“ Gemma was so good at putting me at ease, I hate having my photo taken and yet she made the whole experience enjoyable. I’m also really pleased with the photos, they are perfect and just what I was hoping for, no actually they’re better!” Helen
Tell us about your new business venture?
I’ve recently set up my own company, Heronsbridge Consulting, which works with organisations and smaller businesses to help them grow. Basically when a business isn’t sure what it wants to do next or finds it difficult to prioritise, I help them develop strategies to grow and differentiate in competitive markets. Together, we establish a plan that works for them, setting clear goals and targets. We look at everything, from distribution to marketing, to business case development to customer targeting to brand positioning. Being small, I can easily adapt and tailor what I do to meet the client’s needs.
My first engagement has been working with the Office of National Statistics on formulating their Digital Services and Technology Strategic 3 year plan. I have really enjoyed working with them and working in a different industry has been really interesting. I am also working with smaller business clients who are looking for ways to expand and make their business a success.
What were you doing before you started your business?
I’ve pretty much always worked in strategy and planning roles. I worked as a Management Consultant in the City of London and that gave me the opportunity to travel across Europe and work for some fantastic organisations.
I decided to return to Wales in 2007 and at that time I started to work for Principality Building Society. I worked there for nine years across various roles, mainly in the fields of Project Management and Strategy. My last role there was as Head of Customer Insight and Strategy, which I absolutely loved. However, after working there for so long I wanted a change and to work in a role where I could interact with many companies on developing their ambitions, rather than being tied to just the one. There aren’t many consultancy firms of this nature in Wales and so I decided to set up on my own.
Why did you decide to start the business?
As I mentioned, I really started to miss the excitement of working with different companies on different ventures. I’d enjoyed working at Principality, but having mainly established their strategy there was little more to be done that would be new and challenging for me.
There are so many great established organisations in Wales and also some very exciting new businesses being set up here, that I thought it would be an ideal opportunity to use my skills and expertise to help these companies grow and to stand out in an ever increasingly tough market. I also like the challenge of being my own boss. It’s always been something that I had in my sights and by taking the plunge I hope that I show my children that it is worth taking the risk and putting in the hard work to achieve your dreams.
Is there anything you have learnt from being a mum that helps you in your work life?
Absolutely. I think since I have been a mum I am much more organised and probably a lot more patient. You need to be when you have three little ones to run about after. I also have a motto of ‘Being Present’, it just means that I try to 100% focus on whatever it is that I am doing. So when I’m at work I am completely focused on that and when I’m with the kids they have my undivided attention. I also think being a mum has made me braver in terms of what I take on and set out to achieve, as it’s always at the back of my mind that I am a role model to them.
How do you juggle being a mother and working at the same time?
I am very lucky to have a strong support network. My husband is very supportive and is also hands on with the kids, he even does the night shifts more than me as I am so rubbish without sleep. My parents have always been a fantastic support to us and they have my three little ones two days a week when I am at work. On top of that they will also babysit, although I try not to ask them too often. I really don’t know how we would manage without them. I also have a great Nanny that helps out on other days. She first looked after my boys before they started school and is now back with us since we have had our number three.
By working for myself I am lucky that I can be flexible when I need to, it just takes good diary management and a lot of organisation. If anything I think my little ones benefit. They know I am always there for them whenever they need me but they also know they have a wider circle of people that love them and who they can also count on.
Do you have any advice for anyone who would like to start their own business?
Go for it! Even if for some reason it doesn’t work out, you will never regret trying, but you will regret it if you don’t give it a go. The other bit of advice I would give is to do your research and be clear on what you are trying to achieve. Bounce ideas off people you know and trust to see whether your business idea makes sense. If you can’t explain what it is that you do, then it’s unlikely that your customers will understand you or buy into your business.
Helen Sandford-Taylor, Director of Heronsbridge Consulting