Business Chick founder shares recruitment insights ahead of SHAPE Conference in Hobart

14 June 2022


Entrepreneurship runs through Emma Isaacs’ veins; it is not hard to see why.

At just 18, she became the co-owner of a small recruitment company; it was the catalyst that led her to become the founder of Business Chicks – a half million strong community of businesswomen.

In September the savvy entrepreneur will headline the 2022 SHAPE Conference in Hobart hosted by RCSA.

We spoke to Emma to find out more about her business journey, challenges in the recruitment industry and her thoughts about attending RCSA’s SHAPE Conference later in the year.

What major challenges have you encountered in your career and how did you overcome them, to get to where you are today? 

I think starting out as an entrepreneur at a really young age was both a tremendous opportunity for me but also threw up lots of challenges to deal with. Being so naïve and unqualified for every task I applied myself to critically think through every situation and scenario and approach every problem without preconceived notions of what could work.

It helped me innovate and be creative and ultimately the discipline set me up to be scrappy and solutions focused, and these traits have shaped me into who I am as a businessperson today. Starting out so early and with no experience also posed challenges though – because I looked so young and was so inexperienced. I had to work ten times harder than the next person to gain trust and build my credibility. However, I was focused, determined, hard-working and honest and I wouldn’t stop until I got the job done, and do it much better than the next person!

How did your recruitment background shape you as a successful business leader?  

I feel so grateful for my early start in recruitment. Running a small agency taught me so much about the psychology of people and what makes them thrive or what keeps them stuck. It was a fascinating experiment for me in human behaviour and I loved the steep learning curve. I also valued the lessons in customer service, account management, creating culture, understanding the commerciality of business, and getting to go behind the scenes of so many different companies. I could not have asked for a better start in business and entrepreneurship and I am grateful for the seven years I spent in the industry.

There is still a gender equality gap. Why do you think women are not in more leadership roles and what role do recruitment professionals play in breaking the glass ceiling?  

People in power do not want to give up that power, but it is slowly being eroded and there’s a new wave of leadership coming through (from both men and women) who recognise business makes more sense when we approach it through a lens of diversity and equality. Women still also face career barriers when it comes to starting and running families and we still face challenges when it comes to the systemic opposition for us to step in and gain more power. Recruitment professionals can shine a light on these issues by gently encouraging clients to have these conversations and hold them accountable for their equality goals and quotas. Sometimes just asking the right questions can be the planting of a seed for action that needs to be taken.

What advice would you give to people who want to start their own recruitment business and see it flourish?  

Understand there will be sacrifices and get clear on whether you are willing to make those sacrifices. If you are willing to make them, then work hard to build your reputation as someone who acts with the utmost of integrity in every situation. Build a great team of people around you and be vulnerable and open with where your strengths lie and where they don’t. And have patience! Know that great businesses and great brands take time to earn and grow.

What does the future of the workplace look like and what should leaders focus on to be successful moving forward? 

Whether we like it or not, flexibility and remote working is not going away. Leaders need to work on how they motivate and manage their teams to get results and they need to focus on what they can control. I have never been obsessed with how hard someone works (i.e. how many hours they work and what their input is) but I do get obsessed with output – the results people achieve. How they achieve these is up to them.

What’s the greatest life lesson you’ve received and how did you apply this to your career? 

If you are calm and confident, then you will instil calmness and confidence in others. I try never to forget it is my job to be a role model for others – whether that is for the people in my team, the members in the Business Chicks community, or my children at home - and I hold myself to very high standards to always act in a way that makes me proud. I often fail of course, but I do work hard on setting the tone wherever I am so culture can actualise, and I can play a part in how people experience life all around me.

What does it meant to you to be part of the RCSA SHAPE 2022 Conference in Hobart?

It is a real privilege for me to spend time with people who lead the recruitment industry. I am honoured to be a part of it all and cannot wait to hear of the learnings and transformations that come out of the conference.

To find out more about The SHAPE Conference click here.