One of the main reasons I joined The HR Dept was because I wanted to be part of a community of like-minded HR professionals that I could call on if I needed help. I was not disappointed! "
David Hudson – Clapham

Author Archive

Spotlight on Nigel Finch

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Nigel joined The Network in 2008, leaving his Head of HR role in a national logistics company. He started with his home territory, Wigan and St Helens, and 15 years on he has since taken on Manchester City & Salford, Liverpool South and Liverpool Central. We caught up with Nigel to find out more about his journey with The HR Dept since he became a licensee.

What attracted you to The HR Dept?

I’d always wanted to be self-employed and work for myself because I wanted to be in control of my own destiny. I no longer wanted to be controlled by other people’s strategies and objectives. I just wanted to create a lifestyle that suited me with an unlimited earning potential. So, in May 2008, I decided to go solo and set up my own business. But quickly I started to think about all the things that went into building a business; marketing, website, pulling templates together etc. That’s when I found The HR Dept’s advertisement in the back of the People Management magazine. It seemed like a safer way of going self-employed with the tried and tested model, already established licensees and even offered employment tribunal insurance which, at the time, I couldn’t purchase as a consultant. So, it seemed like a more structured way of going out on my own whilst being supported by The Network.

What lifestyle has the franchise given you?

I only work 4 days a week. I don’t work Monday’s anymore and I’m probably doing 4-5 hours a day for the rest of the week. Friday is the next day on my list to be dropped. I’ve been able to have this flexibility because I’ve developed a team over the years and have been able to buy the office we work in. I have a director who manages the day-to-day activity, the clients and the team. Being an HR Dept licensee isn’t like having a job. I’m just doing something I love and enjoy doing.

The way the franchise operates, it suits no matter what lifestyle you want. You don’t have to develop a business with a team like a few of us have done. You can still build a successful business if you want to manage all the clients yourself and retire at the end and sell them.

What’s been your highlight since joining The Network?

My highlight is looking back at what we’ve created over the years. I’ve tried to create a business that I would like to be employed by. We’re very flexible, easy going and have introduced a profit-sharing scheme so we’re all working towards the same goal. A new member of staff recently said this is the kind of team you aspire to work for. And it’s things like that, knowing that you’ve created something that’s really special and a business I would want to work for.

How did you ensure you focussed on the aspects you enjoyed?

I was in a quite senior role in my last company, and I had two teams on two different locations who dealt with all day-to-day things like putting contracts of employment together, dealing with disciplinaries. And I knew that to set up on my own, I would have to go back to that initially and then over a period of time I thought, well, what do I not like?

I didn’t really like doing the administration side of HR so in 2010 I employed someone to do that part of the service. And then after a while as the team started to grow, I dropped disciplinaries, redundancy meetings, employee facing meetings and handed my phone over to the team. This meant I was able to focus on the aspects I enjoyed including business development activities e.g. acquiring Liverpool from another licensee.

What is your advice to HR professionals reading this post?

If you’re thinking about becoming self-employed and setting up your own business then it’s like that whole saying “if you don’t do it, you’ll always regret not trying” and that will always be there in the back of your mind. There are more successes if you go through The HR Dept than going solo but it still carries an element of risk so my advice would be to financially cover yourself for the first year as it takes time to build up. However, once the clients start coming in and you’re building relationships up, it’s like a rolling stone. There are more and more people referring you and we have companies now just ringing us or just emailing us who we’ve never met before, but they have heard of us.

Lee Monroe Expands into South Wales

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Lee Monroe joined The Network in 2018, starting with the Abergavenny, Brecon, Blaunau Gwent & Cwmbran territory. Within two years, Lee moved into his first office in Tredegar, taking on two employees to support him in providing HR support to a growing client base of over 40 businesses.

In 2021, Lee expanded the area to incorporate Cardiff, Newport and Central Valleys which meant he covered the South East Wales region. Lee added two more to his team and moved into a larger office in Ebbw Vale.

This month, in alignment with his 5th year in business, Lee announced his expansion into South Wales, specifically the Swansea, Dulais and The Neath Valley’s territory.

“It has been a busy five years, but I have thoroughly enjoyed the challenges and couldn’t do this without my team” said Lee.

“Having three cities within our region is exciting and we look forward to meeting new businesses, particularly in Neath and Swansea, building trusted relationships with our clients and serving the local communities.”

We’re delighted to see Lee and his team expand the business further and wish them every success with the next chapter.

Starting a Business at the Age of 25

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Tracey Hudson joined The HR Dept in 2005 and has since built up a team of 15 employees and owns 5 territories across The Network. We caught up with Tracey to find out more about her journey with us so far.

What were your motivations for joining The HR Dept?

Before joining The HR Dept, I’d had a short corporate career at the age of 25 but quickly realised corporate life wasn’t for me, coming from a family of business owners. In 2005, I saw an advert for The HR Dept in the People Management magazine and ended up going to Bristol to meet Sue and the team.

I loved that joining The HR Dept meant I could run my own HR business, but I didn’t have to think about putting a website together, creating marketing materials or make decisions on branding. It was all there ready for me to use.

How has your business developed?

When I first joined The HR Dept, I had one territory for a couple of years before starting a family. It was then that I recruited staff and was able to pull-on other licensees for support. Since then, I’ve taken on another four territories and have a really good, stable team of 15 employees including a Managing Director.

The first few years were incredibly hard. But it’s all about remembering the reason this was franchised in the first place. If you just follow the model, it works. And that’s been proven over and over again.

Where I’m at now is great because I have a lot of flexibility. I’ve got a great team of advisors so I’m not really client facing anymore which is the position I always wanted to get to eventually. I enjoy coaching the team from the side-lines whilst the MD leads the business.

What’s the best thing about being an HR Dept licensee?

For me, it’s the relationships and really strong friendships I’ve built with other licensees. The power of the network is phenomenal and it’s so supportive. There is so much knowledge between everyone and we’re all committed to helping each other build their businesses.

Build a Business From Your Home

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Sarah Bradley joined The Network in 2018 when she launched The HR Dept Leeds South. Before joining The HR Dept, Sarah was working as an HR and employment law consultant for a competitor before becoming team manager and then overseeing the employment law advice line. In this spotlight interview, Sarah revisits her reasons for joining The Network and the benefits of being her own boss.

What attracted you to joining The HR Dept?

My corporate career involved a lot of travel and saw me working in London, Glasgow and Manchester. I was moving house every 2 ½ years from the age of 21 because every time someone asked me if I wanted a job in a different region or different country, I’d take it. Then, I turned 40 and said to my husband “I need to get off the hamster wheel.” I hadn’t lived in Yorkshire for quite a few years, so I said, “let’s go home.”

So, we moved home, and I began job searching in my local area and came across The HR Dept. The amount of travel in my corporate career was actually one of the early attractions to The HR Dept. I remember my husband saying to me “do you not feel operating and marketing solely in Leeds South will be quite restrictive?” and I said, “I can’t imagine anything better!”

As a risk averse person, joining the franchise was daunting as I didn’t know things like when the first invoice would be paid. However, I am a strong believer in the power of training and induction. I reached out to a number of licensees and followed the model as outlined in my induction and ultimately, it worked, and this was an amazing feeling.

Tell us a bit more about life as an HR Dept licensee

I always thought I’d want a big team, but as time has progressed, I’ve realised I’m happy doing this on my own as that’s what works for me.

I don’t work anywhere near the long hours I used to in my corporate career, and I don’t work weekends. I work a 5-day week where I am available from 9am – 6pm if clients need me. I enjoy the flexibility of working for myself. If there’s a quiet run in the middle of the day, I will pop out and do a food shop or go to the hairdressers but will ensure I have my phone with me, so I am always contactable during office hours.

In terms of the future, my objective at the moment is to build up my pension pot.

How did you shift from the corporate life to a business owner mindset?

When I worked in London as a Senior Manager, I was on good money but when it landed in my bank account, I spent it. I think this is because when you’re paid a corporate salary, you don’t think so much about the future and pensions for example. When it comes to managing your own business and you’re paying yourself from the profits and dividends, you naturally manage your money differently which really pays off.

My business has allowed me to afford bucket-list holidays and funded a massive refurbishment of my kitchen and the downstairs in my house as well.

I feel richer now than I felt on my corporate salary, because of the freedom of doing things my way.

Leaving the Corporate World to Become an HR Dept Licensee

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Michaela Gartside joined The Network in 2013 starting with the Bracknell & Wokingham territory before expanding into Staines-Upon-Thames. Read below to find out her motivations for joining The Network.

How did you find The HR Dept?

Before joining The HR Dept in 2013, I was in an international HR role where I was Head of Reward for an IT/Telecoms organisation. I was doing a lot of traveling internationally and working part time. Eventually, I got to that point where I knew I needed to do something different after 25 plus years of corporate life, retail, and IT.

So of course, I went off with all the different ideas, is it another job? What am I going to do? And, what I recognized was going for another job was just changing the organisation. I didn’t dislike what I did. I didn’t dislike where I was. I worked with some great people, but I recognised that my role had become very cyclical with the annual performance reviews, bonus plans etc and I felt it was time to do something different. So, I then started to research the “what different” and stumbled across The HR Dept doing web searches.

What attracted you to The HR Dept?

I knew I could do HR, but the reality was I’d never run my own business. I had those spreadsheets to help me decide whether to go solo or through the franchise model and ultimately, I chose the franchise route because of the safety net provided and how somebody else was helping me create my own business. That really gave me the confidence to go out and do it.

What attracted me to The HR Dept was the whole piece around being given the framework. I didn’t need to think about what I going to name the company, how I was going to create a website, or the systems I was going to use as all of this was being provided.

I went down and met Sue and the team in the Central Office, and I can remember driving back up the M4, ringing my husband saying, “this is it.” I loved that from day one of running your own business, you could go out and talk as a business owner, having been through the induction programme and talk about what services you can offer and it’s all branded.

What is life like as an HR Dept licensee?

Being an HR Dept licensee means no two days are the same. I don’t sit at my desk knowing what’s going to come in today. I don’t know which clients are going to ring or what issue they’re going to present to us with and that is where the fun comes and what keeps us alive, active, and constantly learning.

Also, although HR remains the same across different sectors, how you apply your HR skills, the tone, the language, the types of conversations and the issued faced are all totally different and that’s really where I feel stretched and where the stimulation is.

Katie and Olivia Join Forces to Bring The HR Dept to Glasgow

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Our latest licensee has joined forces with a long-standing licensee and brought The HR Dept franchise to Glasgow.

Katie Bell and Olivia Flattery have simultaneously launched The HR Dept South Glasgow and The HR Dept Glasgow City NW, offering practical and pragmatic support to SMEs within their community.

Katie and Olivia launching together made perfect sense. They complement each other nicely in that Olivia has been running her own HR business for the last eight years and Katie brings the local knowledge from living in and around Glasgow for the last 20 years.

They feel that joining forces allows them to better serve their community and they’re very pleased to be working alongside each other.

After growing up in Lanark, Katie’s studies and HR career have seen her primarily based in Glasgow, minus a short stint in London following the financial crisis.

The move to self-employment for Katie, was to give back to the local community and support SMEs in Scotland and Glasgow in particular. What’s really important to her is being able to see the impact our support has on SMEs which is not always easy in corporate HR roles.

Having joined The HR Dept eight years ago and establishing two territories in West London, Olivia fell in love with Glasgow, moving to the city two years ago as the world moved online during Covid.

Olivia’s HR career has seen her travel from place to place but she can finally say she’s found somewhere she wants to call home and she is so looking forward to meeting more people in her local community.

Between them, Katie and Olivia have over four decades of generalist HR experience, advising on and managing people issues across a range of sectors, including financial services, entrepreneurial startups, and retail.

As part of the pre-decision process when exploring the franchise opportunity, Katie was introduced to Olivia to discuss her experience of being an HR Dept licensee.

“We met before I signed anything, which was key in making my decision to become an HR Dept licensee,” Katie said. “We had very open conversations about how we can work together and decided to simultaneously launch our businesses. It’s been a great help for us both.”

We are delighted that Katie and Olivia have joined forces to bring their expertise together for the benefit of SMEs in Glasgow. It’s a potent mix of experience and local knowledge for the city’s community of smaller businesses.

Sally Sets Up The HR Dept Salisbury and Andover

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After a career which has taken her across the world, Sally has returned home from her travels to set up The HR Dept Salisbury and Andover.

Varied roles have included overseas postings in the US and Germany while working for a company headquartered in Amesbury, as well as positions covering the South of England from Essex to Cornwall.

Sally feels her knowledge of the business world at home and abroad, alongside her 25 years HR experience will allow her to provide practical and relevant support for the under-represented smaller business community.

Prior to launching her own business, Sally’s 25-year career has seen her working in HR roles across a variety of industries including retail, financial services, food and beverage, automotive and aviation. She is CIPD qualified, an accredited Insight Discovery trainer and an experienced coach.

Sally is enjoying the new challenge of running her own business, which is something she’s thought of doing for some time but hasn’t had the opportunity to do so until now.

She feels that having her own outsourced HR business in Salisbury and Andover very much allows her to give back to the community whilst doing it on her own terms which she feels is best for her future clients and business. Plus, Sally explains, it affords her greater flexibility, lends support to her caring responsibilities and generally puts the fun back into HR.

“It has been a daunting journey but the team at The HR Dept have been incredibly supportive, so I am feeling pretty comfortable and genuinely really excited,” said Sally.

With Sally’s experience with large corporates, SMEs and start-ups, she is now looking forward to fully immersing herself in the local small business community and the issues they commonly face. We can’t wait to see her grow from strength to strength!

Mike Brings The HR Dept to Cornwall

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Mike Talbot has launched The HR Dept Truro and St Austell, set up to provide outsourced HR advice and support to local small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

With offices already covering Plymouth, Torbay and Ivybridge and Exeter, Mike becomes the first HR Dept to launch in Cornwall. He will be supporting SMEs in an area covering Padstow to St Agnes on the north coast, and St Mawes to Fowey in the south.

Mike’s HR career has seen him relocate from Wales to London and with both he and his wife being from the West, they are delighted to return to their ‘spiritual home’ and settle down in their dream location, Cornwall.

Setting up his own business wasn’t always part of a lifelong plan for Mike. However, post Covid, he reassessed his priorities and realised that with the positions he’d held, now was the right time to make different life choices.

Mike started his career with IKEA in Bristol where he worked his way up to Head of HR. From there, he was relocated to the company’s international flagship store in Wembley.

He then worked for Hillingdon Council in west London for 13 years, initially as Head of HR before becoming Corporate Director where he enjoyed overseeing additional departments including legal services, communication, transformation and business performance.

Mike explained that working with the council was when he became hyper curious about businesses as he dealt with a diverse range of services and people who all had different needs – from refuse collectors, to the army and solicitors.

Working in the culture-rich, relaxed environment of IKEA to the more corporate culture of the local authority, allowed Mike to discover that he no longer wanted to be tied to a single company and way of working but rather work for himself alongside a diverse range of people.

He is looking forward to learning about the different needs of SMEs and building personal relationships with business owners, as this is what really suits his personality.

We wish Mike all the best operating the licence and are sure he will make it a great success.

Annette Launches The HR Dept Hertford and Hatfield

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After a varied corporate career, Annette Tyler has taken an opportunity to start The HR Dept Hertford and Hatfield, providing outsourced HR services in the local area which also includes Hoddesdon, Cheshunt and Ware.

Before her new venture Annette spent more than 25 years in a rapidly growing insurance group, working her way up through the company after starting as an executive and HR assistant.

During that time, she covered secretarial, operational, generalist and strategic HR duties, alongside studying at college and eventually becoming HR director. Her former role gave her accountability for decision making, with the responsibility of working under her own steam. This stood her in good stead to run her own HR business.

Having worked for a small firm which grew to become a relatively large one, along with overseeing the staffing issues which came up as a result, Annette feels she truly understands the importance of a good company culture and treating people fairly and the benefits that such an approach can bring.

Through her experience, Annette feels there are common themes running through successful businesses – good ethos and working culture, as well as proper rules and regulations around those. She recognises that companies do not have the luxury of an in-house HR professional which is where we can help, allowing business owners to concentrate on their core activities while supporting their staff.

Born in London to Irish parents, Annette has independent business ownerships in the family, with three brothers who run their own two independent local businesses and a father who set up his own construction firm in Ireland when she lived there as a child. Being brought up in an entrepreneurial environment has encouraged Annette to go out and do her own thing.

Annette is looking forward to helping her local business community work through any issues so they can grow and prosper. She said “Obviously, it’s exciting, and new, and a step into the unknown. There’s a lot to do and, while there are opportunities for expansion of the company over the next couple of years, I’m going to take each day as it comes.”

Diane Sets Up The HR Dept Newcastle North and North Tynside

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Born and bred in North Tyneside, Diane McTavish has lived her whole life in the region, including a 30-year career in HR which has seen her travelling around the UK for work.

Now she has set up The HR Dept Newcastle North and North Tyneside from her base in Shiremoor, to provide practical outsourced HR services for her local business community.

Her career has seen her working in HR roles in major call centres, in manufacturing, transport, charity and the civil service, facing consistent issues but with individual nuances.

Having worked for national organisations throughout her career, Diane had enough of long commutes and travelling and felt her local area wasn’t getting the help and support it needs. She loves where she lives and realised, she wanted to support the areas prosperity in whatever way she can. So, Diane decided she wanted to be part of something that makes the business landscape as profitable as possible for smaller local companies.

Over the past few years Diane started to feel like she wanted to do her own thing and already recognises the shift from employment to business owner mindset. She said “being part of a larger organisation is like a safety – on your own you have to go out into the big wide world and sell yourself. That takes some getting used to.” However, Diane said “I’ve been really well supported by The HR Dept, as well as by the local community. I’m feeling really good and really positive.”

Diane is a hard worker and strives for the best quality possible, so we’re excited to watch her build her own business under The HR Dept umbrella and eventually grow her own team.