The Group’s strategy is to expand and diversify the business by industry sectors, professional disciplines, geography and level of focus, be it Page Personnel, Michael Page or in Page Executive, with the objective of being the leading specialist recruitment consultancy in each of our chosen markets.
As recruitment activity is dependent upon economic cycles, by being more diverse, the dependency on individual businesses or markets is reduced, making the overall Group more resilient. This strategy is pursued entirely through the organic growth of existing and new teams, offices, disciplines and countries with a consistent team and meritocratic culture.
Our organic growth is achieved by drawing upon the skills and experiences of proven PageGroup management, ensuring we have the best and most experienced, home-grown talent in each key role. When we invest in a new business, we do so only with a long-term objective and in the knowledge that at some point there will be periods when economic activity slows. Whilst it is difficult to predict accurately when these slowdowns will occur and how severe they will be, it has been our practice in the past and remains our intention in the future to maintain our presence in our chosen markets, while keeping close control over our cost base.
Our team-based structure and profit share business model is scalable. The small size of our specialist teams also means that we can increase our headcount rapidly to achieve growth. When market conditions tighten, these teams then reduce in size largely through natural attrition. Consequently, our cost base will be reduced in a slowdown. Having invested years in training and developing our highly capable management teams, our objective is to ensure we retain this expertise within the Group. By following this course of action, we typically gain market share during downturns and position our businesses for market leading rates of growth when economic conditions improve.
Pursuing this approach does mean that in an economic downturn our profitability declines as, in addition to the lower productivity levels that come with a slowdown, we also carry spare capacity. However, when market conditions improve, the Group’s profitability recovers quickly as spare capacity is utilised. Adopting this strategy in times of economic slowdown also drives our financing strategy and the management of our balance sheet position. In periods of economic slowdowns, the business has continued to produce strong cash flows, as working capital requirements reduce.
However, with uncertainty around the length and depth of any economic slowdown, a strong balance sheet is essential in order to support the businesses through tougher periods and as economic conditions improve and the businesses start growing, to fund increased working capital requirements.