Gavin Howarth is the managing director of Howarth’s People & Safety Management. He tells BQ about his journey so far, his plans and his advice for future business leaders.
What is it the company does?
Howarths provides HR, employment law and health and safety support and advice to other SME businesses throughout Yorkshire and beyond. We work with over 500 SME businesses providing a full range of support services including drafting contracts of employment and staff handbooks, to complex advice on TUPE transactions and wide-scale redundancies, through to internal pay reviews and on-site HR investigations. We have a fantastic team with a great blend of expertise and experience.
Describe your role in no more than 100 words
My role is to lead the team towards our vision. I oversee all parts of the business and balance my time between working ‘in the business’ in the employment law team, and ‘on the business’ in my role as Managing Director.
Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?
Aside from part time jobs during School and University, my first ‘career’ job was qualifying as a Solicitor at Squire Patton Boggs in Leeds. After completion of my training contract, I joined the family business and have been the managing director for the last 4 years.
What do you believe makes a great leader?
I certainly don’t have all the answers but my take on it is that you must lead from the front, and by example. You can’t expect the highest standards of professionalism without displaying such standards yourself. I also see my role as creating the right environment for the team to prosper and develop in; keeping a check of your ego is an important part of this process.
What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?
The biggest challenge has been ensuring our identity and way of doing business has not been watered down as the business grows. We now employ 18 people and as more people join the business, on most occasions from other businesses with different ideas, it can sometimes be a challenge to ensure that your company culture and ethos is not diluted. Your brand identity must remain strong and focused through growth to ensure continued success.
How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?
I have a fantastic support network around me including a brilliant wife who keeps me on a level playing field. I also prioritise exercise and I meditate regularly; particularly on subjects such as gratitude which puts many of life’s issues into perspective.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Like a lot of young lads, at first I wanted to play football for England. Then I wanted to follow in my Dad’s footsteps and be in the Police. As I matured and did well in School, I realised the law would be a good fit for me. Combining both law and business is now the ideal fit for my skills set and is allowing me to flourish and push beyond my comfort zones.
Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about them?
Good timekeeping, professional standards of dress and good manners I think are mandatory. It’s a little old fashioned perhaps but in my view, and in our market, it sets the right tone to do business.
Where do you see the company in five years’ time?
The business will continue to grow in a strong and sustainable way. Our vision is long-term and as a result our decisions are the same. We will continue to offer largely the same services, but these will become more refined, the standard of service will increase, and this will (hopefully) result in more business. I expect our staff base to increase in line with such growth.
What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?
Be humble and treat everyone as you would wish to be treated. You can still succeed, grow and earn money as well as being a good person. Also, learn from other people. See what the most successful people in your circle do, and think about how you can apply those traits to yourself.
What do you wish someone had told you when you started out?
Be patient. I became Managing Director at 27 and wanted the world immediately! There is nothing wrong with drive and ambition; in fact it is essential as a business leader, but patience and trust in the process has proved important for strong, sustainable growth.
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