Inspiring small businesses: Bespoke HR

In our ‘Inspiring small businesses’ series, we share and celebrate great stories from fellow small business owners who started and run their own business. By bringing you closer to these inspiring businesses we hope that you find motivation, tips and ideas for building yours.

Next up, we talked to Alison King , managing director of Bespoke HR.

What is it that you do?

I run an independent HR consultancy called Bespoke HR, based in Guildford, Surrey. We provide outsourced HR services to businesses (small and large) ranging from recruitment to redundancy. 

We offer businesses services on a fixed plan or ad-hoc basis depending on their level of requirements. Some businesses engage with us purely for the peace of mind of having HR advice and support on hand, should they face any problems. Whilst others employ us to manage their entire HR process – as an extension of their business. We can place one of our HR consultants within the business, to act as an in-house HR manager, the difference being that they have the back up of a team of HR professionals in the office and access to employment law advice from our non-practising solicitor. 

We work with clients across a huge range of industries from healthcare to hospitality, but we find that the staffing issues are always similar, no matter what the industry. Lots of businesses get in touch because they have been attempting to manage HR themselves, and have discovered that not only is it time-consuming, but that they could be exposing their business to risk if it’s not managed properly. Business owners tend to get in touch once they have a problem (i.e. a tribunal case) rather than pre-empting and getting their HR in order, so situations never reach this point, but the message is slowly getting out there that effective HR is essential no matter which sector you operate in. Your people are your biggest asset, so why wouldn’t you take care of them? 

What’s the story behind your business?

My background is in hospitality HR, having started my career working for a large hotel chain moving onto a bakery chain, and then SFI, which owned 150 pub sites across the UK (including the Slug & Lettuce brand). 

After the birth of my first child, and on my first day back to work after maternity leave, I was informed that the whole company was going into liquidation and due to close imminently! Despite my best efforts, I was unable to find a suitable role that would allow me to continue my career and be a working mum. At that time, there were very few flexible working opportunities at a senior level. I wanted to run a business that could make use of my skills, but also allow me to work around my young family. 

What inspired you to start your own business?

After researching, I discovered at the time that there weren’t many options for businesses to get affordable HR support. Many business owners told me that whilst they desperately needed HR advice and guidance, they couldn’t afford a full-time HR manager, and that’s where the idea of supplying outsourced HR was born. 

That was in 2010, and the business has grown considerably over that time. We now employ 11 staff all of whom work flexibly, and we offer them opportunities I was unable to find when I started the business. The model works well, and we attract high-level talent. All our consultants have held senior level positions and after having children look to find flexible working options which also allow them to continue their careers.  

What is the most difficult aspect of running your own business?

The turning point for the business was transferring it from a sole trader operation (just me!) to a ‘grown up business’ nailing down the plans, pricing structure and our offering. We also had to grow fast as we gained more clients, which meant taking on employees rapidly. 

We have learnt some interesting lessons along the way about the kind of client we are most successful with. We achieve the best results with those who really recognise the value of their teams and are happy to invest in good HR.  

What is the best thing about running your own business?

There are many positives, but for me, I love being responsible for my own success. It gives you the freedom to change direction and take on new exciting new ventures when you want to and brings a great sense of achievement. I also enjoy being able to manage my own time and being able to bring value to the clients we work with. 

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.