Finding A Fit

How it all began. Finding a fit: Stevenson & White uses personalized approach to pinpoint top candidates

Like many new business owners, Anne Stevenson’s first day as an entrepreneur over 20 years ago was spent surrounded by cardboard boxes filled with computer equipment and office supplies.

But rather than using their first day at the office to unpack, Anne and company co-founder Trevor White used those boxes as makeshift notepads after arriving to a deluge of phone calls from organizations and professionals wanting to work with Ottawa’s newest recruitment firm.

A week before the company’s June 2000 opening day, Anne had received a call from a professional acquaintance at the Ottawa Senators. The NHL team was looking to hire a Controller and was willing to cover the cost of an ad in the weekend edition of the Ottawa Citizen if Stevenson & White would take them on as a client.

Having done no other advertising, the firm received more than 300 applications for the Sens job as well as calls from new clients looking to fill positions within their organizations.

Leveraging Stevenson & White’s connection with the Ottawa Senators to create a win-win situation turned out to be a fitting first day; the firm has continued to grow on the strength of its personalized relationships with clients and job-seeking candidates.

A different approach

While Anne Stevenson has since retired, the company currently boasts a team of five, including three recruiters, two of whom are Anne’s sons and current firm partners, Matt and Paul Stevenson.

The local recruitment firm focuses solely on finance, accounting and payroll positions in the Ottawa area. These professionals play a critical role in the operation of virtually every organization, and frequently serve as trusted advisers to business owners.

That is why it is so important to hire the right person for the job – and one of the reasons clients keep returning to Stevenson & White as professional, specialized recruiters.

As a way of building trust with new clients when she started her business, Anne Stevenson chose to double the industry standard by offering a six-month guarantee period for placements. To this day, the firm still stands behind the guarantee.

This means that in the unlikely event that a candidate doesn’t work out during that time, Stevenson & White will find a replacement candidate, free of charge.

“We put our money where our mouth is,” Paul Stevenson says. “We believe in the quality of our placements.”

It helps that Stevenson & White builds long-lasting relationships with its clients. The firm’s focus on the Ottawa area, combined with low internal turnover, means their staff are able to learn their customers’ corporate culture and needs, leading to stronger placements.

“Knowing when they pick the phone up that it’s going to still be the same voice at the end of the line really allows for that continuous relationship-building and respect on both sides,” explains Matt Stevenson.

The company takes a similarly personal and thorough approach on the candidate side.

After an initial screening, all selected applicants are interviewed by at least one member of the Stevenson & White team before they’re considered for any position. This allows the recruiter to understand the individual’s career objectives, personality and where they would be a great fit.

By getting to know their clients and candidates, Stevenson & White can match individuals and employers with more precision than a recruitment firm that simply relies on reading job postings and emailing resumes.

“We don’t believe in wasting anybody’s time,” says Matt Stevenson.

Planning for the future

As a family owned business, Stevenson & White faced the same succession questions as many small and medium-sized businesses in Ottawa.

Fortunately, the company had laid the groundwork for a gradual leadership change over several years.

Matt and Paul Stevenson took over for Anne as the firm’s managing partners, continuing with the family legacy, a plan that was in the works long before Matt joined the company in 2013 and Paul in 2018. When discussions around Matt and Paul joining the company began, Anne was committed to having them start from the bottom and work their way up.

Too many times, she’d seen employees leave a company because the owner’s son or daughter was parachuted into a senior role despite having limited experience.

And the unique opportunity to follow in their mother’s footsteps is not lost on Matt or Paul.

“For me, it’s being able to continue on the family legacy,” Matt says. “I’m proud to be able to continue the family business that Anne has built up over the years with blood, sweat and tears.”

Both brothers are proud to carry on the family’s business and core qualities that sets them apart. “I strongly believe that one of the most critical aspects to Stevenson & White’s success is our ability to listen and truly understand exactly what it is our clients and candidates are looking for. Taking the time and making the extra effort to pair those qualities is what sets the good matches apart from the great.” Paul says.

The company has built a close-knit team that works collaboratively to find the best candidates for Stevenson & White’s clients — a contrast from the normally competitive environment found within many other recruitment firms.

They take the same approach with both clients and candidates, offering open and honest guidance to everyone with whom they work.

“People really appreciate that – that we take such a candid, up front approach and will provide real feedback and not just dance around it for our own sake,” says Matt Stevenson.

This article appeared in the January 15th, 2018 edition of the Ottawa Business Journal.

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