A customer-first approach to HR: Gibbs S3

Using her redundancy packet as capital, Farida Gibbs built Gibbs S3, a customer-focused digital business helping FTSE 100 firms attract and retain talent. Here’s how she started up.

When Farida Gibbs set up Gibbs S3, the concept of a hybrid workforce solutions company didn’t even exist. After years of experience in recruitment, Gibbs saw an opportunity to do more with less red tape and unnecessary processes. Using her redundancy packet as capital, Gibbs built a customer-focused digital business helping FTSE 100 firms attract and retain talent. Here’s how she started up.

Location: London and Surrey
Date launched: 2007
Number of employees: 60

What does your business do?

Gibbs S3 is a hybrid workforce solutions company for FTSE 100 companies. Gibbs S3 helps its customers with resourcing its workforce challenges whether it be managed staffing programmes, recruitment process outsourcing, state of work (deliverables) or fixed price projects. We support businesses as they navigate through the new business landscape which is being shaped by digital technology. Keeping on top of digital trends, requires businesses to be agile and nimble enough to innovate. Having a hybrid workforce that is agile, nimble and adaptable is key to giving businesses the desired flexibility to adapt to the changing business requirements.

Where did the idea for your business come from?

My background is in HR and I worked in a call centre for 7 years. My role was to fill 450 call centre jobs, 7 days a week. This required me to create and drive recruitment campaigns to attract people (mums, students, older generation) to fill those positions. That is where I developed a passion for recruitment. I landed my first recruitment job as a resourcer but didn’t like what I was seeing and learning from the recruitment industry – lack of customer service and putting the customer first didn’t seem to exist in the handful of companies I worked for and it was from there I could see a better way of doing things.

My passion is derived from people and I love helping people find work. There is a real buzz factor involved when you help someone find a job, especially after they have been looking for a long time. I get a great sense of satisfaction from supporting them on their professional journey.

How did you know there was a market for it?

As we are working in the technology space, it’s our job to keep abreast of what our customers are doing. Digital is becoming the backbone of most businesses. Digital trends such as Mobile Technologies, Big Data, Cloud Computing, Cyber Security and IoT (Internet of Things) are presenting both opportunities and threats for companies. We found that the majority of the requests for resources from our clients was to expand their digital capabilities.

I noticed that there was a need to adapt our business model. Digital is the cornerstone of a business’s success to achieve business growth and differentiate from their competitors in the marketplace. With digital woven into our DNA, Gibbs S3 is able to identify the right technology professionals to support next generation transformation projects. Today’s world is seeing technology run its business rather than technology support the business.

How did you raise funding, and why?

I didn’t raise funding, every penny I made was invested into my business. I was made redundant from my previous job and they gave me a £2,000 redundancy settlement which I used. I lived off my savings and within a month or two, I started to generate revenue.

It began with the relationships I built in my previous job. Although I was no longer with the company, the client had faith in my ability and service and so were willing to work with me. In my first 6 months, I had generated a £250,000 turnover and it was crazy! That’s when I recognised the revenue generating potential Gibbs S3 had.

Describe your business model in brief.

Gibbs S3 provides dynamic and agile talent and human capital management solutions dedicated to supporting businesses in the digital revolution.

We combine traditional recruitment with project consultancy, which gives businesses the desired flexibility to ensure the future competitiveness of their company and the UK digital economy. The hybrid approach helps businesses access the best talent on the market and engage them either on a time and material basis or fixed price/outcome based project.

What was your first big milestone and when did you cross it?

My biggest milestone was getting office space and being able to take my work outside my personal life. I was very caught up in work and I didn’t know how to differentiate between the two and the lines became blurred. So getting my own place allowed me to achieve a healthier work-life balance.

What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?

I’m a huge believer in taking a leap of faith, so I think if you have a real passion and you believe in yourself, you have to take that step. I always think about what would have happened if I didn’t take that leap of faith but the idea is just inconceivable to me.

A lot of people who want to start a business don’t know how to make that jump, because they are scared. There is nothing to be afraid of, you either make it or you learn from it.

Where do you want to be in five years’ time?

We have become Europe’s fastest growing  hybrid workforce solutions company. The growth has been phenomenal and even in the downturn we still saw significant growth.

In the next five years I want to continue on this path – creating more jobs, employing more people, having a great reputation in the market place, keeping our customers happy and being the most respected staffing company.

If you weren’t an entrepreneur, you would be…

Even if I didn’t have my own workforce solutions company, I would still be my own boss. I would like to have gone into the food industry – Gibbs international cuisine. In other words, creating a business opportunity out of my passion, just like I did with Gibbs S3.

What is your philosophy on business or life, in a nutshell?

Sadly our world is too wrapped up in politics and religion which is causing conflict and hatred amongst the human race. Whatever we do we must simply remember that we came into this world the same way and will leave this world the same way. I have a saying I share all the time “our fundamental difference is not colour, race or religion, but purely our intentions and actions to help and support those less fortunate than ourselves.

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda was Editor for GrowthBusiness.co.uk from 2016 to 2018.