Being the founder of myHRdept back in 2002 we thought it only right that Bill went first:
How did myHRdept happen?
It all started in the Swan Uppers pub in Cookham! A friend was Finance Director of a large membership organisation, and they wanted their members, mostly small business owners, to have cost effective access to HR advice and documents, employment contracts etc. That was back in 2002, and I’d not long left Coca-Cola & my corporate career.
I looked at the market for HR support for smaller business and there wasn’t much choice – lawyers, call centres, insurance-type products. I decided that it would be fulfilling to use my big company experience to help smaller business along. That still gives me a buzz, 16 years on – and I’ve learnt an awful lot more in that time too.
Tell me about the biggest change that you’ve had to deal with whilst growing the business, what did you adapt to make the change
Like most small businesses the biggest step change was taking on staff. Initially myHRdept was just me, then Catherine and I together, as husband and wife. We took on our first employee in 2011 I think when we relaunched myHRdept in the format it is today. Now we employ 10 with another starting on Monday. The biggest change was learning to trust other people, and learning that I couldn’t do everything myself. Recruiting talented people certainly helps with that journey, and I’ve always set out to look for motivated intelligent people with a great knowledge of employment law.
Describe a situation where you needed to persuade someone to see things your way. What steps did you take? What were the results?
This happens almost daily, and my role now involved working with the CEOs and owners of our larger clients. I don’t seek to tell them how to run their businesses but I do profess to have a lot of experience of hundreds of businesses, and I have a decent feel for what works and what might not, and that’s not just in people matters. When it comes to people issues though, I try and encourage clients to put themselves into their employee’s situations. It’s long been a principle of mine to treat people how I would like to be treated, and I don’t think that’s a bad principle for any manager of people.
Tell me about the toughest decision you had to make in your career
Every time I have to restructure or close a business with job losses it’s tough, but I always try and approach things as honestly and fairly as possible and encourage clients to do the same. Actually the most difficult decision I made in my career though was to give up my career, my corporate one at least. At aged 30 I was already at Director level in Coca-Cola, providing HR support to some 3,000 and enjoying all the trappings that went with it. I’d been offered promotion again and I knew that I was on a path to a highly successful and very lucrative corporate career, but somehow it just didn’t feel like me. Giving it all up to start my own business wasn’t an easy decision though, and was made no easier by my simultaneously needing heart surgery and going through a divorce!
If you could describe your team in three words, what would they be and why?
I don’t think I could find 3 words that would do them justice! Catherine and I have a team of highly experienced highly capable people & most importantly we like each and every one of them. It doesn’t feel like the political world we used to occupy, it’s more like a family, albeit a very hard working one. There’s the 3 words then, capable; experienced, family!
What are the three things most important to you in your work life?
You’re obsessed with 3s! I alluded in my last question to one important factor which is to have a non-political environment. It’s also very important to have client relationships we enjoy. Lastly I think it’s the challenge of being able to make a positive difference to a client’s business. A lot of business people don’t have a clue what HR is about and doubt it can influence the bottom line….when they work with myHRdept they learn how to effect much needed change more quickly, how to recruit & retain better people, how to ensure they have an effective structure and how to optimise employee performance. For some of our clients we effectively carry out a ‘Non Executive Director’ type function and when that relationship forms it is enormously satisfying.
If you weren't one of the Directors of myHRdept what would you be doing if you could?
Part of me wants to be walking the paths of Mallorca with Catherine and Stig the dog, learning to sail a boat and relaxing in the sun, but I know that I would miss working and the rewards (the non financial ones) that working brings. My ideal world I suppose combines both of these things. Having just turned 50 I think I’m too young to retire, but after 30 years of hard graft I think the time to readjust the work-life balance a bit is not too many years off, and it would be ideal, Brexit permitting, if that involved some time in the Balearics, where we’ve been holidaying for nearly 20 years.