Meet the MD: Sam Wason, Cathcart Associates

Gordon Kaye and Sam Wason

Meet the MD: Sam Wason, Cathcart Associates

Running recruitment specialists Cathcart Associates keeps Sam Wason pretty busy, with offices in the UK, Thailand and Germany. He explains his disdain for laziness, and why he chooses not to lead with an iron stick.

  • Describe your role in no more than 100 words

As managing director my responsibilities vary greatly. I run the business alongside my co-founder, Gordon Kaye, and together we share the responsibilities that come from running the business, whether it be ensuring the smooth day-to-day running of the company to making important decisions about which direction to take the business in.

My role also includes the likes of recruiting staff, training them to a high level, pitching for new business, and ensuring that Cathcart Associates is an enjoyable place to work.

  • What is it the company does?

We are a recruitment firm specialising in two different sectors – IT and renewable energy. We are headquartered in Edinburgh and have offices in Manchester, Thailand and Germany.

For candidates, our consultants spend time getting to know them throughout every stage of the recruitment process. Doing this ensures they have an in-depth knowledge of a candidate’s skills, capabilities and the type of role they are looking for.

We also offer expert guidance to businesses looking to hire skilled professionals and give them access to premium advertising boards, as well as our extensive candidate database.

  • What do you believe makes a great leader

I think a great leader is someone who can inspire people. I have never felt that it’s a good idea to lead with an iron stick. Instead, I have always been more inspired by those who are open and approachable in their leadership style.

I think it’s so important that a leader works to establish a good relationship and rapport with clients and with staff, and I also think it’s important for a leader to challenge staff in their roles and provide the right level of support and guidance when needed.

  • What has been your biggest challenge in your current position

On a personal level, I have found juggling work commitments alongside having three kids all under the age of 2 quite challenging. Running a business requires long hours spent in the office, so balancing work and family time can be a little tricky.

Operationally though, I find hiring the right people can be challenging, even for a professional recruiter. We have never hired experienced recruitment consultants - we have only ever trained them from scratch. We are very proud of the office environment that we have created. We are a strong team and the quality of our recruiters is high, so we are always keen to ensure that we recruit the right kind of people into the company. Sometimes finding this talent this can be a challenging process but it pays to be picky.

  • How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job

Time spent with my family is the best way to alleviate stress. After a long day at the office it’s great to be able to switch off from work and relax with my wife and kids. I also like to go running, which is a great way to blow off steam and take away any work related stress.

  • When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up

I went through the phases of wanting to be a lawyer and then a teacher. I realise now that I didn’t actually ever consider a role in recruitment until I worked in a few sales roles and recognised that recruitment and sales have many similarities.

  • Any pet hates in the workplace?

Laziness and a lack of passion. I feel incredibly frustrated by people who don’t apply themselves in their role and don’t work hard. I’m also a stickler for bad grammar.

  • Where do you see the company in five years’ time?

Our immediate goal is to become the most successful independent IT recruitment company in Scotland, the North of England and Thailand. We are also keen to achieve this in the renewable energy sector in the UK and Germany.

Looking a few years down the line, we want to expand our IT and renewable energy recruitment offering across the rest of the UK, mainland Europe and South East Asia.

We are currently one of only a handful of dedicated IT recruiters in Thailand and the recruitment market out there is still very much in its infancy, so we think that we will be able to make significant waves over there in the next 5 years.

  • What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?

Make sure you do everything for the right reasons and be sure to pick the best person to go into business with. Gordon and I got to know each other while working for an IT recruitment firm and when we decided to set up ourselves, we knew we had complete trust in each other and were in it together.

Kick starting a business is a massive commitment so you have to ensure that you choose a partner that you can rely on and who you know will have your back at all times, especially when the going gets tough.

It’s also incredibly important to understand what back office support you’ll need and get that right from day one too. It’s not enough just to be good at your job, you have to make sure the normally invisible business support is there too.

  • Where did you start your career?

I started my career working for Computer Futures, a global IT recruitment firm. I began as a trainee consultant and worked my way up to managing the Contract recruitment division, breaking some records on the way. It was after five years at Computer Futures that Gordon and I decided we had the right depth and breadth of knowledge to open up a firm ourselves.

  • Give us a brief timeline of your career so far.

While I was at school, I had a number of smaller part time jobs in sales related roles, however, when leaving school I decided to study Philosophy at the University of Edinburgh. After graduating, I worked for a year to save some money and then went travelling for two years. I worked while travelling, teaching English as a foreign language and in other various smaller jobs.

When I returned to the UK, I applied for a role at Computer Futures, which I actually didn’t get. When they called to tell me that I was unsuccessful, I called them back and told them that I felt that they should give me a chance and they did!

After five years I left Computer Futures, launched Cathcart Associates with Gordon in 2009 and haven’t looked back since.