Fresh off the back of her win at the Chamber Business Awards for Provider of Professional Services, we spoke with our October Woman in Business, Jill Bottomley, about everything from supporting SMEs to develop more strategic HR to generating better awareness and understanding about menopause in the workplace.

Tell us a bit about your business and your involvement in setting it up.

I have owned the HR Dept (Trafford and Warrington) franchise for 11 years and prior to that worked in corporate HR for over 15 years. We provide outsourced HR, from one-off pieces of work through to a fully retained and insured service, providing unlimited HR advice and covering legal costs and awards in the event of an employment tribunal claim. With the recent introduction of tribunal fees, this really gives our clients that ‘peace of mind’ to allow them to focus on running their businesses. More recently I have expanded the provision of our HR service into the education sector; people issues and employment law are the same regardless of the size or nature of the business.

What is the day-to-day role you play in the business?

Day-to-day I am involved in business development, providing operational HR support to our varied client base, either at client sites or from our office, through to conducting HR training courses and workshops in the great training facilities we have available at Denzell House. Staff are often the biggest cost in a business, yet many SMEs don’t have an ‘HR/People Strategy’ in place. I support SMEs to develop more strategic HR aligned with their business strategy and objectives. I

Denzell House, Denzell Gardens, Bowdon

manage a small team of HR professionals and we are based in the stunning period property of Denzell House in Denzell Gardens in Bowdon.

As a woman in business, how do you find the balance between work and personal life?

One of the main reasons that I set up my own business was to enable a better work/life balance when my children were much younger. They are now both in sixth form and over the years I have been able to grow the business whilst attending key events such as sports days and assemblies. Customer focus is one of the HR Dept’s core values, and having the technology to access emails on the go and working from home has enabled me to be flexible in how we provide our service whilst ensuring a high level of customer satisfaction. As the boys have got older, I have worked longer!

What initiatives are you involved in as a business, that supports the local community? And please could you tell us a bit about this?

I am a Partner in SUBS (Start-Up Business Services) which is a locally based initiative helping smaller and start-up businesses to network, learn and grow within the local business community. I am also a voluntary Director on the Board of The Hamblin Education Trust (a Multi-Academy Trust (MAT) comprised of Altrincham Grammar School for Boys and North Cestrian School) providing HR expertise in the developing world of MATs in education.

What does being a woman in business mean to you?

I have never thought of it as being ‘a woman’ in business – rather I see myself as a business person without differentiating by gender. I have always worked in mixed gender environments and would hope that I am seen for who I am as a person and the service I provide, in terms of my knowledge, skills, ability and credibility.

What female focused initiatives are you involved in?

Again, I tend not to focus on or seek out particularly female focused initiatives. However, I believe better awareness and understanding is needed in the workplace regarding the taboo subject of menopause. Managers may be familiar with the “Is it me or is it hot in here?” comments made by middle aged women at work and their hot flushes. However, they may be oblivious that poor performance, changes in mood, attitude and concentration could also be caused by the menopause – employers who ignore it are potentially at risk of discrimination claims.

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