Obituary of a brand…

They say only the good die young and if 40 is the new 30 then we have indeed been robbed of someone in their prime.  Always the professional; honest, ethical and with the highest levels of integrity she touched the hearts and minds of some of the greats in HR, including, on occasion, multiple generations of the same family.

Yes it’s probably fair to say that in her youth she could be a little aloof, but in some way that’s what set her apart from the rest in those early days.  Having done my HR (or Personnel as it was then) apprenticeship, I counted off the days until could tick the box of ‘2 years blue chip experience’ before I would be allowed in through the hallowed doors of 3 Hanover Square.

I have fond memories of receiving her letters – a thick envelope, plopping onto the doormat containing a detailed briefing document of what could be my next career opportunity.  In these advanced electronic times I have spent many hours trying to think of ways of re creating the magic of that ‘letter on the mat’ moment.

Unfortunately the last few years had been less kind.  Much like a classic car with one careful owner, her last few custodians were probably more interested in getting from A to B than they were in the driving experience.  But alas, everything happens for a reason they say.  Everything has its time.  And who am I to argue.  What I do know is that she will be fondly missed.  By many. Not just me….

Of course I’m not talking about a person.  I’m taking about a brand.  The Courtenay HR brand to be precise, which closed its doors and ceased trading in December 2010.  The end of an era.  Courtenay has been a continuous and consistent presence during my 22 year career, both as a candidate, client and in the last 8 years as the person at the helm.  Presiding over its demise was not something I imagined when I joined the company to put it back on the map and return it to profitability in January 2003, which we did with aplomb.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who worked with me at Courtenay over the last 8 years – I won’t list you all as you know who you are.  Suffice to say that without you guys, noting we achieved would have been possible.

So what now for me?  As I join the ranks of the great unwashed I’m taken to thinking how interesting it is out there right now.  I have a broad set of experiences including HR, technology, marketing, resourcing and social media plus a significant chunk of commercial business management in there too.

And perhaps for the first time in my life, a lot of these are colliding as organisations wrestle with bringing together employee engagement, employer brand, customer brand, candidate engagement, talent management and development to name but a few.  Functional and organisational boundaries are blurring. Social media in particular – or should I say ‘real time engagement’ – is forcing a blending of these areas into a sweet spot that I think I am well positioned to orchestrate/exploit/architect however you want to position it.

So, if you come across this blog and you are thinking of how this all might work for you then please do give me a call.  I’m open to opportunities, interim especially as I’m taking a bit of time to work out the roadmap.  My Linkedin profile – see above – will give you the relevant details.

In the meantime, I shall be focussing some time on getting reacquainted with my family, who got lost somewhere in #commutinghell.

I leave you with one of the many comments I have received over the last few weeks from friends of Courtenay.  Farewell, it’s been a gas.

I’m sorry to hear this.  Courtenay was a great brand with a helpful and positive approach.  Not only was I recruited twice via Courtenay I also received particularly helpful advice from you during a period of uncertainty.  Indeed the manner in which you led me to that decision was exemplary and much appreciated.

Director, Learning and Development. EMEA

Courtenay HR – 7th September 1971 – 6th December 2010


  1. Gareth – this will come as something of a shock, especially to those HR people over a certain age. Like you, I remember being too plebby and junior to apply for anything through Courtenay and thinking it a career milestone when I finally did.

    At one time they really were the only show in town. How did it go from that to this? Maybe that’s one to chew over during a pub lunch!


  2. Oh Gareth, G Force…what memories.

    As one of the people who have worked within the business (for the last five years) I thank you for the mention and the fitting eulogy. I too had interacted with Courtenay long before I joined them…they had been a client of mine when I was doing recruitment to recruitment and I often commented that they were one of the very few clients that I would ever join.

    The reason was simple…the values and beliefs, culture and aura, always stood out. They were the only client of whom I could honestly say that every candidate I sent there for interview wanted to work there without reservation.

    I was proud to join and be part of the tradition, and whilst the last year or so have been tough, there’s never been a day when I haven’t been proud to say that I worked there.

    The values and principles which shaped the business are as relevant today as they were 40 years ago…in fact, probably more so now. We talk of the need for insight, knowledge, added value and the ability to cut through the sales crap and find the best people…something which Courtenay did, and believed in, for 39 years and 3 months :o(


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