Client Spotlight: McArthur

McArthur ­– the well-known Adelaide-based HR consulting, temporary staffing and specialist recruitment agency – was originally launched in 1969, when chairman and founder John McArthur was working as a regional sales manager with Haigh’s Chocolates. During one particularly busy period, he hired a recruitment agency to help him meet growing business demands. Unimpressed by the level of service (but intrigued by the potential business opportunities!), John had an “I can do this better” lightbulb moment, believing there was real opportunity in the sector. At the time the profession was immature in Australia, so most of the industry research undertaken by John was from the USA and UK.

Today the firm’s network covers key capital cities across Australia – including Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, and Canberra – while proudly maintaining their head office in Adelaide. Since 1993, the company’s growth is up more than twentyfold, and they have a core staff of more than 200 people with thousands of temporary employees.

John’s son Matthew McArthur now serves as CEO of the firm and says, “Our company’s blueprint for growth has been an uncompromised focus on specialist industry sectors where we believed we could genuinely add value, including Government, Commerce, Engineering, Human Services, Nursing, Early Childhood Education, Aged Care and Legal. We also have a rapidly growing presence in the broader care economy through our Community Care and Health Support brands.”

Challenges along the way

“Growth has been a never-ending challenge,” says Matthew. “However, in the early days, expanding from our Adelaide base was tough. There were many hours in planes and lots of interstate doorknocking to win business. Those were hard days, made harder by our decision to expand three months before the ‘Recession we had to have’ in 1989.”

Another early challenge for the company was working with and educating banks.

“We had to get them to realise that the more funds we needed in those days, the more successful we were,” explains Matthew. “Those funds were used to pay our growing number of field staff employees who were working as temporary staff in our client offices. It seemed to be a foreign concept to our bankers.”

Fortunately, in time they overcame this issue through the reinvestment of profits back into the business, removing any need for external financial support.

Building a great business

When it comes to building a great business, Matthew says, “The most important ingredient is the people.”

He notes that attracting and retaining high-calibre staff who share your company vision can be a challenge, but they have been incredibly fortunate over the years.

“We have an exceptional team of people,” he states. “They’re highly skilled in their sectors and truly passionate about making a difference in the industries and professions they support, and we have achieved outstanding longevity of tenure.” One such team member has been with them since 1971.

Accru Harris Orchard Director Chris Marshall says, “The culture at McArthur plays a major part in its success. The owners have a unique way of making team members, suppliers and stakeholders feel a part of the organisation, which in turn engenders great loyalty. The ethos created by the founder in 1969 is very much seen in the business today.”

Matthew believes other keys principles for establishing a great, sustainable business include strict debtor management and control, ongoing reinvestment in the business, leveraging and playing to your strengths, being clear on what you offer and sticking to what you’re good at.

“We also focus on the principle of recession-proofing our business,” he says. “What this means for us is ensuring that there’s diversity in our client mix, business lines and geographic presence to ensure we’re not too dependent on any one market, economic challenge, or government policy. Having seen numerous recessions since our founding, we have been tested time and time again and are very pleased with our level of resilience.”

Accru Harris Orchard’s role in the journey

The relationship between McArthur and Accru Harris Orchard dates back to 1981 when McArthur assisted Harris and Orchard (as it was known then) to appoint a school leaver to train as an accountant. That school leaver was actually Chris Marshall, who is celebrating his 42nd year with the firm and has been the accountant for McArthur since they became a client in 1993! 

Chris Marshall says, “I am truly indebted to McArthur for helping me to get my first job and to work alongside the Group for so many years. The school leaver policy is still going today, with the appointment of eight school leavers and undergraduates in the last two years.”

Over the years, Accru Harris Orchard has assisted the company with regular reporting on financial performance, cost management and advice on corporate structures and key performance measures to assist their growth.

“Accru Harris Orchard’s involvement has been pivotal to our growth and development,” says Matthew. “We recognise the importance of surrounding yourself with highly capable people, and they have been a true partner to us. They create an environment where any queries are not just ‘dealt with’ – they lean into issues and educate us along the way.”

He adds, “Simply put, the people at Accru Harris Orchard are decent, genuine, and highly competent professionals. We have a true partnership with them and McArthur is a better company for it.”

Looking ahead

Having expanded steadily since 1969, it’s probably no surprise that the company has clear plans to continue their growth. Matthew says the company’s national expansion of their branch network will continue, with locations coming soon in Western Australia and the Northern Territory. They’re also working on establishing all specialist divisions in every branch, and ensuring they are market leaders in each state and sustainable over the long term.

“Other goals are refining and building on our divisional expertise and creating a better candidate experience from application to hire,” says Matthew. “We strive to not just understand our sectors, but improve them – and for our candidates, we want to make the process of getting a job as fulfilling as possible.”

To learn more, visit the McArthur website.

Want to learn more about how Accru Harris Orchard can help you build a great business? Contact our team today.

About the Author

Chris Marshall
Chris has spent his entire career at Accru Harris Orchard. After joining in 1981, he left to study, and to gain experience working overseas – and then returned to the firm he feels so much a part of.

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