One of the region's most successful recruitment companies is expanding. Heather Barron finds out more

A SUCCESSFUL business depends, not only on maintaining your place in a competitive market, but moving forward as well. You can’t rest on your laurels in an increasingly fast-changing market, you have to be looking to the future and supplying what your customer demands.

With this is mind – and having reached the milestone of a successful fifth anniversary in business earlier this year – Darlington-based Whurk Recruitment is expanding the team by bringing in specialists to offer an even better service to their customers.

Founder and proprietor, Laura Claughan, recognised that customers had a particular requirement for quality engineering employees, as well as temporary staff in all areas. She has focused on providing them with what they need by employing specialists in both fields.

“I had seen a gap in the market for skilled staff, both locally and around the North East, and I knew this was an area I could help both employers and employees, whilst also growing my own business,” said Laura. “The North East is a major engineering industry area, so I realised that we needed to strengthen our engineering offer.

Enter engineering specialist, Phil Wake, as the newest member of the team. He joined in August with four years’ experience in the engineering and construction recruitment industry, and will be using his expertise to match employers and employees.

Phil has already been busy forging links with customers in the area, and will be leading the Whurk stand at EMCON – previously the Durham Oktoberfest - at the Xcel Centre in Newton Aycliffe on October 18 - the annual showcase event for Engineering and Manufacturing excellence in the North-East.

The senior management has been boosted with the appointment, in April, of Nicola Kirton, who joins as Operations Manager and brings with her a strong background in temporary recruitment. With 13 years’ experience, Nicola will be driving this area as part of the overall growth plan.

“There is a great need for skilled temporary workers in the area,” says Laura, “and we want to meet that need through Whurk. We can recruit part-time, full-time or long-term temporary staff – whatever the employer is looking for. Whether they need someone just for tomorrow, or if they want someone for a number of weeks, or even months.

“Recruiting temporary staff is a specialism in itself, and I needed someone to take the pressure off me. Nicola has all the attributes and experience to make a great success of this area of the business, and provide companies with quality, short-term employees.”

This is graphically demonstrated by the relationship the business has built with Labone, a leading UK plastic injection moulding and assembly company based in Consett. Having secured such an important contract, Whurk opened an office on the company’s site last year.

“Labone needs temporary labour every day, so it made sense to have an office on-site from where we could work closely with one of our key clients and fully understand their recruitment needs,” explains Laura.

Laura and her team of “Whurkmates” have come a long way since she began her career as an admin assistant with a North-East recruitment agency in 2004.

“I just wanted to get out there and start earning a living,” she recalls. “I didn’t want to go to university, I just wanted to start building a career as soon as possible.”

 Laura, who hails from Willington, readily confesses to being “nosey” and she wanted to find out as much as possible about how the agency worked, from top to bottom. She immersed herself in the business, soaking up knowledge, and within a year she’d been elevated to a “commercial recruiter”.

Right from the beginning, she loved finding the right employees to match her customers’ needs. For Laura, it was never enough simply to fill a vacancy – she gauged success by making sure the person recruited was the perfect fit for the employer.

It is an approach that remains with her today.

“We try to help our customers by looking at more innovative methods of finding the right staff for them,” she says. “We will head-hunt, and we’ll use social media to find exactly the right person. We aim to deliver recruitment solutions that are a bit different. Our customers can rely on us to be both pro-active and reactive to meet their needs.”

Inevitably, the day came when she felt ready to launch her own company on Aycliffe Business Park in April 2013.

“I’d already worked on the business park so I knew the customer base, and the time just felt right to go it alone,” she says.

A quirky, memorable name was required and it’s not easy finding something that hasn’t already been taken amongst the 16,000-plus recruitment companies in the UK alone. Originally, her business was going to be called “Wurk” until a Google check revealed the word had rather risqué connotations in America. The letter ‘h’ was swiftly added and Whurk Recruitment was born with three staff and a “sink or swim” attitude.

By December 2015, her fledgling company had outgrown its base in Aycliffe, the head-count was up to five staff, and the “whurk-load” was going through the roof.

A bigger, self-contained office was needed and Laura set her heart on a pretty, cobbled street in Darlington town centre, called Post House Wynd. It suited the company’s outlook: quirky, different, and appealing.

“It was just a really nice location and the footfall was also strong because people use it as a short-cut through the town centre,” explains Laura.

The Darlington offices were opened for business in January 2016 and the company has continued to grow, adding to the number of customers and developing a reputation for getting results. Phil and Nicola join the original staff of six, with a client base of 72 companies, from small firms to multi-national operations.

So, what do the next five years have in store for Whurk Recruitment? Well, there are plans for a third office to be opened, probably somewhere in Tyne and Wear, and Laura is aiming for a period of consistent growth.

“An awful lot has happened in a short time but we are firmly established now so it’s about building steadily,” says Laura, although there are no plans to grow beyond the North-East.

“I’ve seen recruitment agencies that have expanded so fast that they’ve lost their identity and I don’t want that to happen. I’m from the North-East and I want to keep that connection and personal service that’s so important to us.

“We’re a strong team on an on-going journey, and I want Whurk to offer the best recruitment consultants in the area for customers.”

To find out more go to www.whurk.co.uk