Tracy Axon is PA to Bob Wicks, MD of Select Appointments and Select Education

We're like chalk and cheese. Bob is methodical and organised, and everything has its place. Whereas my desk looks like a bomb has hit it, with papers everywhere. But I know exactly where everything is - Bob will come up and ask for a particular document and I'll go straight to it, which astounds him.

We're like chalk and cheese. Bob is methodical and organised, and everything has its place. Whereas my desk looks like a bomb has hit it, with papers everywhere. But I know exactly where everything is - Bob will come up and ask for a particular document and I'll go straight to it, which astounds him.

He likes everything just so, and sometimes if I'm feeling mischievous I'll move his desk around to wind him up! I'll put his clock on the left, or move his desk mat, and wait for him to shout out: "Have you been messing with my desk?" Then I hear him chuckle as he puts it all back where it should be.

But he knows I'm organised, even if it doesn't look that way. I've been part-time for three years now and have a young daughter, so if I weren't organised, I wouldn't still be here. I have a PC at home, connected to the server, so I can pick up e-mails and finish any work I couldn't get done in the office. I also have a company mobile phone, so Bob can reach me any time. My workload hasn't decreased much, but my time management skills have certainly improved.

It was generous of Bob to let me go part-time, so I don't mind working the odd weekend in return - he has been flexible, so I like to be, too.

It's all to do with the trust that comes from having worked together for 13 years. He tells me I'm his second wife without all the pleasures - so I remind him that working with me is, in itself, a huge pleasure.

Bob came here as general manager in December 1993, and I joined him in January 1994, to set up Select Education from scratch. It was his idea and he had approached various people with his business plan. Select were keen to take it on as they could see the profitability of the business. The concept was to build a network of agencies nationwide, dedicated to placing supply teachers into all areas of education, from nursery schools to further education colleges.

So in the beginning it was just Bob and me, organising premises, furniture, letterhead - everything. It was a hectic time and we opened five offices that first year. I had to send mailers to thousands of schools and I used to bring them home with me. Whoever came round to see us in the evening would be given a glass of wine and a huge stack of mailers and envelopes to fill. I lost a lot of friends that year! Now we have 28 offices nationwide and provide teachers to more than 20,000 schools. We've added a dedicated division for special educational needs staff, who have skills in specific areas, and in September we launched a new training service. Supply teachers are often women returners who may not have kept up with new legislation and changes in the national curriculum, so Select Education now offers them free training.

Bob is passionate about education, and is chairman of the education division of the Recruitment and Employment Confederation. But although it's still his baby, he has now broadened his role considerably. In January this year he was made managing director of Select Appointments as well, which specialises in commercial and office-based recruitment. This side of the business is new to me, but not to Bob. He's been in the industry for 30 years, and there's not much he doesn't know about recruitment. Select Appointments has 56 offices in the UK and places 10,000 permanent staff a year, and 10,000 temporary staff a week, so it's an extensive operation. Select is part of Vedior, the third-largest staffing services group in the world.

All of which means two things: one, ours is an extremely busy office, and two, Bob's life revolves around meetings. I keep him going with cups of tea. He's a tea-a-holic and his favourite phrase wafts out of his office on a regular basis - "It's rather dry in here..." But I don't mind, because we have a laugh and Bob has a great sense of humour. He has young attitudes that belie his age, and he's really into technology. We call him "Gadget Man" because he has to have all the latest kit - he's got a pen scanner, now. I rib him about having moved on from golf to taking up outdoor green bowling.

"Careful," I laugh, "that's an old man's game!" He retorts, "Do you want to work next week?" Bob insists he isn't old-fashioned, but just has high standards, which is true. We've only just got him to accept smart-casual dress for our directors' day out, because he can't stand sloppiness of any kind. Or even worse - lateness. If he's going to an external meeting, he'll arrive an hour beforehand to be safe. I would get there five minutes before. As I said, we're chalk and cheese in many ways. But despite that, we have a great working relationship. It's important, because you spend more time with your boss than with your husband, and you have to get on. This is the third place that we've worked together and we tend to be "sold as a pair", now. It's like a double act - you either take us or leave us!

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