Strategy and How to Have It

Through the final 14 years of the 20th Century, I worked for a succession of companies who, in hindsight, were not troubled by a discernible strategy beyond survival. In a decade and a half, nobody really got beyond a business model along the lines of, “phone a lot of bosses every day and ask them if they are hiring people”. There was a great deal of shouting and some of our directors had CD players in their Rover 800 company cars. However, the fundamental flaw in the plan was that it was (and remains) staggeringly unoriginal and tragically ineffective. Of the six companies that I worked for between 1987 and 2001 none exist in 2018. None. In fact, only two survived in any way shape or form into the 21st Century. All were substantial businesses in their time and all of them sat on the strategic foundation of making lots of telephone calls, shouting and “taking disciplinary action”.

When I set Snedden Campbell up in December 2001, I took the view that you have to start somewhere, so, in the early days, Snedden Campbell was defined primarily by trying hard not to behave like my previous employers.

The basics included:

  • Always work on a retained basis
  • Specialise
  • Meet your clients
  • Think globally
  • Never say “going forward”

In essence, it worked. We became more sophisticated in that we understood what to specialise in – medtech – and what specialisation actually means (clue: more than saying “I’m a specialist”).

Eventually, we came up with a proper strategy – you are not getting the details on here though, you never know who is reading.

In broad terms, we are slowly but surely progressing from being a search consultancy that does some consultancy work to being an expert consultancy with a deep foundation in search. This year, the development of our strategy has led to some further developments in what we do and how we do it. The most obvious outward manifestations are this regular blog and the new website it sits on.

The strategy, and my confidence in it, ultimately comes from the hard work that we do every day to deliver solutions to our clients across Europe. We relentlessly research the market that we work in and those who invest in it. Every week on average we meet slightly more than one CEO/VC Partner, look at a site, listen to what we are told and make notes.

We collect announcements on who is investing in what and how much and have worked out some robust systems for making sense of the information that we gather. Sure, plenty financial companies employ analysts to do this sort of work but, as far as I know, the number of headhunters in medtech doing this at the level and depth that we do it at is approximately none of them.

One of the things that we have managed to put a number on for a couple of years now is how much is being invested, and by whom, into various subsectors of medtech: especially various flavours of diagnostics, implantables and orthopaedics. Some of the numbers are in the public domain but some we have had to dig for in areas such as completed financing rounds where figures are not revealed, or internal investments by big multinational companies who do not, as a rule, publicise what are for them relatively small investments.

All this work gave us a good baseline number in 2017 and, because to us, it seemed like quite a big number, the confidence to invest ourselves.

By continuing the exercise this year we have discovered that the total (so far – we keep a weekly log) is a much much bigger number than last year – a three-figure percentage increase. In passing, we have also managed to work out a good estimate for how much it costs to get a diagnostic test to market in Europe.*

We believe that 2019 is going to be very interesting for us. We think this because a fair portion of the dramatic increase in funding that we have analysed in 2018 is clearly going to go on finding and appointing new staff to enable the new money and intellectual property to deliver a return on investment.

And that is pretty much it for 2018 – see you all in 2019. Take some time off, eat too much and enjoy being with your friends and family.

*All these numbers took us a lot of time and effort to put together, so if you want them you will have to pay for them – sorry

Posted on: 17th December 2018 by Ivor Campbell

Into his fourth decade of search Ivor has a voice with stories to tell, observations to make and the odd picture to share. Mostly related to the day job.

Snedden Campbell Ltd
28 Vorlich Crescent, Callander
FK17 8JE

+44 [0] 1877 330 495
+44 [0] 7799 690390

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