I simply cannot believe where the time has gone…in fact there was no time to write Year 2 blog!

My first blog at the helm of Centric HR at the end of the first Year, mentioned that going into business could be a little daunting, but I was on a journey of enlightenment which turned out to be surprising in its pleasure. Great relationships were made, strangers became friends, and I enjoyed being able to help SME’s with their people problems and queries.

So, what more has been learned and achieved in years two and three?

Well I was never going to be content with being a one-woman-band.  I wanted to be able to offer SMEs and corporates the benefits of my skillset and other specialist skills that were not available through other small HR consultancies.  I felt there was a gap in the market, as when many smaller companies required help and assistance with specialist projects, their only option was sometimes the bigger consultancies that were unaffordable, not value for money or just too risk adverse and didn’t deliver!

So, setting my sights on building new relationships and referral partners I now have a true business model and a one-stop-shop of specialist interventions for any people query that either corporate companies or SMEs may need.  I have learnt how partnerships have helped me build a sustainable business and we now offer, Occupational Health Services, Health and Safety, Leadership Development, Executive Coaching, Specialist Employment Law, HR Software and more.

Year 2 is when the business significantly changed and stopped becoming about Sandra Berns and more about the Centric HR brand.  I had got to the point where 16-hour days and working all-nighters to finish a project was just not enough – I needed to take the plunge and bring in some others to help do the doing.

To start with I was dubious, scared and untrusting – hey I’ve grown my brand and products – what if these people I bring in run off with my products and clients?  Well I really didn’t know what I was scared of – it was just the unknown; just like setting up in business and being worried about Business Owners, there was nothing to fear…as long as you think through the consequences and put the right things in place of course.

The Associate model was developed and so we now have 10 associates who are seasoned HR/Business practitioners, who all have different specialist skill sets.  This enables me to offer bespoke support to our clients or to simply inject a professional HR practitioner into the business to support with a challenging project or change in circumstance for a set period of time.

This growth has ensured that as time goes on, we can assist and support more SME’s at this trying juncture in time, where the future is not so certain. With such uncertainty, many small to medium businesses are unsure whether to go through hiring processes, and to be able to outsource is a great relief for many – especially when expert advice is required.

We have many returning customers, as our credibility and reliability increases. Our services are recommended highly, allowing us to help more and more companies with people management.  Our services are great value for money with only expert HR associates undertaking work which provides assurance to Business owners and senior managers alike.  The principles we hold ourselves to such as transparency, integrity and delivering quality outcomes/products, ensure that all of our clients know they can rely on us.

We all live by the approach; to provide a pragmatic and risk assessed approach to solving people problems through expert insight and knowledge, meaning we can provide all the requirements of a full-time member of HR staff, but at a fraction of the cost. With this we help our clients to focus on what they need to do as a business, and we look after their HR interests.

The Associate model was, I suppose, a bit of gamble – but I needn’t have worried.  I would say the same to everyone else – trust your gut instinct!  We held our first associate day on 24 September, and it was so powerful and we now have a wonderful network of people to ring when any of us need support whether in business or with complex people issues.  We were able to start working as a team and identifying opportunities for the future.  Watch this space – I’ve now started to track tender opportunities.

Stumbling across our lovely Amy this year has truly been a strike of luck!  Our paths crossed earlier on in the year at a time when running the business was really taking over my life rather than undertaking the work that we were generating.  Being able to offer Amy a graduate/trainee post has meant we are providing someone with a great start to their career in HR and I cannot describe just how much she helped me in getting the business (and me) more organised.  I’ve had the pleasure of being able to confirm Amy in her substantive post as she passed her probation with flying colours. I am looking forward to her continued success as we sponsor her in the next leg of her academic journey to obtain that valuable CIPD level 7 qualification.

As for me I’m still learning about running a business, learning from my mistakes and soaking up business “stuff” from the many business owners and suppliers who help me on a day to day basis.  The suppliers that help me – Newman Marketing in Staffordshire (Marketing/Website/Design/PR), Data Productions in Nuneaton (IT) and Integrity Accountancy in Birmingham (Accountants) to name a few – see me in work, creative, funny and relaxed modes, however from time to time they have seen the warts and all – stressed and stretched modes – but they are ones that keep me positive, fix stuff, kick me into action and just keep adding value to help me grow the business.  I couldn’t do it without them.

Throughout the three years – the one thing I’ve always wanted to do is to give back – corporate social responsibility is important to me and I’ve been delighted to be able to support my own community, with sponsorship of a local karate club and becoming involved with Multi Academy Trust Schools – but also, to offer discounts to not-for-profit organisations to give them the specialist HR skills they need.  This is something I’d always dreamed of doing and hope to give back much more.

So what’s next?  Well I want to grow and scale up.  I do not know where I will find the time – but the Aston Business School have made me an offer that I just couldn’t refuse – a place on their Business Growth course.

For the first time since start-up, I have more confidence and know I can lead the business into the future, and we will grow from strength to strength. Partners, Associates and now employees, can rely on me to steer the business onwards and upwards….

Sandra Berns