It’s summer 2016. Covid 19, corona virus, and a global health pandemic which will change the way we live and work forever feels like an impossibility, something you’d see in a film. I sit outside a restaurant in Broadgate Circle, Liverpool Street, London, enjoying a beer and the sun on my face.
‘All the best jobs are in London.’
I left London in February 2016; upped sticks, and literally moved to the sticks of Suffolk. I left my job in the City, my flat in East London, and I headed off for a new opportunity and challenge to lead a recruitment business with offices in East Anglia. Head office? A small market town called Bury St Edmunds. Technology hub? Norwich.
I land in my new world in March 2016 and quickly realise, to quote Dorothy, I am not in Kansas anymore.
It sounds so obvious to say, but life and work is so different compared to my time and experience in London. The pace, the attitude, the speed, the ambition, the drivers, opportunity, the balance, all are different in the East. Being honest, I am struggling with the change.
Back to Broadgate Circle. There is no doubt I am having a wobble about my move to the wilds of East Anglia. Given the chance to come back to London for an APSCo meeting, and to see the ONE London client my new business has, I jump at it. Following my day of meetings, I’m catching up with an old boss, the CEO of a leading UK recruitment business, and someone I respect for a beer before jumping on ‘the rattler’ back to the wilds. He is not trying to recruit me, and I’m not looking to jump ship, but I’m not even halfway through my first beer when I pour my heart out in terms of how different everything is. How I am struggling.
‘All the best jobs are in London’ he says.
It is more a throwaway comment as much as anything else, he does not even elaborate, but it sticks with me. I should be clear, this comment is not coming from part of the ‘metropolitan elite,’ someone who is completely disconnected, and has never been North of the Watford gap. It’s coming from someone who leads a UK wide recruitment business, has worked, and travelled across the world. It’s a statement of fact as far as he is concerned.
That comment and conversation has stuck with me ever since.
I went on to enjoy my time in East Anglia; opening a third office in Colchester, making Bury St Edmunds my home, and also my favourite office (yes, I did have a favourite office!) However, London was always there in the background for me.
Fast forward six years and today I am sat on the train heading to London. Adrienne Howlett and I are super excited to be interviewing 5 people who are interested in joining Digital 51 in our newest office; our London office.
The plan was always to start Digital 51 with the Hub as we call it, in Suffolk. Through a combination of luck and timing, the original five people who started Digital 51 were all based locally. So, with an eye on the costs of a new business, and the pandemic still in full flow, in March 2021 we opened in Suffolk. We knew from the start however we could never achieve the people growth we wanted in Suffolk. The plan was always for a second office as quick as we could. Why? The demographics are against us in Suffolk. The geography is against us in Suffolk. Plus, our client base whilst spread from Leeds, to Edinburgh, to Hull and Hampshire, there is no doubt our largest partner population is the Capital. We love remote, we love flexibility, but we also love seeing those we partner with in the flesh! We wanted to be close by, this means London baby!
London is expensive though right?! What about the fact the dreaded ‘war on talent’ is back?! Firstly, please don’t start me on the ‘war on talent.’ I am sure I will write more on that when I finally calm down about it. Regarding costs, of course things are more expensive in London. The cost of living, resource, and even a coffee is more expensive here. We’ve already had to accept a four-fold increase in office costs when comparing our Suffolk Hub to the new Shoreditch space. People wise, we are interviewing people today whose basic salary levels are higher than those of the Suffolk team. All of this increased cost before we’ve even had our first company event with the new team in London. I certainly know the round of drinks in our new Shoreditch hipster home will be more than The One Bull, Bury St Edmunds. The One Bull does serve a great beer though, so if you are in town, I recommend one of their locally brewed beers!
So why London? Why not Liverpool, Leeds, Cambridge, or Manchester? All were considered as second homes for Digital 51.
‘All the best jobs are in London.’
There it is again, following me, haunting me, driving me. It has always been there. Why? Because being honest I believe it. Yes, there are caveats and a wider context to my thoughts, but I believe it.
Personally, I am an extremely proud northerner, I come from a place where the relationship with our nation’s capital is not great, an insular place at times. However, there is no denying the access to talent, to opportunity, to creativity, to inspiration is amazing in London. It did not take long for me to fall in love with the City when I moved there over a decade ago. Yes, London took a huge hit during the pandemic; the great resignation, the great run off to the country, the great I NEED SPACE all hit, change occurred, for some on a permanent basis. But London will always bounce back, and we plan on bouncing with it. The growth, the mindset, the ambition, it inspires me, it fires me up, and it drives me to do, and be better. That is why London.
We work in an ultra-competitive space in recruitment. Whether this be trying to hire people to work for us, or trying to support our partner clients as they look to grow, or partnering with people who want their next career move. All of it is competitive. Digital recruitment should be placed next to the definition of competitive in the dictionary right now. For this you have to be at your absolute best, every day, you have to be fired and inspired. That is the space I need Digital 51 to be in, that space for me is London.
London is not the centre of the universe, and believe me, it has it’s faults like all places, however from the minute we opened Digital 51 I knew we would have a London office. Our business is made for London; fast moving, creative, determined, and hungry. We are not in this for lifestyle, we are not in this for balance right now, we are trying to build something, trying to punch through.
‘All the best jobs are in London.’
Hopefully we will be able to convince the people we are interviewing today, that not only is that statement true, but that the best place to experience London in all it’s greatness is Digital 51.
This article was written by Simon Brown, Founder of Digital 51. If you would like to hear more about what it is like to be part of Digital 51, and what exciting plans we have for our London office, then drop Simon a line on