No time for nine till five

Neil Franklin has a glitzy lifestyle but he's worked hard for success in recruitment

Roger Trapp
Sunday 30 July 2000 00:00 BST

In many respects, Neil Franklin personifies the popular image of the free-wheeling entrepreneur. Tabloid newspapers have revelled in his taste for fast cars and exotic holidays.

In many respects, Neil Franklin personifies the popular image of the free-wheeling entrepreneur. Tabloid newspapers have revelled in his taste for fast cars and exotic holidays.

But Mr Franklin should not be dismissed as a playboy. In the words of the cliché, he did not get to be the head of a £39m-turnover business by sitting on a beach.

Indeed, it is hard to imagine a more demanding boss than the 36-year-old founder of the telecommunications recruitment agency Dataworkforce. "I've always woken up early," he says. "The first thing I do is call the office. I am in constant touch with everybody. I don't distinguish between my work and social life."

Mr Franklin is proud of the fact that Dataworkforce is a 24-hour operation. He points, for instance, to the telephone technology that pages out-of-hours calls to a series of mobile phones carried by employees.

This does not mean he feels staff should work all the time. "I try to teach people to take themselves away from their usual activities," he says, explaining that business ideas often come to him while he's on a beach or playing the drums that he keeps in his office as an aid to his "creative side".

Mr Franklin and the 60-odd people who work for him in offices in Bromley, Kent and in the new operation in Dallas, Texas understand that they are sandwiched between two different types of client: the companies they supply with engineers and the engineers themselves. As Mr Franklin says: "If you've got an engineer in China, you're always going to be out of hours."

And since the people he and his colleagues place in these jobs are often former services personnel taking on challenging roles in remote parts of the world at very little notice, they expect those responsible for putting them there to be similarly committed.

The difficulties involved in serving America from a place five time zones away have been addressed by the setting-up of the Dallas office, and for similar reasons Mr Franklin is examining possible new premises in Singapore or Malaysia.

He likes to say that he got into the business through a "sheer fluke". Back in the early 1990s, when he was working in the information technology recruitment sector, he received a call from an engineer who was looking for opportunities in the cellular field.

A natural salesman who had cut his teeth canvassing door-to-door for home improvements companies, Mr Franklin saw the chance to get into something new and invited the caller to send in his CV. The truth, of course, was that he knew little about a business which was then in its infancy. But he quickly set about filling in the gaps in his knowledge.

At the same time, he came up with the idea that he reckons sets Dataworkforce apart. Most recruitment companies, he says, are reactive in that they typically phone up other firms asking for vacancies and then set about filling them. He explains: "I thought, what if we do it the other way round - find well-qualified people and supply them to companies."

This proactive approach does not require the huge databases that traditional recruiters see as vital, but it does require a deep understanding of the people you are selling to. Dataworkforce staff are therefore encouraged to find out as much as possible about a company before calling.

This strategy certainly seems to have caught the imagination of the now-huge mobile communications world. Mr Franklin claims among his clients technology providers such as Lucent, Nortel and Nokia, and service operators and carriers including BT and WorldCom.

Despite the growth in the company, Mr Franklin is determined to keep the size of the offices to a minimum - not least, one suspects, because this enables him to claim phenomenal sales per square foot. He is also trying to persuade key staff to work from home using the latest technology.

"I think we'll all end up teleworking," he says. "It won't matter where you are."

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in