Something we get asked a fair bit is what is the process for HR professionals thinking about working with us, and also how long it takes. Many people considering self-employment are thinking about it for months or years before they actually are ready to go ahead and make that leap, so if working with us is one of the options they are considering, understanding that process is key.
So here it is, from discussion to launch in five steps!
1. Initial conversation
The first thing I do is have a conversation with the person on the telephone. For the HR professional this is usually to answer the many questions they probably have about working with us, about what it’s like being an HR consultant to small businesses, what kinds of services are involved, and what kind of support we offer. But for me it’s a vital opportunity to find out more about them, about their experience, about their career, and importantly, about their motivations for considering this as an option.
I ask about motivations because it’s really important these chime with reality. If people say the reason they are considering this is because they want things like improved work-life balance, more flexibility, more variety, then great. But sometimes people have an unrealistic or inaccurate picture of what this business is like, or what they are going to get out of it, and if that’s the case, it’s important to get to the bottom of that.
For both parties, this conversation helps establish whether or not there is a good ‘fit’ in terms of approach to HR and how we work. Most people have explored our website a bit and read some of our articles and posts and got a good feel for what we’re all about, and our brand, so if we are having a conversation, in most instances there is a high prospect of a good fit.
The initial conversation usually lasts between 45 minutes and an hour and a half. Sometimes it happens in two instalments if time is short.
Although I’m happy to have as many phone conversations as people want, the next step after that would be a meeting. I usually find a venue half way between us, or alternatively some people prefer to visit our office which is of course perfectly fine. At this meeting there are usually lots more questions from the HR professional about how it would work, often more detailed this time than on the phone. We also have a look at the various resources we have, such as our online PlayBook, our documents database, and sometimes territory options for the area the HR professional is looking at.
This meeting is a good opportunity for both parties to establish whether it would be a good fit, and whether we would work well together. A large part of what we offer our consultants is my personal support, so clearly it’s important that people thinking of working with us feel they can have a good relationship with me.
The conversation is also a good opportunity for me to assess the individual’s personal ‘vibe’ and approach, which helps me determine whether I think they would represent our brand well, and whether I think they would do well marketing themselves to small businesses.
We have an awful lot of experience working with small business owners, so I can gauge whether I think the person would engage small business owners well, ‘get’ their issues and respond to their needs and would therefore be successful at this. I have spoken to some HR professionals who are eminently qualified and experienced on paper, but in terms of how they come across personally, I’ve been able to identify quickly when meeting them that if they were put in front of potential clients or contacts who might potentially refer them, they would struggle.
3. Talk to other consultants
At this stage if both parties feel there is a good fit and we want to explore further, I tend to put them in touch with a couple of our existing consultants. I don’t do this any sooner because although our consultants are happy to have these conversations, they are doing it as a favour to me so I want to ensure the person is serious before taking up their valuable time.
4. Franchise agreement
With conversations, meetings, and discussions with other consultants, the HR professional is now usually at a stage where their queries are more technical and legal, and relating to the contractual arrangements and logistical details. At this stage we issue a draft franchise agreement for them to review, and, usually, ask questions about. We encourage them to talk about it with anyone they might feel would offer a useful input, such as a partner or similar, and we also encourage people to get the agreement checked by a solicitor specialising in franchises.
Once all questions on the agreement have been discussed, and assuming the HR professional is happy and wants to go ahead, the agreement is signed.
5. Planning and launch
Then begins the planning stage. There’s a lot to do before we launch a new consultant, including training, preparing web presence, setting up their business, researching local competition and identifying marketing opportunities. We also put together a marketing plan for the individual, based partially on our standard information and partially on their specific skills, needs, targets and local factors.
I do get asked how long the whole process takes. The simple answer is it largely depends on the HR professional I’m talking to. Sometimes the timescale between initial conversation and meeting is a couple of weeks, sometimes it’s several months. Sometimes there are several weeks between meeting and talking to other consultants. At any point HR professionals might want to ‘pause’ the process, for a variety of reasons. Sometimes they want to take a long time digesting the franchise agreement, sometimes they want to sign pretty promptly.
The shortest that realistically it is possible to get from initial conversation to signing an agreement is probably 6 weeks. Then between signing and launching, it can vary from as quickly as a month, to as long as 9 or 10 months. So overall the process can take anything from just under three months to over a year, and the length of time is entirely driven by the HR professional, there is no rush from our point of view and I’m happy for people to take as long as they need.
If you’d like to have a chat about how we work, do get in touch.