Wilson Scott Recruitment | Building business back better

Auckland firm Wilson Scott Recruitment is rebuilding to new heights following a “perfect storm” of setbacks that included Covid’s shock squeeze on the construction industry.

Director Ben Bright credits much of the business’ turnaround to Moore Markhams Auckland director Toby Laidlaw and his team. The recruitment firm is again riding the wave of strong demand in construction and is in the process of merging with a construction company.

Ben established Wilson Scott Recruitment in 2016 as a specialist recruiter for senior managers in the Auckland commercial construction industry.  The firm soon established a reputation for strong networking and developing deep relationships with candidates and employers, enabling it to find the right fit for both, says Ben.

“We don’t rely on advertising, and we don’t really target the active job seeker market. But we are talking to people in the industry every day, so that we know, for example, when a particular candidate has come to the end of a project and is looking for a new challenge or wants to step up in a role. When firms get someone from us, they know they are going to be a decent fit.”

The firm’s books grew quickly, and its headcount rose to five staff. But a “perfect storm” of an office relocation to Tauranga, a history of poor accounting advice resulting in a significant tax liability, and the shock impact of Covid-19 on the construction industry, left the business in poor shape and with no staff other than Ben.

“We were in a very tough position with debt, no income and no cash reserves. It is testament to Toby and the team that they took us on. Toby had a good reputation and Moore Markhams is a significant firm with a trusted brand.”

Toby was able to cut through complex accounting ideas and explain them in a way that gave Ben greater knowledge and control over the financials of his business.

“My understanding now is light years ahead of what it was.”

Toby liaised with the IRD and advised on debt management, and the business was back in the black in just one year, Ben says. It is now debt-free, employs three staff and is very profitable.

“Toby’s support was just huge, and he was a reassuring voice throughout it all. He was quick to understand the recruitment market and the specific gaps we discussed; he could see the business was viable long-term.”

Toby has also been advising on Wilson Scott Recruitment’s next step, a merger with six-person Tauranga construction firm PRD Construction.

Ben plans to gradually step back from the recruitment side so that he can become commercial director of the construction firm. “The owner of PRD and I have complementary skills, we don’t cross-over. Our goal is to grow the construction business to become a full design and build service, focusing on high-end residential architecture.”  

The recruitment business will continue to grow, Ben says, reflecting continued strong demand in commercial construction and a chronic skills shortage – brought into stark relief when the borders closed.

“The initial Covid-19 response obviously impacted development and delivery programmes and there was a sense of caution. The industry was stop-start for a while but since the beginning of last year, demand has been out of control, and it hasn’t stopped.”

Wage inflation is also affecting personnel placement in the construction sector, Ben says, with salary demands up at least 30 percent on last year. “Not all firms can meet that. It is really tough, and companies are struggling. Across our eight core clients, there are about 50 active management roles we are engaged to fill.”

Wilson Scott Recruitment will take on another employee in the next six months, and Ben has a succession plan in place for his move to the construction business – which will also use Toby and Moore Markhams Auckland for accounting and business advisory services.

“It’s been a complete breath of fresh air dealing with Toby and the team. Working with down-to-earth people who care about you has made all the difference. I feel very fortunate. To go from where we were to where we are now has been huge.”


Director Ben Bright says demand for senior managers in construction is "out of control", with border restrictions squeezing an already tight market.