There are few people better qualified to help others into the jobs market.

In a varied and wide-ranging career, Brian Stahelin has sold encyclopaedias, worked behind a bar and done a host of temporary jobs for major names including Nestle and the BBC.

But he found his forte in the field of recruitment – setting up his own company to match employers seeking temporary staff with candidates keen to get into work.

Brian launched Stafflex in 2000 from a cramped 100sq ft office in Aspley. The agency now occupies 2,500sq ft of space on a prominent site at Chapel Hill and employs 18 staff to provide temporary workers for clients in the education, commercial, industrial and engineering sectors.

In an industry which doesn’t always have the greatest of reputations, Stafflex has stood the test of time. Says Brian: “Our ethos is the same now as it was when when started – to try to deal with people decently and properly and not to be aggressive; to build relationships with clients.

“People don’t like to be ‘sold to’. We understood that from day one. As a result, we still have clients on board who were with us right from the beginning.

“We won’t poach people from other agencies just to get their ‘little black book’ of contacts. All our staff live pretty close to where we are – which means they know the area and the culture. We deal mainly within a 10-mile radius of our offices, although we are extending our boundaries.

”And we try to spend the money we earn in the local area. We try to put something back into the community because we are living and earning from it.”

Stafflex is a long-standing sponsor of Huddersfield Town, but has also supported other causes – including funding sports kit to local schools, making a donation to Ravensknowle Gala and even backing a Buddhist monastery in Scotland!”

Brian Stahelin, MD of Stafflex Ltd of Chapel Hill, Huddersfield
Brian Stahelin, MD of Stafflex Ltd of Chapel Hill, Huddersfield
 

The company is a member of the Mid Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce and Huddersfield Town Centre Management. Brian is a non-executive director and vice-president of the chamber as well as a trustee of Kirklees Active Leisure and trustee and chairman of governors at King James’ School, Almondbury.

“We try to look after our staff,” he says. “We call it the Stafflex family. Length of service among the employees averages 60 months, which means there is continuity and knowledge to draw on. We are Investors in People and have been accredited four times. We give all our staff a week for personal development and a personal training budget annually. Last year, we had a particularly good year, so we invited all our staff and their partners for a break at the Swinton Park Hotel in Masham.”

Continuity of employment is hardly the way to describe Brian’s own career! Born in Salisbury, his father served in the forces which meant Brian lived at various times in Aden, Malaya, Germany and Norther Ireland. From the age of eight to 18, he attended boarding schools in Southport and Surrey. “You learned to carve your own path,” he says. “It teaches you to stand on your own two feet and be independent.”

In his youth, Brian recalls telling his father that he wanted to be a manager “because it sounded good”, but was more interested in sport.

He left school at 18 and had a variety of short-term jobs, including working for a demolition firm and on building sites, working in a pub cellar and selling encyclopaedias.

He got a job with Nestle at its Croydon headquarters as a production programming clerk “dealing with the people moving milk from farms to the factory”. Just 18 months later, he was offered a commercial apprenticeship.

“I wanted to be a salesman, but I was considered too young,” Brian recalls. “I chose HR – or personnel as it was called then.”

Brian later had a spell at the BBC as a “temp” working for its central services department. He decided not to renew his six-month contract when it expired – but it had given Brian his introduction to the world of temporary labour.

He worked in personnel at bookmaker William Hill, covering staffing issues at all its betting shop branches south of the river Thames, before moving to Yorkshire and working for organisations including Rowntrees and Shepherd Construction during the day and behind the bar at night to build up some funds.

Brian’s career path took another twist in the early 1970s when he visited recruitment agencies in Leeds to register himself as available for work. “I went into a firm called SOS Recruitment and it was electric,” he says. He joined as an interviewer before moving into telesales and progressing to branch manager at Sheffield and then area manager covering Leeds, Sheffield and Bradford. During his time with the company, it grew from 17 to 120 branches and Brian ended up in charge of two trading divisions. He eventually set up his own recruitment businesses – firstly in Manchester and later in Huddersfield – before coming up with the concept for Stafflex.

“I have been in the business for a long time now and I think it is a fantastic industry,” says Brian. “You don’t have to be the most academically-gifted person to do well in it. The recruitment industry is a great leveller and it is a superb industry for people to achieve whatever they want to achieve if they are prepared to work at it. It is an industry where you can have control of your own destiny. It’s possibly the second-oldest profession,” he adds. “The slave trading fairs of Roman times were a sort of recruitment process when you think about it!”

Brian says Stafflex weathered the recession thanks to its loyal and understanding staff, who all took a 20% pay cut. “They could see what it was like out there,” he says. “I didn’t want to lose anyone. Within six months, we were trading above the line and we returned everyone to full pay.

“We kept in contact with our customers and as the economy started to improve, those clients stayed with us.”

Brian says the employment landscape has changed in the wake of the recession. “More people are now self-employed and a lot of them are working from home,” he says. “It means they have more time to themselves and less stress. A lot of people are building up employment portfolios where they work for one, two or three different organisations. They get variety and they are less stale and less vulnerable if one employer goes under.”

A busy diary means Brian is unlikely to get in a rut. “I like to go walking in the hills, visiting the pub, socialising and spending time with the family.” he says.