Interview with Anna Ives, founder of HR Puzzle

When Anna Ives couldn’t find a part time HR role after being made redundant while pregnant she decided to set up her own HR business, HR Puzzle, helping firms (and mums) make flexible working work.

It’s early days still, but this is her story so far.

What’s your career background?

I have over 10 years’ experience of working in different organisations from the NHS to Local Government to large corporate organisations such as T-Mobile.


I also have a BA.Hon’s in HR and Business and a MA in HR Management and I am a Chartered member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (CIPD)

How did your career change after having children?

When I was, pregnant I was made redundant. It was all above board and when the redundancy process had started I hadn’t told my employer I was pregnant, as it was still in the early stages.

My position was based in Hertfordshire and was being offered to relocate to the head office in Manchester. With a baby on the way, and family close by I didn’t want to relocate.

After taking nine months’ maternity leave, I started looking for a new role part time, as I knew I wanted to return to work. I really struggled to find anything. After a lot of thought and planning I decided to set my own HR business.

Where did the idea for HR Puzzle come from?

I had a lot of HR experience, and working for different business gave me a lot of insight. I worked my way up from a HR assistant to HR business partner so already had the experience of working in different roles.

After my personal struggle to find a flexible role, I decided I wanted to use my skills to make businesses understand how important flexible working is.

How did you move from idea to actual business?

I’m still in the early stages of my consultancy, so I find I am still finding new concepts and ideas to try. I started with writing a website, then moved into advertising my business and looking for clients. I found this stage really hard, but now with the flexible working aspect it gives me another focus when I find that tough.

What’s your USP?

I am super passionate about flexible working and helping not only businesses but individuals with how to make this work. I also offer training sessions to mums on maternity rights and how to apply for flexible working.

Who’s your target audience?

I can offer HR services to different businesses, but I find the SME audience, in particular women and mums with their own businesses, the most rewarding as I now have plenty of experience in this myself.

How do you spread the word about what you do?

A mix of networking, social media and research. I often spend time researching businesses before I approach them, this helps to understand their business rather than just going in cold.

Why is work so important to you?

After I finished maternity leave, I discussed with my husband what I should do with regards to going bac to work.

I was lucky to have the option to use my redundancy money to take another year off before returning to work. But I decided I wanted to do something flexibly where I could work around my daughter and allow myself of the independence of going back to work. My parents have always worked hard, and I want to make my daughter as proud as I am of my mum and dad.

Who inspires you?

My parents, my husband and my grandad. My grandad was an amazing clever and really hardworking man. Just before he passed away last year I made a promise I would make him proud and have a go at setting up my own business.

How do you balance your business?

It is hard and not really sure I do!! I am really lucky to have my mum and mother-in-law who between them have my daughter three days a week. I also work a few evenings and nap times a week. I try not to work weekends.

What are your three top pieces of advice for other aspiring entrepreneurs?

  1. Make sure you know it is going to be hard work – it is not the easy way around. There are a lot of positives but negatives too, you need to have the determination to carry on, its hard but so rewarding at the same time.
  2. You will have to do everything yourself – things you don’t even think of like having to write statement of terms and conditions, write all your social media, and create invoices to name a few. When I worked in an office I wouldn’t think twice about this. If you are lucky enough you can pay people to do some of this but I found I have to do it all myself. There are also a lot of free guides which help too.
  3. Make sure you take time for you – this is advice you will hear when you are a parent but you also need to remember this when having your own business. This can be anything from not working every nap time, to having a coffee (child free) with a friend. You can’t pour from an empty cup!

You can find out more about HR Puzzle on their website.