As we head into the special month of November, we caught up with our Founder, Leena Parmar to talk about how Citrus Connect was born and what the future holds as we head into 2022.
What was your vision and motivation behind Citrus Connect Recruitment?
In 2008 I saw a gap in the recruitment market place, in 2009 I founded Citrus Connect Recruitment with my launch client, The Automobile Association. With my help and expertise we grew their direct sales force by 212% within an 18 month period.
I perfected a recruitment process that was simple, easy and efficient to specifically recruit ‘self-employed’ direct sales personnel. Initially, my vision was to fulfil a gap in the market place to recruit for these types of sales roles. This has evolved since the inception as we now are the number 1 direct sales recruitment company in the UK, including the recruitment of salaried sales roles, sales managers and directors across all sectors.
My desire is for Citrus Connect Recruitment to share the power of direct sales and how it can completely transform lives, I have seen first hand how candidates have been able to walk into sales roles and earn 6 figures in their first year with no experience, positively changing their quality of life and financial situation.
What was your background before founding Citrus Connect?
I started as an International Relations graduate with an amazing experience at the United Nations in New York whilst in my second year, I finished with a dream to join the Foreign Office or Army, (specifically the RAF), I failed the final entrance exams! I then qualified as a teacher to impact the youth, discouraged by the bureaucracy I attracted a successful career with my first love – fashion! I travelled the world with my fashion career, from LA, Malaysia, Singapore and more – I loved it! I was in my element, totally in love with what I was doing and saw my career here for the foreseeable future. Two years into this career, I had to leave due to some personal issues – this is when my entrepreneurial journey began and Citrus Connect was birthed. It is astounding what can be birthed from what I thought was a completely dire situation. It took grit and rigour, but today am proud that what was once a dream is now a reality.
How has Covid affected your business and how have you adapted to these challenges?
The last 18 months have been challenging to say the least, the initial shock of covid was a make or break situation for Citrus Connect. Our income stopped overnight, clients were prioritising rent, wages and utilities payments over paying their recruitment fees which was completely understandable. I am fortunate enough to have great clients who supported me whilst we supported them and together we came out on the other side as winners.
I personally used the time effectively to re-strategise, and re-work our business plan as I could foresee changes in the recruitment landscape and ensured we were ready for our clients when they needed us. It was a stressful time, a time where anxiety could have sent me in the opposite direction. However, my mindful practices as well as my discipline for my health and fitness kept me mentally strong.
Many of clients transformed their sales process to be completely online which meant eventually we re-started our recruitment activities, and the rest is now history, We have gone from having no choice but to leave our old office to reduce our outgoings to now having the sexiest offices in Leeds, whilst we build a soul mate team. To survive the pandemic has not come without sacrifices, but on the same token, I am so grateful for the lessons I have learnt.
What challenges did you face when starting out? What are the challenges now?
I don’t know of any entrepreneurial journey that has not come without it’s challenges, my journey has been no different. My biggest challenge when starting out is that I had never worked in recruitment, quite hard to believe when I look back that I had the courage to even attempt to start this company. I had a passion for success, for people and a true desire to help The Automobile Association succeed in their plans.
Coming from an entrepreneurial family (both my grandfathers and father were all entrepreneurs) did not mean that I had or even have the business acumen needed. My father always supported me when he could, but ultimately I had to learn everything myself, often the hard way. I have grown Citrus Connect throughout the crash of 2008, and the 2019 pandemic and have come out of both global crisis’s stronger and bolder.
Although my biggest challenge understanding myself, becoming self aware of my working style, my motivations, and how to get the best out of me, my team and the businesses we support.
My strength is that I am the vision caster, the visionary behind everything we do, the leader and the protector. But the secret to my success and the growth of Citrus Connect is finding people who are better than me and having them hold me accountable. Quite often, people have a perception that as an entrepreneur you must call all the shots and tell people what to do (ultimately I do, nothing happens in my business without my consent or sign off), however for me personally, it’s finding people who have strengths where I have weaknesses and to be accountable to them – that’s when we have seen the biggest growth.
Working closely with clients, what impact has Citrus Connect had in their businesses?
We support our clients recruit, grow and retain their sales teams, we have positively impacted all of our clients in this way, attracting talent to them that has ultimately made their company grow. I would like to think that they feel that have found a recruitment company that truly cares about their needs, a company that is on their side, and is willing to do everything they can to support the growth of their business.
How do you feel Citrus Connect is set apart from other recruitment agencies?
My ultimate aim is to change the face of recruitment, our industry can be very transactional and unemotional. However my aim at Citrus Connect is to work in partnership with our clients; we are here to serve them, to enhance and grow their business, to work in alliance and create a long term, win/win relationship. And so far I would say with our clients we do exactly that.
In 2020, I was nominated for Business Woman of the Year, a nomination I was thrilled at for being recognised for my resilience and passion to make a difference in what is known as such a ‘cut throat’ industry. The most common question is always…as a Woman in Business, how does it feel to be nominated? My answer is simple, my gender is irrelevant, what is relevant is the value I add to my clients business every single, damn, day! It really is that simple for me!
How do your personal values play out in your professional life in service to your clients?
For me personally, I run a business because it gives me a degree of autonomy in how I choose to live my life. It’s also important to me that we can give back, being socially conscious means I spend a lot of time reviewing our company’s Corporate Social Responsibility. I love my work with Love Support Unite where I work closely with families and children in Malawi in sustainability and education projects.
Living is about ‘giving and taking’, it is about a natural ‘in and out’, so from an energetic point of view how can Citrus Connect and I ever succeed without ever giving back. Thats why Citrus Connect and I will always commit to partnering with a charity to create a real, positive difference in the world. I will continue to make a change in the world my own way.
I am passionate about the earth we live and breathe, and ensure that Citrus Connect and I personally are aware of our carbon footprints – whether it be sustainable and slow fashion and a plastic free life for me personally; or having a paper free business, every action is carefully considered and thought about. Buying my vegetables in brown paper bags and finding a refill shop for my grains is just as much a financial decision as well as being environmentally conscious. It’s important we understand money, and it’s real purpose; for me, conscious living is also about financial well-being. As a business owner and an individual, financial responsibility is another very important skill I have learnt.
Finally, tell us a little about your personal life?
I believe in living a holistic life. Without being healthy and financially conscious, I can sincerely say that myself and Citrus Connect would not be where we are today.
We hear it all the time, true wealth is health, and it is the absolute truth. I work out everyday not because I have to but because it helps me become a better entrepreneur, I spend time in nature because it helps me develop my creativity and problem solving skills for my clients. (As every entrepreneur knows problem solving has to be the number one skill you must have!) I am aware of what I eat and keep my body in its optimum health because it helps me serve my family, team and clients in a soul aligned way.
Thank you for being part of the Citrus Connect journey. It has been my pleasure, and honour to serve you, 2022 we will some positive changes that will increase our capacity to achieve more together!
Enjoy the bonfires, the mulled wine, and hot chocolates – wishing you a lovely weekend.
To your success,