Our, ’Ten Minutes With,’ series of interviews gives businesses the opportunity to tell us how they’ve adapted in response to the Covid-19 crisis, what their experiences have been and as we learn to live alongside the virus, what their plans are for business in the future.
This week we’re talking to Birmingham based Wendy Merricks, founder and Chief Executive of the Jumar Group which incorporates Jumar Recruitment and Jumar Technology.
How would you describe yourself in five words?
Tell us about your business?
I founded the Jumar Group more than 20 years ago to provide our clients with the technology and technical expertise to achieve their business goals.
Jumar encompasses two companies – Jumar Technology and Jumar Recruitment. We work nationally and internationally and have offices in Manchester, Birmingham and Sydney.
The Technologies side of the Group focusses on helping companies with their digital transformation through the use of existing and new technology. The Recruitment side specialises in helping companies recruit high quality IT professionals and teams, to fit their specific staffing needs. We actually have access to more than 1000 associates to support our clients with their projects and more than 100 employees working in five continents.
What did you do before launching your business?
Between 1981 and 1999 I worked in IT recruitment as a consultant. The last company was sold to another big organisation and the culture changed. I felt like there were no opportunities as a woman to progress.
I didn’t want to be part of a culture where it was all about the money and there was no chance to move up the career ladder so I decided to set up on my own. A lot of my former clients followed me, and I’ve grown the business since there.
Tell us about your background?
I was brought up in a working-class family, in inner city Birmingham and we had no money whatsoever. No-one went to university. In fact, my two sons will be the first of the family to actually go.
I looked at my Mum’s life and knew I didn’t want the struggle she faced. I wanted to be successful and not have to rely on anyone to earn money. That was my main driver.
Over the years that independence and drive has made me extremely competitive and I’m lucky – I’ve now got a great lifestyle and I own a company I’m proud of.
Money’s no longer my driver though. I think that was born out of necessity. Now I love winning new clients and getting new business across the line. That’s what I enjoy the most.
What advice do you have for companies during this time?
I’d say listen to your clients, stakeholders and staff. The world is a very strange place at the moment, and we’ve all had to adapt to make business work.
We sent a survey out to staff a few weeks ago asking what their feelings were on coming back and working in the office. They told us they wouldn’t feel confident yet, so we’ve listened to that feedback. We’ve got no plans to re-open the offices until our staff feel safe and ready to do so. When they do return we’ll be doing all we can to support them and make office working safe and comfortable.
How have you been coping in lockdown?
Other than missing people we’ve not been able to see, my personal experience has been really positive.
Before lockdown I’d leave the house at 7:30am and often not get home until 9pm, a lot of the time working seven days a week.
It’s meant I’ve been able to have quality time with my husband and two sons and we’ve really got closer as a family.
I’m the fittest I’ve been in 30 years as I’ve had time to exercise. I’ve lost 17 pounds (so far) and am walking 5kms every day, working out and eating healthily instead of grabbing food on the go. It’s been life changing and I won’t be going back to how it was before.
From a business perspective the sales cycle slowed which has affected our growth plans. Our turnover will stay roughly the same as last year as a direct result of Covid-19. Profit’s increased though because we haven’t got as many overheads. Our existing customers have been fantastic – they’ve all paid us on time which has been great.
Have you learnt anything about yourself?
The situation’s taught me to trust my leadership team, to trust in my relationships with them and empower them to make decisions.
I’ve certainly learnt that flexible working can and does work. The lockdown has seen so many of our staff juggling work alongside home-schooling and childcare. They couldn’t have done their jobs without having the flexibility to work around other commitments and it’s worked really well. It’s just a shame it took Covid-19 to make me realise how beneficial flexible working is.
Our team have been fully committed to delivering during lockdown so my trust in the entire team has skyrocketed which has definitely changed me as a leader for the better.
Are you going to do anything differently?
We certainly won’t be operating like we did before.
There will be more emphasis on flexible working and less time spent physically in the office or travelling to meetings, that can be done on-line instead.
What are your plans for the future?
We’re re-evaluating who we are and what we do and fine-tuning our operations with a real emphasis on the strong track record we have in the financial services and government sectors.
We’ve hired new salespeople and there will be a real push to grow the business further. We’ve got lots of plans to celebrate out 21st birthday in 2021 so I’m looking forward to that.
And finally, if you didn’t own the Jumar Group what would your dream job have been?
I always wanted to be a chef as growing up I absolutely loved cooking. I actually got a place at the College of Food and Arts but unfortunately couldn’t go because Mum just couldn’t afford it. I went to the job centre and was offered a job in IT and the rest as they say is history.
If you’d like to be one of our, ‘Ten Minutes With,’ interviewees find out more by dropping us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.