The History of Cummins Mellor Recruitment

The History of Cummins Mellor Recruitment


DSC_0273In February 1990, I was originally going to work on my own and call my business Richard Mellor Recruitment, which I did for the first 2 months. Somebody rang up one day and said “Hello, is that Richard Mellor’s Equipment?”.

A colleague from Alfred Marks, Debbie Roper (Nee Cooke) offered to invest £7,500.00 into the business and as I was skint, I gave her 40% of the shares and changed the name to Cooke & Mellor Recruitment. We thought about Roper & Mellor Recruitment but it didn’t exactly trip off the tongue and as a catering agency Cooke seemed to fit better anyway.

A few people have asked why I always come second in the company name – it’s simple. Cooke & Cummins both come early on in the alphabet. When you’re looking through the Yellow Pages, as we all did in those days, it makes sense to be near the beginning. Anyway, I’m not precious about my name being first, just being the best we can be.

I bought Debbie out after two years, we’re still friends – she and her husband now run a very successful shop fitting business out of Euxton near Chorley.

We moved out of my back bedroom after 3 years into the Gatehouse at GEC, opposite the Dunkenhalgh Hotel at Junction 7 on the M65. I had been looking out for offices for a while as it was a bit of a squash at home, but the deciding factor came when I was trying to tempt June Crossley, the banqueting co-ordinator from the Dunkenhalgh hotel, to come and work for me. “I will work for you” she said, “but not in that back bedroom!” I moved immediately and it was the best decision I have ever made. June is simply a star and joined us in 1993.

A year or two later a friend of mine called Stephen Grantham came to see me for a coffee on Christmas Eve. The staff had all gone home and we sat talking for ages. Steve had been my Deputy Manager at the Dunk but was promoted at the age of 19 to be General Manager of another hotel in the group in Kettering. He was really that good. A few years later he left and set himself up as a self employed stock-taker to the Hotel and Pub Industry. He was not a natural salesman and admitted it had taken him 2 years to get enough work to make a living wage. He wanted to know how to expand the business.

I said “take on another stock-taker”, he said “no, I can’t, I’ll have to give him half my jobs and then we’ll make no money at all. I’m rubbish at selling and it would be awful.”

I remembered a man I’d interviewed earlier in the week. ‘Sefton Wilkinson’ was a real professional caterer, probably in his 50’s. He’d been made redundant as an Area Manager for Compass Services and he needed a job and you could see in his eyes he didn’t think anyone would want him. I mentioned him to Steve, he lived over in Lytham, miles from Blackburn which was Steve’s patch. I said, “tell him to buy a laptop, load your software on it. Train him to do what you do on the Fylde Coast, charge him £100 a month for the privilege”. So he did and it worked and I think Sefton is still with Steve to this day.

Three months later, Steve came to see me again. We talked about expanding the idea all over the north. I invested £15,000, took 51% of the shares and we called the franchise Stocktake UK. We advertised the concept in the Caterer for £400 per week. “Why work 90 hours a week and get paid for 40 when you could use your skills and knowledge to become a stocktaker, work shorter hours, earn more money and be happy”. It did well.

Steve moved into the office next door and we sold franchises for fun and finding some unique ways of getting clients to make it easy for the franchisees who were not very ‘salesy’ either.

Steve bought me out in about 1998 and Stocktake UK is now the biggest independent Stocktaking company in the country. He’s done well, we’re still mates, we play golf together and I wish him all the best.

On the strength of this I set up a recruitment franchise called Apple Appointments with Nick Cummins (who’d now joined me in setting up Cummins Mellor Search), Ian Armriding (a franchise expert) and Nick Jones (our first recruitment franchisee). We sold 14 franchises altogether all over the country, they mostly did very well and some people made themselves a lot of money. It was fun and exciting and people enjoyed it, we took franchisees to places they never thought they could go.

In the end someone offered to buy Apple Appointments but the deal never went through. We’d been up front with the franchisees about the sale and it must have been unsettling for them, so in a bid to keep them happy, I gave them all the chance to buy the franchise back off me and over the next year they all did, bar one and we got twice the value.

As I mentioned, Nick Cummins had joined us now. Michelle and I had been for a meal one Friday night with Nick and Jean at Nutters Restaurant on the tops over Rochdale. During the meal Nick mentioned he’d like some help upgrading his CV. I asked why, he seemed to have everything, he was Sales Director for a hand and power tool company in Sheffield, nice car, good salary, BUPA, 2 kids in private school. He just said he’d had enough and wanted a change.

I asked him what is was like recruiting sales staff in his marketplace. He said it was terrible, he’d ring up some big name recruiters and all they did was fax over about a dozen CVs, most of which were hopeless and nothing like what he’d asked for. He had to do most of the work himself and when he complained they just sent him a raft more unsuitable CVs.

I asked him how big the market was, and if he felt there was room for a recruiter who did things the right way, who listened to his customers needs, understood they market and the clients requirements. He said of course there was. We established that salaries ranged between £20,000 and £100,000. When I told him what fees he could charge for finding these super sales people, his eyes lit up.

On Monday he went to Sheffield and handed his notice in. He arrived at my office at about noon and told me what he’d done. I was dumbstruck. I thought he’d give it a bit more thought and do a bit more planning before he decided to be a Recruitment Consultant, but Cummins Mellor Search was born.

Nick was good. He studied, listened and trained hard and started billing immediately. I remember once hearing him tell a client who had already drawn up a final shortlist, that he had one name missing and it was the man who was sitting in front of him right then. Of course, Nick’s candidate was excellent and he got the interview and got the job.

Another client had cleverly written his advert using Horse Racing Terminology, “the runners and riders, no falling at the first fence, first passed the finishing post”, you get the picture. Nick wrote to them in similar vein. He introduced “his favourite candidate, a fine filly (he wouldn’t get away with that now), a work horse with the power to win”. The client rang him, told him he was cheeky but the lady got an interview and of course she got the job.

We eventually worked out a deal to join the two companies together so Cooke & Mellor and Cummins Mellor Search became Cummins Mellor Recruitment. Nick became sales director and I was MD – business boomed. We moved out of the Gatehouse and into Milnshaw House, Whalley Road, which we now own.

A few years later I decided to take a sabbatical, we employed a new MD and I worked from home and set up another franchise called “The Recruitment Set Up Company”. I started from scratch, re-wrote the manual, put together the full stationery pack and devised a detailed training plan. When I started to sell the product I did well and sold 6 in the first year.

However the new MD wasn’t working out so I went back to CMR after 9 months and took over the company again. I had to sort out a lot of problems.

We went from strength to strength and business was good fun, working with your best mate and wife is great, life doesn’t get much better.

Nick wanted to open an office in Rochdale where he lived, he felt there was a big market and it was near to Manchester too, so we did it and things went really well. Nick and his wife Jean, along with Fiona McDonald (a stalwart of CMR) ran the Rochdale office and Michelle and I looked after Accrington.

We then employed an Operations Director called Taryn Hindle to bring sales and professionalism to the company. She had her own business called Wilkinson Hindle which found Recruiters and Consultants for Recruitment Agencies (Rec 2 Rec). So that came on board too and was added to our portfolio.

In 2005 I offered to buy Nicks shares off him. His kids were now working and he’d always dreamed of setting up a Lawn Improvement business so he jumped at the chance. The day we decided on the price I went up to his house on the moors above Rochdale. It was gloomy and raining, Nick made us coffee and bacon butties and we sat at his kitchen table. He asked for something ridiculous and I offered something silly but within 5 minutes we’d shaken hands and the deal was done. I went back to the office and he’s hardly been back since.

I had to re-finance the business to pay him and do all the Due Diligence, it was a massive job. I paid Nick a lump sum and then monthly payments for the next 5 years until the debt was finally paid off on April 1, 2011. God it was hard, especially through the recession starting in October 2008.

We were really honest with all the staff about the state of play at that time and we reduced the head count from 30 down to 17 at one point, but not one person was made redundant. Everyone had another job to go to and we placed two people ourselves and got paid a fee!

As I write we are back to 26 staff with a couple more on the way soon. We were pleased to be in the Top 100 most profitable SME’s in Lancashire in 2011 and the only recruitment company to appear on the list.

Michelle has taken over as Operations Director and at the age of 18 we promoted the excellent Alice Wrigley to Assistant Manager of our successful DBS checks division – Personnel Checks. We started this desk in the depths of the recession with one person who had already been with me for 10 years then. There are now 8 people working in that department and it’s growing like topsy.

We’re always looking out for more opportunities. Our Relief Chef Division under the guidance of June Crossley is simply superb, as I write this she has literally hundreds of chefs working in restaurants, pubs and hotels. She interviews them, thoroughly reference checks them and if they don’t tow the line they are out. She will only employ the best, hence our excellent reputation and repeat business. Along with her team of 6 they also find dozens of people permanent jobs in the Hotel and Catering Industry too.

Helen Jackson leads the Commercial team supplying office and industrial staff across East Lancashire.

I am surrounded by strong women who can all be difficult, but I love them all and wouldn’t have it any other way. This is a people business and we have great people. All positive, all enthusiastic, and all successful.

We have a term here which we all understand. If we think someone has got what it takes to succeed, if they are bright, hardworking and ambitious, whether or not they work for us, we call them a ‘Cummins Mellor Person’.

I think that says it all!

Richard Mellor.