Last month, Meriel Kehoe from Claudi & Fin spoke to us about her business success story and advice she had for up-and-coming companies in the UK. Today, we welcome our newest interviewee, Alastair Campbell from Carsnip. He let us know how an unfortunate turn in his career turned into his biggest opportunity and the wealth of people he’s been able to meet thanks to Carsnip’s success. Take it away, Alastair!
What’s your career story in a nutshell?
I was fired as Sales Director of a software company – I was terrible at it and while they built great quality applications for business, the web was growing and the obvious potential seemed to be being missed. My arguments for building web applications didn’t go down very well…
It was the best thing that ever happened to me and I took the opportunity to build a small website agency. From there, I went to build several sites until I created Carsnip. Many of the people who I started my early companies with are now employees and even shareholders in Carsnip.
What has been your proudest career moment, so far?
Taking Carsnip from an idea to something that is now signing up four car dealers a day and is partnered with Yell and Halfords to bring better car search to millions of people. We’ve grown it from an idea to a business and team of people who have one thing in their sights: creating a real alternative to car listing websites by building a search engine that works for consumers and dealers.
Describe your workspace. Are you tidy, or do you work in organised chaos?
Everything from my inbox to my desk is tidy. The OCD at work is strong in this one! It’s not quite the same at home though. I have people who work for me who manage to sleep and function with thousands of emails still in their inboxes. That drives me a bit crazy – how do they do it?
Tea or coffee?
Straight espresso, double, every time.
Which stationery item could you not live without?
I have an orange pen my children bought me – everything at Carsnip is orange.
Who is your business idol, and why?
The man who taught me to never say no, never give up, that persistence is key, and that when everyone says you are wrong and your gut tells you that you are correct, that is years of experience giving you an understanding the others don’t see and can’t feel.
What’s the best thing Carsnip has allowed you to do?
Carsnip has allowed me to meet some amazing people – from early Googlers to top Microsoft Directors, the founders of QXL, Kelkoo, Innocent Smoothies, and last, but not least, the smaller investors who believed in Carsnip in the beginning and still believe in it despite the challenges ahead.
Which workplace habit can you not stand?
Hot food at your desk. Go and smell somewhere else!
What advice would you give to people starting their own business?
Do it. But the main thing I can advise is that if you are coming from a corporate life, your work/life balance changes. Starting a business is a roller coaster adrenaline ride that you don’t get off for a long time. You must love and live it.
How do you switch off?
I used to skydive as it’s a nice, relaxing way to get your brain to stop thinking about the business. These days, I don’t get to do it that much just because it takes up so much time. I plan to get back to the drop zone very soon. Come and try it – it’s easier than running a start-up!
What’s next for Carsnip? What are your plans for the future?
We are on a big push for growth, launching with Yell and Halfords. We have some amazing partners in discussion and, of course, are working hard to keep improving the search engine, the experience for consumers, and giving the dealers a great return for the money they spend with us.
What’s your start-up success story? Get in touch with us on Twitter at @viking_chat to share it with the world as part of the Tomorrow’s Leaders interview series!