Originally published by Ulster Bank.
Our series of interviews with inspirational entrepreneurs continues with Andrew Lynch, CEO of recruitment company Mason Alexander.
As founder of Dublin-based recruitment company Mason Alexander, Andrew Lynch enjoys bringing people together and seeing them grow – whether it’s matching jobseekers with his clients, holding events that encourage peer-to-peer learning, or empowering and developing his own team. And from humble beginnings of “just me in a broom cupboard”, he’s enjoyed watching his business grow.
What’s your business’s elevator pitch?
“Mason Alexander is an end-to-end people solutions organisation for purpose-led companies that value employees. We help companies recruit for permanent, temporary and project roles, with personality assessments that match culture with people to ensure exactly the right candidate for our clients. But we’re also very community focused – bringing people from different companies together to share and learn from each other.”
What was the key motivation and raison d’être behind Mason Alexander?
“I’d always wanted to be an entrepreneur. When I was at school I wrote to [Ryanair founder] Michael O’Leary and asked him to come and speak to us, and was really inspired when he did. I tried a couple of ventures – selling ponchos, women’s fashion – that failed miserably. I liked selling a vision, and someone suggested I try recruitment, so I did my homework by learning the trade at an agency for 18 months. I was attracted to it, but this was a very old-school, call-centre, mass-market sort of place. I knew I could deliver a much more personal and valuable experience – so I had the idea to launch Mason Alexander.”
Looking back now at the early stages of Mason Alexander, would you do anything differently in terms of leading or scaling the business?
“I always intended to scale the business but I tried to scale it in a lifestyle way, by bootstrapping instead of raising the money to do it. We had made a profit virtually from day one, so I could have done that [raised money]. More generally, I’d advise people thinking of starting a business to figure out what you want out of it – if it’s money, lifestyle, reputation, to make a difference – understanding your goal and working towards that will get you the business you want.”
What keeps you engaged and motivated to drive the business on?
“Doing something that’s creative, exciting and fun is what gets me out of bed. My number-one goal is to give people a great career, whether that’s by helping a client or developing my own team, and I am always excited by that. And I’m a great believer in having fun along the way, too.”
What does achievement and success look like for Mason Alexander?
“For me, success is about always improving. We have constantly evolved and got better at what we do. Every service, product and industry can be improved, so achievement for me is always looking at how we can deliver an ever-better experience.”
“It’s a whole new world we’re all going back to and no-one knows how it will pan out, but there will be much more focus on working from home as well as changes in how we use digital platforms to communicate as colleagues”
What’s the best advice you’ve been given?
“Somebody once told me that you have to be mad to be an entrepreneur – but success comes from embracing the weirdness. It’s really hard work – there are challenges every single day – but the sooner you make peace with that, and you embrace that this is how it is, the sooner you enjoy it and find the opportunities it brings.”
What’s been your proudest achievement to date?
“I’m proud of our brand and our people and what they represent. We’ve branched out internationally, across a number of different sectors, but working hard to keep offering and improving that quality experience that exactly matches our clients’ needs is at the heart of what we do.
“As a leader I’m proud of the way our business empowers our employees. We don’t do office politics, we invite our staff to critique the business and suggest how we can improve – some of the very best ideas can come from the youngest or newest employees. It doesn’t just help the business, it develops their confidence in their own ideas and abilities.”
Your approach as leader is best described in which three words?
“Creative, visionary, compassionate.”
Did you have a role model or mentor who helped you establish and grow Mason Alexander?
“I have always been inspired by Michael O’Leary. Mentors come in all shapes and sizes – friends, colleagues, employees – I learn from them all."
How has coronavirus impacted your business?
“Parts of our business have been severely affected, other parts not at all. We’ve had to suspend a couple of plans. This was going to be a big year for scaling up, with a fundraising process due to start at the beginning of March, so coronavirus has set us back – we’ve cut costs and changed our strategy. It’s proved a great leveller. But we are getting through it and I’m very positive about not only our future, but of the whole industry.
“I know it’s been a struggle for many people, but companies are recruiting. This time has changed forever the way companies work. That means, I think, there will be massive changes to how firms recruit and onboard, how they attract and engage talent. It’s a whole new world we’re all going back to and no one knows how it will pan out, but there will be much more focus on working from home as well as changes in how we use digital platforms to communicate as colleagues. This period has proved to companies you can hold meetings that involve absolutely everyone, which is much more inclusive, and there’s more communication. I don’t have a crystal ball but it would be foolish to think any company will go back to exactly how it was before.”
Parting shot – what’s next for Mason Alexander?
“We’re looking now at how we scale out of this, and we have a few ideas. But on a more human, personal level, this whole crisis has brought our team even closer together and we’re very much looking forward to whatever comes next. I’m very optimistic about the future.”
By Peter Taylor-Whiffen