Leena Parmar: In 2009 I Founded Citrus Connect Recruitment With My Launch Client, The Automobile Association

August 26, 2022

In 2009 I founded Citrus Connect Recruitment with my launch client, The Automobile Association. With my help and expertise we grew their direct sales force by 212% within an 18 month period.

I perfected a recruitment process that was simple, easy and efficient to specifically recruit ‘self-employed’ direct sales personnel. Initially, my vision was to fulfil a gap in the marketplace to recruit for these types of sales roles.

This has evolved since its inception as we now are the number 1 direct sales recruitment company in the UK, including the recruitment of salaried sales roles, sales managers and directors across all sectors.

My desire is for Citrus Connect Recruitment to share the power of direct sales and how it can completely transform lives, I have seen firsthand how candidates have been able to walk into sales roles and earn 6 figures in their first year with no experience, positively changing their quality of life and financial situation.

My ultimate aim is to change the face of recruitment, our industry can be very transactional and unemotional.

However my aim at Citrus Connect is to work in partnership with our clients; we are here to serve them, enhance and grow their business, work in alliance and create a long-term, win/win relationship.

Our core values at Citrus Connect are:

  • HUMILITY – builds trust. Humility means putting the needs and desires of others higher than yourself. It does not mean putting yourself down to make the other person feel better. It means taking the focus off yourself and shining a light on other people.
  • OPPORTUNITY – Consistent follow-through proves you are trustworthy. We make our word our bond. Delivering on your word, and honouring it, speaks volumes.
  • CAPACITY – Frustrations arise when we are over capacity, this is when fear, doubt, anger and rage arise. We understand the accuracy, not the volume that is perfect for our own capacity to achieve results for our clients and feel fulfilled. We cannot expect and assume that someone else’s capacity is the same as ours, but understand our own capacity so we can delegate unnecessary tasks and focus on the ones that positively impact results.

Tell us about yourself?

I started as an International Relations graduate with an amazing experience at the United Nations in New York whilst in my second year, I finished with a dream to join the Foreign Office or Army, (specifically the RAF), I failed the final entrance exams!

I then qualified as a teacher to impact the youth, discouraged by the bureaucracy I attracted a successful career with my first love – fashion! ⁠

I travelled the world with my fashion career, from LA, Malaysia, Singapore and more – I loved it! I was in my element, totally in love with what I was doing and saw my career here for the foreseeable future.

Two years into this career, I had to leave due to some personal issues – this is when my entrepreneurial journey began and Citrus Connect was birthed.

I had always kept my eye on the recruitment industry and when I came across a gap in the marketplace, I knew this was my calling. It is astounding what can be birthed from what I thought was a completely dire situation. It took grit and rigour, but today am proud that what was once a dream is now a reality.

If you could go back in time a year or two, what piece of advice would you give yourself?

Just do it! Fear can cripple us and we get so caught up in what will people think, and who I am I do this, so the biggest thing that I have learnt is just to do it.

Do the video, do the voice recording, post, advertise, and reach out. Don’t do it out of ego but do it out of obligation to your audience, you are obliged to tell them what you know.

What problem does your business solve?

The biggest problem at the moment in the marketplace is finding the right talent, so businesses can continue to grow in this economic climate. Without the right people selling the products our clients business can not grow.

So we find the right people in the right geographical location so they can continue to grow their business. It is such a candidate-driven market at the moment where the candidates have the power, so we solve that problem for our clients by finding people.

We do such a good job at edifying the company and our clients that people do not want to work for anybody else but our clients.

What is the inspiration behind your business?

When I started Citrus Connect, I had just lost my job in the fashion industry, a big passion of mine. I was in the depths of despair and went to a couple of agencies myself and realised that this service could be done better.

Fortunately for me at that time I did a little more research in the recruitment industry and found a gap in that marketplace for recruiting self-employed direct sales agents, which is when I got my launch client The Automobile Association, we helped grow their sales force by 212% in 18 months.

So the biggest problem that I solved was helping clients grow their headcount to support their business growth. It is always about headcount.

Sales units work in terms of ‘I need this many heads to get this much growth’, and sometimes they do not know where to get the heads, so that is where we come in to help and support them in their business growth. What inspires me is knowing that I play an integral part in the growth of my clients’ businesses.

What is your magic sauce?

Data, data data, tracking numbers.

Everything comes down to what the numbers say. Business is an inside job, once you start looking at the data, understanding the patterns, understanding trends, and learning how your business going to overcome a negative trend or how is it going to ride a positive trend. For me, the magic sauce is always data.

What is the plan for the next 5 years? What do you want to achieve?

The vision is to continue to help businesses grow but never compromise on service and the quality of volume that we add to our clients.

I would really like to change the perception of self-employed direct sales roles as I see people’s lives change drastically in front of my eyes and I want to continue to do that and build a bank of thousands and thousands of stories that people share with the world how a direct sales role has transformed their life.

There is a philanthropic part of me that really wants to give back and I see such a lack of education when it comes to CV writing, job hunting, interview skills, and even job performance.

So I would really like to see something created whether it is on our own or in partnership with somebody else where we can really support people on how to find a job and how to do it right.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?

The initial shock of covid was a make-or-break situation for Citrus Connect. Our income stopped overnight, clients were prioritising rent, wages, and utilities payments over paying their recruitment fees which were completely understandable.

As the protector and provider of Citrus Connect, I made sure that we stayed in business and that we continued adding value by supporting our clients wherever we possibly could. We had to change course, we had to reduce the team, move out of our offices and go into a remote-based role.

I personally used the time effectively to re-strategise, and re-work our business plan as I could foresee changes in the recruitment landscape and ensured we were ready for our clients when they needed us.

It was a stressful time, a time where anxiety could have sent me in the opposite direction. However, my mindful practices as well as my discipline for my health and fitness kept me mentally strong.

I appreciated the time of lockdown as I was able to go inwards and birth Citrus Connect from the right place.

I started to understand how I wanted to contribute to the world, how I want to contribute as an entrepreneur, and really understanding my values as an entrepreneur and the kind of clients I really want to work with and the kind of clients I didn’t.

Although it was a challenging moment financially for us, I always look to see the positive in everything and what I can do to add value.

So I used that time to create lots of media content, partnered up with experts, and created lots of YouTube videos that would help people navigate the crises from an employment perspective.

Fortunately for us, we are now growing the team again and back in offices. So now it’s really growth time. I am fortunate enough to have great clients who supported me whilst we supported them and together we came out on the other side as winners.

How do people get involved/buy into your vision?

It always comes back to value, attributes, and the characteristics of the people I choose to work with.

This goes back to a book called the Ideal Team Player by Patrick Lencioni, where he talks about 3 key values that you should look for in an employee and that is humility, hunger, and smarts.

So if there is one thing that I am looking for in my clients, my candidate, and the team that I am growing, it will be these three traits.

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