We know a thing or two about starting a business, we also have quite a bit experience of the Events Industry as a whole. We've pooled all our knowledge together to bring you our Definitive Guide to Starting a Staffing Agency.
Starting from scratch is hard. Our own journey took many twists and turns to get where we are now, and we wanted to share all that knowledge we gained with you. In this guide, you will find a mix of unmissable information, personal experience, some useful planning tools, as well as insights from industry experts.
Find what you love to do, you’ll never work a day in your life, so they say. But we say BS! It is work. Hard work. But invest your time, your patience, do your research, be prepared to bend along the way and you'll have the best chance of success long-term.
The very first step is to really think about why you want to start this business? What kind of agency do you want to be? The more time you spend nailing this down the easier it will be when you're feeling overwhelmed. Setting out these initial goals are important as they will keep you on track.
You want to start your own event staffing agency before you start to check that you can tick all the things on this list:
Do you want to provide the best brand ambassadors specifically for tech? Do you want to corner the market in retail promotions? Do you want to be the go-to agency for aerial dancers, fire eaters and other alternative performers? Do you want to specialise in top-quality hospitality? Whatever your focus, make sure you define it by asking yourself:
Who are you and who are you doing this for?
You've focused your idea but made allowance for flexibility, you've made sure you have the actual credentials to get started, and you've run your idea passed your peers. Before you do anything else and start dream-spending the fruits of your future successes, you need a reality check. You need to write a business plan, do some research and ask some really tough questions
The best thing you can do for yourself right now is to write a business plan. There are tons of templates and examples out there but we found the Business Model Canvas to be the best.
Created by Alexander Osterwalder, of Strategyzer, the Business Model Canvas is a brilliantly designed tool to help you get to grips with your business plan. When used to its full potential it will give insights into the clients you serve, how your company makes money and what value propositions are offered through what channels. You can also use it to help check out the competition and understand their business model.
Straightforward and structured, the business model canvas describes how an organisation creates, delivers and captures value. It’s a shared language for describing, visualising, assessing and changing business models, broken down into 9 sections:
Does anyone want what you're selling, that is really market research in a nutshell. It's important to know your market and understand the reasons consumers will buy your product/use your service - or not! Things to consider are what influences their behaviour - these can be societal, cultural or personal.
Things to think about and consider: in your market research:
This is all really important information for investors.
Identify who they are, who are their clients? What are their rates? How do they market themselves? Consider their brand and design values. Check out their media and their social. Pick one to emulate and one to avoid
Seems simple but where are you going to be based? From home? From one specific location/city? From space? Pinpoint this, and professionalise your workspace. Will there be any setup costs? Will you have equipment costs? All of these things will affect your bottom line so need to be considered.
Know your margins. What are they? What are your expectations? How do you predict and calculate them? You'll need an idea of the sales forecast, create an expense budget, generate income projections, consider assets and liabilities. All of these will affect your gross margin (company's net sales revenue minus the cost of goods sold).
Or otherwise known as Branding and Positioning!
By now you have thought long and hard about your business idea, solidified it with a business model canvas, you've researched and checked out your market, decided where you will be based and have some estimates around expected margins.
Now for some more creative stuff: Branding. Branding is incredibly important and should be seen as an investment. We go over the basics of what you should consider when it comes to branding and positioning.
Your brand is your behaviour, your values and how you communicate them. It's how you look, think and speak. Be specific about your brand and positioning.
There's a lot of competition out there. To have the best chance of survival you need to stand out or have a niche.
A key consideration is, what do you stand for? Consider how you communicate this with the language you use., and how you communicate that through your brand assets (website, print and social). Make sure you are customer focused - always be answering your customers' questions.
We spoke to branding specialist Roberto D'Andria Owner and Strategic Creative Director of Bear and grilled him on his top branding and positioning tips:
We challenged Roberto to name some brands he thinks totally nail their message and positioning:
We also asked him what "bad branding" was:
"Bad branding is design for design's sake, it doesn't communicate anything and does not benefit your customer"
A final thought from Roberto:
"Always ask yourself, would you go out to dinner with your brand?"
When we talk about the process we refer to it in the sense that you should have an "ownable process" that you can "sell" into potential clients to make you stand out. What is unique, or effective in a way that will benefit your customers, about how you link tasks to deliver the end result? What is the chain of events? Map out your processes, identify where you could make them more streamlined or effective, and document them. This will be useful for sales, winning business and investment.
We will go into this in more detail further on but something to think about is getting together a set of credentials:
You need to be able to prove a bit of authority here, that you know what you're talking about and can deliver.
This is the stuff that takes you from a pipe dream to a viable business. It’s boring, its admin, but it's the difference between success and failure.
Speaking of failure, here's a depressing statistic for you:
20% of small businesses fail in their first year, 30% of small business fail in their second year, and 50% of small businesses fail after five years in business. Finally, 70% of small business owners fail in their 10th year in business.
Don't let that put you off. There is a reality to opening and running a successful business, and the reality is, it's hard work. You may as well know the cold hard truth now. But, like anything worth having in life the more you put in, the more you will get out. In Chapter 1 we talked about how to plan, plan and plan some more. You’ve done your market research, you’ve identified your niche and where you want to position yourself in the market. Now we look at all the real-world things you need to actually get your business up and running.
Oh, and go get your cheque book because now is the stage where you will need to spend some money!
As you spent so long considering your brand and understanding the importance of getting it right you will have a fantastic name for your business by now. The very next thing to do is get a domain. It should be as simple as possible, and by that we mean:
Research it: make sure it isn't copyrighted or too similar to an existing domain.
Choose your domain extension wisely. There are a ton of new extensions out there but choose wisely. Don't forget your Branding lessons from Chapter 1 - every communication should reflect your brand. Here is a list of widely use extensions and the kind of businesses that use them. This is by no means an exhaustive list!
Tech Radar identified the following as the best domain registrars in 2020:
Choosing the right accountant is extremely important, almost as important as choosing a partner! This person or firm will get to know you, your finances and your business plan intimately. They will be on-hand with advice, they will be your champion and even help you secure funding or investment opportunities. There are specialist brokers such as WardWilliams Creative who specialise in working with creative businesses - an umbrella that the events industry falls into. We also recommend Crunch who are whizzes at working with freelancers but also cater for small businesses. Their knowledge bank in HUGE and definitely worth checking out.
We spoke to WardWillaims Creative founder Erin Walls to pick her brains about everything money, funding and investment-related. The full interview How to choose the right accountant for your Event Staffing Agency is packed with loads of great advice and insights.
Things to consider:
Chartered Accountants (CAs) are highly qualified professionals who have completed above degree-level study along with workplace experience and a professional competence programme. "In the UK we have AV+CA, ACCA and IACS, all are recognised, professional accountants. If you are in doubt you can look them up with the relevant institutions to ensure they are registered and there are no issues. "
You will also want to make sure that the accountant has experience in preparing tax returns and financial documents for companies of a similar size and revenue to yours. "You can ask them if they have businesses like yours on their books already and if they would mind you contacting them to get their feedback on the service."
Another good way to choose an accountant is by recommendation. If someone in your circle is raving about their amazing accountant, pay attention! Erin agrees " It's the best way, and your friend/contact may get some sore of incentive or reward for that as well. At WWC we have a referral system like that"
Businesses of all sizes use software to track their revenue and help with projections. With the introduction of Make Tax Digital in the UK, it is mandatory for VAT registered businesses with a turnover of over £85k to now have a digital copy of everything from bookkeeping to expenses. However, this is likely to be rolled out across all businesses in the future so it's worth considering. this is likely to be rolled out to Your carefully chosen accountant will be able to help you with this and recommend relevant software. We've compiled a list from Simply Business UK:
It is worth looking at free trials offered so you can test out the software before you commit to buying.
This process is called incorporation. There are a few different types to choose from, although most people setting up a recruitment business choose to set up a limited company. Options include: Sole traders, Limited companies, Partnerships
Limited companies are often seen as best because of the financial protection they provide – if your limited company starts to struggle financially, the maximum liability you hold is the money you invested in the business. To start off you’ll need at least one director and a registered office in the UK (which could be your home address). There are a number of benefits to forming a limited company not least gaining limited liability. However, there are a number of admin tasks that you must perform on a regular basis so it is well worth reading up on these before you begin. Your accountant should also be able to help. The HMRC website is a useful source of information and there are several companies who can help you set up a limited company for a small fee
It is a wise move to set up a separate business bank account from your personal one as it will be easier to provide HMRC with the information they need if these are separate. Things to consider when choosing an account:
As with accounting software, this can be another question for your accountant, but check out any free trials they may be offering before you commit.
Now you've chosen your business bank account you're going to want to get some money in it! Profit and loss budgets and forecasts will help plan your finances and manage expectations. You will have made some start to this from the Business Canvas Model in Chapter 1, at this stage you will want to dig a little deeper.
Spend some time getting a plan together. Budgets will show how much money is going to go in and out of your business within a specified time frame (usually by financial year). It's important that you don’t overestimate your revenue for your first year of trading and also ensure that your outgoings are minimised.
Budgets will help you plan to out how to make a profit. They will include:
how much money you need to start the business
how many sales you need to cover costs
how much you can afford to reinvest in the business
In a nutshell here is how you work out your Profit and Loss, and Balance Sheet.
If your VAT taxable turnover is worth more than a certain amount, or you expect it to reach that threshold within a 12 month period, you must register for VAT. The current threshold amount can be found by accessing the UK Government website. The amount usually changes on 1 April each year so it's important to keep on top of this. Again, this is one for your accountant who should keep you up to date with any changes from HMRC (if you haven't realised it yet, good accountants are worth their weight in gold!)
Ah, insurance. The less sexy cousin of accounting. Insurance may be a total yawn fest BUT it is essential! You literally cannot do business without it. Again for this, it may be worth contacting a specialist broker who will specialise in providing bespoke insurance packages for creative business, including events. If Covid-19 taught us anything it's to be prepared for every eventuality and make sure you have the right insurance in place.
Examples of the types of insurance you will need to consider (and one you legally must have)
I'm going to use a quote from one of our case studies here because I don't think I've ever heard the need for Tech - good tech - summarised quite so eloquently as from George McLean at Boo Productions:
“All technology should speed you up – if it slows you down then it’s not doing its job. Technology should liberate you to be creative and use different sides of your brain, to grow the business. It should do all the rubbish boring stuff for you. And that’s what Liveforce does in a really creative way.”
Hear that? All the rubbish boring stuff, get tech to do it for you and be free from your desk! Really useful tech can save you time and money which is crucial at the start of a business. As a Saas, we are obviously a little biased, but we ourselves rely on tech to keep us organised and communicating in a really slick way.
By now you are halfway there. You've nailed your business plan, you've got a killer brand, and thanks to your seriously-serious checklist you are a fully armed business and ready to go! The only thing to do now is to get some clients!
You’ve figured out who and why you are. You have your logo, your sales deck and your business proposal. You've sorted your insurances, budgets and collated all other useful templates. Now, how to get clients and crew!
According to the Marketing Agency Growth Report 2018, acquiring new clients has been one of the big pain points for almost 60% of the agencies and 16% of them face client retention problems.
You’ve done everything you need to present yourself professionally. You've got a website ready to launch, you've nailed your branding and got your accounting and insuring ducks in a row.
Now to get some clients! But how?
A focused, thought through and strategic sniper approach is better than a scattergun! The first item on the Get Some Clients agenda is to identify your ideal client in order to create an ideal client profile. A client profile is a focused sales strategy that identifies which potential clients have the best chance of converting to prospects. Once you have identified your ideal client you can use marketing tools to communicate with and approach theses clients. This is where all your branding, positioning and process work will pay off.
Here are some useful questions to ask yourself when identifying your ideal client:
Answer these questions and create a profile - this will save you a lot of time marketing your agency to clients who are not relevant to you.
Once you've identified potential clients and reached out to them in an effective way, you want to show them what you're all about. This is when you whip out your killer sales deck. We found this amazing article on Medium that explains how to put together an amazing sales deck, it is definitely worth a read, but we've pulled out some highlights for you.
Sales Deck Top Tip.
When you're in that room, don't present - engage!
Technology can help in so many ways, and there is some great software out there. With the right research utilising tech can be one of your best ROI's.
A CRM system will help manage interactions with customers and potential customers, build customer relationships and streamline processes in order to increase sales, improve customer service, and increase profitability. Choosing and investing in the right provider will be unique to your agency's needs and budget. Some great providers to consider are:
Obviously, we're a bit biased here, but nonetheless having staffing software will help win clients. Proving you have a streamlined system that works, is accountable and makes your agency efficient could mean the difference between the client choosing you over another competitor. Have a look at our features to get a taste of what we can offer.
You have some clients and they have engaged your agency to staff an event - you'll need to get some great temporary staff or Crew to deliver the event. Your Crew will be one of your most precious assets. They are the face of your and your clients brand. Choose them wisely, treat them well and you will be firmly on the road to success.
They are your representatives, the face of your staffing agency on the front-line, ultimately representing your client. From Brand Ambassadors to Bar staff you are going to want to attract the very best, and avoid common mistakes when hiring staff.
Just as you wrote an ideal client profile, write an ideal Crew profile too. This will give you a clear idea of what kinds of staff you need. You may have a core team and other freelancers you use from time to time. Many event staff professionals will work for multiple agencies but they are always on the lookout for work.
Things to consider when writing a Crew Persona:
Write an enticing recruitment ad with a striking image. Stick to 3 main points that will entice the best staff. Post them to Social Media job boards, on your website and your channels.
Just as you did referrals, if you hear of a great Crew member out there, get in touch with them before you lose them.
A fun way to gather a large number of candidates in one go.
In this industry reputation and word of mouth is everything. Make sure you gain references for all your potential Crew.
Use software with a designated Crew App. This will help your Crew easily find work, apply, manage their timesheets and expenses, and overall schedules. It will save you and them time and extra admin hassle, which leaves more time to concentrate on the actual work.
Really important when working with people. To establish a great working relationship right from the start you'll want to think about your onboarding process. You will want this to be a pleasant, easy experience, as it will establish your reputation as a great agency for Crew as well as your Clients.
Do your staff need a driving license, an H&S certificate, food hygiene certificate? Think about what qualifications you may need your staff or Crew to have, and then think about how you are going to safely store that data.
Everyone needs to know how well they've performed - or not! Do this in a constructive way and you will have a dedicated, loyal event workforce for years to come.
We all need a reason to get out of bed in the morning, it doesn't just have to be monetary. Make it a part of your culture to reward and incentivise your event staff in a really positive way.
Once you've found your perfect team you'll need to make sure you've done all your legal due diligence. You'll need to consider contracts (you already have this from chapter 2), GDPR, any data protection for storing information and have an understanding of UK employment law.
We could go on and on, but these basics will get you on the road to success.
You've got your agency up and running, you've got Clients to service and Crew to complete those roles. You are an official Staffing Agency!
So what next?
We hope this guide is useful in getting you on your way to running a successful event staffing business. Liveforce isn’t just SaaS; we are committed to helping our clients succeed, no matter the agency size.
A little nod to our co-founder Mark & his football team there - but you don't need to support Liverpool to appreciate the sentiment. Teamwork is everything and we see our relationships with our clients as partnerships. This is a part of our culture and core values - important things to consider for the long term vision and success of a company.
“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”
Henry Ford famously didn't say the above quote about horses, but the message is still the same; strive to be innovative when solving problems. Understand your clients and how best to deliver their needs, or master the "art and science of understanding customer feedback."
When Liveforce are developing new features we hold research panels for both Admin and Crew users to best understand their needs, and what more they could be getting from Liveforce. Then we make it happen! This is a fundamental part of our product development process, but it also ties into our overall culture.
Consider creating your core values & thinking about your company culture. Core values are a set of beliefs that should be at the heart of a company and guide everything that company does. Chosen wisely, core values will withstand the test of time - although there is nothing wiring with updating your core values as time goes on. Identifying core values will support your company’s vision, shape its culture, and reflect it’s identity. Core values are not universal; you must decide what your company stands for, and therefore which values are most important. Here are American Express and Google's Core Values for inspiration:
Narrowing down your core values will help when considering company culture. If you think of your company, your employees, your clients & your Crew as a living breathing community - how functional would it be? Would everyone be helping each other out, or fending for themselves? Create a culture code - a bit like an employee handbook - that specifically explains company culture. It should include your:
In other words, it should outline what culture means to your company, what this looks like and how your company will deliver its core values via its culture. A culture code can be a hard handbook, a virtual deck, a narrative document — whatever form it takes, it should be well documented and clearly distributed across your company.
Liveforce is committed to its clients and with them every step of the way - the Davids and Goliaths - all equally important to us. After sign-up and training, we don't just leave our clients to get on with it. We have online support, hold feedback forums, keep in contact with our clients with regular updates and industry information. Our customer journey is of great importance, as is customer success.
86% of buyers are willing to pay more for a great customer experience.
Customer Success is the business methodology of ensuring your customers or clients achieve their goals, or solve their problem, using your product or service. It is relationship-focused client management and one of the most popular buzzwords in B2B right now.
The equation is simple - the more successful your clients or customers are, the more successful you will be. After all, if all your clients went bust, they wouldn't be engaging your services.
A customer success approach is much more proactive than customer service - which is a more reactive process, although still a vital part of company success. Customer success is there to nurture the client relationship to establish loyalty and retention. Effective customer success strategies will result in decreased customer churn and increased opportunities - well worth an investment in your time.
A crappy work life is almost always down to a crappy culture and a crappy boss! By identifying your core values and culture means you are already on your way to creating a happy and productive work environment. Why not challenge yourself to be the greatest leader the event staffing industry has ever seen!?
This study into leadership asked more than 300,000 business leaders to rank the top four competencies from a list of 16 key leadership skills. After working through the results, they came up with a ranking of the leadership skills that are most important for success. Here are the top 10 from that study:
If the coronavirus of 2020 taught us anything, it's' that life can throw you a curveball despite all your best business plans, strategy and a solid company culture. Sometimes life happens. The best way for a business to survive long term is to be flexible. Just look at Netflix who started as distributor mailing DVDs to its subscribers. It seems crazy now that the most successful online streaming platform came from what we would now consider archaic beginnings. CEO Reed Hastings is a great example of an innovator and has changed the way we consume entertainment. There are other examples from Kodak to the good old Yellow Pages (are we showing our age yet?).
This is the fact of succeeding in business in the 21st Century. The tech revolution has seen the eradication of the phone book, the dissolve of print. Online is turning AI and its important to keep up in order to survive. Automation is one really effective way to adapt and streamline your business. Automation can free you and your colleagues up to focus on business development and client relationship rather than "admin," which is a clear ROI.
Those born between 1980 and 1995 aren't so young anymore. They are the heart of the consumer pool as well as the most tech-savvy and mobile section of the workforce. Your Event Staff are more than likely to be millennials as this generation favours flexible working - this can be demonstrated in the rise of the gig economy. With this in mind, you need to constantly consider how to efficiently communicate with them. A mobile workforce needs mobile management- and that is going to be by a mobile device. You will need to recruit them online, and most likely manage them online too. Businesses that shy away from this approach will miss out on the biggest growing market and workforce.
Speaking of survival and long term development, there are lots of resources, funding and investment opportunities, networking and further learning that can be of great benefit to your new Event Staffing Agency.
We've compiled this list of resources to help get the information your new Event Staffing Agency will need. In addition Wright Hassall have put together a really informative guide to Funding your Start-Up, definitely worth checking out.
Funding, Grant and Investment information for startups and small businesses.
It is beneficial to become a member of professional and trade bodies. This membership will give your company access to experts, industry developments, great networking and learning opportunities, to name but a few. The following are specific organisations that could be beneficial to your new staffing agency.
A great way to network, gain contacts and check out the competition.
Useful resources for UK small business and startups.
We hope you've found this guide useful, For any further information or to give us any feedback please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org - or even if you just fancy a chat!
The very best of luck in all your endeavours from the whole Liveforce Team 🍀😃