Time Magazine recently published a list of ’16 things that turned 21 in 2016’. It was, as you might imagine, pretty US-centric and also a bit random – remember the opening of North America’s largest airport in Denver, anyone? Or the airing of the last episode of Full House (long-running sitcom, apparently)? We were a bit more enthused by the fact that Toy Story opened in movie theatres (is it really that old?) and that the commercial leviathan that is now eBay started trading.
Hot or not?
The reason for our interest in raking up what was hot in 1995, is that Tremark is celebrating its 21st anniversary this year, too. Back in the 90s, it felt as if the human race had pretty much hit the peak of technological advancement when in many ways we were only just hitting our stride.
The internet was changing our lives, though we would never have dreamed by how much – and the joys of broadband were a distant dream. In 1995 my phone looked like this.
I was reeling from being made redundant but dad’s encouragement gave me the push I needed to chart a new course – and I can honestly say that despite the ups and downs along the way, I’ve never looked back. I started small, with one employee but soon expanded the team as I diversified from debt collecting to serving court documents and investigating the status of debtors. It wasn’t long before we needed a bigger office and a new approach to pricing.
One of the most important lessons I learned in the early days was not to be a busy fool. The business was going well but I was scared of losing clients and wasn’t charging a realistic fee for our services. So I bit the bullet and raised our prices. The MD of one of the largest clients we had at the time kicked up a fuss and asked for a discount but I stuck to my guns, justified the increase – and I’m delighted to report that client stuck with us, too. We’re still happy to count them as a client today, more than 15 years later.
Dad’s encouragement gave me the push I needed to chart a new course
One thing I am relieved about is that we have never borrowed a penny from the bank. Never once needed an overdraft. We’ve been really lucky with our workforce and have always had a solid team around us – even during the tough times of 2008/9. I am extremely proud of that particularly period, as we managed to keep costs down and while the market was depressed we managed to attract a lot of new customers over the next four years when companies around us fell by the wayside. We actually expanded during that period with the opening of a London office – and we won a few awards too: Best Debt Recovery Company, twice, and Investigator of the Year
Leading the charge
A lot has changed in the last few years, much of it for the better. The News of the World hacking scandal highlighted the potential for bad investigative practice and legislation has tightened up since. I realised that compliancy and regulation were going to be key factors in any successful business going forward and we’ve forged ahead, obtaining the Quality Management ISO9001 accreditation in January 2014 and becoming one of the first companies in the country to obtain the British Standard for the provision of investigative services (BS102000).
We’ll all raise a glass to mark this special anniversary and I’ll personally look back with amazement that a business I started above a pub in Headingley with a £1000 computer loan from my dad has come so far! I have to confess that dad was not only responsible for ponying up the cash to buy, what was – by today’s standards an overpriced, oversized PC – but for planting the notion that I should paddle my own canoe in the first place, not to mention being the Tre (Trevor) to my Mark. Thanks dad and here’s to the next 21 years of Tremark!