It’s 20 years since I banked Snedden Campbell’s first-ever cheque – a retainer to find an Assay Production Manager.
Setting up the mighty Snedden Campbell was risky – with two kids under three and a newly redundant wife – but on the other paw, I’d just spent 14 years working with people I generally didn’t like. So, a solo career it was.
The company HQ was the pine-clad loft of our old bungalow. It was like working in a cold sauna. We had a computer, dial-up internet and all the office materials I’d looted from my previous employer, who’d gone spectacularly bust. I also had one of those mobile phones from the Matrix.
We produced mounds of paper, and everyone told us that Google would make headhunters redundant. We set up the domain and emails within about a week of starting up – so I had that going for me.
Our first placements were in 2002, and I’m still in touch with a couple of people from that far off time. I bought a secondhand SAAB 95 off the back of projects that year, and it burst into flames in 2005, which was a shame.
Our first trip outside the UK on business was to Maastricht, the Netherlands, in 2002.
Our first employee and incorporation were in 2004 – I even splashed out on an office in Dunblane – when we got our first server and phone system, and #3 child turned up two months premature. CRM arrived in 2006 (surprisingly late in the day now I think about it), and in the same year, our first consultancy work, a business development project in microelectronic machine systems (MEMS).
In the end, our office turned out to be expensive and inconvenient to get to, so we gave a month’s notice to the landlord and never looked back – it turns out we work far better remotely than we ever did being in the same place.
I worked out recently that I’ve been on around 800 site visits, and I’ve lost count of the number of interviews. Our most Northerly client was in Oslo, most Westerly San Diego, most Southerly Barcelona and most Easterly, Tel Aviv (well near Tel Aviv).
I’ve been to one recruitment trade show in 20 years, and that was quite enough.
We’ve brought in professionals to do our website and PR – and I now realise that I should have done this in 2002. After all, I talk enough about the importance of hiring an expert when you want a job done well.
I used to spend most of my time on the phone. I now spend most of my time on video calls and writing snarky comments on social media. I was one of the first 50,000 LinkedIn members, and when I’m not trying to hunt down the perfect candidate, I use it primarily for posting pictures of me in giant trousers or Ziggy and Juno the Office Dogs. Balance is essential in life. It’s 15 years since the first person told me that headhunting was dead because of LinkedIn.
After 20 years in business, I thought I’d be able to look back and use what I’ve learned to give my thoughts on what we have to look forward to next. Of course, the pandemic has brought many predictions to an abrupt halt – the best-laid plans of mice and men. What matters is not being able to look into the future but being adaptable and forward-thinking. And I know we do that rather well.
I also know that I haven’t worn a suit in nearly two years and may never do so again.