CEO & Co-founder
In conversation with Darren Westall
Reaching a career crossroads
DW: I didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do after school, so I started teaching IT at a training centre for disadvantaged kids. I had started building web servers at 13 but strangely failed IT at college because learning to use Excel bored me, so I didn’t turn up to classes! I got a job as a junior developer at Broadbean on £13k, worked my way up and in just over 10 years became CTO for EMEA. I had completed my career goal by 28 but was miserable as I didn’t have a target anymore.
Taking the plunge (and seeking forgiveness)
DW: I had always wanted to start a business (Darren did however pass business studies at college) but it was never quite the right time. Every time I was about to do it, there was a promotion or we bought a house, or had a child. When I actually did do it, my wife was three months pregnant with our second child. I thought that if I don’t do it now, I never will. It was a bombshell for her, walking away from a well-paid job to start my own company. She has finally forgiven me!
Property purchase leads to birth of Paiger
DW: When I bought a new house, my then estate agent hadn’t updated his Facebook or Twitter in over three years. I told him that I could build a tool to help him do it if he’d be happy to pay me £100 a month. He agreed. It was obvious that many others would be in the same boat as him so providing a cost-effective and consistent solution was the way to go. If you think of the persona of someone who is too busy to update LI and look after their social channels, the A&E doctor would have to be right up there, especially with what’s happened. And doctors still use pagers today. The second busiest person is obviously the 360° recruiter, so if an A&E doctor needs one, then so too does a recruiter! We wanted to add tech back into the old school pager, hence the ‘ai’, so we ended up with paiger.co as our URL (in case you’re wondering, the .com domain wasn’t available).
Becoming a marketer’s best friend
DW: We don’t pitch our product, but rather adopt a problem-led solution, so we ask our clients what challenges they have right now in their business to resolve. Usually, it’s that their recruiters don’t post on LI even though they’ve had all the training. Organisations have all this amazing content – white papers, blog posts, salary surveys etc. – to drive more leads and generate candidate and client leads but they’re not sharing and promoting it. When companies measure ROI through increased awareness, Paiger normally comes up in the top five sources of web traffic, which shows the value of marketing in leading sales strategy. I’d like to think we’re playing our part in that!
The most precious commodity of all
DW: If you want your recruiters to share branded jobs and content, it could take them 15-20 minutes, so we measure our ROI in terms of the time we save them. The traffic we generate means you can convert a quality pipeline of candidates from LI who you’re already in touch with. There’s also the business development side of Paiger, which helps clients identify new client opportunities, so all three are important. But time is the biggest factor of all.
Consistency is crucial
DW: Everybody wants and should be building a personal brand, in other words carrying out marketing, which is long term sales. The reality is that before Paiger was developed, it was just ideas and training. But you need a vehicle to implement and build your personal brand. Training is of course important and we offer that alongside the platform. But the key element to building a personal brand is consistency and that’s what Paiger delivers.
The power of listening
DW: Although I’ve been in the industry for 15+ years, I’ve never been a recruiter or marketer. It’s so important to listen to your customers and that’s why we embed ourselves in communities such as ‘The Lonely Marketers’, to listen to their pain points which we then try and solve. If we see a good idea that gets lots of votes (there’s a ‘submit an idea’ feature on the website) we know that’s what they want and so we need to deliver that first. Our entire roadmap is community user-driven by the feedback we receive from end recruiters and admins. It’s been like that from day one. We catch up with customers at least every two months, either via a phone call or in person to make sure everything is ok, and see how the market is faring and what we need to improve on.
Tech and training go hand in hand
DW: I’m a big believer that tech without training is pointless. It depends on the individual, some people are ‘clickers’ who like to play around while others need to be shown. You need the right training for every person, so if you scale a product for 200 or 2,000 people, you’ll need all types of training, including training videos, onsite training, webinars etc. You often hear people moan that the tech is not working – the tech did its job, you just didn’t know how or why to use it! So the training has to be fit for purpose. We also cover how to be successful on LI and its algorithm to help recruiters amplify their personal brands because we know the two are closely linked.
Developing THE personal branding tool
DW: Paiger is a MarTech, not RecTech tool – we’re not a social scheduling tool like Hootsuite. We want to be synonymous with the likes of HubSpot so that B2B sales teams will use us in the same as recruitment teams do to build the personal brands of their sales and leadership teams. We’re still a baby and there’s lots more to do inside and outside recruitment. The next stage of our growth will be the US and other English speaking markets, so that will be our growth focus moving forward.
Making smart hiring decisions
DW: When I first started the business, I tried to do everything myself but I quickly found that with the right team, you will fly. The talent you hire is the most crucial part of your business success. We’ve undergone massive scale, from four people pre-covid to 20+ now (May 2022), so you need to find the right talent. The biggest lesson I’ve learnt is that it’s better to wait an extra month and get the right person than rush to get someone in. You must always think ahead even if it means taking pain in the short term – as long as it’s the right long term decision for your business.
Trust in your team
DW: If anyone in my team pulls me into a meeting, I trust them to pull me into the right ones. It comes back to having the right people. If you can’t trust someone, then why work with them? So for me, trust is the most essential thing and it will be repaid. I’m very hands-off and we have a very laid back atmosphere at Paiger. We work hard because we believe in what we’re doing, we’re a very close-knit team, all working towards the same goals.
Helping individuals grow
DW: You’ve got to enjoy your work, especially in the world we live in today. The New Gen ‘Zoomers’ are more open to changing positions because you can increase your salary more quickly. The ‘Great Resignation’ has shown that people are not happy in their roles and I don’t want that here. I believe that a company has the responsibility to keep up with the individual, not the other way round. If the person is progressing with their training, knowledge and responsibilities, if you then can’t offer them that next step up, the best scenario is that the person leaves your business in a better place. They’ve been upskilled, they leave on good terms and you’ve helped them on their path elsewhere. The worst thing you can do is to stop them from growing.
Start now, don’t delay!
DW: If there’s one piece of advice I’d give to budding entrepreneurs is just do it! There’s less risk when you’re younger, you don’t have a mortgage or kids. Just believe in yourself. You will fail but you’ll learn more from that than you will in the next 10 years of your career.
We hope you enjoyed our chat with Darren – please book a demo to find out more!
P.S. – have you seen our range of fun t-shirts about the plight of frustrated marketers? All proceeds go to George’s Windmills, a fantastic charity that supports sick children and their families, buy here.