'The right people for you, bringing you the right people'

The Herald SME Focus Interview

 5th Jul 2019

Edinburgh recruitment firm builds national business amid Brexit uncertainty

By Mark Williamson, The Herald Newspaper Group Business Correspondent

Monday 24th June 2019

Alistair Robin and Nick McVeigh-Crabbe have led a recruitment business founded in Edinburgh on an expansion drive which has seen it find staff for construction and property firms across the country.


Nick McVeigh-Crabbe.



What is your business called?

STAR Recruitment.

Where is it based?

We have headquarters in Edinburgh, with offices in Glasgow and London.

What services does it offer?

Recruitment, specialising in skilled and management construction roles and sales positions in the property market.

To whom does it sell?

Construction companies, subcontractors, housebuilders and property sales agents.

What is its turnover?

Five years ago it was £170,000 but last year it was £1.9 million. Our target for 2019/20 is £2.8m.

How many employees?

Eleven and we are adding a further four recruitment consultants over the next few months.

When was it formed?

I founded the company in 2014, and like most start-ups went through a period of being a ‘one man band’, working from my dining room table with a laptop and mobile phone until my fellow director, Alistair Robin, joined later that year and we grew the business from there.

Ally’s background was in construction recruitment, so we focused on this until we purchased the property recruitment company, West Central Staffing Solutions Ltd, in November 2015 which gave us our first entry into the property market.

Why did you take the plunge?

I was fortunate to be inspired by my parents who ran their own business and I always knew I wanted to forge my own path.

I am proud that my parents worked incredibly hard and ran a successful pubs business. They also owned the 5* country retail development, Morgan McVeigh’s, in Aberdeenshire, renovated property and ran holiday lets from our family home, Fordyce Castle.

What were you doing before you took the plunge?

When I was young, I worked in the pubs during weekends and holidays doing all the glamorous jobs including stocking the bar, cleaning out bins and cooking bacon rolls for the bar staff. It helped me develop a work ethic at a young age and I continued working at Morgan McVeigh’s managing the restaurant and learning more about running a business from my Dad.

I then worked in car sales before moving on to a career in executive search. Before I set up STAR recruitment, I was working with a national recruitment company.

Work in car sales provided a great crash course in how to combine excellent customer service with a ruthless approach to sales. It taught me how to constantly develop a relationship with a customer from the minute they walk through the showroom door.

How did you raise the start-up funding?

I saved and saved some more before having enough finances to set up STAR. We are proud to have grown organically without the use of start-up loans and overdrafts.

What was your biggest break?

We have some fantastic clients and without their support we wouldn’t be where we are today, but my business partner Ally joining STAR was a game changer - it propelled us into rapid growth and expansion. We have also been fortunate to purchase two successful property recruitment companies. West Central Staff got us into property and Star Placement allowed us to reach every housebuilder in Scotland. We went on to rebrand as STAR Recruitment from BBR Services.

What was your worst moment?

We have not had a single ‘worst’ moment, but we have learned from many mistakes which have improved our recruitment process and credit control.

What do you most enjoy about running the business?

It sounds clichéd but we’re fortunate to have a hardworking, fun and loyal team at STAR. I genuinely enjoy going to work every day.

What are your ambitions for the firm?

We want to build up our offices in Glasgow and London, increase our team throughout the country, establish ourselves as the first-choice property and construction recruitment company, move into exciting new industries and make STAR the best company to work in.

The construction industry can be volatile and is usually one of the first to be hit in a downturn, but we haven’t seen any slow-down in the market.

What we have noticed in the last 12-18 months is that more construction sites are starting in the east of Scotland than ever before. When we first set up the company, the majority of our work was in Glasgow and the west of Scotland, but the strong Edinburgh housing market and large projects has seen an increase in demand in the east.

The housebuilding sector in Scotland is strong and this is down to a genuine demand for new homes across the country but housebuilders need a stable economy in order to thrive.

What are your five top priorities?

This is easy, in no order: Clients, candidates, the STAR team, always evolving and being the best at what we do.

What could the Westminster and/or Scottish governments do that would help?

Skills shortages pose a challenge for the construction industry. The UK and Scottish Governments have to be proactive because the situation will only get worse if immediate action is not taken. The construction industry is always susceptible to changes in the economy. In terms of Brexit the country needs to know what is happening. As one of my friends says, “indecision is worse than the wrong decision”.

What was the most valuable lesson that you learned?

Never assume and always remain objective.

How do you relax?

I am a big rugby fan, so you’ll find me at Murrayfield whenever Scotland play, and I’m incredibly proud that STAR is a supporter of our local team, Edinburgh Rugby. My world revolves around food, which is dangerous for my waistline and bank balance because I will never say no to eating out. Greece is an amazing country and I am aiming to get my day skippers sailing licence this summer so I can continue visiting more of its islands.


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