If you had been with me on the 1st May 2001, we would have been sitting in my office having just made a huge and, some would say, ridiculously risky decision which was about to change my life forever.
12 months before this auspicious day, something happened that began a process leading up to that day.
In 1999 I was interim Regional Manager at Computer Futures – one of the largest IT recruitment companies in the UK and now founding member of the S3 Group. Futures were an amazing company that underwent incredible growth. One of their beliefs was that promotion should always be from within. Which is a great belief to have, UNLESS your growth is outstripping the competency in the business. We grew from 3 offices to 27 and 13 brand names in 5 years. It was exhilarating, but it created issues. And one of the issues was people with no strategic foresight making fundamentally bad decisions.
One of the very bad decisions they made was to change the commission scheme that had made many of their staff very successful and rich. The commission scheme was, to be fair, probably a bit generous at the bottom end but the new one was unnecessarily penalising at the top end. My advice was to rewrite the top end commission – as the scheme would cost the top performers at least 15% of their earnings – not a wise move.
I went on maternity leave in July 1999. I came back in Feb 2000. The scheme had been introduced just before my return. To give them credit – the CEO at the time confirmed my appointment to permanent Regional Manager on my return – smart move, smart guy. On the downside – due to the new commission scheme – the following week 7 of my top performers resigned and I lost the majority of my team pretty quickly to other local recruiters paying a lot more. We had the same targets to achieve (1/2 million a month from memory) – but with a bunch of new kids on the block. We gave it a good go but it made me realise that the company I had joined for its passion and values around staff had become the company I left – where people were just a number.
And so 12 months later I made the decision to give up my rather large basic salary – wasn’t quite 6 figures but very decent. And my bonus. And my potential shares in the coming floatation (which finally happened a few years later), and follow my dream. I had – at interview with them – told the CEO that my 5 year plan was to run my own business. He took me on anyway.
And just as CF (computer futures) had lost their way a bit in honouring their values of looking after their people CF (Carole Fossey) had lost her way in her journey to open her own business.
So – come back with me into my front room of my semi detached 3 bed (at the time) house in Heald Green. There you would have seen 2 big old donated desks (already had expansion plans), one phone, one fax machine, one PC, a diary and a notepad …….and a PLAN. And possibly 2 dober / Alsatian cross dogs and a cat, and a motivational picture on the wall – along with all my awards from Yellow Pages days (had to motivate myself somehow).
I was excited and nervous – after all no-one in my family had ever run their own business. And I had a house husband and an 2 year old daughter to support, and I had enough money for 1 months bills in the bank – 2 if we ate from Netto (remember them?). Some would say that was a ridiculous decision.
Fast forward to today – in my office in Spring Gardens we have a few more desks and phones and PC’s – no fax machine – and a much bigger plan! The Group has 750 staff, and we are growing. It’s not what I saw in my future in 2001, but I am grateful for every single bit of the last 13 roller coaster years that have led me to this place on this day.
I do believe that if you are good enough to create the world you want to live in. You just need to know what that looks and sounds like, you need to take action and you need to never, never, never give up on your dream – even when it seems so very far away and so big. Ignore the little voice of reason.