John Assael spoke impressively at the RIBA small practices conference yesterday on the subject of recruiting and retaining staff, outlining the mentoring, parties, bonuses and flexibility that have won him recognition from the Sunday Times 100 Best Companies to Work For and the AJ100. But was it all too good to be true? When quizzed directly, Assael admitted that he had also had his share of problems. ‘We had a receptionist who was on the game. She was always late in on Mondays, because she was recovering,’ he confessed.