For someone who hadn’t yet heard of the internet while sitting in his first university lecture in 1995, Zimbabwe-born entrepreneur Tudor Marsden-Huggins has certainly made up for lost time.
After starting his first business in while at university, Marsden-Huggins is now managing director of the international recruitment company Employment Office, which he co-founded in 1999.
“From the first year of uni I got much more interested in business and actually doing something in a bit of a new world,” he says.
Marsden-Huggins says his work ethic came from the difficulties he witnessed in Zimbabwe.
“I think that when you live in the third world, to some extent you have to make a plan, work things out, and with things like the political regime there you have to go overseas and that, in a small way, probably leads to people starting businesses,” he says.
However, he went to university unsure of what career path he wanted to take, and enrolled in an Arts degree. It was his introduction to the internet here that sparked the idea for his first entrepreneurial effort.
“I really dived quite deep into it, and was really captivated by it at the time,” he says.
“I think that led to getting involved in technologies and systems, and ultimately the graphic design and printing business.”
In turn, Employment Office was created out of Marsden-Huggins’ frustration at the different recruitment processes he tried while employing for his printing business.
He first tried recruiting on his own, but came out of the experience discouraged about how hard it was to manage the process. This led him to a recruitment agent, which had him feeling ripped off.
These experiences, which were “poles apart”, left Marsden-Huggins trying to come up with a solution that fell in between the two – and Employment Office was born.
He admits that at first, success wasn’t easy to come by.
“It was a new product and a new approach…it takes a long time to get credibility when it’s a new concept, so it grew very slowly,” says Marsden-Huggins.
“About five or six years ago we realised we had the credibility, the market, and the right business model, and once we had that we decided to really stick to it and work on moving out of the entrepreneurial phase and moving into a disciplined growth phase.”
This disciplined growth came when Flight Centre purchased a 50 percent share of Employment Office in 2008, with the company then seeing steady growth of about 24 percent each year since.
The company now has offices in Canada and is in the process of opening in four more locations overseas, as well as in each Australian capital city.
Driving a good work/life balance has also been on the agenda at Employment Office, with Marsden-Huggins implementing several charity initiatives in the office.
Now in its third year, the Tour de Office, which sees staff ride a stationary bike in the office for 30 minutes at a time, has raised over $45 000 for various charities.
“We also found an amazing engagement with our customers through that. They would come in and ride the bike and bond with us, which caught us by surprise,” says Marsden-Huggins.
The fundraiser is being expanded this year, with over 20 other workplaces taking part.
For Marsden-Huggins, it’s all part of the Employment Office ethos of developing staff and leadership.