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David Kerr: My Client Server Story - Part 2

Posted on 13/11/2020
by David Kerr

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In part one, DK talks about his career leading up to the founding of Client Sever. In part two, he shares how his vision for a better recruitment company came to life. 


When I imagined running my own company, I wanted it to mean something. I wanted to help create something that people looked upon with admiration. But the truth is, if I hadn’t met Dave Cooper when I did, I may not have taken the plunge.

Dave and I had talked about our joint frustration with the way many recruitment companies function. We knew that if we put our heads together, we could create a company that did things differently. We both believed it would not be hard to give a much better service and this would be the proper way to create a successful and profitable company.

For me, I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. I was going to be leaving a well-paid sales director position, at a company selling tangible products with a motivated sales team producing strong revenues. I was going to be jointly starting a company selling a service in a market which I knew little about, with no financial backing apart from my savings. But we took that first step and in October 1999, emptied the front room of my flat, installed two desks and 4 phone lines, founded Client Server Ltd and I started climbing the steepest learning curve I have ever faced.

I’m often asked “Why call a company ‘Client Server’? What does that mean?” The answer is actually quite simple. Before we launched, Dave and I spoke with a few companies about the issues they faced with recruitment agencies, and a common theme emerged: They had all been let down. There was a strong sense that recruiters only cared about volume and not quality of applicants. If they sent a client a pile of rubbish, there was bound to be someone good in there, but the onus was on the client to weed them out. In an industry that’s supposed to be service-led, that didn’t feel like a service to me.

So, ‘Client Server’ was a play on words that typified what we stood for: Not only is the name rooted in technology, but it reflects the purpose of what Dave and I set out to achieve. We were going to be a recruitment company that provided the best service to our customers, whether this was a client company or a candidate, with honesty and integrity at the core.

Starting your own business is not for the fainthearted. The early days of Client Server were so hard and frustrating we nearly gave up. We were working like mad – 12 hours a day, six days a week was completely normal for me. But those days, weeks and months saw us grow and take on new clients. After about 3 months, on a particular Friday, we had 10 offers for 10 different candidates so we went to the pub to celebrate. A week later, every offer had been rejected and we had nothing. No confirmed revenue, no money left in the bank. It was our wake-up call; not only did we need to do things properly, but we needed to give candidates in a very competitive market, more choices and options. Following this change in tack, success after success followed, by 2001, we moved to an office in Surbiton and found ourselves facing our next big challenge: Identifying and recruiting quality staff to help us grow.

Hiring top talent for your own company is – without a doubt – the toughest part of running a company. We wanted to bring on people who had that same dedication to quality as we did. As a leader, I’ve always thrived on seeing people develop and become successful in their own right. And early on, one of the best examples of this was Nick Boulton. Nick is a guy with an unbelievable work ethic and dedication to quality – everything that Client Server stands for.

When Dave retired in 2010, Nick took the plunge and became Co-Director alongside me. He’s been both integral and highly instrumental to our growth and development in the ten years since. He is a person with a clear sense of what he wanted and wants from his career, always willing to go that extra mile over broken glass to achieve it.

With our joint efforts and shared vision, not only has Client Server grown and developed as a business, but we’ve had the privilege of sharing our journey with others in the tech market. We have amazing long-term relationships with client companies and the individuals at those clients that stretch back in excess of 18 years. I’ve witnessed our client companies grow, some listing on the stock market, others the subject of an acquisition, with quite a number going onto great things. It’s always heart-warming when they come back to us and say thank you for helping them on that journey. The same is to be said for our candidates, it’s truly a fantastic feeling when someone remembers you for the right reasons. The numerous thank-you calls, emails, boxes of chocolates and pints of beer over the years has been a testament to us doing things properly.

After all, a “Thank you for a job well done”, is probably the biggest accolade a company could ask for.

Twenty-one years after launching, I’m as engrossed in Client Server as ever. Nick and I are constantly thinking and discussing potential opportunities or ways to improve how we do things. I’ve never regretted starting Client Server, of course, there have been times where I’ve thought “Why the hell did we do that?” but that’s countered by the huge amount of good that’s come from this business. I’ve had the pleasure of watching our staff grow and develop; they’ve got married, some have children – we’ve even had a few Client Server babies. I’ve watched with delight as our team members have bought houses and advanced their lives for the better. That’s all been possible because of Client Server and their personal success, it’s an achievement I take huge pride in.

I’ve sat on both sides of the fence, both as a client and as a recruiter, and know that we will stand or fall on the quality of our service. We now have three locations around the world and a team of 75 talented individuals, because we kept true to our focus. I’m proud to be part of an amazing team who are passionate about doing right by our clients and candidates. That’s the reason we’re here today – the power and passion of our people. It’s as true today as it was 21 years ago in a living room in Surbiton.


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