It's a family affair
NAME: ISLA CRUDEN
JOB TITLE: COMPANY SECRETARY
COMPANY: CRUDEN LTD
HOW LONG HAS CRUDEN LTD BEEN GOING FOR?
DID YOU SET IT UP?
My husband Ian started as a sole trader 10 years ago.
HOW DID YOU BECOME INVOLVED?
I was always helping with the books and things like that. My son Rory joined the business in 2008 when he completed his plumbing apprenticeship. Initially Ian was just doing servicing of boilers but when Rory joined him they were able to increase the kind of work they could offer. Rory is now director of operations and Ian is the managing director.
WHAT IS YOUR BACKGROUND?
When I had the kids I looked for a job that fitted around the school holidays and so I became a lecturer. Before that I was a solicitor. I did my apprenticeship in Dingwall with Middleton, Ross and Arnot. I worked with Stewart MacIsaac in Elgin for a year, then Aberdeen Town Council for a year, the year Aberdeen won the Cup Winners’ Cup and then I got a job with Highland Council.
WHAT ATTRACTED YOU TO LAW?
Our own family solicitor from Perth encouraged me towards law as a career. I liked people. I didn’t really want to do the court stuff, I liked the chamber stuff. It was always civil stuff that I did.
YOU STUDIED AT ABERDEEN UNIVERSITY. WAS UNIVERSITY A GOOD EXPERIENCE?
Yes, it was probably too good an experience. The law timetable was pretty full on. Art students had a very flexible timetable, but ours included a lot of lectures and tutorials but then it gave us all the more reason to party. After that I did a two-year apprenticeship in Dingwall.
WHAT WAS IT LIKE BEING A SOLICITOR AND HAVING A YOUNG FAMILY? WERE YOU ABLE TO HAVE A WORK/LIFE BALANCE?
It was tough, especially when I was part-time because the expectation was that you would still have a clear desk which, when you are part-time, is quite difficult to achieve.
YOU SAID THE LECTURING CAME ABOUT AS SOMETHING THAT WOULD FIT IN WITH THE CHILDREN’S HOLIDAYS. BUT HOW DID YOU FIND THE JOB?
That was in 1992 and I became very ill. I ended up with pleurisy and pneumonia and I had to give up working. After that I did childminding for a year which is still the hardest job I have ever done. And then during that period I thought of what jobs I could do that would fit around the kids and I thought of teaching.
So I phoned Inverness College just to find out about a teaching qualification and got put through to who was then the head of business at that point.
The person who had been delivering law at the college had gone off with a nervous breakdown – he obviously didn’t tell me that – and he said come in for a chat. So I went in for a chat and it was basically “When can you start?” It was a baptism of fire.
HOW DID YOU FIND STANDING UP AND SPEAKING IN FRONT
I don’t think I really thought about it too much. I was concentrating so much on what I had to get through.
DID YOU ENJOY BEING BACK IN AN ACADEMIC ENVIRONMENT?
It was interesting. It made me realise how bad the lectures I went to at university had been. There was an awful lot of chalk and talk, and very little engagement.
DID YOU USE YOUR OWN EXPERIENCE TO CREATE YOUR LECTURING STYLE?
Yes I think so. I knew what I hadn’t enjoyed and so tried to make it more interactive and get discussions going.
WAS IT QUITE REWARDING TEACHING YOUNGER PEOPLE?
Very rewarding. The teaching was always great fun.
WHAT WAS THE BEST PART?
Being in the classroom and getting the light bulb moment when you think, yes, they got it.
I realised that I could learn as much from the students as they could from me. There would be a huge amount of experience in the room as well, especially from mature students who had a lot more life experience in various things.
YOU RETIRED FROM LECTURING IN JUNE LAST YEAR. HOW DID YOU COME TO THAT DECISION?
The family business was getting to the stage where it needed much more time and I was only part time at the college, but cutting that chord of public sector was quite scary. I like a bit of security, I think most women are like that.
Putting all the eggs in one basket was a big decision for me. I don’t think it was for the boys but the dynamics of working with your family are challenging.
SO WHAT IS IT LIKE WORKING WITH YOUR FAMILY?
Working with my husband is fine, working with my boys is something else. Rory and Callum are both in the business now. Callum joined us in 2012 and completes the commissioning and electrical parts of the work we do.
SO ARE YOU THEIR BOSS?
No, very much no. It’s the other way around, they tell me what to do. That’s probably been the biggest shock to my system. They hold me very much to account.
EARLIER THIS YEAR YOU WERE NAMED BUSINESSWOMAN OF THE YEAR AT THE HIGHLAND BUSINESS WOMEN’S CLUB AWARD NIGHT. DID YOU HAVE ANY INKLING?
Not at all. It was a very nice surprise. We had applied for the business and we were shortlisted.
WHEN YOU GOT THE AWARD, HOW DID YOU FEEL?
We got most enterprising business award as well and that was probably the one I was most chuffed about because that was a real team effort, everyone had worked incredibly hard. The other one was just a complete surprise.
When I went on stage I invited the other candidates in that category up and we made a joint speech because they were just as deserving as I was.