Campbell & Fletcher Review of the Year by Tracy Fletcher

Anyone who knows me well knows that I am an eternal optimist. My glass is more than half full, indeed my cup is generally overflowing. This year has tested all our positivity well and truly so here’s my review!!  


Al and I have our usual ‘what’s this year going to bring’ chat. Generally this takes place at La Vina in Manchester and if I have been overly pontificating its followed by a champagne cocktail at Debenhams. Well that’s not going to happen next year is it!!   ‘2020 is going to be our year Al’ says I. ‘You say that every year’ Al replies. ‘Yeh but this year Al, this year…..2020 has got a nice ring to it’. Note to self – an alternative career as a fortune teller is not on the cards (see what I did there!!) We plot like 2 of the witches out of Macbeth and come out with a ‘reight list’!!  I’m full of it!! We make a list of prospects and get to work!! Our creative juices are flowing. Emails are sent, and meetings are organised. We have 2 potential new clients. We have or 1st Board meeting of the year at Clear Factor. I am volunteer coaching at Smart Works, I have agreed to be our village Neighbourhood Watch Co-ordinator. This isn’t just going to be our year, this year I am actually going to save the world!!!


1st Harrogate Business lunch of the year,  catching up with old and new contacts, ex-colleagues and friends. Next stop NYC to see the amazing Eagles in concert at Madison Square Gardens. Life is good!! Back in the UK the activity is ramping up. We throw our selves into our  obligations to the HM Treasury Women in Finance Charter, writing to every signatory offering our services. We are awesome, we are role models, we are bonafide business women!! Hell, this year we are going to conquer the world. Apparently someone ate a bat in China and everyone’s getting flu……storm in a teacup I conclude. In hindsight its obvious that a career in journalism is as unlikely an option as becoming a fortune teller!  On a whim I install a home gym…. Maybe I do have a crystal ball after all.


March arrives and Spring is in the air. That feeling of ‘green shoots’. I may have stolen that from someone famous……. I am feeling positive. The networking season has started. I primp and preen and press the flesh in London, sat in the Ned like the Queen!! I meet a new bank and we have agreed terms, I catch up with some existing clients and we make PLANS! I am guest of a client at Southern Business Money and find myself roaming the streets of London in the wee small hours with a small cohort of fellow revellers looking for a bar that’s still open……. How little we know. I sign up for the ‘Spin for Smart Works’ – how do I get roped in to this stuff and spend the next 7 days recruiting from seat of my exercise bike – ouch!  The mood changes in March I find the word ‘cancelled’ creeping into my diary, rumours of a national lockdown start to circulate and then becomes a reality. There are people suggesting COVID isn’t real; its just a conspiracy thought up by the Government. Well try telling that to my friend and ex-colleague Jonathan Rutter who was one of the first victims of this horrible virus. RIP Jonathan – we miss you.


Overnight the world has turned on it’s axis. The word ‘cancelled’ appears across my diary more than any other word…. and then some new words are added…… Zoom/Teams/Virtual and we all adjust to the new ‘normal’. One by one the active jobs disappear and conversations are around ‘recruitment pauses’ ‘taking stock’. Sophie has postponed her hen night, her wedding, her honeymoon L. Holidays are cancelled, postponed, lost.  I’m still remaining positive (this trait is even starting to annoy me!!) and we take the opportunity to rework our marketing strategy, revamp our website and look at how we engage with clients and connections. I embark on a journey of self-improvement as I suspect does half of the western world. I sign up for some free on-line psychology course, I sign up to Davina, Chris Hemsworth and several other on-line fitness programmes. I am dropping MASSIVE hints to the husband that my life would be actually complete if it had a Peleton bike in it – DEAF EARS! I sign up to Seed Pantry and Simply Cook. I do a stock-take – I have over 100 books that I have bought and not read…. (this figure doesn’t change all year despite reading at least 1 book a week!) I am exhausted just writing this!! We learn about the furlough scheme and take the heart-breaking decision to furlough the team. The team are amazing – my eyes are leaking as I tell them; they end up comforting me – reassuring me that everything will be OK. We pledge to make sure we ‘zoom’ every week and we do!! We talk rubbish, hair problems, eyebrow problems, anything to try and stay sane and it works J


My social network grows, my new best friends are Amazon, Hermes and Yodel (other couriers are available). A couple of our clients are still recruiting, they are getting the Rolls-Royce service. Interviews are remote, onboarding is remote and working is remote. Clients who previously insisted on employees being available to visit an office at least 3 times per week are now coming to terms with remote working. On the upside clients have much more choice in terms of candidate as they are not constrained by geography. Gin O’clock is getting earlier as the days get longer….  I am becoming the fittest drunk in the village!! We have some new dictionary definitions. My favourites are ‘Quarantinis’ – experimental cocktails using whatever random ingredients are left in the house. ‘Coronials’ – future generation of babies conceived and/or born during coronavirus quarantine (ring any bells Lyndsey Shaw!!), Elephant in the Zoom – a glaring issue during a video call e.g. strange beard, strange home décor, visible roots from the ‘natural’ blonde/brunette!! And last but not least Covidiot (or Wuhan-ker) – one who ignores the public health advice and has reckless disregard for the safety of others.


I am starting struggle to know what day of the week it is. The days merge into one. I try to create a structure – a run first thing in the morning, followed by emails/calls. I have to schedule hair washing to coincide with Zoom meets – albeit my roots are so noticeable now I am almost back-combing my hair to hide the grey!! We are asked to join a new PSL – we are overjoyed and I am so positive (honestly I am so irritating!!) The reality is we have not had any roles released from any of our new clients this year and I’m pretty certain this isn’t going to change for the foreseeable future – but we are hopeful. We move office in June – it’s the most surreal experience in the world. We send out our change of addresses and we are congratulated on our move – but the team are furloughed and Al and I are working from home!!


After months of lockdown we are free – it’s like emerging from hibernation. I have a hair apt – I’m no longer feral!! The 3 Acres opens – I go every day for 5 days solid. It’s not even Eat Out to Help Out. I don’t care that I am almost bankrupt! I manage to celebrate my Birthday at my favourite restaurant. I meet business connections in Leeds for a meal and a drink. I am feeling positive!!  We are still keeping in touch with the team. I am so impressed with them – they are all on health kicks, exercise, healthy food and cutting out booze – they look like supermodels. I am ying to their yang. Still exercising like mad but client calls are scheduled for before 3pm so  my afternoons can be in the garden with a glass of rose or two.  We are still working closely with our marketing company and have been persuaded to shoot some more snapshot videos – am up for it now my roots have disappeared!! We take a punt on some advertising for an industry journal – I am positive!!!!


We are bathed in sunshine and all is right with the world. Girls are still furloughed but we are positive that everything is going to get back to normal. We don’t really know what’s normal anymore but we are probably in denial. Two of our clients shut up shop but we are positive!! All of a sudden we are inundated with candidates. Teams are being made redundant and we are hearing difficult stories of people without jobs and mortgages and families and its heart-breaking.  We vow to do the right thing. We introduce candidates to clients because it’s the right thing to do.  People get jobs and we feel good. We are positive!!


My postponed holiday finally happens and we have 10 glorious days in Cyprus. The Gods are aligned – we don’t need to quarantine back in the UK and I even get chance to attend a business lunch. The Sculpture Park is open and I get a chance to run round its glorious grounds. Its time for the HM Treasury Women in Finance review. We have hit our targets which includes 33% diverse shortlists – we hit 35% collectively but we commit to doing better next year. We reach out to all the signatories to share our good news and offer our expertise/share best practice. There are no takers but we are positive.


It’s Smart Works 1st Birthday – have I really been volunteering there for a year. The stories of the women I am helping are humbling. We are coaching via zoom but its kind of ok. Afterall most interviews are via zoom these days!! They are planning a party/fundraiser – I have volunteered – of course I have – I cant help myself J. I am on raffle prize detail.  I am ringing my contacts and using my most wheedling voice, It appears to be effective. I have persuaded Nick Smith at Reward to part with £250 of John Lewis vouchers, Andrew Ward and Sharon Bryden from Reparo to cough up 2 bottles of vintage Fizz, Roger Hutton to donate prizes from both Clarion and the Yorkshire Cricket Club as well as a subscription to Rare Birds Book Club!! Good job recruitment appears to be a dying art at the moment – plenty of time for good deeds!! We welcome the girls back part-time. It’s so good we are all back together albeit for only one day per week. We focus on business development. If we don’t I figure there may be no business to develop!! We reinvent ourselves. We each take responsibility for individual clients, we send out emails, do follow up calls. We reach out to prospects, we introduce ourselves to again to the signatories of the HM treasury Women in Finance Charter, we are all over our social media feeds and at the end of all that activity we are no further forward. My positivity is wavering but we will not be beaten.


Well that was a brief team reunion. Girls are back on furlough for now whilst we regroup, rethink, replot and rework. The candidate calls are relentless and often heart-breaking. Good people are being set adrift and are bewildered and anxious. We are trying our best to re-assure and support but with no roles to work on its tough to stay positive and keep others positive too. Another lockdown arrives at the same time as miserable weather. How much more misery can this year heap on us!! I am back in the gym, replacing outside runs with the treadmill – WE WILL NOT GIVE IN!! I am keeping in touch with the positive people in my life. We are getting through this together. I am craving a Sunday lunch at the 3 Acres, a pint in my local and some girly company. Boozy zoom calls will have to do right now!!


Well December has come round pretty quick. The girls are feeling like yo-yos – back off furlough and part-time business development. We are now juggling the moods of clients, candidates and employees. There is procession of delivery drivers visiting the house, I feel like an Amazon depot. The recycling bin is so full we have to do a mercy dash to the tip. I’m not even going to mention the bottle bank walk of shame….. It’s the new village meeting place!! We arrange a secret Santa zoom and have to rearrange as one of the prezzies fails to arrive on time. Sophie is clearly on the naughty list J.  Al and I have a chat, to reflect on the year. It’s been ridiculously tough and we are uncertain what’s going to happen.

What we do agree on is that we are proud of what we have done this year.

We have supported candidates and clients alike.

Our moral compass is intact.

We do the right things.

We will never stop doing the right things.

We are just hoping that the Universe recognises this and we get a chance to do the right things in 2021.

Thank you to all of you that took time see how we were doing, to reach out and help us to remain positive. You have no idea how much that has meant to us. Wishing you all a safe and peaceful Christmas and a hopeful New Year.