May 1 2014
Having set up the new Spider Online Business, John Campbell (JC) and Tony O’Grady (TOG), needed some customers...

A few small projects got them up and running, then, illustrating the gallus streak that characterises successful Scottish businesses, they went for the big one. Sage, at that time the largest software company in the UK, had a project that the boys thought they could fulfil, so they borrowed John’s grandfather’s ancient Volvo and drove to Newcastle. Here, John takes up the story...

 

“I was slightly embarrassed about the car so we hid it up the back of this enormous car park and trudged to the entrance of Sage’s new, space-age office. The pitch went really well and the client offered to see us out to our car and continued talking to us, which is always a good sign. Obviously we had talked ourselves up – ex-Board directors (which we were to be fair), solid finance behind us, etc. - so the thought of our potential client seeing our elderly and rather decrepit car was a bit of a concern. Anyway we managed to see her part the way across the car park before saying we’d see ourselves out and heading back to the car. On the way out we realised it was a one way system...with only one way out, and guess who was standing at the barrier to wave goodbye...

 

Whatever we may have thought, clearly the Volvo didn’t do us any harm. Winning Sage was a real boost to the business. It was a large job and enabled us to take on full-time staff and plan further ahead than the three months that had been our limit to date. We soon picked up another couple of equally big projects that gave us belief that we could compete as a "proper business". The next few years passed in a blur. FirstGroup, a former client of John’s, got in touch and using this transport experience JC and TOG pitched for another large bus company. Spider was down to the last two so the client decided to make a site visit. Again, John takes up the story...

 

“We were sharing an office in Johnstone with a software firm whose MD smoked like a chimney and the place reeked of stale tobacco. With Saatchi and Saatchi's famous story about BA in mind, we decided to get the office painted - at night because we didn't want the software company to object to it - and we super-glued a brass plaque to the wall outside. The paint in the hall and toilet was still wet the next morning, specifically behind the toilet roll holder. The paint colour was called ‘linen’, which was an off-white shade, which, unfortunately, rubbed off onto the toilet roll. On the way out we noticed an off-white mark on the client’s jacket. We didn't get the job...”

 

Other highlights, depending on your point of view, included the time Spider won the work to redevelop Argyll and Clyde Health Board’s website advising young people on sexual health issues. JC recalled this as a salutary experience, largely because Spider was asked to illustrate this site with line drawings of human genitalia. This provoked a degree of amusement from the creative team at first and bemusement afterwards as it became clear that it wasn’t quite so easy as they thought. As John puts it, “we quickly learned that this wasn’t like illustrating Bod or the Mr Men! It might seem funny to be asked to illustrate how to put on a condom, but there is a really serious side to this work, as we saw only too graphically with the statistics about teenage pregnancies in Argyll and Clyde and some very unpleasant photographs of STIs.”

 

If you missed part one, don't worry you can catch up here... and the third and final part will be coming next week.

j0