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May 7, 2020

Why did I do that?


Andrew Beaumont

An article about leaving the corporate world behind and setting up on my own. Spoiler. It's the best decision I ever made.

So, 12 months ago, I made the decision to walk away from being an employee and set up my own HR Consultancy. Why did I do that? It's a question that I have asked a number of times since and I wanted to use my experience as the basis for this article.

When I left school, the only thing I ever wanted to do was banking. I did 2 weeks of work experience at the Royal Bank of Scotland in Chesterfield and loved it. I managed to secure a job working in the post room at HSBC in Sheffield (I'm an exiled Northerner) and spent 13 years working my way up through the ranks before finally entering the world of people management looking after a department of 65 processing staff and 4 team leaders in a processing centre in Coventry. HSBC actually invested in management training and I had to go through two weeks of team building at the group training college in Hertfordshire (sadly now closed). Theory and practice are very different animals though and dealing with 65 'new to work' staff was a baptism of fire. However, I found I could do it. I always had an open door policy and made sure that I treated staff fairly (but not necessarily equally). As with any people manager, I had my fair share of HR cases and part of the HR team was based in the same building. Over the next couple of years, I built up a very good relationship with them and when a vacancy arose in HR, I applied and was successful.

That was when the love affair with HR started. It wasn't something that I ever particularly wanted to do or thought I would be good at but from my first day, I absolutely loved it. It's unusual for a HR professional to come from a people management background but I have been able to use this to my advantage. Chances are, whatever issue my clients have, I will have seen it either as a people manager or a HR professional (and sometimes seen it from both sides).

After almost 20 years with HSBC, a couple of short term roles, 4 years running the HR department for an IT company which involved the offshoring of my team and their processes to an European Shared Service in Budapest, I spent 2 years doing HR back in financial services for Nationwide Building Society (where I spent a lot of time training managers around Mental Health Awareness). I was then asked to set up the HR department for a car and van rental company. They only had 80 heads but were growing and were looking to move HR back 'in house' and away from the phone based provision they currently had. This was when I realised that not every company has its own HR provision (and potentially doesn't need one full time). After a year of policy writing, creating a general people strategy and tightening up procedures around recruitment and selection, I left the organisation and set up on my own.

Although I have a very diverse range of clients, my background lends itself to supporting estate agents, solicitors, IFA's and accountants. However, HR is a skill that is transferable between sectors and for me, my job is to listen to my clients' needs, understand their business and deliver a solution that is straight up and commercially focussed. I don't do 'pink and fluffy' as that isn't what they need. My ethos has always been to treat people the way I would like to be treated. Organisations will change and this can often lead to difficult messages being delivered. There is still a right way to do this.

The daily routine of the corporate world has gone and I'm now my own boss. The only person who can make a success of my business is me. I've given up the security I had but the timing was right and I know that if I didn't do this now, I would always regret it.

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