In late 2009, after being made redundant and with a new baby at home, Jonathan Rice started his human resources business out of necessity.
"It started out as a way to provide for my family and I initially thought it was just going to develop into a lifestyle business," explains Rice.
"But as time went on and we developed this idea, we started to get really excited that we had an opportunity to innovate in an entire industry that hasn't seen a lot of innovation for a number of years."
The idea Rice is talking about is v.RPO, a new line of business spun out of Rice's and business partner Sean Walters' HR consultancy.
He believes it has the potential to turn the recruitment industry on its head in New Zealand and overseas.
Rice Consulting, founded in 2009, has been sourcing recruiters and other HR staff for the recruitment and HR industries - essentially recruiting recruiters.
But what soon became apparent was that some candidates didn't want to work nine to five, Monday to Friday
They were often mums with young children who still wanted to put their recruitment skills and experience to use, but not in a 40-hour week.
But not enough of the consultancy's traditional clients - agencies and corporates - were willing to take them on.
When Rice's wife, also a recruiter, decided she wanted to start doing some recruitment work again after being a full-time mum, the penny dropped that maybe an opportunity existed providing the services of experienced "virtual", home-based recruiters to the SME sector.
The traditional recruitment industry model is to charge a placement fee, usually around 15 per cent of a candidate's salary, if a successful referral is made, says Rice.
But v.RPO takes its cue more from the professional services norm, charging clients an hourly rate for the recruitment services its virtual recruiters supply - leading to the efficiencies alluded to in the company's tagline, "a better hire at half the price".
v.RPO's role is to curate a pool of experienced recruiters (it has 156 on its books), match them with businesses, and co-ordinate assignments.
"We can create wins for clients because they can get a much better hiring outcome at a much lower price, wins for us because we can make a profit and build a successful business and wins for the on-demand recruiters who might otherwise have not been working, or not having their skills put to good use," explains Rice.
Rice says there have been many attempts over the years to create technological solutions in the recruitment industry, but pure technology plays haven't adequately addressed the variables and "human" element involved in the hiring process.
"What we realised we had with v.RPO was something that, while it changed the way businesses were able to recruit for themselves, it worked really well because it still has the human element."
But introducing a disruptive model isn't the easiest path to tread in business, says Rice.
"Easily the biggest challenge is the time it takes to educate the business community around re-thinking recruitment, which is essentially what we're asking people to do.
"It's a bit of a leap of faith with clients to do something in a completely new way."
Testimonials from early adopters help, and Rice says much of the growth of the business has come from positive word-of-mouth. Networking has been another important strategy and for garnering business support.
"We're fairly active in the social media community. I've found a lot of people to lean on and get support and advice from through online social networks, and real life networks as well."
Rice says he derives his sense of success in the business by delivering good results for clients, and hearing how the firm's on-demand recruiters are enjoying their assignments.
But he's hungry for more, and has ambitious plans for the model. He'd like to see v.RPO become a viable way of working for all recruiters - not just those seeking part-time hours - allowing them to still work a 40-hour week but with greater flexibility and from home.
The firm is opening an office in Christchurch in February, with other plans lying further afield.
"My ultimate ambition would be to create a model that I can export and open up in new markets overseas," he says. "It's baby steps at the moment, but the beauty of having a virtual model is we've certainly got something that's perfectly exportable."
Part five of a Business Ambition series in partnership with ASB, based on a survey conducted over six weeks and giving insights into the ambitions, concerns, wants and needs of NZ businesses.