We sat down with Matrix Recruitment's Managing Director, Kieran McKeown, to find out what motivates him and how he has successfully ran a recruitment agency for the past 24 years (and counting!)
What was your first job?
My first job was as a counter assistant in my father’s bookmaker shop in Fermanagh. It was a great introduction to the world of sales. Back then, we worked off six blackboards and a radio – there were no big TV screens showing multiple sporting fixtures at the same time. The latest odds were written in chalk as we hadn’t quite reached the digital age. It all seems quite archaic now by comparison to today’s bookies, but I remember it fondly and it doesn’t seem all that long ago in a way!
What pushed you to pursue a career in this field?
My interest in recruitment actually began as a candidate. I qualified as an accountant and my early career was spent working for multinationals, but I made a promise to myself that every two years, I’d go back out into the jobs market and see what was going on. I ended up working in Waterford with Bausch & Lomb as a financial controller and then moved into supply chain management. In 1996, I was offered voluntary redundancy and I jumped at the chance. I had 20 years in industry, and I had always dreamed about starting my own business.
I began by providing management accounting services to businesses in Waterford and there was plenty of work with the euro changeover on the way, but it wasn’t anything concrete. That’s when I happened to have a conversation with a friend of mine who spoke about being swamped trying to recruit accountants for clients. There was clearly a gap in the market and it led to the two of us setting up Matrix Recruitment.
What would you regard as your greatest achievement to date?
For me the answer is simple; creating a business in 1998 that has since weathered the dotcom bust, a recession and continues to navigate a pandemic. These crises have had a monumental effect on the recruitment industry in Ireland and I’m very proud that our team has been able to adjust and continue to operate successfully. I’m delighted to say we are 23 years in business this year.
Career wise, would you do anything differently?
I’m glad to say I don’t think I would. Setting up Matrix Recruitment was truly a case of ‘the right place at the right time’.
In one sentence, how would you define success?
Success is doing everything in your power to make things happen and never giving up trying. There is no such thing as “can’t”.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
A big lesson I learnt early on is that cash is king and cash flow planning is so important. I would advise any business owner to retain sufficient reserves to allow you to meet your plans for the business and prepare for any unforeseen circumstances.
And as well as that, be honest in everything that you do.
How do you motivate yourself and your staff?
By maintaining a positive working environment. I think that being positive is one of the most motivating attributes that anyone can bring to the workplace and it’s infectious. When staff feel more positive, they feel motivated, and they get great job satisfaction, but it also works for the business as it helps them and the business achieve great results.
We also take a collaborative and supportive approach to helping our team to succeed. We share any positive feedback from clients and candidates, and we don’t berate consultants for not achieving targets; instead, we look at how we can support them in future and help them reach their potential.
I operate an open-door policy at Matrix; if people need to talk, vent or just take five minutes away from their desk they know that they can, and that ensures a good atmosphere at every level of the organisation. Over the last year, as everyone worked from home, I made sure that we had regular Zoom or Teams meetings to stay in touch and to keep everyone feeling supported. Our staff have been magnificent during this period.
How do you handle adversity?
I like to think that I’m quite resilient. When faced with adversity, I will not give up until a resolution is found and we can move forward.
How do you relax?
I walk at least 5km every day and I play golf regularly. I watch all of the GAA matches and also enjoy going into the bookies to bet on a few horses and catch up with friends.
What are your aspirations for the future of the business?
To continue to have Matrix Recruitment recognised throughout Ireland as a leading, national recruitment firm, as we edge towards a quarter of a century in business. I hope that we can continue to adapt to all the changes that are needed to grow and flourish. Finally, I would like a smooth transition to my retirement.