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30 years of Wade Macdonald: Interview with the founders

On February the 25th 2021 it will have been 30 years since business owners, Philip Macdonald and Dominic Wade, signed all the paperwork and opened Wade Macdonald's doors. Over the next ten questions we asked them both about their past, present and future.

 

- O N E - 
​What did you do before Wade Macdonald?

Philip: 
Prior to opening Wade Macdonald in 1991, I had just completed a life-long dream of travelling around the world. I backpacked around Asia and Australia and also spent some time in both Fiji and North America.
Having spent 5 years with The Focus Group - a niche market recruitment consultancy with offices in both the West End and The City - I took the plunge to take time out to explore the world.

Dominic: After leaving university I worked for a multinational agrochemical company before moving to London and joining an independently owned Financial recruitment company.
 

- T W O -
How did you meet Dominic/Philip, and why did you choose to be business partners?

​Philip: Dominic was a colleague of mine at The Focus Group. We worked well as a team and knew that our combined skills, ethos and attitude would put us in good stead to succeed in the human capital arena.

Dominic: I met Philip at the first recruitment company I worked for where he was my manager.  Apparently after our interview he didn’t want to hire me but was overruled by the owner!
 

- T H R E E -
Thinking back to before you founded the company, what drove you in the direction of being a business owner? Why did you set up the company?

Philip: Having worked as an employee in a number of companies, both large and small, I believed that as a business owner I would not have to “go along” with ideas, projects and tasks that I did not whole heartedly believe in. With this in mind, the only viable option was to become a business owner enabling me to operate in an ethical, customer service centric but fee focussed manner.

Dominic:  Philip and I were always a good team with complimentary strengths and a very similar outlook on life.  We were also very aligned in terms of business ethics and felt there was a better way to do business than we were being asked to do.  Consequently we backed ourselves and founded the company.
 

- F O U R -
What were your first offices like?

Philip: Our first offices could only be described as “strictly functional” - they were on the top floor of a tired building but the euphoria of opening a new business far outweighed the downsides of the premises!

Dominic:  They were a total dump at the top of a steep, narrow stairway on the third floor of a building in Cross Street where Platters coffee shop used to be.  To give you an idea of how plush they were we had to wash up our cups, bowls, plates etc. in the toilet.  I doubt a landlord could get away with that these days!
 

- F I V E -
What were your first placements and how did you celebrate?

Philip: Our first placement was in June 1991. In July 1991 we successfully concluded 2 deals and in August 3 placements. The highest salary level of these 6 placements was for a fully qualified accountant at £18,500! We generally celebrated on a Friday evening at The Beefeater in Southcote - the high life!

Dominic:  Our first placements were very much transactional finance staff and we had a rule not to celebrate until we were paid.  I think I had a large Monte Christo when we received our first placement cheque!
 

- S I X -
30 years of business wouldn’t be possible without challenges along the way. What would you say have been the biggest challenges for you as a business owner and the company as a whole?

Philip: The biggest challenges have been adapting to the business climate of the time. We have learnt that changing business practises and methodologies speedily either maximises potential revenues or alternatively minimises losses depending on whether we are experiencing a bull or bear market.

Dominic:  We started in a recession which taught us good housekeeping and we have since been through the great downturn after 9/11 and the financial crash of 2008.  We are now in our 4th recession caused by Covid and every one is a challenge.  Keeping good people motivated and focused during a recession is particularly difficult.

There are obviously a huge number of challenges that you face as a business owner ranging from changes to regulations, additional taxes, employment law, technology etc.  Probably the most frustrating thing is that these changes are beyond your control and can often impact the team too in terms of administrative burden and they always blame the owners!
 

- S E V E N -
And just like challenges, 3 decades wouldn’t have happened without success. What are your top 3 achievements?

Philip:

  1. Continuing to be a core member of a business that has continued to trade during some very ugly recessions.
  2. Continuing to provide both candidates and clients a personalised user friendly service.
  3. Repeatedly being told that our external reputation is excellent.

Dominic: 

  1. Still being here as an independent business after 30 years has been a major achievement.
  2. We have had some big wins against established competitors with big reputations that we can always look back on with  smile (no names no pack drill).
  3. Hiring Chris Goulding has been a major achievement for the business.
     

- E I G H T -
What has been your fondest memory/moment of 30 years in business?

Philip: One of my fondest memories was moving from our first office in Cross Street to a larger open plan purpose built office on the same street. The move was a big step from being a two man band (plus an admin assistant) to being a company that employed a sales team and all the associated advantages. 

Dominic: Bizarrely probably our first Xmas party with our then secretary, Claire.  It was just Philip, Claire and me at TGI Friday’s and I don’t think I have ever laughed so much (everyone knows how much I hate Xmas too).
 

- N I N E -
What is the key to making your relationship last 30 years?

Philip: The key to a successful business relationship is communication and also playing to each other’s strengths. We rarely disagree on the bigger issues which makes for a harmonious relationship which benefits the company.

Dominic:  Patience, communication and shared values.
 

- T E N -
Let’s look ahead. What are your hopes and plans for Wade Macdonald over the next 5 years? What’s next?

Philip: Five years down the line seems a very long time. We currently find ourselves in a market that could potential give us the opportunity to firstly consolidate and subsequently grow. Initially I would like to see revenue levels return to pre-pandemic levels and then grow the business to a position where we can invest in expansion with potentially opening a London office and one in the US or Asia.

Dominic:  I would like to think that we can maintain our excellent reputation for service whilst bringing it to a wider audience both geographically and in terms of the specialisms we support.

When I retire I would like to be able to look at the business and think “We did that and we remained true to our ethics which benefited a large number of people including candidates, clients and staff.  Whilst I know we have made some mistakes we have always been fair”.