We are two: Celebrating and reflecting on startup success

We are two: Celebrating and reflecting on startup success

Walmsley Wilkinson Associates celebrates its second anniversary on the 2nd of July 2020. Taryn Wilkinson founding director, along with Linda Walmsley, says: “We normally focus on action plans and to do lists and rarely take the time to reflect on what has been achieved. As well as celebrating, I wanted to pause and think about the journey that Linda Walmsley and I have undertaken together to achieve this milestone.”


When Linda and I decided to leave our corporate careers behind and exit United Technologies Corporation, I am sure that many people were surprised and indeed questioned our decision.

We worked for a leading global organisation that owned premium brand businesses, embraced the latest technology, offered excellent career scope and continuous learning possibilities for its employees. Between Linda and I, we had accumulated twenty-three years in a fast changing, demanding environment that saw us develop an internal acquisition function from a team of one to a team of twelve and deliver in excess of 1,200 directly sourced hires per year. We benefitted from a generous corporate benefits package, career security, enjoyed working with an amazing talented team and supporting all the excellent colleagues across the wider business. Life was good.

Linda and I could be described as “later career” individuals and perhaps others would not have wished to jeopardise their security, by resigning from such roles and embarking on the risky venture of launching a new business.

However, we have always classed ourselves as hardworking, commercial achievers, who had amassed a wealth of knowledge, experience and “lessons learned”. We were keen to put these to use in the wider world, whilst focusing most of our working days on what we do best – partner with clients, understand needs, provide advice, find diverse talent, manage an effective hiring process and treat everyone with respect.


In the words of Colin Powell, “There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.”.

Whilst committed to our previous demanding roles, we worked evenings and weekends to put together a comprehensive business plan. We needed to ensure that we were both aligned on what the business would be, our marketplace, our opportunities, our threats, our terms, our technology, our policies & procedures, shareholder agreements and all importantly a viable three-year financial plan.

Although we had both previously, set up new businesses, it was easy to underestimate how much work was needed to become launch ready. One of the most important tasks was in selecting the right suppliers to partner with us – accountant, solicitor, IT support, web & marketing etc. We asked around, received some great recommendations and were pleased that with everyone’s support and lots of hard work, we were able to be “operationally effective” in time for Day One.


Perhaps the craziest decision that we did make was to have an office built rather than settle for leasing existing office space. The vision of our future spacious working environment with elevated views of rolling countryside across the Ribble Valley was a strong motivator. However, the reality of managing a problematic build, at the same time we were launching a new business, was in hindsight, a highly challenging combination. Yet we remained positive and worked diligently, spending the first five months operating our business from Linda’s kitchen table, in between meetings with candidates and clients in offices and hotel lounges across the UK. We were regular travellers on the Preston to Euston Virgin train and developed our little black book of favourite hotel workspace / meeting places from Manchester to Edinburgh to Hull to Brighton to Bristol and Milton Keynes. Linda’s kitchen table times have left a lasting legacy – Bella the cat mewing loudly during telephone calls, various builders appearing at the kitchen door, confidential calls taking place in the snug, lunch outside on the terrace and plugged in laptops stretching across the kitchen. It was a far change from our previous corporate lives.


We sometimes describe our business as having had a “soft landing”, we were fortunate enough to have built a strong network over many years. Almost from our launch date, we were contacted by previous HRD and MD colleagues to assist with their key senior and specialist hiring needs. We delivered results and transacted business quickly, which meant we achieved the initial financial plan and were able to start paying our salaries; a reassuring moment. The new impressive office was finally ready in November 2018 and we excitedly moved in. We celebrated in the Spring with a ribbon cutting ceremony kindly officiated by the CEO of a major football club.


There are many achievements and enjoyable moments that we can reflect upon over the last two years. We have successfully launched a profitable business, built an office, delivered recruitment solutions into some impressive international organisations and within the private equity arena, had the opportunity to work with some long known clients and candidates, forged new lasting relationships with many talented individuals, launched our series of interviews with Inspiring Leaders featuring leading UK Chief Exec’s, received heart-warming positive feedback from the clients and candidates we have come into contact with and very importantly Linda and I, have continued to strengthen our friendship and working partnership.


However, our journey hasn’t been without its many challenges. Neither of us have ever let obstacles get in our way and having led full lives, we have proved ourselves to be resilient. I will spare the details but our “start up” to “two-year-old” business journey has entailed many difficulties; some of which are too personal to share, but have included bereavement, illness, accidents, the problematic new-build and more recently covid-19.


I started this reflective piece with “why would you leave your job”. For me, it wasn’t a straightforward decision. My corporate career was rewarding; I gave a lot; I learnt a lot and the future scope within the organisation was excellent. There are large risks involved in leaving secure employment to launch a new business. This entails an initial loss in earnings, possible bank or investor loans and always requires the support of your partner at home.

My desire to embark on a new business adventure was strong, as was my knowledge that Linda and I work together perfectly. I started as her recruitment supplier, became her right-hand woman / reportee and am now thriving as her business partner. As well as the right people and the passion, you must have the planning. We invested lots of time in discussing the business, ensuring viability and working on the detail; all of which ensured start-up success.

Linda and I have no regrets in leaving our corporate lives behind and launching our own SME. We no longer consider ourselves to be a start-up business and look forward to continuing our growth together. We enjoy our work, are managing a better balance and are proud of what we have achieved. The road ahead will no doubt continue to have many obstacles to navigate, but we are ready this. We have previous experience of delivering recruitment results in both economic downturns and upturns. We embrace technology & digitalisation, are committed to high levels of personal service, treat everyone with respect and possess resilience by the bucketful.

I look back with pride on the birth and growth of our business. Thank you to everyone who has supported us so far, but my biggest thank you goes to Linda for being the best business partner I could have wished (and planned) for.

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