Our Member of the Month for April is the lovely Becky Boston! Becky is the HR Director and Business Owner of Emphasis HR & Training. Emphasis HR & Training is an outsourced HR and training provider. The company delivers a full scope of HR support and advice to a wide range of businesses, but is also a training provider which promotes prevention rather than cure; the company prevents HR issues arising by giving managers the confidence, skills and knowledge to tackle things early and create a positive work culture.
Becky’s entrepreneurial spark revealed itself at the early age of 20 when she started her own beauty business. She took a different path and began working in HR, and in 2003, set up Emphasis HR & Training with her business partner Jane. The company has now been running for 19 years. Becky shares her business journey, her top lesson learnt and the common HR problems she sees in organisations. Read on to find out more.
1. What is an ideal customer for Emphasis HR & Training?
An ideal customer for Emphasis is a small to medium sized business with 50-150 employees based in London or the South of England. The industries we specialise in are construction, engineering and marine. We do also, however, work with people outside this field.
2. Tell us a bit about your journey as a business owner – how did you get to where you are today?
I started my entrepreneurial journey at 20 when I set up my first business in beauty. At that time I was quite young and inexperienced, and it was then that I realised how tough it was to motivate and engage with employees. I realised that I needed more experience so I went back to university to complete my Chartered Institute of Personnel Development qualification. Once I qualified, I ended up working in HR and Training at Grant Thornton; this is where I met Jane, my now business partner. I had worked there for about 8 years and Jane was just leaving to set up a learning and development business. Her first client wanted HR support, so she asked if I could help her; that was back in 2003. The rest is history!
We have now been going for 19 years where I undertake the operational HR side of the business and Jane runs the learning and development side. We get on really well and it has been brilliant! We have 8 employees, including Jane and I, and our office is based in Romsey.
I have always wanted to run my own business. I love the flexibility, variety and growth that it brings! You have to work harder but it is more fulfilling. You are doing something that you love, getting real results, employing who you like, undertaking the work you like and creating your own path. You can make conscious choices about what you do and what you don’t do.
3. What do you love about HR?
HR is often regarded as providing solutions to immediate problems, i.e. firefighting. My business partner and I love and value how HR supports cultural transformation, which is a more proactive, long-term solution. When you have achieved transformation in a company, the satisfaction and achievement are massive for us and our clients. The businesses we have supported are more productive, profitable and harmonious because they have a plan and we help them stick to it through to completion.
4. Tell us a bit more about Emphasis. How do you apply training in your own organisation?
We provide formal study and training support to our team. We have weekly knowledge sharing meetings, where we share what we have learnt; this includes client case studies, employment law updates, books we have read or just interesting facts. We hold aspirational one-to-one staff meetings to understand what staff want to develop, and we provide whatever support and training is needed to achieve those aspirations. We also encourage staff to attend any of the training sessions we deliver as part of our open programmes of courses to clients. For instance, we have all attended the Mental Health First Aider courses (which we loved!). These are some of the ways in which we implement training for our employees.
5. What are the common problems you see with HR nowadays?
The common problems we see are individuals in organisations not getting direct and appropriate feedback and people not training and investing in staff when they need it.
When it comes to feedback, issues are brushed under the carpet to the extent the employee believes their behaviour is appropriate and therefore it will continue unchecked, continuing to cause frustration. Feedback is a gift you can learn and develop from; most people genuinely want to improve at what they do. The lack of feedback results in a lack of continuous development.
In terms of training, people can be promoted because they are technically competent, but they are then expected to manage others with no prior experience or training. This knocks their confidence as they have not been trained in managing others. Companies then dismiss them without training.
6. What is the top lesson you have learnt whilst running a business?
If you want to do things well, you have to be in it for the long haul. You cannot just make a business a success overnight and you need to have a clear strategy.
7. What is the one piece of advice you would give your younger self if you could go back in time?
To train for a marathon, not for the sprint – I am distracted by shiny things sometimes and jump onto any opportunity, but I have learnt that I have to step back and evaluate whether it is worth investing in. I would also tell my younger self that planning, consistency and determination are vital and it helps to have people to keep you on track. Jane is really good at that with me.
8. Where do you see yourself in the future?
I see myself developing the business, continuing to enjoy the journey, and taking more time out. We have the best team we have ever had, and we trust them 100%. We are in a really good place and I am enjoying where we are and looking forward to the future.
9. How has Bizpedia benefited you and your business?
I have been a Bizpedia member for a couple of years now. The group has an amazing, positive feel to it. Each member supports you. You can say anything to anyone and you know they will encourage you. For me, that is a big thing, to have that support.
The learning has been fantastic. Bizpedia covers so many interesting topics and we get great encouragement from Josh. The advice on wellbeing has been good. You can get lost in the stress of your business so you also need to take time out and have fun. The events are great for this.
I also liked the meditation session and I now try to meditate every morning. I implement affirmations and set goals. I love reading as well.
10. Can you name 1 book you have read recently?
The Power of Now by Eckhart Toll – it is about being in the now, making intelligent choices and the most of every day. It was great.
11. What has been your favourite thing about being a Bizpedia member?
I love the events; they are fun! My favourite was the cooking event at Chewton Glen. We made pasta from scratch and I love cooking. I thoroughly enjoy the social element of the events and coming together with like-minded people.
12. What is the best holiday you have had?
A trip I had to America in March 2018. My dad has married an American and now lives in Santa Barbara. This was my first visit to see him there.
Me, my partner Andy and son Owen started in Los Angeles, where we went to Warner Brothers Studios. We then went to see my dad, his wife and her family in Santa Barbara. Her son, Josh, has his own “puddle jumper” aeroplane and flew us over the area so that we could see the extent of the drought and fires.
We went along the coast to Carmel and San Francisco before heading over to Yosemite National Park. Yosemite National Park has the most beautiful waterfalls. For the final leg of the journey we headed back to Santa Barbara to spend some more time with my dad and we met up with a family friend visiting California.
On my final day in LA, Josh and his family took us to the Magic Castle. There were several different rooms with different magicians, they were all fantastic and included close card tricks and making things disappear.
13. If you could go back in time, who would you want to meet and why?
I would want to meet Jesus. I would love to get the lowdown on what happened and if what we have been told is real.
We would like to thank Becky for her time. If you are interested in finding out more about Becky, connect with her on LinkedIn.