The Jobg8 Summit Interview Series – Lee Biggins

I’ve known Lee for many years and, as a keynote speaker at the European Job Board Summit 2013, I was interested not just to hear his views on building and running a job board business but also how he sees key management issues and what still keeps “keeps him awake at night”.

Lee’s back ground and how he set CV Library up is also not the conventional one, as you will see. Lee was not one of those publishing or recruitment consultancy guys like I was prior to joining Totaljobs.com. Lee was a carpet fitter, working for his Dad’s business down in Fleet. He and his friends thought that it was odd that, as a job seeker, you had to send your CV to lots of companies when applying for a job, rather than a company come to one place where all the CVs sat in a searchable library… the birth of CV Library.

He admitted that when he set it up he had done no research, didn’t know until after the launch that such a thing as job boards existed BUT as a job seeker Lee knew that something was “wrong” and he had a idea that could fix it.

I must confess that those of us in the industry at that time suffered from elements of “analysis paralysis” and fear of “what we have to protect” as opposed to a “let’s solve a problem” and focus on the candidate.

I asked Lee why he wanted to launch an internet business. “Simple I saw the opportunity of the web, I saw the opportunity to be “global” and I liked the idea of being able to run the business from any location  in the world… plus it seemed fun and cool”. He did also mentioned that he thought it was “the place to make money”…How right he was!

But, as Lee points out, “it was not all plain sailing, it actually took three years before the site started to generate real money, yes we got CVs from day one, and yes we had a great search engine which was one of the “best in market” but generating revenue took time”.  So Lee decided for a time to become a recruitment consultant and kept running CV Library as well. This gave Lee a better understanding of the industry from a real world perspective, not a R&D academic one.

The CV database built steadily through 2002/3 and revenue grew slowly with more recruitment consultancies signing up, job volumes increasing, traffic on the up and the database growth was accelerating. For Lee the breakthrough point came late 2003 with the move to online payments and a focus on sales.  They moved into their first offices at a similar time.

This visual below shows the history:

lee-biggins

So fast forward to today, revenues are growing substantially year on year: the CV Library database is 7+ million, the headcount is now 75 people – 5 of them focused on marketing -, new tech being rolled out… all sounds great BUT I asked Lee what keeps him awake at night. “Great question and not a lot” was Lee’s initial reply then a big smile and he answered “ first and foremost staff, I’m now responsible for 75 people and that for me is a serious responsibility and as many of those reading this will know people management issues are tough. We now have staff turnover and I take losing great talent hard but also enjoy seeing those same people develop”.

Next for Lee is the tech stuff: “we need to be consistently looking at what we do, what our job seekers want/expect and we can’t ignore the competition”. He confessed that he looks at sites such as Indeed and yes he worries but at the same time he will continue to acquire traffic from them.

Today he worries less about revenue, keeps a close eye on costs and any investment in expansion is well thought through and executed with the same approach as when they launched: keep it tight and grow as the opportunity is proven. But Lee confessed he gets a huge buzz developing new products and he has one on the table that’s really exciting him, Resume Library….more soon on that launch.

I asked Lee what advice he would give anyone considering launching a job board today. His first statement was “job boards are not dead, they will evolve and are for a long time to come a fundamental part of the recruiting mix”. He added “recruitment consultancies equally are not dead and will continue to attract candidates”… Strong stuff, but what about launching a job board? A much tougher question, his answers were:

  1. Don’t launch without serious investment – it will take time and therefore funding.
  2. Spend only what you can afford to lose.
  3. Ideas don’t generate traffic.
  4. You have to have an audience first before you can generate revenue.

I next asked Lee his Top Tips for any recruiter to get the best from a job board:

  1. Understand your audience and where they are.
  2. Which job boards work for you and/or your competitors and understand why they work – what are your competitors doing and then copy/learn from them.
  3. How does the job board CV search works? Each board is different so understand the one you are about to use.
  4. Think and act like a candidate, search on Google and play with different search terms.

Finally, with all the negativity about job boards, I asked Lee to pitch why they won’t die anytime soon:

  1. Despite what anyone says, it is relatively easy to find a job – job searching works.
  2. Create a well crafted job posting and it will get found.
  3. Job seeking can be horrible BUT in my view job boards do make it easier. Plus, job seekers are not that good at job searching, using “social media” when looking for a job. Yes there are improvements but the 80/20 rule applies and at CV Library we focus on the 80% who don’t do it so well.
  4. This is a multi million pound industry and is data rich so it’s about evolution and new opportunities.

Finally a great line: “Keep it Simple Stupid – KISS”; millions of job seekers come to job boards every day we just have make sure we deliver them jobs and opportunities.

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