Many people may not have their eyes set on the entrepreneurial road. But not Joe Woodham, founder and owner of Torii Consulting. “From a young age, I always knew that I wanted to run a business. That was just the journey that I always knew I was going to go,” he stated.
Joe began his career in the recruitment space about ten years ago. He got his first job in recruitment despite not having any idea what it was, with even less of an about idea about IT. However, a few months when the global financial crisis kicked off, he found himself fired after a very quick introduction to recruitment. “With a bit of persistence, I picked up another role. Over the next few years, I learned the tricks of the trade and started to work my way up the corporate ladder,” Joe remarked.
From a small recruitment company, he then moved his way up to work for a larger global corporate. When he thought he already got to where he wanted to be, he started noticing a few gaps in the market. In his mind, he believed he could work with clients in better ways that suited their needs. Because he always wanted to run a business of his own, he set up his recruitment company, a bold step into the entrepreneurial world.
“As I had always wanted to start a business, I thought it was now or never. So, I took the plunge, handed in my notice, and registered Torii Recruitment. I started Torii in 2012 working from home, which was not very common back then. I was lucky to pick up a few jobs and closed my first deal five or so weeks later with Redbubble, which was a small company at that time. Closing a $20k deal was massive. However, I feel that was when the journey started for me,” he narrated.
Taking the entrepreneurial path, Joe found enjoyment in working for himself. He explained, “I was able to do things the way I wanted to do them. I was able to work with my clients in the way that I thought they'd appreciate or they’d get a better return on investments. I think I was a little bit more congruent with myself and my clients. I found that I was getting a lot more traction with them which was leading to repeat businesses and a lot of referrals. When I was working for someone else, I was operating in a way that they wanted me to operate, which I didn’t feel was in the best interest of my client. Working for myself, I just found it a lot easier to develop better relationships.”
However, since it was a new track for him, there were uncertainties he had to encounter through the early beginnings of his journey. “My biggest fear when I started the business was the fear of failure. It was probably the main thing. I was scared that I wouldn't be able to make it work, or people would think that I was failing if I wasn't making enough money. I was always scared of having to go back to working for someone else and getting a job,” the impassioned entrepreneur shared.
The entrepreneurial world is full of challenges. For Joe, it was the unknown. Starting from scratch, he had to learn new skills and the ropes of running a business. While it was quite daunting for him, it was also the thrill of the experience that he enjoyed as well. “Working for a company, you take for granted some of the things that they do in the background. When you start a business, you realise, 'Oh, wow. I need to learn how to run and manage my finances, build a team, develop a brand, and create a marketing strategy.’ It was a lot to take in. You need to work out the invoicing side of things and the like. There's a lot more in the back-end. It was probably one of the biggest challenges at the start. But that's one of the things that I've loved about the journey so much. It's spending more time self-educating, finding out the gaps in your skill set, and then working it out.”
He had his fair share of business heartbreaks. One of which was losing his first major account, Redbubble, after building a strong relationship with this client and its team. “In hindsight, I learned that I should never be so reliant on one account and understand that everything comes to an end,” Joe said.
His biggest frustration while starting out was choosing the right staff members to fit in his team. But he learned a lesson when it comes to handling people and setting expectations. “I think I've always expected people to be similar to myself when it comes to self-starting and getting things done. It has been a complete opposite. The staff always need a lot more hand-holding in guidance and management. It's very hard to let them go on their journey and expect them to get the job done. You need to check in with them consistently and make sure they are moving in the right direction. Not everyone's going to be good or operate the same way as you do,” he remarked.
When he was able to gather a team, certain circumstances happened that he had to let go of some of them, one of the lows that he had to go through in his journey. From having a big permanent staff team, he down-sized to having minimal staff due to a pivot in his company. At the beginning of Torii, Joe was mainly working with small to medium-sized businesses, and their specialty was working with tech startups. “What we would do is go out and secure the best talent in the market for them. That was good at the start. It was very good for branding reputation as we got to work with some cool businesses. But as my business grew and I brought on new staff, the market was getting a little bit tighter with the limited talent to recruit,” Joe remarked.
The shift in the business landscape became inconsistent with Torii’s focus on placing permanent people for their clients. Revenue coming into the business was affected. Due to changes in the market, Joe had to pivot his venture. “Late last year, we decided that we would move into a contracting space, which meant we had to change all our clients from small to medium-sized businesses to large corporations. We've gone from recruiting permanent staff to recruiting contractors, which is recurring revenue. We place them on a 6 or 12-month contract and make a margin from their daily rate,” he pronounced.
But that is how Joe brought his enterprise through tumultuous business waves, surviving in such a rough environment. They are agile as they shift with the market. They understand the trends, their effects on the market, and the needs of large corporations. Then, they offer solutions to such problems and provide their clients’ needs.
Apart from constantly feeling the pulse of the market, Joe always surrounds himself with like-minded individuals. “I've been doing business groups since day one of business. Throughout the evolution, a lot of my friends who had been in other business groups with me had moved on to EO. I first joined EO Accelerator and got the accelerator of the year, then moved into EO, and I've been with them ever since,” Joe said.
There are three things that Joe gained from becoming part of EO Melbourne. One, he found great value in the trust and support he got from his forum, which also enables him to approach anyone in the wider EO community. Two, he picked up a lot from the best speakers in EO Melbourne’s learning events. Three, he likes the travel aspect of EO, since it is a global organisation. He gets to attend the global events, meet other business owners from different countries, and learn from them.
With his experience as an entrepreneur and engagement with other business owners, Joe cites the traits that one needs in the entrepreneurial journey, especially those who are still contemplating to take this route. “I think they have to be very self-driven and resilient. The biggest thing about becoming an entrepreneur is being able to overcome the fear of failure and being persistent and resilient. There's going to be a lot of challenges along the way, and you have to be able to commit to understanding that you're going to go through tough times. You just got to keep doing what you're doing,” he imparted. Wise words from someone who has shown through his journey that persistence pays off.
As an entrepreneur, Joe hopes to leave an imprint of creating a fun workplace where people feel safe and enjoy coming to work. His brand name says it all. Torii, a Japanese word that means a gateway to a Shinto shrine, is also the gateway that Joe has built for others to have a better life.