Candice Rookes knows how to make things happen. As a co-founder of Recruitment Partners Inc., she helped build a business that now has offices in both Edmonton and Calgary. She’s also President of Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) Edmonton, as the second female leader to hold that title.
“In 2011, Joe Gagliardi, Kathy Fayad and I started Recruitment Partners at our kitchen tables,” says Rookes. “Six months later we leased an office and hired a receptionist. Every month we grew a little more.”
Recruitment Partners offers vetted permanent, contract, and temporary placement recruitment in addition to a career center to help recruits with resumes, interview skills and offers. The company also provides executive search for senior leadership positions.
“We get it!” says Rookes of Recruitment Partners’ services. “Finding the right fit for your business is no simple task. It is time consuming and sometimes painful. Our goal is not to only meet your expectations, but to exceed them. It’s simple; we must source you a more superior candidate than who you could find on your own for free, or our fee is unwarranted. From identifying strong, qualified candidates, to supporting you throughout the selection process and providing ongoing advice through our collaborative consultative approach, we offer a simply unparalleled experience. Whether you are a locally owned startup on your way to the top, already a well-established organization or a Fortune 500 firm, we have the solution for you.”
Rookes thinks back on the drivers of Recruitment Partners’ growth.
“When we decided to start our own business, we never thought ‘what if it doesn’t work… what is the backup plan?’ This was the plan, this was what we were going to do, and there wasn’t a second thought.”
However, the growth, especially during 2020, wasn’t without challenges.
“Hands down the COVID crisis was our biggest challenge to date,” admits Rookes. “In 24 hours we went from ‘if we had to lay off’ to ‘we are laying off some of our team today.’ It was insane, frightening, emotional and a whole bunch of other things all wrapped into one. We have an amazing team and had to lay off people that we had just hired. I hope it is something we never have to endure again. We have come out the other side, much better for it, but COVID left a scar.
“However, our greatest challenge was also our biggest opportunity and learning curve. Pre-COVID, I would have never said we could grow our business and take it to the next level while retaining the small company, personalized feel that we have with our employees, candidates and clients; but, during 2020 we launched our executive search and expanded into other parts of Canada and into the U.S., as we found working remotely allowed us to do so very effectively.”
Executive search service was launched to align with clients that were looking for more than recruitment and needed executive leadership level candidates. Rookes continues, “We expected it would take a little time to get off the ground, but to our pleasant surprise it took off faster than we anticipated, and we continue to be exceeding our expectations.”
Always agile, Recruitment Partners works with the way the market has changed. It is a constant adaptation of the local market.
“The days of employers having all the control over candidates is over. It is a candidate market now and maybe it will be for a very long time. COVID has really put things in perspective for many people. Candidates are not interested in long hours, rigid environments or lack of employee-centric cultures. They want to feel valued, be actively contributing and know they are being heard.”
Requirement Partners is up for the challenges of the new market and continues to enjoy building partnerships among employers and job seekers while having a great working environment for their team.
“We have the opportunity to change lives every single day in our community. We get to significantly impact the lives of our team, provide them life-changing opportunities and develop them into our future partners and leaders. When it is all said and done, we will leave a legacy – and that’s amazing! We are all about building long-term relationships, no matter what the dollars look like. We always want to do the right thing for our team, our candidates and for our clients.”
One way Rookes focuses on building relationships is through the Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) Edmonton.
“In 2012, I had attended a learning conference where I was so underwhelmed by the peer learning experience, the facilitator, and the general feel of the room that when I went home, I spent the next couple of hours looking for somewhere, some place or group, where I could learn from and interact with other business owners and be a better leader,” says Rookes. “I wasn’t looking for a typical networking, lead generating group – I wanted more, and I wanted to be challenged. Although I had no idea what I was getting into at the time, I applied to EO, went through their newly developed test drive process and was accepted.
“Peer-to-peer learning is a big part of why I chose EO. I have had the privilege of being in the company of very established and successful entrepreneurs that are all willing to give me their time, lend an ear, and most of all not judge my choices. Having said that, peer-to-peer learning is a very small part of what EO can do for each of us. We have the opportunity to be mentored by well-known and influential business owners in our city, pursue a masters in executive education at MIT, participate in the path of leadership at regional and global levels and learn from leaders around the world at global events.”
Rookes discusses what she calls EO’s biggest impact, which is providing a safe place to be real in business and to be real in life.
“I thought I was going to learn some business strategies, take them to the office and call it a day. Instead, I learned so much more. EO has provided me with a voice and a platform to learn and recognize a dream that I didn’t even know I had. The little things and the smallest conversations at the most unique of times have had the biggest impact on me personally. EO has helped me put things in perspective (especially post COVID) and helped me consider what is important.
Now, Rookes has moved from EO member to EO president.
“EO has guided me to own my own vulnerability and my courage,” she shares. “Every single EO member that I have had the opportunity to know or interact with and talk to has somehow influenced me and prepared me for the role of President this year. For that I am grateful!
“When I joined EO, I thought it would make me a better person in business, but what it really did was open me up to so much more.
- Vulnerability – being myself, having the courage to let people get to know me and be real with them. Being vulnerable is really the power to my success, as it is for all of us. The people that inspire me the most are authentic and vulnerable and REAL!
- Empowerment – I encourage my team to bring solutions for issues rather than exacerbate the problems. This, in turn, empowers them and develops them into leaders. By doing that we have developed a very high performing team.
- Collaboration – Teams wants to be creative and contribute to the success of the organization. Work alongside them and collaborate with them, and great things will be achieved.
- Feedback – Honest conversation with positive intent helps each team member build on their strengths and create their own opportunities for growth, and that comes from trust and respect. Feedback is how we grow.
- Fun – Remember to have fun along the way and create balance! I am good at the fun part but still working on balance!”
For those still thinking about, but have yet to join EO Edmonton, Rookes says, “Stop thinking about it! You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Seriously if you are an entrepreneur and want to get outside of your comfort zone, grow, be challenged, be a better spouse, business leader and friend, EO will be transformational.”
Rookes notes with a smile, “EO Edmonton remains one of the largest and most successful EO chapters in the Canadian region, not to mention worldwide! I have been on the other side of the world when a group of EOers ran up to us asking ‘are you the Canadians?’ Maybe the ‘Canadian tuxedos’ had something to do with it, but I am telling you, the Edmonton Chapter is well recognized around the world. We are currently celebrating 30 years and a legacy that gets better every year.”
Giving back to the community is important to Rookes. Both Recruitment Partners and EO Edmonton align with her charitable values.
“At Christmas the whole Recruitment Partners team provides gifts for families through Wings. Throughout the year we support our client, Bissel Center, with whatever their greatest need is at the time. We have supported The Shoebox Project, Hope Mission, Winnifred Stewart Association, Edmonton Community Foundation and more. The best part is our team does not have to be coaxed into giving back to the community. They recognize the need and appreciate their own good fortune enough to give back. I love that!”
As for EO Edmonton, Rookes shares, “Since we are a member-run organization with 100+ members, it is difficult to align ourselves with any one cause. Having said that, we encourage our members to support and engage in as many charitable interests as they want. Many of our members are heading up charitable causes, volunteer on boards and committees and supporting community initiatives in their own right. This past year, COVID had changed so much about how EO Edmonton interacted with each other with the cancellation of events, that in response we planned an outside event at the Edmonton Valley Zoo and collected food for our local food bank.”
Rookes concludes, EO has been instrumental in my growth as a business leader and has provided me with experiences, courage and education from which I draw on and bring to our business every day. Our team at Recruitment Partners has also been instrumental in the growth of our business. Our greatest strength is our people. We have been fortunate to have the kind of team that we can build our business around. They work hard, play hard and are ferociously protective of our culture. My business partners and our team have built an amazing culture that provides us a clarity of vision and a road map to get us where we want to go and who we want to be.”
Where does she want to be in the future? Rookes’ plans include building a house in Mexico as part of her “living my life by my design” strategy and growing her company with the next generation of leaders. For now, however, she’s looking forward to seeing EO members and clients again now that COVID restrictions have eased.