C&M is 26! Here's the 6 events that made us who we are

We've reached our 26th birthday and we're celebrating by highlighting the six things that made us who we are today

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26 years. How do you compress more than a quarter of a century into one blog? Well, C&M have reached our huge 26th birthday (the one everyone celebrates, right?) and we thought we'd celebrate by highlighting the six things that have really made us who we are today. So…where to start?

It's all about the team

Ok, we’ll start with the obvious. It's a cliché but it's true – we're nothing without our team. Like all companies we've made mistakes along the way (we'll come on to that very shortly), but our staff here at C&M are fantastic and we couldn't possibly write this article without thanking them. Our retention rate of staff is excellent, with many having been here for more than 10, 15 or 20 years – and some have even gone on to successfully start their own recruitment businesses as well as securing very senior roles within the industry too.

Most of our staff actually applied as candidates looking for travel jobs, so we explained the benefits of working in travel recruitment and (thankfully!) many of them started a hugely rewarding new career path.

Trying to get too big too soon

But like so many companies, our egos probably got the better of us.

We were up to 50 staff at our largest point, and we had five offices in London, Manchester, Surrey, Brighton and Birmingham. Our temps market was very big in the early days too with over 200 temps working for us.

Opening these offices came at a huge, huge cost. And in hindsight, our egos and growth plans got in the way of thinking about what was actually fundamental in running a business. Because we were quite new to it, we didn't realise the full cost of keeping all of these offices. Also, we took on too many staff – and we held on to some of them for too long simply because we wanted the right number of bums on seats!

As well as opening new offices, we looked at expanding into new divisions related to travel. Some have been very successful, such as Evolve Hospitality, which started as a division of C&M before becoming a thriving hospitality and events recruitment business in its own entity. But many of our other expansion plans didn’t go quite as well!

You have to try these things and you have to take risks, but we were too happy to take the big risks. That's a lesson learned. Don't grow too quickly just because you think it is the right thing to do. Big isn't always best. We were naïve, but God we had some fun along the way.

Celebrating in style

We believe massively in looking after our staff and we have a very good benefits programme, but we also love to do incentives. We've been to the F1 at Silverstone, tennis at the O2, horse racing at Ascot, white water rafting and too many posh restaurants to mention. And we also really enjoy taking part in charity events together – including Tough Mudders, triathlons, London to Brighton cycling races, a 100-mile nighttime bike ride for Rubens Retreat…and even an ultra-marathon for Issy's Silver Linings!

But nothing beats an overseas incentive trip with the whole team. We've been to all sorts of destinations from Palma and Marbella to Iceland and skiing in the Alps, but it's hard to think of a better one than last year's trip to Marrakech, which was outstanding.

The pandemic was hugely challenging in terms of staffing and ensuring we survived (before we could even think of thriving again) - so to get the whole team together in Marrakech and celebrate what we'd all been through was truly special. The early morning hot air balloon ride over the Atlas Mountains is something none of us will ever forget.

Global events

Talking of the pandemic, it would be impossible to recite the big events of the last 26 years without mentioning Covid, 9/11 and the recession of 2008/09.

When 9/11 happened, we were sitting in our office in the Barbican, all the phones stopped ringing, and we all just thought what the hell has happened? So everyone gathered around my computer and we watched it play out before our eyes. We just didn't know what would be around the corner. From a business point of view, it led to many retractions of offers, and candidates accepting roles and then having their job offers withdrawn. But after two months, thankfully it picked up quickly.

Of course, the biggest challenge that we've ever faced as a business was the pandemic. We've written about this before, but let's just say it took a huge amount of effort to keep C&M going, and there were many, MANY points where we thought we wouldn't make it. We scaled back, cut down on our overheads, got rid of our offices and somehow we got through it with hard work, quick business decisions and managing the cash.

We had to make redundancies after all of these events. As a business owner, that is something that's very difficult to do. When you have good people in the business and you're forced to make them redundant, it's a really difficult decision to make. But it has to be made and it has to be made quickly in order to save the business. Luckily on all three occasions, we managed to bring some of these employees back, which we're very proud of.

Our first big night out

In terms of highlights, one of the initial things that comes to mind is the first award we ever won. It was at the Travel Bulletin Awards where we were named Best Recruitment Consultancy – and it was a hell of a night! That was in the early days, when we'd only existed for a few years. It was our first ever nomination, so we hired a table, took some clients with us (who also won!) and we were all dressed in our black tie finest. I've got great memories of it and it was an amazing feeling - we were all so proud.

Winning our first ever award made it such a memorable night and then it all rocketed from there and we ended up winning awards at TTG, Travel Weekly, TravelMole, The British Travel Awards, Sunday Times' Best Businesses to Work For and others. A really personal one for me was the AWTE 2021 Business Impact Award, which was a true honour.

Filing cabinets and roller indexes

Looking back, it's crazy to think how much has changed since we started. Some of the main travel roles that we recruit for now, didn't even exist back in 1998! Yes, lots of those old positions are still around – Business Travel Consultants, Reservations Agents etc – but there are so many other vital travel role these days, and that's mainly because technology has advanced. There is now many more ecommerce and digital roles, and specific online skillsets that are now required by lots of companies.

And the emergence of job boards and other technologies means the way we recruit has changed hugely too. Back when I started, we were on the phone 80 per cent of the time. I remember we used to work with filing cabinets and roller indexes with CVs in them - and then we used to fax CVs to clients! 

Things have changed a lot in 26 years. We've had marriages and babies from C&M staff – and we've made friends for life, even with the people who have left us and moved on.

Here's to the next 26.

By Barbara Kolosinska, Managing Director at C&M Travel Recruitment