Parents in Business featuring 9-2-3 jobs

Parents in Business featuring 9-2-3 jobs

This week for my Parents in Business series I’ve delighted to be featuring Helen, the founder of 9-2-3 jobs; who specialise in placing people into roles that offer flexible working, where the role supports both the business and the candidate. Helen started the business due to becoming increasingly frustrated with the lack of jobs around school drop-off/pick-up hours. Since then she has been constantly driving the need for flexibility in the workplace with roles that are not commited to the 9 to 5, or bums on seats. 

Helen’s story is one of success, the business has won awards, and now 9-2-3 jobs is a recognised name, with more and more companies beginning to accept flexible working, which is a huge positive step! Do have a read of Helen’s inspirational story, and see if signing up to 9-2-3 jobs is for you. 

Tell me a little bit about you, your background, and your business?

I’m Helen Wright, Founder of recruitment agency 9-2-3 Jobs and I’m a committed campaigner to the flexible working cause.

As a history graduate, a Mandarin speaker, a fruit grower, a gin producer, and a former media trainer and BBC journalist, naturally I wondered if I could extend my, well…‘broad’ experience to the world of recruitment. Being a JFDI type of person, I did.

The aim of 9-2-3 Jobs has always been to be different from other recruitment agencies. We specialise only in placing professionals into roles that have an element of flexible working. That means that the employer must offer either part-time, remote working, compressed hours, term-time, job share, flexi start/finish…and be open to finding a solution that works for the business and the candidate. It makes sense – there’s a skills gap, and there’s pool of motivated talent out there who are eager to get back to work but who need some flexibility in their lives. We also pride ourselves on the way we treat our candidates. We treat them the way we treat our clients (the businesses we recruit for). Too many times we’ve all experienced shoddy treatment from a recruitment agency, too keen to fill a role and not taking the time to build relationships. This approach has been key to our organic growth and the way we’ve grown through referrals and recommendations.

What were your motivations for setting up your business?

In truth, the reason for setting up 9-2-3 Jobs was born out of frustration (that and the redundancy while pregnant, grrr) and the frustration of other mothers I was surrounded by at the school gate at the lack of fulfilling but flexible jobs. 

I’d taken time out for a while to enjoy my young family but I was getting twitchy and needed challenging (beyond the battle to get shoes on, making sure they’d eaten, act as chief negotiator in in general). I wanted to work but the only flexible options I could find were things like setting up baby group franchises or selling books, neither of which I could see working long-term. Although being a parent is wonderful, you don’t lose your skills, knowledge, talents, and desire to contribute as soon as kids come along. My frustration, and the other mums I chatted to – accountants, solicitors, HR, finance, marketing and sales professionals – gave me the inspiration and the get-up-and-go to do something about it, so back in 2015, from the kitchen table, I started 9-2-3 Jobs. 

I started with just a notepad and a phone, determined to kick up a stink and disrupt the current labour market. I felt strongly that working 9-5, five days a week, and doing the twice daily commute, was outdated and restrictive and businesses were missing a serious trick by not looking at alternative ways to attract talented people. So I hammered the telephone and knocked on doors, and my belief in the benefits of flexible working must have come across as people began to take notice. Four years on, 9-2-3 has 15 members of staff, offices in Oxford and Manchester, flexible working is high up on the government’s agenda, and we’re the largest flexible working recruitment agency in the UK. 

Research has proven that flexible working results in higher productivity, businesses are more profitable, professionals working flexibly are more committed to their employer, it improves staff retention, and sickness absence reduces. So now I know that we’re on to something, that’s what drives me even harder. 

Parents in Business featuring 9-2-3 jobs How do you balance the business around your family and childcare?

When I set up the business I called it 9-2-3 as that what I envisaged I’d be working. But like any start-up, those hours are not conducive with the demands of a business. 3pm was becoming 4/5/6pm until at the height of things I was probably working a 70 hour week. (I did still somehow manage to pick up from school at 3pm) Now that I’ve learnt that I can’t be all things to all people and I’ve built a team around me, I’m probably back down to 40 hours per week.
I still find my kitchen table the most productive place to be even though we have lovely offices (and some lovely bakers in the team). It’s quiet, I can concentrate, and I can do intensive bursts of productive work without phones bleeping and enticing treats being passed around! What I’m strict about is book-ending my day. I’ll switch off my laptop when the kids come home, and if I think of something I need to do, I’ll make a note on my phone rather than opening the laptop and interrupting dinner/family time. I also believe there’s nothing as rejuvenating and energising as a holiday – it’s worth the time out of the business to come back refreshed and full of new ideas. 

Since setting up your business what’s been your biggest success to date?

We’ve had some amazing feedback from both our clients and our candidates and awareness of the 9-2-3 name and brand is growing – that genuinely feels great. We’ve been nominated for and won several awards which is just fantastic, but the very fact that back in 2015 I had to explain what flexible working means when speaking to businesses, to now in 2019 where the whole flex movement is so widely recognised – that is something special, and it feels brilliant to have grown a team that’s a real part of this flexible working movement.

What are your top tip for anyone who is thinking about setting up their own business?

Be aware that there’s loads of stuff you have to do that you don’t realise which takes up your time. Be prepared for your role to adapt, and learn to let go. In the early days I did everything – business development, the social media, the newsletter, bookkeeping, registering and looking after candidates…It’s not sustainable so build a good team to share the load. Then you can concentrate on what you’re good at and learn to be amazing at it
Thank you so much  for being part of my series, it has been an absolute pleasure to feature you on my blog.
To find out more about 9-2-3 jobs and to sign-up visit their website, or follow them on social media; Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn
If you like what you’re reading and would love to be part of my Parents in Business series just drop me an email: Or have a nose at some of the other businesses I have featured in the series: Box of HugsMini Mealtimes, and  Hannah Rowe Consulting.
Claire x

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