Mr Gavin, whose business now has a multi-million pound turnover, got his first job working in Anfield’s tea bars and corporate lounges aged just 16-years-old.
A few years later, he was still working for the club on match days, returning home to do so while studying for a geography degree at the University of Nottingham. By that time, he had been promoted and it was his job to coordinate the recruitment and supervise the work of hundreds of catering staff.
Mr Gavin noticed that the club was experiencing difficulties recruiting all the staff it needed, so he offered to source staff on match days. It was the first contract for his new agency, which he called Arc Hospitality Recruitment. Arc now provides catering staff to Chelsea, Tottenham, Twickenham and Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium.
Other clients of the Liverpool Science Park-based firm include Knowsley Hall, Knowsley Safari Park, the Echo Arena, Manchester Arena and London’s O2. In racing they serve customers at Goodwood and Ripon. The firm also provides betting staff at Chester racecourse.
Arc has started to broadened its operations. As well as catering staff, the agency now provides retail, cleaning and general admin staff and branches have been opened in London and Cardiff, with others likely to follow shortly.
Mr Gavin said: “I was staffing officer with the catering team. There were 500 staff on a match day. I had to make sure they were in the right uniform, they were on time and that they checked in and out.”
The recruitment business appears to be in the genes. Mr Gavin’s father provided a similar service for Heathcote’s, when it ran the catering at Anfield.
Mr Gavin said: “Attitude is everything. We can train people up, so I’d rather have someone who’s inexperienced with the right attitude than someone with experience with the wrong attitude.”
In 2008, Mr Gavin was joined by a former university friend, Paul Marcinkowski, as a business partner. Mr Marcinkowski currently looks after Arc’s London branch.
Mr Gavin said: “Mainly by word of mouth, business picked up. People said that our staff were always well turned-out and we were keen to deliver.
“In our first year turnover was £200,000, the second year it was £300,000 and then the following year it took a big leap. We were still young and had to learn the trade.
“The big leap was the Knowsley estate. Someone at Knowsley Hall spotted us at another venue and asked us if we would come in and talk about working there.
“Then Knowsley Safari Park were looking for outsourced recruitment operators. Based on our track record at Knowsley Hall, they decided to give us the opportunity. We looked after the recruitment of staff, day-to-day contact and payroll. It was a big responsibility but we’ve been fortunate to work there ever since.
“Doors open because we do a good job and care more than our competitors. I have a fantastic team. We go the extra mile.”
Mr Gavin requires high standards of personal presentation from his staff. He said they must be friendly, presentable, wearing the right clothes, hair tied back, no nail varnish or jewellery.
Arc provides its staff with silver service training, including how to hold three plates and clear up five places at a time,
Referring to his betting staff service, Mr Gavin said: “I have always been interested in gambling. I learned all the licensing laws. Betting staff need to be trained in those rules.”
Two years ago, the firm won a contract in London. Mr Gavin said: “My business partner Paul is originally from Essex so it was a nice opportunity for him to return home. London followed a similar pattern to Liverpool. Again, we were doing a good job and had been spotted on site and been recommended.”
Turnover in the year to June 2015 was £2.2m and is forecast to reach £3.3m by June 2016.
Arc is looking to branch out into the Midlands and Manchester. Mr Gavin said: “The longer term plan is to be fully nationwide by 2018.”
Looking back on getting started in business, Mr Gavin said: “The biggest obstacle is you have to make a lot of sacrifices. People only call up an agency if there is some trouble.
“Sometimes you have to extend your hours to seven days a week.
“Clients might phone up in the evening and say they haven’t enough staff for breakfast in the morning.”
Mr Gavin added: “It’s a constant challenge in catering and customer service industries to find reliable staff. There are only a certain number of people who want to work in the industry.
“There is more demand than there is supply of people and that’s where we come in to bridge those gaps.
“It’s often somebody’s first job. They might be 16 or 17. We have a duty of care to offer rewarding experience and give them an opportunity to build their CVs up and to work at a nice venue along the way.”
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