Name: Ivor Campbell.

Age: 57.

What is your business called?

Snedden Campbell Ltd.

Where is it based?

Callander in Perthshire.

What services does it offer?

As well as headhunting talent for medical technology, and especially diagnostics companies in the UK, Europe and beyond, we also carry out consultancy work in the same sector, mostly around sales and commercialisation of medical technology and contacts for fundraising. Medical technology covers everything from scalpels to MRI scanners.

To whom does it sell?

From very small to large firms. We work regularly outside the UK and several of our placements involve crossing international boundaries. Most years, nearly half of our turnover comes from outside the UK. This means that we have all the challenges of understanding working practices in Spain, Ireland, France, Benelux, Denmark, Norway, Switzerland, Israel and the US as well as our ”home” market.

Given that a few our clients focus on rapid testing for infectious disease, it’s no surprise that Covid-19 has affected them, and therefore us, directly. We are helping some companies to address short-term issues around things like expanding manufacture by two or three orders of magnitude. These are not trivial challenges and present problems that have to be solved “right now” with little time for introspection.

What is its turnover?

We’ll do a bit more than £200,000 this financial year.

How many employees?


When was it formed?


Why did you take the plunge?

It felt that the recruitment industry at the start of the millennium had an ‘image’ problem, in many cases thoroughly deserved. A lot of companies seemed to me to be staffed with the sort of management types who wear shoes without socks and aspire to appear on The Apprentice. For them, David Brent was real.

Many recruitment businesses were under-capitalized, so outwardly prosperous firms ran on wafer thin reserves with directors’ houses at risk. Cash flow mattered a great deal, and everything was reduced to weekly, and even daily, performance targets. Those who didn’t hit the numbers got fired.

The upside was I liked the underlying world of recruitment and made a lot of money for someone in their twenties. I had some decent ideas that were struggling to get out. I just needed the space and time to follow through on them.

What was your biggest break?

Being retained by a client on day one. From then on, it never occurred to me that we wouldn’t be successful.

That first client was Lifescan, in Inverness, where we started out with a retainer to find team leaders to produce glucose test-strips, as they were ramping up to full production. The site brought a lot of people to Scotland who are still here in senior positions.

What was your worst moment?

The fallout from the Lehman Brothers collapse. Companies spent the best part of a year sitting on their hands, hoarding cash, and not awarding mandates to do anything.

We billed little from November 2008 to May 2009. We were kept alive by a small orthopaedics company who were trying to get themselves into shape for an IPO. It was April 2010 before we saw “normal” again, just in time for the Euro Crisis to shut down the second half of 2011.

In 2008, there was no furlough option to take money from the government and sit in the garden for a couple of months, so you felt under pressure to keep going.

What do you most enjoy about running the business?

The biggest advantage of running your own company is allowing yourself time to think.

This year of Covid-19 has allowed me to apply some of what I’ve learned in managing business shocks over the years - don’t panic being the first bit. It was an enormously helpful to have government support which allowed me to bide my time and wait for the phone to ring. It did, at the start of June, and it hasn’t stopped.

What do you least enjoy?

HMRC makes sure small businesses have no working capital in February by presenting them with a demand for the previous financial year’s tax to be paid in January.

What single thing would most help?

Easy access to like-minded people who know what they’re doing and aren’t risk averse. Brexit may help but, at worst, it’s unlikely to do any damage to our business. Medical technology companies are used to trading worldwide and so are used to doing customs declarations. They already have someone who will do it. The physical act of going to Europe and making sales will be a bit more difficult – you will need visas and permits that you didn’t need to get before – but I don’t think it will be a big deal.

What could the Westminster and/or Scottish governments do that would help?

Westminster could keep tax under control and continue to simplify regulations for business. The government at Holyrood could undertake to stop talking about secession for at least the next two decades which would be a fantastic help.

What was the most valuable lesson that you learned?

Look after yourself physically and mentally – you’re not much of a corporate asset if you’re dead or sectioned.

How do you relax?

Dog walking (there’s lots of rugged countryside around here) and model making.