Jonathan Richards: Time is money – how HR consultants can optimise their business operations

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Congratulations, and welcome to the ranks of the self-employed! According to the Office for National Statistics, this is a group which is ever-increasing, with 15.1 per cent – 4.86 million people – of the UK population categorised as self-employed.

Each year more and more people start their own businesses, having done their time in a large corporate environment they can now capitalise on and, importantly, monetise their experience. Perhaps this is due to the reported better work-life balance or the enhanced level of well-being that recent research shows that the self-employed have.   

However, despite your experience, starting a new business is no easy undertaking. It takes a ‘big-picture’ thinker to be able to turn an attractive proposition into a functioning business. In addition, you have to learn to juggle and spin plates at the same time – selling, consulting and scaling all have to be managed alongside the usual day-to-day running of a business, whether that’s calculating your budget or dealing with expenses.

Self-employment can seem like an obstacle course at times, so I’ve teamed up with two other professionals to outline three important steps which will help you reach HR consulting heaven.

Step 1. Bringing something new to the table

When you are starting your own business, it might feel like people always give you advice in cliché phrases. However, the first step is best described using one these; make sure you spot the gap in your market.

Thinking about what differentiates you from established competitors is the main consideration. In a nutshell, what is going to draw new business to your company over others? What makes you different and your proposition compelling? For me, I saw a market which was not fully serviced by technology, and that is how I found my competitive edge.

Businesses will be buying into you, so building your personal brand and making sure this remains at the centre of all your activity is essential. The best way to do this is to use all the tools available to you such as developing a strong social media presence in order to spread your opinion and stories.

Step 2. Don’t be afraid to outsource HJS Human Resources, Dan Jenkins

Dan Jenkins, Managing Director of HJS Human Resources recommends consultants shouldn’t be afraid to outsource or, where you can, delegate some of your business operations. You are at the top of the company, dealing with many different facets of the business – so with HR you should concentrate on the matters which require senior and strategic input. Experts or even new technology can take care of the HR admin. And this isn’t just a big business trend; even small businesses are benefiting from employing third-parties.

Outsourcing will often save you money also as you don’t have to spend on the expenses associated with an in-house employee. There are multiple ways to outsource, for instance, HJS Solutions uses a group of experienced advisors under one roof, alternatively, you could outsource to multiple companies. This lets you dedicate your time and energy solely to client services and new business.

Step 3. Make sure you don’t drown in admin – HR Savvy, Tracey Murphy

As previously mentioned, not all tasks require your attention. Tracey Murphy, Managing Director at HR Savvy, started a successful business winning and delivering a number of projects. However, after two years, Tracey was under mounting pressure managing both client work and business administration.

In order to combat this, Tracey brought on two new hires to managing the increasing demands of new business. While these new hires were affordable alongside HR Savvy’s new business pipeline, like any business owner, Tracey wanted to ensure that recurring revenue was coming in. By embracing HR technology, she was able to free up her time, no longer having to fit a huge amount of admin into her schedule. In addition, she got a decent recurring revenue from its partner programme scheme which helped maintain a healthy cashflow.

Our research revealed the admin phenomena is swamping the lives of business owners across Britain, with CEOs at SMEs admitting to spending a fifth of the working week on HR admin. HR-related tasks – including approving holiday requests, managing employee payments, approving expenses, and tracking employee sickness – fill an average of eight hours in a business owners week. In turn, this is costing businesses a total of £18,700 each year.

HR consultants must remember that outsourcing to external experts does not just alleviate your workload, but it can also be the more cost-effective option. I’ve learnt it’s impossible to do everything. What is essential, however, is making sure that your efforts are focused on where they have the greatest positive impact – chances are, it’s not on admin.

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About Jonathan Richards

Jonathan is CEO of breatheHR, which he founded five years ago with a plan to develop a simple and user-friendly HR software to help businesses create engaged and inspired teams. His role at breatheHR is to represent the company in the business community and keep abreast of the ways leading companies manage their people. Jonathan’s vision for the company is to improve the way that employees are managed in SMEs, not because it’s done particularly badly but because it’s another thing on the plate of the business owner.

Jonathan's background is in finance and building businesses. Prior to founding breatheHR, he ran a software consultancy that implemented bespoke HR systems for larger companies. Jonathan also co-founded MARSC, a market research software company, and is now the non-executive chairman. Outside work, Jonathan can’t seem to avoid a challenge. Over the years he’s had many adventures including sailing the Atlantic and trekking in the Himalaya (twice).

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