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The Resilient Recruiter

Jun 26, 2020

If you have ambitions to scale your staffing business, it’s important to understand both the opportunities and challenges involved. Even if you don’t plan to grow a huge recruitment business, I suspect you’ll learn a lot from my special guest, Gerard Koolen. 

Gerard is the owner of Lugera, a multinational recruiting and staffing agency operating in 9 countries in 30 offices with 400 internal staff. In this interview, he shares the highs and lows of his entrepreneurial journey that lead to building a €130M Staffing Business.

Gerard holds nothing back and Gerard reveals his strategies, mindset and philosophy of investing in both people and technology.

Episode Outline and Highlights

  • [2:56] Two key factors that lead to Lugera becoming the #1 agency in its area
  • [4:44] How and why Gerard started a recruitment company
  • [12:00] The benefits of doing business in Eastern Europe
  • [15:17] The challenges and pitfalls of growing fast
  • [20:50] When is the right time to expand your recruitment business?
  • [25:40] How to inspire incredible staff loyalty
  • [28:20] Growing through acquisition - hear strategies that worked
  • [35:40] The value of investing in technology
  • [44:04] Gerard shares the biggest lesson learned in his career

Marrying Recruitment and Technology

Gerard is a firm believer that innovation is key and sees the value of HR technology, especially with his own staff. Instead of focusing on repetitive tasks, technology helps his sales staff to focus on selling. As he puts it: “Technology helps us to do much more than without technology. We really learned the great lesson that when you are in recruitment, even if you have so many great people working for you, help them with great technology.”

A great example that Gerard shared in our conversation is how he came about developing STAA, or Sales and Talent Acquisition Application. Nobody in Silicon Valley wanted to invent the technology to cater to the idea Gerard was presenting, and so he was forced to have it developed on their own. After spending more than €1.5M and 4 to 5 years of development, it finally went live. What was the result? In Ukraine alone, they were able to triple the number of placements. 

Increasing Employee Loyalty 

Back in 2009, Gerard was forced to let go of 100 employees in Romania due to the economic crisis. The next day, it was amazing 30 people came back, saying that they still want to help and they will work for free. They were eventually rehired, and because of their help, they were able to maintain their revenue. What created such loyalty in the team members that they were willing to work for free? This is what Gerard said:

“We are not in it for the money. We are in it for helping people. We really like what we do. Although we are professionals and we need to get paid, but we are there for our people, for the candidates, for the clients. That is why people love to work with us.” 

Gerard Koolen Bio and Contact Info

Gerard is the owner of Lugera, a multinational recruiting and staffing agency. Gerard started Lugera in Slovakia in 1996 and is now operating in 9 countries in 30 offices with 400 internal staff. Lugera is focused on Permanent Staffing, Temporary Staffing, Payroll & Outsourcing generating revenue of 130M. Gerard is crazy about helping as many people as we possibly can with a better job. He is help driven, he thinks that innovation is key and is a front-runner in innovative HR technology.

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