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Interview with Nigel and Sara Hughes

The husband and wife team share their thoughts on rebranding and positioning their recruitment business amidst the context of Covid.

By Nicola Harris | Digital Consultant

Tell us a little bit about Hughes.

N: Following an established career in Retail operations, I set up Nigel D Hughes Ltd when I left Bunnings in 2018. The company had just announced a restructure and I saw an opportunity to go out on a limb and start my own business. It's something I've wanted to do ever since my days at Sainsbury's many years ago. A colleague of mine at that time set up a headhunting business and hasn‘t looked back since. I often thought, I could do that... and whilst it took me a few years to gather the confidence to take the plunge I had to wait for the right time. Here we are, 3 years later in the midst of a pandemic, with my wife who is now also my business partner.

What are your roles in the company?

N: I'm Founder and Managing Director. I use my network to search for candidates and interview applicants for the Retail and Trade roles that our clients place with us. I also offer coaching and interview services to our candidates.

S: I'm responsible for the Operations and Marketing side of the business ensuring that the back office runs smoothly and lead on business support roles. I organise the booking facilities through our website and will be running our marketing campaigns and social media accounts.

Sara, describe how you came to join the family business and your position in Hughes today.

S: When Covid hit last year I was working for the NHS as a programme manager with East Kent Hospitals Finance Department. Suddenly everything was thrown into the air and my normal role effectively no longer existed. With the impact the pandemic had on jobs universally I saw that I could be of more help to Nigel by fielding the increase in candidate enquiries he was receiving. Once we started working together we took the opportunity like many businesses, to review how Covid was affecting us and whether we should make any changes. Your support at that juncture, Nicky, was massively important to us, as our friendly marketing guru. We initially carried out a study under your guidance and you helped us see how we were positioned alongside other independent recruitment companies in the marketplace. I think it clicked at that point how green we were in the ways of digital marketing, what the business' online presence should look like and what we could be offering candidates to provide them with greater support. Up until then our clients had always been at the forefront of the marketing strategy. Nigel agreed for me to update his existing website and the momentum for a stronger strategy and social marketing presence gradually gathered pace.

How did the re-branding idea come about?

S: I got in touch with someone I knew to ask them if they'd do an interview with me for a section of the blog we’re planning. How people within our network got to where they are today, to shine a light on talented individuals who inspire us and who may be able to inspire others in the process of navigating their way through to their chosen career. Colin is a graphic designer at Lucid and as we subsequently realised is somewhat of an expert in Brand Strategy. At the same time we approached him, he was looking to trial a new process from Strategyzer that can be applied to any organisation, to develop brand strategy. We spoke about how Covid had impacted our businesses, the interview took a back seat and we agreed to be his guinea pigs. In exchange, he agreed to design our new brand and website. I'm fairly sure we were on the better end of the bargain! It's taken us a while to build the website that Colin designed due to homeschooling and the recent lockdown, but we've come out the other side and are so grateful for all his effort and expertise.

What does the re-brand mean for Hughes?

N: We feel our new look reflects our values and our intention to help the people we support to achieve their goal - either to build a career they want or to find the people they need. We're now trading by the name of Hughes which conveys that we are a family business, and we have focussed the services we provide to candidates. I believe this will enable us to build an even stronger pool of talent to draw from on behalf of our clients, which will strengthen our offer within an increasingly evolving marketplace. I also feel confident that our re-branding will resonate as much with our established customers as to those we are yet to meet.

What can your candidates and clients expect from working with you?

S: We intend for candidates applying for a role through us to feel even more supported and understand that if they are shortlisted they will receive free coaching, interview practice, help to prepare for a presentation if required and CV support as standard. We will also be offering these to candidates who may not be applying through us but who would like to benefit from these services. Our clients will continue to receive a responsive service, excellent communication and a business partner style relationship. They can also be assured that they will benefit from a pool of guaranteed high quality talent.

What more can we see from Hughes in the future?

N: We'd like to expand the online career coaching and interview practice that I offer and build a community through our social channels. Where people can support and take inspiration from each other, gain insight into how to develop different leadership behaviours, or share their experiences of company culture and working practices. We're very excited about what the future holds and are really looking forward to helping more people progress with their desired careers, and supporting clients to find the wonderful people that we know are out there waiting to take their business to the next level.

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