Cindy Norcott | Scaling a Multiple Award-Winning Recruitment Agency and Tips for Working With Mentors
Smart Business Revolution

Cindy Norcott is the Owner of Pro Talent, a multiple award-winning recruitment agency. She started the business about 30 years ago in Durban, South Africa. Cindy is also the Founder of the Robin Hood Foundation, a motivational speaker, and the author of How To Be Unstoppable and Achieve More in Business and Life.

In this episode of the Smart Business Revolution Podcast, John Corcoran interviews Cindy Norcott, the Owner of Pro Talent, about her entrepreneurial journey and the challenges she faced building her company. Cindy shares tips for preventing employee poaching, taking a work sabbatical, and thriving in spite of changes in legislation.

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Here’s a Glimpse of What You’ll Hear:

  • Cindy Norcott’s inspiration to start Pro Talent
  • The main challenges Cindy faced building her business
  • Her greatest supporters in the early stages of her business
  • Tips for finding and working with a mentor 
  • Why Cindy started the Robin Hood Foundation
  • How a change in legislation, the pandemic, and looting impacted Pro Talent
  • Tips for preventing employee poaching and taking a work sabbatical
  • The peers Cindy acknowledges for their support

Resources Mentioned In This Episode

Sponsor: Rise25

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Rise25 Cofounders, Dr. Jeremy Weisz and John Corcoran, have been podcasting and advising about podcasting since 2008.

Episode Transcript

Intro 0:14

Welcome to the revolution, the Smart Business Revolution Podcast, where we ask today’s most successful entrepreneurs to share the tools and strategies they use to build relationships and connections to grow their revenue. Now, your host for the revolution, John Corcoran.

John Corcoran 0:40

All right, welcome, everyone. John Corcoran here. I’m the host of this show. And thank you for joining us for this guest. I’m really excited today we’ve got a great guest. And if you’re new to the program, of course, go go check out our archives, you go to my website,, or your podcasting app of choice. And check out we got some great episodes with CEOs, founders and entrepreneurs, ranging from Netflix at Kinkos’, YPO, EO, Activision Blizzard, LendingTree, and many more. And I’m also the Co-founder of Rise25, where we help connect b2b business owners to their ideal prospects. And my guest here today, her name is Cindy Norcott. She is the Owner of a multiple award-winning recruitment agency agency based in South Africa, Durban, South Africa. It’s called Pro Talent she started about 30 years ago. She’s also the founder and chairperson or chairperson of a charity foundation called the Robin Hood Foundation, which does exactly as you would imagine, and we’ll talk about that as well. She’s also a motivational speaker and author of a couple of books, including How To Be Unstoppable. And how does she do it? So we’ll talk about that and surviving some of the different ups and downs over the last couple of years. And of course, this episode, like all brought to you by Rise25 where we help b2b businesses to get clients referrals and strategic partnerships with done for you podcasts and content marketing. I get to talk to interesting, smart people like Cindy all the time, and if you are interested in doing that, as well, you can go to our website to learn how to do it at Alright, Cindy, it’s such a pleasure to have you here today. And we were chatting beforehand about the origins of your company 30 years ago. What were you doing at the time? What inspired you at 23 years old to start a company that became a recruitment agency?

Cindy Norcott 2:21

They John, thank you for for having me here. Yes, I think at 23, I was working for a recruitment company. And I think you can really attribute it to the possibly the naivety and ignorance of youth. I was running somebody else’s business, but only doing certain aspects of it. And I remember thinking I can do this on my own. And I took the plunge and I started up with literally no money. I didn’t even have a computer when I started my business. And I just connected with my old clients and got out the networking and just tried to offer a different, more personal, friendlier, more responsive service. And literally, from day one, it’s somehow took off, I think it was the right place and the right time. And yeah, it’s been a 29 year journey of lots of ups, lots of downs, and lots of lots of joy, too. I must say I’ve absolutely loved the entrepreneurial trip.

John Corcoran 3:21

Yeah, I have such a similar story, because it was a similar story. For me, I was working practicing law for a law firm, and I looked around and I was like, hold on a second, I’m kind of doing this. I you know, not getting much supervision here. I could do this very well on my own and literally opened up an office one flight up in the same building. So my commute went up by one went up by one flight. And I felt like everything was kind of exactly the same. But then I quickly and kind of like you like I felt initially that it was like, Oh, it can’t be this easy. Like I made more money the next month because it was like I was bringing all that money myself. And then I realized, okay, if I go on vacation, no one else is answering the phone, I gotta answer the phone. So talk a little bit about some of the challenges that you experienced in those early days. As you experienced growth, sometimes that can lead to bigger challenges.

Cindy Norcott 4:15

Absolutely. I think for me, the first the hardest part of running my own business, having a wrist obviously started young was not really understanding about people management, you know, thinking, hoping and thinking that people would be like me, managing people with different styles, different approaches, different work ethics, that was quite difficult because I tended to avoid conflict. So I kind of would hope their problems would fix themselves rather than myself actually being assertive. I think the other issue that was a real problem for me as well was, uh, not really understanding Accounting and Business Accounting and, you know, even just learning how to read an income statement and a balance sheet and, you know, working out you know, you know, I think a big question startups have is, okay, if I’m making money, here’s the money. You know, in the beginning, it was often in Debtors or, you know, it wasn’t in the bank all the time. And, you know, just trying to grow everything on a shoestring all the time, and often feeling quite lonely. I think that was another challenge, you know, all my friends were working in jobs, and they finished at five o’clock in the afternoon and children are always seem to have this weight of this business on my shoulders. And, and I feel it makes you grow up quickly. And it can aid you as well, because there is no letting it down. As you say, there is no holiday, there is no time where you can actually say, Well, you know, I’m free, or I’m absolved of the responsibility of this organism. And then obviously, of the staff that you employ as well, and the clients you serve.

John Corcoran 5:53

Yeah, in those earliest days, did you have others that you could turn to or their, you know, others in your family or friends that had any businesses that could understand what you’re going through?

Cindy Norcott 6:06

You know, I think, I think I caught myself so pleased because I did a business course I was in business two years. And my accountant kept saying to me, you’re doing well, despite yourself, and apparently that wasn’t a compliment. So I did a business course on how to run your own business. And the way it is, this is the coolest story, I think. But the train at the time was a man by the name of Andrew. And I’ve known him for years, like just through in our community. And he spoke to me one day, and he said, Listen, I want to mean to you for as long as it takes. And I said, What do you mean as long as what takes and he said, I want to mentor you for as long as it takes for you to see the seeds of greatness that I see in you. And I remember rushing to the bathroom, looking at myself in the mirror, there were no seeds of greatness. all I saw were veins and mascara as. But this started an interesting relationship for about five, six years, we used to meet up once a month for coffee at his training center. And he was always reading books ahead of me, he was always I know, you somehow seem to be ahead of the curve. In terms of he was he was listening to the great minds before hours, he he would come up with business concepts, he would ask me challenging questions. So I think he was a coach to me before coaching became the end thing. And, you know, every time I left his offices I’d, I’d leave so inspired, I’d have all these new ideas and thoughts that I’d never thought before, from somebody who wouldn’t actually even accept a saint for for helping me but just somebody who sort of saw in me something that must have been there. And as a result, the weirdest irony was so mean, at the time that I did the business course, I didn’t even know what a break even point was, they asked me and I said, I don’t think they have one in my industry. And about six years later, having studied coaching, and having learned a lot more, I ended up buying his training center to start training entrepreneurs. I mean, that’s just insane how, how much growth must have had to have happened in that time. But I attribute a lot of it to him, just this, this person who didn’t really have any connection to me, who just saw what he saw in me. And to be honest with you, it’s something one of my best things I’m proudest of is having been able to pay that forward to other people who have seen where you’ve got seeds of greatness and, you know, mentoring and coaching, disadvantaged people, people who’s who don’t have the money, people who’ve got a great story. And and so there’s been a beautiful part of my journey is has been being able to pay forward what what Andrea did for me, you know, when I was around 25 to 30.

John Corcoran 8:53

And, you know, many people struggle with that idea of how do you find a mentor who’s going to take you under, take you under their wing, and show you the ropes guide you? It sounds like in a sense, he found you. Yes. Although you did put yourself out there because you were you didn’t stay at home, you didn’t just run your business to put your head down, you actually went and attended his course. So what do you say to people who are looking for that kind of mentorship relationship?

Cindy Norcott 9:24

Okay, I have I have very strong feelings on this because one thing that I have had to deal with, probably almost every week of my career has been people who’ve emailed me and said, hey, guess what? You are so lucky. I’ve chosen you as my mentor, which means that they they feel they can ask, you know, countless questions meet you for coffee Have you paid for for it? So I think if somebody identifies somebody who could be the mentor who they feel that they have a kinship with or they would aspire to, I think I think the approach needs to be quite intelligent. So not just saying you’re my mentor helped me, but maybe say you’re a mentor for me or I’d like you to be in this particular area. And also it doesn’t have to be in person, you know, a lot of people want to meet you. You know, a lot of it can be answered via email. And I’d also encourage people to have to maybe pick mentors in different areas. So for instance, myself as a parent, if I were to pick somebody as a parenting mentor, or somebody as a relationship, mentor, as a marketing mentor, or business ownership mentor, and I do think an important thing is to be able to say to a person, how can I pay you? Or how can I compensate you for your time? Or is there anything I can do for you, because I feel a lot of people who need a mentor, it’s one way it’s one way they only want to receive, and they’re not very there hasn’t even entered the demands that they could be some form of reciprocation. I also think there’s a really cool concept called reverse mentoring, where a young person might not have great business skills, but they might have incredible social media skills, or, you know, where they could maybe even offer that mentor to say, you know, I don’t know if you need any of these things, but I can do the following, or I could help you with the following. So I do encourage people to find mentors, I think it’s brilliant, because you don’t want to make the mistakes that others have made. And some people have learned so much from those, those mistakes in the hard times that they all they want to do is share. So like I’m part of a group called EO, The Entrepreneurs Organization. And we are like a peer to peer mentorship group. And I’ve learned so much from that from those people. So you know, if somebody could get into a place like that, I’d say that’s great. But there are also a lot of commercial coaches out there who offer tremendous value. So I definitely think, recommend mentorship, but I think it needs to be approached in the right manner. And bearing in mind, most people who are approaching a successful business person need to understand that if they have identified that successful business person, as an inspiring leader, many others have as well. So you probably are going to get a lot of noes as well, because a lot of people leave these cases, commodity as the term in the energy. So it’s not that they mean or rude. It’s just sometimes they just don’t have the capacity to take on another person.