As soon as I first contacted The HR Dept I knew it was for me – it just felt right. Every day has been fantastic"
Ian Pilbeam – Edinburgh and The Lothians

Author Archive

Franchise Model v Going it alone: Which is right for me?

Posted by

My HR career began around 16 years ago when I got my HR masters degree in 2006. Fortunately, I found a job almost immediately and was in employment until the end of 2016, which is when I was made redundant.

It was then that I first tried my hand at going it alone, although most of the work was coming through agencies and wasn’t sustainable. I was later headhunted to work for a charity but soon realised it wasn’t for me. 

At a crossroads and fed up of relying on agencies to get me work, I started to properly research how I could build a business and bring in the work myself.

I came across the HR Dept in a magazine and decided to go along to a few of their discovery days. This is where I really started to weigh up my options: do I go for another employed role, try and start a business myself, or go for a franchise model?

Having been employed for the best part of a decade, this was a big decision to make and I spent a lot of time weighing up the pros and cons of each option. Here’s how I made that decision and ended up where I am today.

Support and Security

For me, and after speaking to a lot of people, going into business alone felt like a lonely move to make. I felt like I would benefit from the kind of support that joining a franchise offers and this was undoubtedly the biggest pro for me.

I always describe it as being the best of both worlds. On the one hand, you feel like part of a team and have that all-important support network; a marketing department, other licensees that you can speak to if you have an issue or need some advice. But on the other hand, you are also running your own business and have the freedom and flexibility that comes with that.

The other big pro for me was being under the umbrella of an established brand. Building a brand from scratch can take an incredibly long time, which is something joining a franchise allows you to bypass. People already know and trust the franchise brand, too, which adds another layer of security when you go out there in the world and start trying to grow your client base.

That being said, starting your own unique business from scratch will undoubtedly appeal to a lot of people. If you’re reading this and thinking that’s you, then going it alone might be the best route.

Whatever you decide, creating a successful business will always rely on the hard work you put in yourself. While a franchise model gives you the brand and platform to leverage, it is still down to you to bring in leads and customers – just as it would be if you went solo.

Financial Considerations

There are clear financial elements to weigh up as well. While joining a franchise requires making an upfront payment, which might be off-putting for some people, I saw this as a much better long-term investment. 

For one, this gets you the brand alongside accompanying marketing material and resources, including a website. The prospect of needing to do all of that myself was certainly a con for me.

The initial cost of the franchise package also comes with a wealth of training, which I found invaluable. There are a lot of things HR people haven’t done in business before – sales being one of them, and a very crucial one at that – and all of that is covered in the HR Dept package.

When you’re starting out on your own, it could take you a while to figure out why you’re not converting and that you might have an issue with sales. If you realise you need to upskill in certain areas further down the line, you’re already on the back foot and will still need to invest in your personal development.

Personally, I felt like having access to that training and a business coach from the outset gave me more of a head start than if I were to go it alone.

Other Considerations

It is important to acknowledge that joining a franchise can come with some restrictions but equally that these are not necessarily a negative aspect.

For example, while some people might not like the idea of being limited to a particular territory, this was one of the big pros for me. 

I had a young family at the time and wanted to keep it local. Joining the HR Dept allowed me to do that, so that element of geographical restriction was actually the best type of flexibility for me. I have also built some great friendships with clients because we are local and have that territorial boundary.

Another potential ‘restriction’ – and this may come as no surprise – is that you can’t just start making willy nilly changes to the marketing and branding. However, this was another positive restriction for me because the brand guidelines and marketing materials were already in place from the start (one less thing to have to think about). Besides, if you really are desperate to change something there is usually a degree of flexibility.

Whether you see these restrictions as a positive (like me) or a hindrance, that’s for you to decide.

Final Thoughts

Setting up your own business takes time, devotion, and money, whichever route you decide to take. Joining a franchise can help ease the burden by offering support, training and a ready-to-go marketing package. But it is also important to recognise that everyone’s needs are different and this might not be the right path for every HR professional.

When weighing up your options, take your time to do your due diligence, go to discovery days and speak to other business owners and licensees. Be open and honest with your concerns and reservations. Ask yourself whether some of those reservations could actually be flipped on their head and work as positives.

If you like the idea of having the freedom and autonomy of running your own business while also feeling part of a team, joining a franchise sounds like it could be the best way for you to start your HR business journey.

About the author 

Omar Rashid joined in 2017 with two territories in Birmingham, then in 2021 he collaborated with another Licensee (Denise Waite) to combine their territories and take over the business to cover Central Birmingham & Wolverhampton as well. 

Omar set up his own consultancy initially after leaving Corporate but joined us after he realised the level of support available that would boost his business.

If you’re an HR professional looking to embrace the freedom of having your own business, but wanting the support and structure to get you there, why not get in touch today and we can help you take those first steps.

Benefits of Being your Own Boss

Posted by

Almost 80 new UK businesses were registered every hour in the first half of 2021, with one study finding over a quarter of people brought forward their plans to start a new business as a result of the pandemic.

Research from FreeAgent shows that 64% of Britons are planning to start their own business at some point in the future, with 44% citing ‘wanting to be their own boss’ as a key motivation.

Other top motivations include creating a better work-life balance (47%), choosing what work to do (40%), following their passion (34%) and gaining a greater sense of achievement (30%). Another 30%, meanwhile, said they would like to be able to fit work around their family commitments.

In this article, Shropshire franchisee, Niamh Kelly, talks about being your own boss.

I had worked for many years in senior HR roles in the public sector in the UK, American multinationals in Ireland and then higher education, and like every HR person you will ever meet I have been made redundant multiple times. For some reason, HR people and marketing are always the first to go.

I had always wanted to go out and be in business myself, so when I was made redundant for the final time in 2017 it was one of those lightbulb moments: I could either keep doing what I was doing – which is go for another director of HR job – or I could take the plunge and finally do what I really wanted to do. My husband’s parents are elderly too so being able to be at home more and support him with their care was another big motivation.

Whatever your own motivation, being your own boss brings with it myriad benefits and rewards. Drawing on my own journey so far, let’s explore some of the benefits that are specific to HR professionals, as well as give tips for navigating the exciting road to becoming your own boss.


One of the undoubted perks of being your own boss is having complete autonomy over what you do and not having multiple layers of sign-off to deal with. Whether it’s creating a marketing strategy, choosing your client base or building a team, those decisions are yours to make and change on your own terms. This includes being able to turn business down if it doesn’t match your own ethics and values.

As highlighted in the FreeAgent research cited above, many people – like me – seek to start their own business in order to achieve the work-life balance they want. Whatever your motivation is – whether you want to be able to work flexibly in order to improve your wellbeing, spend more time with your family or take holidays when you want – being your own boss gives you the freedom to set your own work-life balance.

For me, one of the most rewarding aspects of setting up your own business is the satisfaction you get from supporting another small business. It is incredibly liberating to be able to give your own advice to clients and not be constrained by the corporate ways of working that many of us will be familiar with.

Once you’re in a position to expand, it is much easier to give your team the tools they need to develop in a small workforce than it is in a large organisation, too. Taking on apprentices can be a great opportunity to give back to the HR industry in a way that you might otherwise not be able to do.

Top tips

While having control over your work-life balance is a big perk of being your own boss, it can also be challenging to get it right – especially when you’re starting out and trying to do everything at once. It is critically important to make sure you take time out from technology and, as difficult as it might feel at first, stop checking your emails all the time.

This will become even more important when you start expanding as you will want to set a good example for your team. If you’re telling them to stop checking their work emails before they go to bed, make sure you’re practising what you preach too.

On the subject of expansion, when the time comes to scale up make sure you’re being savvy about why you’re hiring someone. I’ve already established that one of the great perks of being your own boss is being able to choose your own team, which also means you can hire for the gaps in your own knowledge and experience. I now have a brilliant marketing person who knows all about Instagram.

If you’re leaving the corporate world after a long time, like I was, and like many other HR professionals setting up their own business will be, going it alone might feel like a daunting move to make.

I had no idea how much support and guidance is out there for small business owners until I started my own business. When you’ve got everyone in the same boat, and everyone wanting to help each other, you quickly develop that peer-to-peer network.

Don’t underestimate the amount of time and effort you will need to put into developing personal relationships with other small businesses. A lot of us start by focusing on the financing and marketing, and while they are of course extremely important blocks for building a business, in my experience small business owners like to buy from other small business owners. Nurture those relationships and you will soon see that this is where a lot of your recommendations and referrals will come from.

If you’re struggling to develop your own network, the Federation of Small Businesses and British Chambers of Commerce have lots of handy resources and advice for SMEs.

Final pieces of advice

It is important to recognise that being a business owner is very different from being an HR consultant – this was a very big shift in mindset for me. I have learned that successful business owners are the ones who accept the skills and knowledge they had at the beginning of the journey are not necessarily what they need to grow the business.

Always remember why you started the business. Whether it was to spend more time with family, take more holidays or have greater control over the clients you work with, make sure you remind yourself of that driver as you grow.

Finally, don’t be afraid to take a chance. I have one regret and it’s that I didn’t do it sooner.

If you’re thinking about starting your own HR business, get in touch with The HR Dept franchising team. With us, you can work for yourself but never by yourself.


About the author

Niamh Kelly joined HR Dept in 2018 in Shrewsbury & Telford. Not wanting to expand she had planned to have more of a life-style business but with the success that followed, that soon changed.

She now has four territories and three members of staff. In 2021 she joined with franchisee Lee Monroe to take on the Mid Wales territory together.


If you’re an HR professional looking to embrace the freedom of having your own business, but wanting the support and structure to get you there, why not get in touch today and we can help you take those first steps.

Why this is the Best Time to Start an HR Consultancy

Posted by

The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted the business world irreversibly, forcing companies to adapt and evolve at speed in order to survive.

Business matters such as employee relations, recruitment, redundancy, talent management, development and succession planning have forced organisations to make difficult decisions regarding staff and their future. At the same time, the shift to hybrid working, staff retention and a renewed focus on employee wellbeing have brought with them a suite of new challenges and considerations.

In spite of the many challenges posed by the pandemic, the SME market has been experiencing significant growth, accounting for 99.9% of the business population in 2021 and three fifths of all employment in the UK.

With all this change, uncertainty and growth, HR has an increasingly critical role to play in helping UK businesses navigate our post-Covid world. The market conditions are therefore prime for any HR professional looking to make the next move and start their own consultancy.


Where to start

Start by dusting off those key business development skills. Previously you might have had a big team around you, or worked in an in-house department and had one client, but you are now your own team and will be building everything from the ground up – from your customer base to your personal brand.

During these first few key months, you should be focusing on gaining knowledge of your local area and local businesses, finding out what their unique needs and challenges are and how you can best serve them.

Social networks like LinkedIn are a great way to introduce yourself and your brand to businesses in the area and start building relationships with the local community. You will also be looking at who your local competitors are – if any, as the competitiveness of HR will vary region by region – and working to develop a point of difference.

If the foundations of your business are built on local knowledge and meaningful connections, then you are much more likely to engender a loyal customer base in the long-term.


Biggest opportunities

Starting your own HR consultancy is a fantastic opportunity for any HR professional who feels like they have reached the top of their game at their organisation and who is looking for more fulfilment, autonomy and flexibility in their career.

When you start your own consultancy, you are responsible for the whole lifecycle of the business ownership – from the actual HR delivery to business development and marketing, accounting and invoicing. Whether you already have all of those skills or are learning new skills as you, relying on your own expertise is incredibly rewarding and builds business confidence.

Having full-business control means you can choose who you want to work with too. While some professionals might see this as an opportunity to work with a variety of businesses in various sectors, so they can grow their knowledge across different disciplines and industries, others might decide to focus on a specific sector and become more of a specialist.

There is no bureaucracy either, which means you can make changes and decisions quickly without any laborious administrative processes. If you want to change your marketing strategy, you can change it. If you want to broaden your client base, you can take the necessary steps to do that. You are your own boss and those decisions are yours to make.


Overcoming potential challenges

Starting a new business is a big move and, naturally, there will likely be some challenges along the way. When these hurdles pop up, remind yourself that they are a normal part of the process and don’t lose sight of the long-term goal.

Before you make your first call or send your first email, accept that establishing connections takes time and calls and emails will be ignored. It is unlikely you will experience any organic customer growth in the first six to 12 months, but that will change once you have firmly established your personal and company brand. Referrals and recommendations will soon replace calls and emails.

Getting the work-life balance can be tricky in any job. It is especially tricky when you are your own boss and starting your own business and so it is important to make a conscious effort to organise yourself, manage your time efficiently and remember to switch off.

With only yourself to hold to account in the early days – until you start to bring people on board – it can be easy to be hard on yourself if something doesn’t go to plan. In those instances, ask why something didn’t work and learn from your mistakes. Stick to your KPIs and they will be a great indicator as to whether something is working or not.


Are you ready?

During times of change and uncertainty, HR has an even greater role to play in ensuring businesses are managing their employees in a way that is conducive to growth, productivity and positive wellbeing. The past two years have certainly been full of change and uncertainty and this will continue as we move through the tailend of the pandemic and beyond.

Contact HR Dept Franchising to discuss how we can help you take the next step in your career and reap the rewards from starting your own HR Consultancy.



About the author:

Kim Hunter is franchisee for Highlands, Scotland. She joined The HR Dept family in Feb 2021 so has just celebrated her 1st anniversary running her HR business.



Financial security as a new franchise business owner

Posted by

We understand the importance of job stability, financial security and the value placed on home comforts. Therefore, taking the plunge to leave a salaried role and follow your dream of setting up your own business can seem like a daunting option, but there is a lot of support and guidance to help you take that next step in your career.

The HR Dept values transparency, so we won’t deny that buying a franchise is a big investment. There is normally an initial upfront fee in order to set up your business. After this, there can be a monthly service fee or a percentage of profits taken for the rights to trade under the brand and for on-going support. Ensure you have carefully researched what your preferred franchise will require from you, and that you have considered your finances beforehand. However, the main reason in buying into a franchise is because it adds extra security and confidence to your decision of setting up a business. You have a ready-to-go business model proven by existing franchisees (or licensees in our case), a national brand with a reputation you can benefit from, and resources or a central support team to help you with finding your feet.

Lian McQuade - Finance Director

       Lian McQuade – Finance Director

So the real question is, once you’ve found the franchise that’s right for you, how do you finance it initially and what should you plan for?

Our Finance Director, Lian McQuade, has some top tips on how to prepare for starting a business and where to look for financial security as a new business owner:


What types of funding are available for Start-Up businesses?

“There are several schemes out there for start-up loans or grants to help get your business off the ground, or assist with investing in a franchise model like ours.

Start up loans are on the government website with information on how to apply. They usually range from £500 to £25,000 and are repaid with interest over a period of 1-5 years. The good thing is that they don’t tend to have application fees, or any fees if you wish to repay the loan early if your business is doing well! The HR Dept works closely with a partnered provider who have a start up loan scheme for UK entrepreneurs.

Several of our Licensees have used grants, loans and other funding initiatives to help them cover the initial investment with our franchise and give them that extra layer of ‘cushioning’ for their first year in business. Banks are more likely to invest in a proven and established business model and, with a network of Licensees on board, the model is certainly lower risk and well proven.”

But which type of funding is best for me?

“It’s so hard to advise which is best for you, as it is all dependent on your circumstance and own personal finances, as well as what your aims are as a business owner e.g. lifestyle business vs building a bigger operation and legacy. However, there are lots of schemes out there that can help if you’re looking for full, supplementary or future funding for your business.

Sometimes it can be hard to know where to look, so our Growth & Development Team are always on hand to listen to you and your goals, and to advise the best place or type of funding to look for if you’d like some extra guidance.”

What do you recommend I do to prepare for setting up a business?

“I would recommend talking to a financial advisor for some guidance (both if you’re looking for extra funding, and just if you are looking to setup a business) as they can look at your existing personal commitments (e.g. mortgage etc.) as well as what a business loan or grant could be used to help with. Citizen Advice Bureaus and local councils offer help and advice on this too.

I’d also always recommend you prepare a business plan and do some cashflow analysis.” (more…)