Interview with Alison King, founder of Bespoke HR

After returning to her HR job from maternity leave to be made redundant 11 years ago, Alison King decided to start up her own consultancy. Bespoke HR now employs a team of eight and works with over 100 clients spanning healthcare to hospitality. Alison’s husband Ian is also Managing Director.

What’s your career background?

My HR career started in hospitality working for Millennium Copthorne Hotels, then moving on to David Powell Bakeries, a large Bakery that supplied two of the UK’s largest coffee house’s with confectionery.

Following on from this, I worked for SFI which owned 150 pub sites across the UK – including the Slug and Lettuce brand.

How did your career change after having children?

My first day back to work after my maternity leave I was told that the whole company was going into liquidation and that the company was due to close four months later!

I tried to secure another role that allowed me to continue my career and be a working mum, however, there were no opportunities of that kind around.

Where did the idea for your business come from?

I wanted to run a business that I could utilise my skills and work around my young family. I did some research at the time and felt there weren’t many options for businesses to get affordable HR support – so I believed there was a market.

How did you move from idea to actual business?

Blind naivety – I just went for it! I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I think looking back if I had over thought it, I would never had done it. I brought a standard logo for $30 online and ordered some business cards from vista print – and that was it!

What’s your USP?

We have a few! We have built our own performance management software; all our consultants are also PAYE rather than associates, and we offer our clients pragmatic advice that is easy to follow.

Who’s your target audience?

SMEs who want to understand how to work within the realms of employment law and create an encouraging and engaging place to work.

How do you spread the word about what you do?

Referrals, social media marketing and pro-active business development.

What’s been your most successful marketing strategy?

Our new online marketing campaigns. We’ve been really lucky that up to 2016 our business has grown mostly by word of mouth and referrals. 2016 has been digital all the way and we’ve had so much fun getting creative online and getting the word out there about the business and our people.

My best advice would to be smart about which tools to use – there’s so much choice – you really need to make sure that you deliver a clear message using the right platforms.

What’s been the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome?

Turning the business from a sole trader to a ‘grown up business’ – tying down plans, pricing and our offering. We’ve had to grow as fast as we have by doing business with all sorts of different clients across all sectors.

We’ve learned some interesting lessons along the way about the kind of client we are most successful with – as a partner we achieve the most with people that recognise the value of their teams and are happy to invest in ‘good’ HR. Having said that, we’d never turn the clock back!

And your proudest moment so far?

Having an article written about Bespoke HR in a national newspaper, and making it to 10 years in business without relying on any investors or loans.

Who inspires you?

Anyone who has grown a business or had a successful career, whilst, keeping perspective on what matters in life, be it family or friends.

Values and a strong moral compass are characteristics that I look for in an individual as they mean a lot to me. I admire anyone who puts that first rather than the bottom line.

How do you balance your business with your family?

Keeping in mind what is a priority and what is important, eg being there for the children is very important to me. I don’t want them to grow saying ‘mum was never around’ and I have embedded that ethos into the business.

What’s your advice for other women thinking of starting their own business?

Don’t take everything on yourself, if there is something someone can do more effectively and efficiently than you – get them to do it – its false economy to push on through.

You can find out more about Besoke PR on their website