Shona Hamilton-Higgins is the HR Warrior Princess of Lilac HR
What's your industry?
For those who don't know anything about you or your work, can you provide a bit of background?
My HR career began in a HR Assistant role in civil engineering. Sadly redundancy ended that role, but being the tenacious kind, I put my redundancy pay towards my first CIPD qualification. Fast forward several years later and I found myself in an Employee Relations Specialist role which I thoroughly enjoyed, but I was resenting the commute and the impact it was having on my personal life. I decided to start my own consulting business in 2018. I knew it would need plenty of set up time, so I took a fixed term HR manager role while I built my business up in the background. I spent time setting up my website, exploring what software I would need and even worked with a couple of clients.
In June 2020, mid pandemic, I jumped feet first into self-employment in my little consultancy business. In the last 3 years, Lilac HR has grown exponentially. We have hired an employee, whose hours have only increased over the last year, and in February 2023 we moved into a premises so we have an actual brick and mortar office at last!
What does an average day look like for you?
Every day for me starts with feeding my horses and turning them out in the field. I head into the office with my Whippet in tow at around 9. Once the fire is lit and the coffee is brewing, I go through any emails that need actioning and then I get to work on the to do list. Client work typically involves things like writing contracts & policies, managing ER cases like employee sickness absence or disciplinaries, managing any live vacancies and answering client queries. Some days are spent entirely in the office, other days I'm on client sites helping them map out their growth journey and people strategy. If I'm in the office I tend to nip up to our local farm shop to grab lunch and then it's back to work for the afternoon. We lock up between 4 & 5pm depending on how much we get done and then we head home. The Whippet gets on the sofa after his hard day of greeting guests and I head off out to ride the horses and put them to bed again.
How do you balance the needs of your business with the needs of your personal life?
Boundaries! Having horses is great to help me stick to the boundaries I set for my business because I know that I have to stop working to go and feed them etc. Plus, I love structure to my day, so having set times to work and set times to play helps me focus my time and fit everything in. I also have a Do Not Disturb schedule set up on my phone so that anyone in my Client Contact Group can only contact me between office hours. After that, they go straight to voicemail and I don't even see the notifications until the next day. It's game changing. I do the same when I have a day off. Once clients get used to the fact that you don't answer calls after 5pm, guess what? They stop calling you!
What's the best advice anyone ever gave you on your journey in business?
Feel the fear and do it anyway. So often in our business journeys, we get in our own way worrying about the what ifs that we don't take the action we want or need to take. Anything new feels scary... new level, new devil right? So having the permission to acknowledge my fears but take the action anyway is so freeing! This advice helped me to invest in a business coach when I was afraid I couldn't afford it. It helped me get through my fears of hiring someone. It helped me when I had a wobble about signing the lease to the office. At the end of the day, we make our own rules in our business. And we get to change the rules and the direction we're going in whenever we want. So who cares if it doesn't go to plan? Feel the fear, do it anyway, and see what happens.
What's been the hardest part about the path you've taken and how would you advise someone facing a similar situation to overcome it?
Going solo is hard for so many reasons. For me, the hardest part was working through my own mindset issues and blocks. I found that I was sabotaging my own sales conversations by downplaying the value I can add to my client's business and I was seriously under charging. As a woman, there is so much mindset work we have to unpick from society, but when you add in money mindset blocks and self esteem, the work is never ending! The most valuable investment I have made in my business to date is in business coaching. I have worked with 3 business coaches specialising in money mindset, marketing and operational consulting. Learning how to recognise how I was getting in my own way, allowed me to unlock my own path to success and I go back to the things I learned on a daily basis to enable myself to be the best CEO & HR Warrior Princess I can be.
Are there any well-known Books, Podcasts, or Courses that you credit your current success to?
Tara Best - Her book Magnificent Mindset: How to start your day the Best way and her coaching mastermind
Denise Duffield-Thomas - Her books Chillpreneur & Get Rich Lucky Bitch and her podcast
Olivier Consultancy - Kate's VIP days are a must have for every CEO in my opinion!
What do you think are the most important qualities for a successful business owner or executive to have?
Self-awareness - you have to know your strengths and your limitations in order to be able to maximise your time effectively by outsourcing things you're not good at. You also have to be aware of how you respond to situations, particularly when you have a team. Understanding how you need to respond to situations as a CEO versus a manager is key to running a successful team.
Tenacity - business is hard AF. You have to have the balls to keep going regardless of the state of the economy, what your social circle think and that client that said they didn't like your work.
A sense of humour - I find when the proverbial hits the fan, the best thing you can do is have a laugh, reflect on it and learn from it.
What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out as a business owner?
Learn all you can. Find people you admire and whose business model and lifestyle is something you want to achieve and soak up all the knowledge you can glean from them. There are so many successful business people in the world, but not everyone's version of success is the same. I chose my first business coach because she drove a nice car and had a hot tub where she could watch her horse in the field and I vibe with that more than someone who lives on a million dollar yacht in California.
What are the top three things you think are essential for business success?
Deliver good stuff. Whatever it is you do, do it well.
Surround yourself with people who elevate you and make you want to be better.
Act with integrity - even when you don't want to.
Do you think someone can be a great business owner without having many years of experience first?
YES! I actually failed my business studies GCSE. I still don't really understand balance sheets, but I can double my turnover year on year and I know that my profit margin is better than most!
In general, do you think the world is producing better business owners in 2023 than it was fifty years ago?
Yes. I think 50 years ago, most business owners were probably white men of a certain age group. But the world has changed and the online space has created scope for people to re-write the rules of what a business owner is or does. You can make a business out of anything you like. Your business can be run in any way you like (as long as it's legal!). I think 2023 is an exciting time to be a business owner because of the level of innovation that's going on in businesses across the world.
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