November 24th, 2022
Reflecting on 20 years of Intandem Communications
The journey from founding Intandem Communications in 2002 to celebrating our 20 Year Anniversary has been incredible and full of surprises.
I officially started Intandem Communications in 2002, shortly after the birth of my son Jonty. The first work I did was at the time of his birth in 2000 – when I was heavily pregnant, I visited the wife of an old friend from work to land my first piece of work. I gave birth the next day! Needless to say, I didn't get the job completed until 9 months later!
At that time, I had been working in Sales, Communications and Marketing roles in both Agriculture and Construction businesses for more than 15 years and had found that I enjoyed working with people and helping to develop Communications, PR, and Marketing strategies that worked. I had come into contact with government organisations in London, farmers, grain exporters, and buyers across the globe and building sites up and down the UK, as well as experienced the delights of working in a large family-owned business at a senior level. Looking back all these experiences were invaluable although may not have seemed like it at the time!
When I started a family, I was working at a senior and strategic level, struggling to find a work-life balance, and could see a glass ceiling ahead of me. I wanted to work at a senior level but have more flexibility around my time and life. In 2002, there was no option to work part-time and no flexibility for new mothers in the workplace. The one year of maternity leave hadn't been introduced, so I was back at work after 6 months – which seems crazy now! And I wish sometimes I had had more time before heading back into the fray. I always knew I wanted to do interesting, fulfilling work that made a difference in others' lives and businesses and would fit around family life. Surely that had to be possible.
In the early 2000s, many PR companies seemed to work for clients on a project basis. I had met a number when working in my 'in-house' roles. I wanted clients to feel that working with Intandem was like working with an in-team member of the house rather than outsourcing to an agency. And so Intandem was created based on the vision that we would be the PR and Marketing agency that clients would want to be in a long-term partnership with, not a bolt-on agency. The wheels on a bike work together Intandem, with cooperation and interchange. This is precisely the relationship I envisioned Intandem having with our clients! This has stood us in good stead and is still the same today.
Beginning a business with our first client was a giant leap at the time and a tremendous learning experience. Our first client was Guest Walker Solicitors, who are still a client 20 years later! We also won a contract to deliver PR to Science City York, which started for 3 months and continued for four years. It was a brilliant way of getting to know the York business community. We enjoyed supporting more small-science start-ups in York, which was essential to the city's growing economy.
York's business network was supportive and vibrant. It led me to work with further York-based clients like the University of York and York Science Park. This also led me to join York Professionals, which helped me build the business through face-to-face contact. Networking was a great way of getting to know people, and it's still as crucial to Intandem as ever.
In 2002, the business was based at my home, with a 'brick' mobile phone, a fax machine and dial-up internet. It's incredible how times have changed since then- Intandem Communications didn't have a website for the first 3 years! We won work from referrals, and the team grew into a merry band of freelancers and associates. They were all women who were a similar age to me, with young children, who wanted flexible yet rewarding and exciting work.
We were ahead of the times with hybrid working, which involved being in the office once every so often and balancing our business hours around the needs of our families. It was a great way to set boundaries between our personal and work lives and support each other. And it was fun. I am still friends with the people who helped Intandem at the very beginning; in fact, Susan Kay is back on the team.
Challenges and Transitions
2008 was tough, as we were hit by the recession and overnight saw our turnover reduce by 50%! This was a scary and challenging year with very little growth; however, we got through it, and it was surprisingly beneficial in preparing us for the Pandemic in 2020. You realise that however harmful it seems, changes can result in opportunities. Sometimes, the only thing to do is batten down the hatches and go with the flow until the storm has passed. There were also changes in government at this time, resulting in less government funding, which provided a very lucrative work stream so we started to work with more private sector clients.
We moved into an office on a farm 7 miles down the road from my home and nearer to my son's school and became a Limited company in 2010. This was perfect timing as it allowed me and the team to work around the school pick-up and drop-off timings and enjoy time with our children. In 2014 we moved to High Petergate in York; funnily enough, my son was busy at school doing sports and after-school activities which allowed me to be more independent as the 'working day' was then longer for me. Once he went to University, I then had the freedom to travel further for business regularly, to Leeds, London and beyond, which coincided with the Pandemic and the introduction of more' digital/virtual' working and meant that we could expand our horizons.
Evolving out of the Pandemic, we have got three offices – based around our clients and the team – one in York – where we have our 'roots', a co-working space in Leeds, which has allowed us to expand our team and our client base, and an office at my home in East Yorkshire, which we use for team meeting days and as a countryside retreat.
Adapting and growing
The business has adapted and grown with many transition periods over the years. Alex Calvert, our Senior Account Director, joined in 2015. Lottie Logan joined as a graduate in 2016, helping to build a strong business in York. Lauren Cooper, who joined us as a graduate three years ago, has risen to become an Account Manager and a stalwart member of the team's brilliant social media, she is hugely valued by her clients. Seeing them all grow and flourish alongside the business has been fantastically rewarding.
Developing the business has been like bringing up children- it's rewarding, challenging, and a hands-on job helping them develop! Like my son is now 21, Intandem is in its 21st year and both have grown up.
Our move to Leeds has been an exciting way for Intandem to grow and for us to work with more prominent clients. Our move towards the digital economy has also opened loads of opportunities and made work more accessible. With hybrid working becoming the norm, I've been able to create the flexible workplace culture I'd always envisioned for Intandem.
The new digital age does come with its challenges, though. It's more difficult to manage our boundaries and switch off from work when we're all constantly connected! It's only recently that the working world has embraced a more flexible culture that considers working parents' needs and has begun to openly discuss issues such as mental health.
Wellbeing in the workplace
Focusing on wellbeing is also incredibly important to me, having had health issues in the past. I've learnt the importance of managing your stress. I have found physical exercise, yoga, and practising mindfulness have been transformative for my own wellbeing. I'm passionate about raising awareness of wellbeing and supporting my team and other companies in their wellbeing too. I have been in many businesses and seen good and bad examples of wellbeing and culture. With 20 years of leadership experience, I wanted to find a way to incorporate wellbeing into our work culture. So that is what 2022, our 20th year has been all about. Emerging from the Pandemic has given us' permission' to find new ways of working. So now we have 'monthly wellbeing days' whether that's a team day walking in the countryside, yoga and mindfulness day, or cooking Sri Lankan food. We introduced regular breaks into our working day and aim to maintain the boundaries of the work schedule so everyone can get away from screens and re-focus – we learnt in the Pandemic that this is essential, as is the combination of time away from the office to do 'deep work' combined with the social interaction, creativity and support that comes from meeting as a team.
We have expanded the team in 2022 – and doubled – taking on two new graduates, Alicia, and Ru and two new account managers, Georgie, and Oliver, with PR and marketing experience from different businesses. This has been done in a very tight jobs market, and our workplace culture (and fantastic clients) have been a critical reason for them joining.
We are working together to create a business where we can make a difference, add value to clients who reflect our team values, and create a culture where we can work in a sustainable, productive way.
It's also been fantastic to get to know people who started their businesses at a similar time. Realising and reflecting on how we have all grown and matured over the past 20 years is so interesting- they're a precious support network to stay friends with!
And what next…
The past 20 years have been a crazy, challenging, rewarding journey, and I am excited to see where Intandem goes next. We have gathered an ambitious, friendly, knowledgeable team to take things to the next level, build on firm foundations of the past, and embrace modern technologies in this ever-changing yet exciting world of communications. With clients all over the UK, some with offices worldwide, the world is our Oyster!