Building a business with your best friend

Building a business with your best friend: how ambitious University of Huddersfield graduates co-founded a growing technology organisation.

Co-founders of Qonnectd Ltd, a technology business with a focus on the recruitment sector, Sean McAuley, Business Management BA(Hons) 2009 and Rob Foster, Law LLB(Hons) 2008 met at the University of Huddersfield whilst at Storthes Hall accommodation.

They share their experience for other budding entrepreneurs and, as recruitment specialists, their top tips for securing a graduate job.

What inspired you to establish Qonnectd together?

Sean: I remember the exact moment we knew we’d start a business together: several years after graduating we were sat outside a coffee shop talking through the recruitment process and the tools for automation and off went a lightbulb! We both knew we had to act on the opportunity. 

Rob: I was a solicitor with a top 20 UK law firm before going into business with Sean. We kept in touch after university and like most aspirational young people we’d talk through business ideas over a few drinks. But that day a seed was planted. As we both became more experienced in our professional lives the timing was right for us to identify a solution to a problem and launch Qonnectd.

What tips can you share with our students and graduates who might be considering starting up a business?

Sean: Believe in your idea. If you don’t believe in it, you can’t expect a customer to.

Rob: Does your product or service solve a problem? If so, then there’s a market for it. Research the barriers to entry: will it cost millions to develop before you see a return on investment? Is the industry heavily regulated and require a lot of investment just to be compliant? Define what success means to you.

“The best part about working with a true friend is that you get each other. My advice is to keep talking, progressing and always be honest and true to yourselves.”

Sean McAuley, Co-founder, Qonnectd Ltd

Would you advise working with your best friend?

Sean: The best part about working with a true friend is that you get each other. My advice is to keep talking, progressing and always be honest and true to yourselves.

Rob: First ask yourself – are you working with someone simply because they’re your friend? Or are you working with someone who has complimentary skillsets and who also happens to be your friend? Recognise the difference.

How did your degree prepare you for your career?

Sean: The core preparation for me was the work experience. If you have the opportunity to undertake a placement year then do it, you won’t regret it. (Sean completed a placement year with Ermes Group, Cyprus working across different functions such as in-store operations, logistics, marketing and franchise partnerships.) Having practical examples was so valuable when it came to my final year.

As recruitment professionals, what advice would you give to final year students and graduates looking to start their careers, particularly during a recession?

Sean: Experience is everything. Be a sponge, learn all you can, get to know people and build your network and personal brand.

Rob: Some of the largest and most successful businesses in the world started during recessions! You can aspire to have your own business one day, without necessarily jumping in at the deep end. You can gain industry experience by working for an existing business before setting up on your own.

What’s next for your organisation?

Sean: World domination…no seriously! Qonnectd was founded in 2018 with the mission to make recruitment more affordable and transparent for business owners. Rob and I spent 9 months raising £150k investment, working with development partners, and speaking directly with businesses to ensure our product and service was fit for the market. This paid dividends as, soon after we started trading in July 2019 we very quickly had 5 clients on our books.  Qonnectd has already been valued at over £1m.

Rob: The next part of the plan is to increase the scale of the business and that means hiring more staff as well as expanding into new premises. We’re very proud of what we’ve already achieved. Rob and Sean photographed at graduationRob Foster and Sean McAuley, Co-founders of Qonnectd Ltd pictured at graduation.

The University of Huddersfield is one of the Top 15 universities in the UK for work placements* Find out more about placement opportunities and the organisations we work with. *HESA Student Record 2018/19

For help and advice for self-employment, freelancing and business start up, contact the University of Huddersfield’s Enterprise Team

About Qonnectd

Qonnectd helps businesses to recruit staff more efficiently using technology to increase the reach of online job adverts, applicant tracking software and innovative techniques such as video advertising and video interviewing.

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