Have a crystal-clear invoicing structure with strong communication channels to creditors to ensure payments are made promptly. Your business depends upon it.


7. Understand your financial & compliance obligations and keep on top of them


Whether it’s HMRC, Contractor Compliance, software subscriptions, insurances, or the ever-changing GDPR boundaries; it’s of the utmost importance to keep control of your financial obligations and keep up to date on compliance regulations.


8. Ensure everyone in the organisation understands their remit and is accountable for it


Accountability is key, but in order for members of the business to understand what they are accountable for, they must first fully understand their remit and boundaries of responsibility. This message should be relayed in regular one-to-ones and communicated with the wider team to ensure internal transparency of who is accountable for which part of the organisation.


9. Establishing a strong culture of high performance, reward and recognition is key to building harmony


Establishing a high-performance culture takes time and the first step is understanding what incentivises your employees, both across the wider team and individually. High-performance should be rewarded by both a sought-after incentive (commission, bonus scheme, etc) and recognition, leading towards personal development.


10. Leopards never change their spots. (No matter how much you might hope they can/will!)


A lesson often learned the hard way, but a lesson well-learned.

Understanding and accepting someone's inability to change is a crucial development in business that will save untold amounts of time and energy.


Looking Forward


Reaching our 10th-anniversary milestone left us with a very clear and shared consensus, and that is: we’re just getting started.

With the rapid shift towards remote learning and blended learning, the demand for L&D professionals via Instinct Resourcing has never been higher.

By learning from our own examples and practicing what we preach, we’re suitably positioned to respond to the demands of the Digital Learning world; starting with another internal recruitment drive and a heavy supply of focus towards the Higher Education and Healthcare sectors.