The branded monthly newsletter just isn't something I'd be able to do myself - it practically justifies the Licensee fee on its own!"
Fintan O’Toole – South London

Author Archive

Spotlight on Peter Mcdonald

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Peter McDonald recently celebrated his first anniversary as an HR Dept licensee. In this spotlight interview he revisits his reasons for joining our network, and reflects on the highlights and challenges of the first year in his Aylesbury & Central Chilterns territory.

What attracted you most about joining The HR Dept team last year?

Awesome question, as I decided to change rather a lot in my life. I returned to the UK after over 35 years in the corporate HR world, living abroad, to be closer to home and family. I also wanted to be part of a strong HR professional franchise, as opposed to setting out on my own. Hence I bought a territory.

What have been the highlights of your first year as a licensee?

First, my thanks to the team at the central office. They helped and supported me early on with setting up and getting established. You could say they planted the seed and I have then had to do the watering and nurturing of my own territory; knowing they are there to support and help whenever needed: THANK YOU.

Then there’s this small group of HR Dept licensees who I collaborate with – they are just amazing and have been coaches to me along the way. Last but not least, there was a partnership formed with Albert. He was the person I used as a reference check, about The HR Dept, before I signed up. Albert and I struck a chord that we hope will see our joint venture grow with time. It’s early days still, but an amazing opportunity for us both. We are both ably supported by the wonderful Helen.

Are you ever asked any HR questions which amuse you?

There are many but the best one I think was: “Why do I have to have contracts for my team?”

I am amazed at the number of SMEs that tend to run their businesses by the seat of their pants. I am working with clients, proactively supporting them to put in place the very solid yet basic aspects of HR, such as solid contracts, policies and an employee handbook


Tips for starting your own HR consultancy

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Starting your own HR consultancy is a dream for many HR professionals, leaving behind a corporate role and having the freedom and autonomy to build the business that you want. For HR professionals looking to step out and launch their own consultancy, there are numerous things to consider. Here are our tips on how to start your own HR consultancy.

  1. The Brand

Building and maintaining a strong and impressionable brand is important when starting your own business. It is the identity of your business making you memorable to clients. This also helps to distinguish yourself from competitors.

  1. Business Plan

A business plan will help to set your long-term goals and set your focus for the type of business you want to build. This will also help you to spot potential gaps or problems that you may need to resolve. For many HR professionals, their expertise lies in HR and not the other business aspects that are needed to run a business; therefore, it is important to identify skill gaps and spot where you might need additional help.

  1. Marketing and Lead Generation

When starting your own business, it is vital you get yourself and your business seen. If potential clients do not know you’re there, then they may seek help from a competitor. To start with, set up your own website and social media channels and plan to post regular content on them. In time, your marketing strategy will develop – Investing in marketing can give you the jumpstart you need.

  1. Research

Before launching your business, it is important you do your research on the market. This will help you to determine potential competitors and your target market. This will also help you when creating your business plan.

  1. Consider joining a franchise

A franchise offers the opportunity to become your own boss but with support and resources to help you thrive in running your own business. The brand and reputation are already established saving you time and money in those early stages.  As well as this, a franchisor will set your business up for you, often involving a website, IT setup, documents and plenty more. They already know the market and therefore will have tried and tested their business model to find out what works. Joining a franchise means you work for yourself but never by yourself, support stems from the franchisor head office to the wider network of franchisees who are on a similar journey to you.

If you are an HR professional and are interested in setting up your own HR consultancy, we would love to hear from you. Get in touch to find out about the UK’s largest collaborative network of HR professionals and how you will benefit from joining The HR Dept.

Hear from the Founder and CEO, Sue Tumelty

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We speak to Sue Tumelty, the founder and CEO of The HR Dept to ask her some questions about the franchise.

How did you come up with The HR Dept name?

When I first started to do interim work I traded as Sue Tumelty Services Ltd which was obviously not going to set the world on fire, Once the idea of providing services to SME’s was developed I realised we needed some branding and I went to see a company who, at that time were called Studio 6, explained what I wanted to offer and John said “So you are the HR Department” and the name was born. We got the domain name and Studio 6 became the first retained client. All those years later they are now called Six and are still a client and the name is brilliant because we do what it says on the box.

What was the driving force behind starting The HR Dept as a franchise?

One of our USPs is providing a local and personal service and when the HR Dept in Bristol started to get enquiries from further afield we needed to find a way to meet the demand. Franchising was a way to expand quickly without increasing the direct costs to the client.

Did you have an initial vision for The HR Dept, and how is that different to what you’ve built now?

The vision was to build a cooperative network of HR professionals providing services to SME’s. I don’t think I ever envisaged it becoming as large as it is or as cooperative and dynamic.

Where does your passion for HR come from?

I love business and people, and I truly believe the people in the business can drive it or if badly managed hold it back.

What makes the HR Dept different to other HR franchises?

The initial and ongoing support in all areas, finance, business planning, marketing, sales , employment law, IT. We never rest on our laurels we are the market leader and we will remain so.

What do you see next for The HR Dept?

Building the health and safety business in the same way and of course an even larger HR Dept

Do you have a message for any HR professionals considering the HR Dept?

It has to be right for you and you for us, so ask all the questions you can think of and then some, we will answer honestly.

What is a franchise and how is it different from setting up alone?

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You may have heard of the word franchise, but do you know what a franchise really entails? The simple explanation of a franchise is to set up your own business under an established business name and product/service. A franchise allows you to start a business using the franchisor’s expertise, ideas and processes to increase your chances of success. Moreover, in order to make a franchise more worthwhile, there are often several benefits offered by a franchise to make it an easier or better decision than going it alone.

An established franchise will have already been operating for years and therefore have built a recognised brand and reputation. They will know the industry and how to make a success of it. This provides you with their proven business model which has made them successful and has already been tried and tested for you.

When setting up your own business there are a lot of things to consider. From your brand and how you will market your services, to the IT resources required to operate – not to mention actually setting up your company. The expense and time to establish all this can be lengthy and costly on your own. Whereas within a franchise most, if not all, of this will already be set up for you and there will be a whole network full of resources at your disposal.

Going from a corporate role where you have the support of colleagues to working on your own is a daunting prospect. However, if you set up your business with a franchise you’re not alone! There is often a head office full of support and a network of franchisees who are going through or have been through the same as you. As well as this, the head office will have a team of experts in various business areas to support you when you need them, meaning you can get back to focusing more on your profession and doing what you do best.

If you are a HR professional thinking about setting up your own HR business, get in contact with our team to find out how we can help you. Call us on 0345 208 1120 or email us at

Hear from our Partner Relationship Coordinator, Georgina Bryant

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Georgina Bryant, partner relationship coordinator at The HR Dept

Georgina, tell me about The HR Dept and how you work

We are the UK’s largest network of HR professionals and our franchise business model enables highly qualified and experienced HR experts to set up their own businesses without the worry of going it alone. Our licensees help SME businesses get the expert advice they need at a fraction of the cost of having an in-house HR professional. We work on the principle of offering a local and personal service and work with them to prevent people problems in their businesses.

How would you describe the working culture?

Working at The HR Dept is very varied and our licensees often say that no two days are the same. The working culture here is very collaborative, rather than competitive, as we share opportunities, resources and expertise willingly throughout the network.

What kind of clients and exciting projects do your HR teams work on?

The clients our teams work with can range from start-ups through to flourishing medium sized businesses with more strategic issues. They could be working on anything from a recruitment process or contract, through to TUPE transfers, restructuring and more. As well as the HR work they do, each of our business owners and their teams strive to help and be present in their local communities, such as charity work or appearing on the news to comment and advise on topical HR issues in the media.

Are you recruiting at the moment? 

We are always looking for experienced, senior-level HR ‘generalists’ to join our network. We would love to hear from anyone that would like more autonomy in their work, a refreshing break from the corporate lifestyle, and to be part of a collaborative, successful and versatile team. Our licensees are completely in control of their businesses; whether they want to operate on their own or to conquer the world and have multiple territories and teams – we are here to support them at every stage.

What kind of challenges are your HR directors likely to face in their role?

Challenges could include knowing when it’s the right time to employ their first staff member or grow their business further – it sounds simple, but it can be daunting for a new business owner.

Another challenge licensees might face is adjusting to the SME world if they come from corporate backgrounds to  becoming SME business owners, as any issue has a direct effect on their business and often needs to be solved much more quickly and compassionately than in a large corporation.

How can they develop their skills?

We continually run training sessions and CPD opportunities for our licensees and their teams, from TUPE training through to sales  and networking workshops. At our annual National Conference we offer the whole network workshops to upskill themselves or refresh the basics. Last year we had a customer service workshop, recruitment session, a panel to advise on working with the education sector and more! We also provide new licensees with a business and sales coach to help them in their first six months.

HR dept

What employee perks do you offer?

One huge benefit is the network – nowhere else in the UK can you find such a large, collaborative and experienced group of HR professionals that celebrate each other’s successes. A better work/life balance is another perk of running your own business with us – once you’re up-and-running you can evaluate how much you want to get out of your business and how it can fit your lifestyle. For example, you may want to work 9am-3pm to be able to pick up children from school. Our Employers Indemnity Insurance offering also adds security and peace of mind for licensees and their clients.

What do you think makes a ‘wonderful workplace’?

Somewhere that makes you feel comfortable, valued and free to share ideas. I joined The HR Dept last year and within a day of joining I already felt part of the team. One thing I think is important in a ‘wonderful workplace’ is motivation. You want to work somewhere that motivates you to achieve your goals, or even surpass them and to have people there to support and congratulate you – and you definitely get that with The HR Dept.

Spotlight on Sharon Gregory

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Sharon Gregory is our licensee for Winchester. In this Spotlight interview, she shares her wide HR experience with us and what appealed about joining The HR Dept. Sharon also reflects upon her secrets to success and the challenges of working during the lockdown.

How did your HR career begin?
After some initial temporary work, the role of personnel assistant came up at St Stephen’s Hospital (now the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital). I loved working in a hospital from day one – the community, camaraderie, ‘people’ challenges, sense of family. My last role in the NHS over a decade later was as deputy director of HR at Guys and St Thomas’ NHS Trust.

The employee relations experience I gained in those years was invaluable, but I was ready for some commercial experience. I am an entrepreneur at heart and I love working in the SME sector, supporting business owners on their journeys through growth and innovation.
I have now worked across almost all sectors and industries, but would probably say I favour professional services sectors where the ‘product’ is ‘people’ not ‘widgets’. I love working in companies where most employees are as passionate and enthusiastic about their work as I am!

What is your secret to success?
I have a huge amount of stamina and energy. And I find it easy to step back and think about the bigger picture. I’m adept at engaging those around me in my vision and ideas generally. I am also fiercely loyal, and so my clients always have my complete attention.

What attracted you most about joining The HR team?
The client base is made up of business owners just like me; and so I find it easy to relate to them, and share my experiences. I love the variety that ‘learning’ a new business gives me, and the complete lack of predictability in my days. Like lots of HR professionals I suspect – I like to feel needed and valued – and when you are the standalone specialist adviser to a business, it definitely ticks that box!

Frequently Asked Questions

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What is included in your license?

Each license provides you with your own protected territory in your local area. As well as this, your IT setup, a range of marketing materials (including your website, email marketing and other platforms), additional training and access to our CRM system with a library of our branded template documents are all included in your license. We will work with you to establish your own Ltd. company and provide you with training opportunities to help you develop your business. Also, our dedicated central office and HR professional team are there to offer continuous support in all areas.

How long does it take to set up your business?

The quickest we have set up a new licensee is within 5 weeks from when they decided to join, however we usually set your business up within 6 to 8 weeks. If you need a longer setup period, due to notice periods or other commitments we will endeavour to provide flexibility .

How does our model work?

Our territory model means that you will have your own protected territory and you are the only Licensee permitted to work and market within this area. This supports our collaborative network, as it means no competition with other licensees.

What are the next steps?

When you initially contact us, we’ll send you through some information about the franchise opportunity as well as our brochure. If you would like to find out more, we would love to speak to you to learn a little more about you. Our partner relationships coordinator, Georgina Bryant, would then be in touch to arrange a call.

We also hold monthly no obligation discovery events which will be offered to you after your initial call. At this event, we will give you more information about the available territory/territories you may be interested in and provide you with all the information you need in order to fully consider joining The HR Dept. If you would like more detail on this event or next steps afterwards, please feel free to get in touch with us.

Do I need to prepare?

We would recommend doing some research into the franchise to be sure it will be a good fit for you. Look into the company culture, values, and what support you will receive as a licensee. Most of this can be found on our website or by scheduling an introductory call with us.

Who can become a franchisee?

As a franchise, equivalent experience to this. We look for HR professionals with senior, generalist HR experience and are happy to talk through this with you on an initial call. We also require our licensees to be CIPD level 7 qualified or above.

How can I finance my business?

If you are looking for support to finance your franchise, we have partnered with a provider who deliver a start-up-loan scheme to UK entrepreneurs. Get in touch and we will be able to assist you with your loan application. There are also a few other options to help in financing your license with us, so please get in touch if you would like to learn more.

Hear from our Marketing Director

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What is your role at The HR Dept?

My name is Felicity Kenny and I am the Marketing Director at The HR Dept. I run the marketing function for The HR Dept franchise, providing the overall marketing strategy for the business, marketing support for all of our business owners as well as raising the profile of the brand on a national level.

Tell us more about the Central Office Marketing team 

The Marketing team includes Ciara Snook, our in house content writer, Roisin Burns, who supports our licensees with their day to day marketing queries for website and email, and Stephanie Forde, our Events and Internal Communications Co-ordinator. Stephanie makes sure all of our licensees are kept up to date with new initiatives, licensee events and CPD training opportunities.

What marketing support do you offer?

We provide our licensees with regular digital content such as blogs, newsletters, press releases and email marketing templates. We also have a full suite of branded materials, provide ongoing marketing training and regular marketing campaigns, that include a range of resources for our licensees to use. Our support also covers national Search Engine Optimisation, national lead generation initiatives and a range of other digital marketing tools.

How do you support new licensees?

We provide all of our new licensees with initial marketing training, which covers both marketing theory and system training on all of our platforms. We help set up their website page and get them started with social media and a PR launch. Our support does not stop there, the team and I are at the end of the phone to provide advice and guidance on any marketing question, whichever stage of your business.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I really enjoy supporting our licensees and helping them see the value of marketing as they use different marketing tools and techniques to help their HR Dept businesses grow.

How have we adapted during Coronavirus?

It has been a very challenging time for business owners during COVID-19 and our role as the marketing team is to help our licensees provide timely information to SMEs when they need it the most. This has included providing regularly updated guidance on our Coronavirus HR hub, sending email updates, running a series of webinars, and creating a range of free resources. We have had to adjust to the ever changing situation, and through working together with our licensees, ensure we continue to deliver the most relevant information to our clients throughout the crisis.

Helping our local business communities during COVID-19

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Covid-19 has been a challenging time for many SME business owners. Whether it has been to guide businesses through the job retention scheme, advise on remote working or to help business owners navigate all of the government updates, our licensees have been working to help and support SMEs across the country.

We are on hand to try and find the best solutions for each individual business and their staff. Our Central Office is also working to assist each member of our network to reach as many businesses as we can right now. Working together has allowed us to adapt quickly and be able to offer vital support and answers when it’s needed most.

So here are some of the things we have been up to at The HR Dept to help our local SME business communities:

  • We’re offering lots of free resources, advice on our webinars and new bespoke packages for SME business owners to help guide them through the journey ahead
  • Licensees have features on the BBC and local radio stations to spread awareness about Furlough, the Job Retention Scheme and top tips for SME business owners
  • The HR Dept has been working to champion the voice of SMEs in the HR world and with the government during this time – the Job Retention Scheme has been greatly received, but we know there’s more to be done and we want SMEs to have more visibility
  • We have created new bespoke HR packages to meet the needs of our clients during COVID-19 and we continue to update them as the situation develops
  • Our collaborative network have been coming together internally as well to raise spirits and show our support for our wider communities. We recently hosted our own ‘Rainbow Competition’ where the network’s children submitted their best rainbows to win an art set. Check out the results here

If you’d like to see more of our Coronavirus Hub and the support we are offering to SMEs, head to our website here:

And if you’d like to learn more about The HR Dept and how our collaborative network and dedicated Central Office could support you to setup and run your own HR business, especially during times like these, please get in touch with us today:

Call us on 03452081120 or email us at


Spotlight on Erica Burke

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After a diverse career working in HR across many different organisations and sectors, Erica Burke launched her HR Dept business in Solihull in October 2019. This month we found out a bit about her professional past, why she chose to become one of The HR Dept team and (for the curious) how she would survive on a desert island.

How did you get into HR and what kinds of organisations have you worked in?

In the sixth form I took part in a project called The Young Enterprise Scheme. In this, a group of students formed a company to produce and sell products. My role was the personnel manager and that had me sorting out discipline and pay. I’d found my calling!

After university, I joined Marks and Spencer as a graduate trainee before becoming an assistant personnel manager. When I moved on from there, I became head of HR at Enfield College. Four years later I moved again, this time to International House as their first director of HR. I felt on top of the world.

After my children were born I sought out new experiences. I spent the next 15 years working as an HR consultant within higher education, the Civil Service, regulators and private companies. I had lots of great challenges, and enjoyed adapting to different cultures, delivering successful outcomes and making a difference.

What is the most amusing question you’ve ever been asked in relation to HR?

I have been asked what satisfaction I could possibly get out of such a career!

What attracted you most about joining The HR Dept team?

It was a combination of the strong brand, the values, the people and the support to develop and grow my own business.

And to end on a bit of fun, if you were stuck on a desert island and could choose one book, one song and a food item, what would they be?

The Godfather, I never tire of it; (You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman by Aretha Franklin; and potatoes: they are so versatile and filling.