Did you always envisage a career in the HR industry?
Not at all, my move into a HR career was very accidental indeed. I was plodding along in a rather dull office job within government when all of a sudden, I found myself seconded into managing a team of staff during the foot and mouth epidemic of 2001. No management experience at all but all of a sudden, I was a thousand miles out of my comfort zone and loving the buzz of managing people in a crisis situation. Around this time, riding on my new-found confidence, I went for a promotion. At the interview I was asked, did I want IT, HR or Finance. So, I plumped for HR based on the fact I am useless with IT and was number blind! The rest is history and my career in HR went from strength to strength. Usually well outside my comfort zone, which prepared me well for what I am doing now, building a HR outsourcing company.
What is your favourite aspect of your job?
With HR it is so unpredictable because of the nature of people and we simply don’t know what will come in next on our HR Advice line! With employee issues it can also get very complex as there are often many strands to a disciplinary or a grievance and understanding how they all fit together, and the legislation and risks associated can be very challenging, but I love this part of the job. Knowing I have mitigated the risks of a tribunal is very satisfying.
Working with SMEs I can also support the business owner with issues that are often causing them distress and costing them money, no one likes to deal with a tricky employee and often relationships have broken down. So, if I (or my team) can bring the issue to an end for the owner and treat the employee with respect, then that’s a job well done. Tell us about the services you offer?
We offer a HR Department to a small business who would not normally have the resources to recruit a full time HR Manager, despite the fact the SME still has the legal responsibilities under employment legislation as a bigger corporate with a full HR team! So, this means everything from recruiting the first employee, putting in place employment contracts and a staff handbook through the whole life cycle of an employee – disciplinaries, grievances, redundancies but also the nice stuff such as HR strategy to support business growth.
I base our success on our clients considering their Account Manger to be their’ HR Manager and very much part of the team. We pride ourselves on the local and personal service that the large national HR companies simply do not have.
What is your proudest achievement to date?
Children, husband and cat a given. I think it is that I have built a quality local business that now provides local jobs and training opportunities to graduates just starting out in their HR career. Never in my dreams did I imagine that I could achieve this, and I am rather proud of this.
What have been your biggest challenges?
Being a business owner is by far the biggest challenge. There have been many times, especially in the first couple of years when I had no salary coming in and growth was slow and sales erratic, that I could have easily taken up an interim role or gone back into employment, but I knew that deep down I would make a success of it and I believed in our business model, so persevered. I found the whole area of sales incredibly difficult at first and understanding the numbers also frustrated me. I am fortunate in that I have a very strong and supportive franchise network behind me so that on the dark days I always had someone to turn to who had gone through exactly the same challenges and come out the other end.
How do you see the industry evolving in the next 5-10 years?
There will always be people doing jobs of some sort (probably alongside Robots!) and people cause issues that will cause their managers pain. That’s a given. However, the way people are employed will change, people will not be committed to one employer they will work for many. This is what we see with the gig’ economy, with more and more people making a living by being self-employed. Legislation at the moment is not keeping up with this and there is a lot of confusion and loss of workers’ rights. One of the key questions will be how to ensure that our system of employment rules are fit for the fast-changing world of work, and in particular ensuring that workers get their due protections and entitlements.
Who are your heroes and mentors in and out of business?
During my HR career, I have always had people who I looked at and thought “I like what they do I can learn from them” in fact I would go looking for these people. I have applied the same principal as a business owner, I think it is important to surround your self with good people who you can learn from and be challenged by. I would like to give a shout out to Neville Tynemouth, Andrew Pickersgill and Craig Hart who have tirelessly supported me with my sales skills and my numbers!
As for heroes, I’m not sure how to answer that as there are so many people out there doing amazing stuff and are heroes in their own right. I do have a bee in my bonnet about the use of the label inspirational’ so it’s a good job you didn’t ask me about this the word seems to be used at business events so loosely, inspirational speaker inspirational talks maybe I am just hard to please!
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Resilient, determined, genuine.
How do you like to unwind?
I am not good at this at all and need to get better. I am addicted to Coronation Street (shh as this is a secret), I love a good comedy night at the Customs House in South Shields and I am a bit of a groupie of local Shields band “Rivelino”. On a serious note I did hit a bad patch last year when all I was doing was working and the pressure took its toll on me which was scary. Since then I have had weekly personal training sessions and have joined Haven Point Gym and have found the boot camp style of exercising really good to help me switch off from work and to create positive mental health.
Who would be your 4 ideal dinner guests?
South Tyneside comedians – Sarah Millican and Chris Ramsay for entertainment, Super Vet because, well, he is super vet and probably my nanna just because I don’t think I had enough dinners with her when she was around. I would need 5 though as I would also want my husband Craig to be there to ensure I went steady on the wine.