I’m not sure where the time went…
12 months ago I was a contractor. Now I run a HR consultancy business.
With the benefit of hindsight, would I do it all again? Me being me, yes, I would!!
I remember the launch as if it was yesterday. It very nearly didn’t happen as Great Nanny was poorly. At 98, she was adamant she wanted to stay in her own home, so nights were spent by her bedside and I was knackered. But I’d come so far, I wasn’t giving up. I knew my ‘why’, had a business case, I’d got a website, I’d hired a function room and sent out invitations for the launch. This was happening.
I hadn’t wanted Workaround’s launch to be a formal affair. I’d have been too nervous. Instead, the launch doubled as a Macmillan coffee morning.
That meant a lot of baking the day before…I’d roped my mum in, but it became clear her contribution was limited to chatting, drinking tea and licking bowls (what can I say, she loves the raw mixture!). By the end, there were lemon drizzles, cherry bakewells, ginger and lemon and Victoria sponge cakes, millionaire’s shortbread, chocolate crunch, chocolate cookies and maple and pecan creams. The hope was that guests would chat and connect over a shared passion for all things HR and tea, coffee and cake. And it worked!
The launch itself was a complete blur. I was still putting the finishing touches to my cakes when I should have been decorating the function room, but it all came together with help from fabulous friends and family – special thanks still go to Fi and Emma!
But then I sat back and rested on my laurels. I was so busy working by day and doing nights with Great Nanny, that I frittered away the opportunity to build on the buzz from the launch.
We buried our beloved Great Nanny in early January. Christmas was a low point. When people are your ‘thing’ and you lose one, it hurts. I still didn’t put the marketing plan I’d written to work…
That might have been fine before a pandemic, but in lockdown, the HR projects I enjoyed working on dried up and it was time to get serious.
Ironically, when writing my business plan, I’d identified myself as one of the biggest risks to Workaround. Just because I know a lot about HR, doesn’t mean that I’m an expert in running a business.
I learned the hard way that just because I’d launched Workaround, had a shiny new website, and was available to help people with their HR problems, that wouldn’t lead a steady stream of clients to my door.
I needed to step up and out to put myself and Workaround on the map. No mean feat when I’d always worked behind the scenes. The hard work was only just beginning.
Luckily for me, I’m not about short-term fixes and life hacks. I’m not interested in faking it until I make it. I’m playing the long game.
I started by joining Women in Business, a ‘safe’ space for me to learn from female entrepreneurs. My first meeting was nerve wracking as I had to give a one-minute pitch. My idea of hell. I can’t say I enjoy them now, but I’ve realised it’s a mindset thing…At the beginning I’d thought of it as a sales pitch, and was really uncomfortable with that idea. Now I prefer to think of the pitches as one-minute opportunities to showcase different aspects of HR that can add real value to employers. Who would imagine that by the summer, I’d have pushed the boundaries of my comfort zone joining other networking groups, even giving a 10-minute talk on Transactional Analysis in lockdown called ‘Who’s Pushing Your Buttons!’?
Then there were the LinkedIn and You Tube videos. I’ve done a few now but have only posted two. If you want to have a laugh at my expense, dig them up to watch me looking extremely uncomfortable and quite obviously reading from a script. This is still a work in progress and another mindset game. How to stop feeling self-conscious, worrying about how I look and sound, so that I can concentrate on the message I want to deliver. I know I’m not alone in having this fear, so I’m not being too hard on myself. I will get there, but it will take time and practice. Rome wasn’t built in a day.
As for helping others, what problems did financial services SMEs (my ideal clients) have that I could help them with? I’d initially imagined there might be some policy or contract work for me courtesy of new legislation coming into force on 6th April. But whilst the new legislation did come into force, the last seven months have all been about making sense of the new COVID-19 Government guidance and support in so far as it relates to employers and their people.
Prior to lockdown, employers needed help assessing who should and could work from home and what tools they would need to enable homeworking. Then they needed help translating the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme Guidance and understanding the fair process for furloughing eligible workers and how to submit claims. When the Government announced changes to the scheme from July, many employers were forced to reassess the continuing viability of roles. Whilst we’ll always work with employers to consider if there are any measures to avoid redundancies, we’ve had to support business owners who, having done that, have to make the difficult decision to implement a redundancy programme. No manager who cares about their people will find it ‘easy’ to tell an employee their job is at risk, but, in the same way I’m being challenged to get comfortable feeling uncomfortable about creating videos and speaking up, we’re encouraging employers to adapt their thinking too. Honest conversations about why redundancies are being considered and genuine discussions about any support available, go a long way.
The support Workaround gave led to the creation of our first product. It didn’t get launched with any great fanfare; it’s a redundancy guide and accompanying considered conversations training for small employers. We’re now on to product No 2; a TUPE guide for employers looking to sell or acquire a business entity or change service provider.
We’re seeing the pandemic present businesses with opportunities to grow and develop in the months ahead, but a transfer can be unsettling for employees, and employers are wise to plan well to avoid unpleasant surprises down the line….
As a bit of light relief from the intensity of working in HR, I signed up to complete PRINCE 2 foundation and PRINCE 2 agile training to underpin my project experience. I’ve completed 138 units and 11 tests since the end of August and am still only half way through…. I sure know how to live!
When I think about what I’ve managed to achieve, I feel I’m doing OK. Others might have achieved more, but I’ve not lost focus on what’s important, not just for me, but those around me. Like many others, I juggled the balls with being primary home-schooler for my two sons. I’m also the step-daughter to a parent diagnosed with secondary cancer at the start of 2020, and who, courtesy of COVID, is still waiting for chemo…
What has helped me to help myself and in turn, help others in the face of all this uncertainty is the great outdoors. I’m by no means fit, but when the London marathon was cancelled in April, I answered the call to complete a 2.6 challenge and do my bit to raise money for Macmillan, by running 2.6 miles a day for 26 consecutive days. I followed it up with the 12/12 challenge (completing 12,000 steps a day for 12 consecutive days) for Children with Cancer UK to raise awareness of the fact that 12 children are diagnosed with cancer every day in the UK. I topped it off by completing all 26.2 miles of the virtual London marathon on 4th October, again raising vital funds for Children with Cancer UK.
At the end of Workaround’s first year, I can’t say I’ve turned a profit (I scrapped the original financial plan!), but I’d like to think I’ve invested well and have laid some solid foundations I know I can build on. I’ll continue to celebrate each and every new client, and know from all the support Workaround has received, that I am rich in so many other ways.
So, just like an Oscar winner, big shout outs go to my long-suffering partner and sons, my great HR network and fellow Workaround collaborators, my friends, family and Workaround supporters and of course, the clients who put their trust in WorkaroundHR.
Here’s to the next 12 months!