From Al to Omega

From �0 to �32 million in 14 years at Stonehouse-based Omega Resource Group Ltd

From Al to Omega

From �0 to �32 million in 14 years at Stonehouse-based Omega Resource Group Ltd

The mid 1990s:  Two young Brits pitch up in Kuala Lumpur, half way into a year of travel.  It’s hot; they’re holed up in a youth hostel and could do with some extra cash. 

They spot an opportunity – no street vendors sell flavoured water, but the Malaysian capital swelters most of the year; this is surely a gap in the market?  Stroud friends Alan Beresford and James Strickland think so. They write a questionnaire, persuade a local printer to run off copies and hit the streets to research. Hours later the results are looking good.   Then it goes horribly wrong: Someone mentions there’s a large supermarket around the corner with shelves full of the stuff.

Back in Blighty, the enthusiastic duo try to buy a pub in Cheltenham and pay a visit to the bank manager.   He asks: “Got pub experience and 40% deposit? No? How old are you? Don’t waste our time boys.”  Alan and James follow the advice but nine months later, in 1997, they finally pool their professional experience to set up a recruitment company.  Now a trio with work colleague Raymond Pugh, they write a business plan and visit the bank again.  No interest.  Four banks later, the chorus is the same.  Finally one listens.

Well done that bank manager. This year Alan, Ray and James’ recruitment company, Omega Resource Group Ltd will turn over around �35 million. Temporary worker numbers will hit around 1800 in the run-up to Christmas, permanent placements are close to 1000 annually.   Alan is CEO; James is Managing Director of International and Ray is Managing Director of the Workforce and Datum divisions.

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Alan takes up the story: “We needed �24,000 and the loan was backed by the DTI’s Small Firms Loan Guarantee Scheme so the bank’s risk was low.   Our exposure was �1800 so we each put �600 on our credit cards.”

�500 went on booze for the opening party at the �50-a-week offices in Stroud, which housed two desks, a computer, fax and Rolodex.

Omega opened with no database and no clients, so they concentrated on becoming known within Gloucestershire’s engineering companies. A �15,000 year-long local radio campaign got the phones ringing and they drove bright yellow Fiat Cinquecentos to be noticed.

“We sold our socks off,” says Alan, but it was tough.  He remembers the turning point. “We’d arranged a second interview for a buyer, and we needed the commission. The wait was tense but she got the job.  From that moment I felt we’d be alright, without it we’d have been overdrawn 4 months in.”

The first employee was recruited in January 1999; she’s still there along with 50 others at the company’s Stonehouse headquarters and a total of 115 employees across its offices including Poland, Australia and the Middle East.

The business weathered 9/11 and economic turmoil, though it’s taken hits like everyone else.   Turnover dropped from �24 million to �17 million, before last year’s recovery to �32 million thanks to significant contract wins.

James, Ray and Alan are successful businessmen, but plenty of the entrepreneurial bleached blonde boys who saw opportunities on the streets of Kuala Lumpur remains.  Omega aims to double turnover to �60 million.

The Poland connection

Omega was one of the first recruitment companies to bring Polish workers to the UK. Alan explains: “The early 2000’s labour market was tight – every person in the UK that wanted a job seemed to have one and a local client had failed to recruit despite an intense campaign. James had been to Poland and saw an opportunity, so we set up a company there, offered UK jobs, arranged interviews in Krakow and candidates were queuing out of the door.”

Omega recruited 41 workers in two days. Then began the logistical task of bringing them to the UK. “We rented 10 brand new houses at Ebley Mill, furnished them and sent a coach to Luton airport to pick up our new recruits,” said Alan. “I felt like a holiday rep with my clipboard.”

The following day, having delivered the workers to their new jobs, the team bought and assembled 41 flat packed mountain bikes so their Polish workers could cycle to work.

At its peak, Omega had around 400 Polish workers at any one time with 100 houses on rent throughout the UK. When the world changed in 2008 so did the need and now 99% of Omega’s UK recruits are sourced at home.   Omega now only looks abroad for senior roles when skills sets are not available within the country.

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