Kinexus turns 20 this year. A lot has changed since we began. We started with two desks in a shared office and we now have 45 people across four offices. Change is the only constant over the last 20 years and I can share some insight into this journey – into why it began and what has got it to where it is now.
Starting a business
Determine your driving force
My father owned two Indian restaurants, and I spent most of my formative years working in them. Whilst I didn’t know it at the time, it played a big part in having an owner’s mindset, even when I was an employee.
As a business owner, what gets me up in the morning is creating a vehicle for opportunity and fostering career development. At Kinexus I get to do that with the internal team and externally with our recruitment services. Where Kinexus was initially an opportunity to ‘run my own show’, it quickly grew into an opportunity for me to pass on my experience to others.
Helping people make the most of this opportunity is where the energy in the business comes from and where I derive most enjoyment – there is nothing more rewarding than watching a person go from a trainee to becoming an expert in what they do.
Initially we identified a huge gap in the market; there was no recruitment agency supporting the defence sector. Once we identified our niche, our passion became supporting the Australian defence industry, and in turn, Australia’s national sovereignty.
We were the first defence industry specific recruiter in Australia and have dedicated ourselves to building a culture and a level of expertise that doesn’t exist anywhere else. We do this in many ways, including combining ex-ADF personnel, reservists and technical recruiters who have a passion for the industry they serve.
We have tried to maintain our sense of entrepreneurship through diversification of industries, products and services. Reinventing ourselves as we grow is a key factor in staying relevant. We are fortunate that we are in an industry that has continued to support us especially during these unusual times.
Hire the right people
When you hire a great employee, they bring talent to the table and can elevate the existing team to a new level. Ironically, in the early years, I was significantly better at hiring for my clients than for Kinexus, which was costly and time consuming.
We calculated that each hire that didn’t work out could cost our business as much as $100,000, especially considering the time it takes to induct people in the first three months. This has made us especially empathetic to SMEs in our sector, as each hire can make such a difference. At Kinexus we now make a big investment in hiring through having a dedicated recruiter, psychometric testing and “meet the team” as part of the recruitment process.
Making the correct hire is a vital first step, but training and nurturing the growth of new talent is the next pillar. Over the years, our focus has been to take people transitioning from the ADF or engineering trades and teach them recruitment the Kinexus way. In acknowledgement of the time, investment and resources it takes to hire a new person, we made the decision to appoint an internal Training Manager who supports those who join Kinexus and facilitates their success.
If I had to pick one element of this journey that gives me the most pride, it is the contribution that Kinexus has made to the careers and lives of all current and former employees. As an immigrant to the UK in 1972, with nothing but a suitcase and then subsequently an immigrant to Australia in 1999, I have been afforded many opportunities. Sharing those opportunities with people who join Kinexus is part of my DNA.
Growing a business
Equity vs income
An important question to ask yourself is, do you want to grow the worth of your business, or focus on maximising profits and income?
Increasing the worth of the business is really about robustness and stability. There will be certain points on your business journey where you’ll be forced to make investment decisions, as growing the business will require longer term investments in staff, systems, offices, and infrastructure.
It took me 10 years to return to an income level that was equivalent to the salary I was earning prior to starting a business.
Growing a business is a marathon not a sprint. Kinexus started in a recession, and the business needed to adapt to changing economic and political conditions that were beyond our control. My best advice is to maintain a level of personal financial security that allows you to make decisions for the long term. As a broad indication, I always worked to the axiom of being able to live (frugally) for 12 months if push came to shove.
I was made redundant from my previous role, started a business, got married and had kids all within 18 months of each other - I would probably advise against that level of transformation in such a short period.
When I first started the business, self-care was a hippy colloquialism. I was taught in the school of “work-hard play-hard.” Running a business can place significant pressures on you. The stress, the highs, the lows, the wins, the losses, the near misses all take their toll. I didn’t take into account my inherent nature and I have come very close to losing a great deal of what is important to me.
I am lucky enough to have a great team around me both at Kinexus and in my personal life that have got me through difficult times. Adapting my lifestyle to incorporate exercise, meditation and reflection over rumination are the beginning of my next iteration.
Successful business planning should include an understanding of your character traits, ones that will serve you and the areas you need to work on.
One of our cultural values at Kinexus is to Evolve. I constantly strive to update my knowledge, skills and expertise and extend that to the wider team. I learnt early that a business can never outpace its leadership, so reading, learning and staying relevant is vital to me.
We reached out to a management consulting company very early in our formative years. This was expensive and unusual for a small company, but I firmly believe that this understanding of how a business operates helped us double in size. We now meet quarterly with both business advisors and market experts that help shape our ongoing thinking.
Starting a business is analogous to having a child. At first, it's daunting, demanding, and takes an incredible amount of patience and nurturing. At the beginning it is very much a day-to-day existence. However as time goes on, the challenges change and your role grows to be more about coaching and supporting than directing. Parenting and leading a business are both incredibly stressful at times, but both also extremely rewarding – with both hopefully going on to create a lasting legacy.
What would I do differently?
Kinexus is a defence industry focused recruitment company. We support the Commonwealth, primes, SMEs and consultancies by providing them with security-cleared engineering and ICT workers. We also support adjacent industries where workers have complimentary skills. For more information on what Kinexus do, visit our website. If you’re interested in a career within defence or an adjacent industry, reach out to our staff, they’re always happy to chat.