Ironman Stole My Wellies… and other ToyFair Stories!!

RED WELLIES (2)Toy Fair 2013 with Birchwood Recruitment – my first one – and what an adventure it was!!

After a snowy start in Gloucestershire in our Birchwood Recruitment standard issue red wellies, we trundled up to Olympia.  Imagine my excitement when I first spotted Optimus Prime outside, being ignored by past Toy Fair industry-hardened folk!  Not me – I begged to drive him, he honked at me, and I took about 40 photos – all part of the experience so I’m told!

Once inside I was greeted by a plethora of colours, sounds and sights!  I couldn’t wait to get stuck in!  I was not sure of what to expect, but I wasn’t disappointed.

I would say that most of the stands looked AMAZING, showing off your ranges at their best.  Closed stands, however, were a great big let-down, Lego – I am disappointed!! And as for Sales teams who did not even look up from their phones or even if they did, it was fleeting you should be considering your options (give us a call).

It was lovely to put faces to names of both Birchwood Recruitment candidates and clients.  I was excited to meet those placed by Birchwood since I joined – Dan Richardson  at Innovation First, Michelle Fox, Richard Hawkins and Paul Edwards at VTech to name but a few.  It was easy to see why Amanda had chosen to put you forward for the roles that you have taken on, and great to see you enjoying these roles.

optimus primeBoth Amanda and I were invited onto a huge number of stands and thanks to everyone who showed us round.  I would like to mention the very welcoming teams at Jumbo Games (thanks for the tea), Trunki, Carta Mundi, Click Distribution and Innovation First (makers of the wonderful Hexbug which I DO believe runs on magic dust!)  It was amazing to see the difference the “welcome” made to the number of people visiting the stand and enquiring about the products.

I also enjoyed seeing the brilliant ranges and ideas being introduced.  Hornby has some exciting products as do AppToyz – I was also interested in the way that apps seem to changing and shaping the industry.

It was great to watch the Sales Teams at work, being so passionate about their products and then revelling in their successes.  This is a part of the Toy Industry that outsiders rarely get to see and it was fascinating.  From big corporations such as Vtech and Flair to smaller companies such as A Girl for All Time, MedalHaul and Floppets, the different way in which you have to “sell” your product to the buyers was definitely an insight for me.

ironmanAfter a whirlwind day of meeting, greeting and gasping at everything I saw and rescuing my wellies from Iron Mans clutches (well getting them back after I left them by him when taking a photo – you can take the girl out Gloucestershire!)  we headed off to the Alternative Drinks Party.  This was a great opportunity for me to watch business being achieved in a much more casual way, and to have a good old gossip!

On Thursday, we were back to it, enjoying what was the last day of the Fair and getting a better opportunity to speak to everyone in a much quieter setting.  It was lovely to be introduced to you all and connect with Birchwood Recruitment clients and candidates past, present and future.

After lunch we headed home – very tired, but pleased with how our own performance at Toy Fair had gone!

A special mention must be made to all the guys and gals at Progressive Preschool Magazine – you were all lovely and are a great team.  Thanks to Rob Willis for lunch – thank god we ate, considering a mix up (not by us) on our lengthy journey home meant that we were redirected round the whole UK!  Note to selves – drive next year!

Looking forward to seeing you again at Spring fair!


Little Red Wellies


On the 10th Day of Christmas Birchwood gave to thee… A Brand New Career Opportunity!!!


Are you looking to embark on a career in sales?

Do you know someone who wants to break into sales?

Do you know someone who has the X Factor?


I love working with businesses that are growing and evolving and my client is certainly doing that. My client is a growing collectible gift and toy business with a fantastically high quality product range. With a strong account base and accolades that include a Toy Talk Award and a Mum’s Choice award this company has a created a real niche in the girls roleplay sector.

Due to expansion and growth my client is looking to recruit a new member of the team to learn and grow as the business does. Initially this role will be geared around the various trade shows at the start of the year and will give someone a real opportunity to see how a business operates at this busy time.

To get the most from this role and to ensure both the business and the new person gets the best, the ideal candidate will be based in West London and have a real passion for business. The successful candidate will ideally be a of graduate calibre, with excellent communication skills and bags of personality, keen to work as part of a small team and eager to grow with the business.

For more information give me a call.

New Shoes On the Block!!

I am not sure how exactly I spell a drum roll so without further ado I have great pleasure in introducing the new member of the Birchwood team/the new shoes on the block/ my Little Miss Admin!! You know what; I am not sure what Caroline’s job title should be so any polite ideas would be gratefully received.

Hello everyone! My name is Caroline Rickards and I am the new administrator at Birchwood Recruitment working with Amanda. I have been working with Amanda for 2 months and as you can imagine the recruitment process was very stringent… however given that I am shorter than her and we have the same colour hair it was bound to be a match made in heaven. I have worked in banking and retail and this is my first experience of the recruitment industry…

I have recently been uploading candidates CV’s onto our new computer system and, it has been an eye-opening experience to say the least. I thought all CV’s would be pretty much the same… I have made some really interesting observations that I would like to share with you.

  • When you are meeting someone you are potentially going to be working with it needs to be someone you click with, someone who “just gets it.” Whether this is based on work ethics or personality, it is easier to work with someone who you get on with.  This ensures a relationship where you can both be honest and no ideas are discounted.  Amanda and I have this one covered both work and personality wise – we are both geeks, like the same films, books, freaky looking men and also our sons get on really well.  We often turn up to the office having made the same “To Do List” the previous evening which can be just spooky!!!
  • Both parties need to have trust. Someone you give up some control to – even though it can be hard letting go.  Amanda and I have worked at this slowly.  She is still in full control of the information about all the candidates and clients (and let me tell you, the amount of information she can recall about an individual is staggering) but I am the one who processes this information. Amanda and I have to have trust in each other.  She trusts me to work on my own initiative but within our respected boundaries and I trust that she will let me in to help her!!  This has provided me with a sense of responsibility for the work that I produce for Amanda – I suspect she was secretly aiming for this without me knowing!!
  • Someone who shares your ambitions and the passion for work – Whilst I am new to the Toy Industry and somewhat on the fringes, I appreciate Amanda’s contagious passion for all things play-related!  Amanda has made it clear how she wants her business to move forward and I fully understand how my role fits into her plan.  Again, Amanda has trusted me enough to share this information with me and I feel a sense of responsibility to help Amanda reach her goals and to fulfil the ambition for my own role.
  • Employers who are looking for someone like me are seeking a person who can input into and create processes that make a difference. Amanda and I share working ideas all the time.  Some are minor and inconsequential, but others make a real difference.  I recently changed a process on one of the days where Amanda was out of the office visiting clients.  When Amanda came into the office the next day, I could show her the full benefit, Amanda didn’t question why I had changed this, just accepted my new idea which fitted with the way we worked and what we wanted to achieve in a much more streamlined way.

An important dynamic needs to occur between employers and their potential candidates.  Candidates, this is what you are aiming for – to be the person that clicks, is trustworthy, shares ambition, can add input and accept a responsibility to the Employers business.  When in an interview you should also be convinced by your potential employer that this is what you’ll be able to do within their company.

Employers; there are many ways that you can help make your working life easier including being prepared to relinquish some control –let someone in– sometimes fresh eyes are better even though this feels harder to accept at times.  Also, ensuring your vision for growth in the future is clear and will empower individuals to perform – give them a sense of responsibility to your ideas and lastly, also encouraging input – great ideas come from those doing as well as those thinking!

I look forward to working with Amanda in the future and hopefully talking to and meeting some of you.  In the meantime, if you have any updates to your CV’s, please forward a Word copy to Amanda and once she has memorised everything, I will add the updates to our sparkly computer system, and if you are looking to expand your team you know who to call!!


I will get her in heels… I will, I will!!

Amanda x

50 Shades of Red

Been working with Jo, owner of Kudos for a while now and I think its fair to say that it has been an interesting few months for the both of us – so transformation time is here! Jo had hers a few weeks ago (didn’t really need me about for that) and I am sure that you will agree with me that she looks fab!



So its my turn (it is all about me). Women and hairdressers; it’s a funny combination – my mum likens going to the hairdresser with going to the dentist and I know she is not alone. This blog is designed to walk you through a major change to allow you to see what is involved, along with seeing the Birchwood effect!!

Its 10am and I am blond! Well, not quite. Apparently I am ‘rockin the hombre’ which is apparently a much cooler way of saying that I should be in the rock band Europe with roots like this. Jo is as excited as I am as hairdressers don’t often get free rein. We discussed hard and soft limits (in true 50 shades of grey style) which as you can imagine caused much hilarity and a little giggling. We have gone for a slightly different shape and a very different colour… 50 Shades of Red!!!

With the colour in and cooking nicely (I love the smell of ammonia in the mornings) I am all curled up in a big comfy chair and its time to reflect. I love coming here to be pampered, to experience, to share ideas. Environments that are entirely female can be challenging; Kudos is different. Kudos is fun, vibrant, dynamic and happy and devoid of bitchy atmosphere. The attitude comes from both the top down and the bottom up; the passion and commitment from ALL staff is tangible and inspiring. I have spoken with the staff individually and they all love what they do and they all appreciate the opportunity they have at Kudos. Other vital things include the coffee that is both fantastic and on tap and the biscuits are bloody ace (never change your supplier Mrs B). For those that havent heard of Kudos and Jo Ballard (OMG!! Where have you been?) have a look at the article I did earlier on this year All About the Kudos.  Also, have a look at her bloody brilliant blogs; they are honestly written using humour and she is happy to talk about any subject no matter how controversial… Cant imagine where she may have got that idea from!!!

Anyway back to me!! Back to the sink and we are rinsing, washing, rinsing, washing, oh and washing again – thank the lord for black sinks or it would look like a blood bath – Jo looks like she has been in a 70’s horror movie and I am feeling a little nervous, for soon it will be done… cut dried straightened and we are ready for the big reveal…

In amongst all of this we talked work too! Trade shows, marketing campaigns, career ladders, Christmas opening… plans for world domination, you know the usual things! You know what when you get 2 people together who feel as passionately as we do about what we do then sparks fly (watch this space).

Its 2.15pm and it’s brilliant, I love it!! I do not put my trust in just anyone when it comes to hair or business and I trust Jo with both! Jo tells me that in her experience she has never worked with such good colour as Joico and she is thrilled with the results it gives. All I know is that my hair feels ace and I love it xx

Jessie J Pricetag … No…Really!

Another normal day for Birchwood. Whizzing about doing 100 things at once, driving back from an appointment in Gloucester had a really positive conversation with my business coach and then a bit of me time with the radio in my lovely new car before an afternoon of laptops, phones and work. In a press of a button Jessie J and Price Tag…

“Seems like everybody’s got a price

I wonder how they sleep at night

When the sale comes first and the truth comes second

Just stop for a minute and smile”

Love this song and always have to crank up the volume (I am a bloody brilliant singer, my son recently advised me that I could go on X Factor when I had been tuned up) listening to the words they could not be more accurate.

As people we all have a “price”, we all have the line that we will not cross. I am sure Jessie J was not thinking about recruiters when she wrote this song but it would appear that the line for recruiters is blurry, muddy, and you know what? I do “wonder how they sleep at night”. Look on any recruiters website and you see the words you want to hear as a client or a candidate – ethical, caring, passionate, dedicated, quality, best practice, committed, perfect match. In response to this?

Having been in recruitment for 14 years now and been in different business types I know the reality can be very different. Morals go out of the window when you are faced with massive pressure to place. Recruitment is fast paced and the expectation from business owners for their consultants to bill is massive. But at what cost?

Honesty is the only policy for me… for 2 reasons. Firstly, I really do care; I work in a very niche market. The UK toy sector has been an incredible support to me over the years and I would feel disloyal to my trade if I was not giving people an honest picture, whether it is relating to how a company is under the surface or what a candidates background really looks like. Secondly, I am too bloody busy to be telling lies!

For me, it really “Aint about the Cha-Ching, Cha-ching”.  And “the Ba-Bling Ba-Bling”  is a happy consequence of doing what I love which is bringing people together. Whether it is at trainee level for Sambro International, Senior level for MGA or a multiple expansion plan with Vtech I love what I do, I will go the extra mile for each and every client and candidate. However… NOT at any cost! I will not lie for you, and if you are not truthful I will find out. I am particular about who I represent on both the client and the candidate side (it is my decision who I work with and I take that very seriously). My integrity and the integrity of Birchwood is important to me and I will not jeopardise my business for the sake of an ‘easy fee’. So when I hear of other recruiters who are quite obviously living by the mantra “… the sale comes first and the truth comes second’”I really do “…stop for a minute and smile”. I know I am ethical in what I do. I know my clients and candidates respect me for that. They may not always be easy conversations but they are honest.

Don’t believe me? Take a look at my testimonials or pick up the phone and ask people… I dont expect people to take my word for it x

Monsters…egg sandwiches and Supercars!

Come along and see what it is all about… The business being done and the relationships that are being built are unrivaled. I look forward to seeing you at the Worcester show on the 28th; come and say Hi. This blog gives a great flavour of how the show feels; thanks for putting it in writing Sales Academy; brilliantly put xx

Interview Tips for Girls… Bloody Babies!

I know this may appear sexist to have additional interview tips for girls but the fact is that ladies have matters they have to consider before interview that men just don’t. We all know that prospective employers are prohibited from asking gender specific questions. Do not believe that just because the interviewer cannot ask the question they are not desperate for the answer.

So, let’s deal with the shocking truth… women have babies! (and here is mine, isn’t he just lush, he is a bit bigger than this now)

My general advice in interview is that you tell the truth. Honesty is always the best policy whatever the subject during interview. However, I am not suggesting that you walk into the interview and announce you have no plans to breed, and nor would I expect you to advise that you have to leave within the hour as you are ovulating! Being a woman of childbearing age puts you at a disadvantage as a candidate for many employers, I am not here to discuss whether this is right or fair; it is the reality. I never put words into the mouths of my candidates, it is not my style; you need to find your own way to deal with the ‘elephant in the room’. My advice is to use language that will put the interviewer at ease… ‘I am career focussed’, ‘In the next five years I expect to be…’, ‘I want to make a long-term commitment to a role’. Talking actively about wanting to have children is never considered a good idea during interview… and before people start shouting about feminism, burning bras, and equality in the workplace I am looking purely commercially. Women of childbearing age need to understand that:

An employer can claim 92% of the maternity pay it pays out back from the government which is why most people think it is easy to deal with. However, businesses also need to consider additional costs; holiday accrued (when someone is on maternity leave). Change in role for the pregnant woman may mean a whole new role has to be created. Loss of working hours prior to maternity leave being taken (sickness, antenatal classes). Risk assessments may mean new chairs, additional rest breaks, stopping driving. The employer has to recruit a replacement at on a temporary basis, additional training will be needed, and in many cases there will be a handover period = 2 salaries for one job, recruitment fees the list goes on and on. Then when the babies come and mums come back to work there are a billion more considerations… If you were the employer would you employ a woman of childbearing age?

If you are the best candidate you will get the job. In my experience many of my clients would rather recruit women. This is especially true at senior sales level as they are much better relationship builders than their male counterparts (client opinion, I love everyone equally). I will not work on a discriminatory job vacancy but that is not to say that they do not exist. I am aware that there are some clients who may not show me exactly what they intend to recruit.

When you are in interview show that you are committed to your career and working life. If asked about childcare arrangements do not say ‘well I will leave the office immediately if my child is unwell at school’. Answer as a man would ‘oh the other half deals with all that side of things, I am the main bread-winner’ – issue dealt with. Whether it is true is another matter but believe me you answer in the first style and that is the only thing that interviewer will remember answer in the second and the interviewer will not even mention it during the feedback.

Your aim as a candidate in an interview is to get the job offer. An interview is a sales process like any other – you are selling yourself to a business and the business is selling itself to you. All candidates have to plan and prepare answers to typical questions. If you are wise you will deal with this head on to secure that new role. Put yourself in the best possible position to make your decision… better to have been offered a role and turn it down for you are not comfortable than not be offered at all!!

To find out how we can best work together please contact me in the best way for you for a totally confidential discussion, for my contact details have a look at the ‘talk to the shoes’ page