Nicole ventured into self employment after a health scare made her re-evaluate her life priorities. She tells us what life is like now, as a successful entrepreneur in the HR arena.
What is it the company does?
I offer bespoke, professional HR solutions to take the impact of cost out of recruiting, managing staff and interpreting employment legislation. I work with my clients to get them into their comfort zone so we can add value to their bottom line, and overall business strategy, through improved people practices.
Describe your role in no more than 100 words
I work with small to medium size business owners, offering them knowledge and expertise built up over 20+ years.
I initially meet clients at their premises to discuss where they are and where they would like to be in terms of their people policy and practices. What is keeping them up at night, how is it impacting their business?
We discuss how they wish to be viewed by their staff, within the community and business circles in terms of their people practices/reputation. What the overall vision is for their business and how they see their people policies linking to this. We then agree a way forward.
Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?
I started my HR career when I was working for a local business in a completely different role. The leadership team saw that I was good with people and asked me to set up their HR dept. I took an Advanced Diploma in HR Development & Management to get the right qualifications. From there I moved into a group HR role as the business expanded, leading and managing a team of HR generalists.
I suffered a partial seizure in October 2013; this was a wake-up call for me as I was a workaholic! I decided, in July 2014, to set up on my own. I realised that life is too short not to follow your dreams, and my dreams included having a better work life balance, as well as going into volunteering for a children’s charity (none of which I was achieving working away from home week on week).
It has been an uphill challenge as setting up my own business; establishing new skills to attract my own clients has taken me completely out of my comfort zone!
My reputation for getting the job done always preceded me when I was working for a large company; operating as a sole trader is a different league altogether. No one knows me and/or my capabilities, and I have had to change that.
It is important to build up trust and confidence in the local business arena. This doesn’t happen overnight and you must keep at it. There are some great networking and support groups in Derwentside (and the North East in general); once you get into these, people will bend over backwards to help you.
For me it is not about gaining business from my competitors; it is about finding my own set of clients, who want to work with me because they see me partnering and sharing their vision for success and being best in class.
I have started to set up a local client base mostly through referrals and testimonials, which is fantastic! I get great enjoyment from working with business owners to enable them to realise their true potential via themselves and their staff.
Business managers and owners have said to me that I have given them the confidence to deal with issues head on that they previously would have avoided. They have learnt new skills in communicating with their staff and understand better how they can link their people practices to their business goals to get the most from these.
What do you believe makes a great leader?
"The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things." --Ronald Reagan
A great leader will inspire and listen, ask for ideas from those that do, can admit when they have made a mistake and does not take anything for granted.
What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?
Getting the hang of social media and face-to-face networking! Both are an art in themselves!
How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?
I volunteer for the NSPCC as a Schools Volunteer, delivering assemblies and workshops to KS1 & 2 to raise awareness on the types of things that can be harmful to children and encouraging them to ‘Speak Out and Stay Safe’. This is extremely rewarding and gets me away from working with adults!
Where do you see the company in five years’ time?
I would actually like to be retired in 5 years’ time! But I would like to leave a legacy of business owners who feel empowered to deal with people issues head on, treat their staff well and view them as essential cogs in the wheel to their success, valuing their people processes as much as their other core operations.
What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?
Always think about your actions; how these impact your business and the people who work for you. Sleep on things before you react. Imagine yourself working for you and think about the changes you would want ‘you’ to make as your manager. Communicate with your workforce, share your vision, how you aim to get there and ask them for ideas!
What do you wish someone had told you when you started out?
It is more about what I should have paid more attention to I think rather than what I wish someone had told me. I was told to ‘network, network, network…’ but didn’t see this as the essential tool I view it as today!
Are you a business owner or manager working in the North East? The North East Growth Hub provides a wealth of information on finance and funding, business support and events available across the region to help take your business to the next level.
The North East Growth Hub is delivered by the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (North East LEP). The LEP works to make the North East a place where more businesses invest, grow and prosper, to deliver more and better jobs for everyone.