Performance Metrics in a Dynamic Market


Here at Elite Leaders, we have always strived to provide our members with the most up to date reliable data and high-level performance measures available in the recruitment sector.

It is so important when advising our members how to benchmark themselves against the competition.

Several industry bodies indeed compile and publish performance statistics. Whilst those sources have some great value and insight, there can sometimes be some limitations in terms of the information reflecting performance in real-time. 

  • Much of the data is derived from larger companies, those who publish detailed annual accounts
  • This relatively small sample of companies tend to have different business models to one another and are measured very differently to specialist SME’s
  • Because the detail is usually curated from the last published sets of accounts, it is typically a reflection of conditions that prevailed up to two years ago rather than what’s happening in the market in real-time

These factors mean it isn’t easy to benchmark your company, which can be challenging when writing budgets in relation to a market that is in recovery mode from COVID-19.

As well as our valued Elite member companies, the three principal partners of Elite Leaders (Sid BarnesTara Ricks and myself) between us personally serve as directors and strategic advisors on the boards of 37 recruitment companies which together: 

  • Have a combined turnover of more than £1.05bn
  • Nearly 10,000 Temps/Contractors/Interims on assignment 
  • Collectively employ 2,214 staff

Therefore this provides us with an excellent representative sample of the market.

(NOTE – These are not simply the companies that are members of the Elite Leaders community. They are ones which we know intimately and are deeply involved with in an advisory capacity, helping them to achieve their potential by outperforming the competition and increasing market share).


So, to answer these questions, we recently harvested some key business statistics from them all to establish a real-time picture.

  • We wanted to identify the most important statistics to craft and support high-level business planning around productivity, profitability, conversion ratios, etc.
  • We want to help our companies and others, to meaningfully benchmark against real and live data to identify where improvements can be made and opportunities to grow can be exploited

Our aim is to try and define the following:

  • “What is the definition and shape of greatness in our industry?”
  • “What should we as directors and leaders be measuring and driving to create sustainable shareholder value?”
  • “Where are we ahead of the game, and what can we learn from others and improve upon?”

Below are the questions we wanted answers to, and they relate to the CURRENT TRADING period, not last year’s accounts:

  • What is your total Turnover as a business? – (There is no real relevance to this figure as it is distorted by the balance between Temp and Perm revenues – but it’s interesting nonetheless)
  • What is your total NFI – Contract margin plus perm fees? – (A far more important number than Turnover alone)
  • What is your total EBITDA? – (Probably the most important number of all)
  • What is your TOTAL headcount?

Here it is important to use the TOTAL staff headcount and not just fee earners because it then truly accounts for the balance between billers and business support headcount, which is wildly different from company to company. This methodology provides the most accurate measure of true productivity and profitability and has been used consistently by the likes of The Recruiter Hot 100 for many years.

From these three numbers, we can measure the NFI to EBITDA conversion rate – what percentage of your fees drop to the bottom line. This is where the true efficiency of any recruitment business is illustrated.

We can also measure true productivity insofar as it relates to TOTAL NFI divided by TOTAL HEADCOUNT. Some industry league tables refer to NFI per fee earner, which whilst useful for targeting purposes is not a true reflection of overarching productivity.

Then probably the most important number of them all – what’s the EBITDA per TOTAL HEADCOUNT. An incredibly informative number and one which many boards don’t measure – again, it is truly reflective of the efficiency and productivity at the heart of any business, what profit derives from each member of staff).


So, what are the results of the survey, we hear you ask – they are as follows:

  • Number of companies in the sample – 37
  • Total Turnover of those companies – £1.05bn (average T/O per company = £28.6m)
  • Total NFI derived from Turnover – £293m (average NFI per co = £7.9m)
  • Total EBITDA derived from NFI – £83.25m (average EBITDA per company = £2.25m)
  • Average Conversion of NFI to EBITDA – 28.4%
  • TOTAL headcount – 2,339
  • Average NFI per TOTAL headcount = £132,339
  • Average EBITDA per TOTAL headcount = £37,148


Naturally, those companies that are enlightened enough to engage with an external advisor and/or join a community like Elite Leaders, are probably more sophisticated and aspirational than many.

We hope these statistics provide some insight into the high-level performance measures that are being measured and acted upon at board level.

It would be interesting to hear any feedback and dialogue from readers of this report to compare and contrast – we hope you find it helpful. 


John O’Sullivan



© 2021 ELITE LEADERS Ltd | All Rights Reserved | Elite Leaders is a limited company registered in England and Wales. Registered number 06607063 | Site designed by Halt.