Interview with Dr Wendy Sneddon RVN, MSc, FInstLM, AssocCIPD
Founder of the Lodestone Lounge, an online community supporting entrepreneurs with business skills; creator of GEMS (Great Employee Management system), an online filing system for all your employee data and records, Dr Wendy Sneddon is a Fellow of the Institute of Leadership and Management, associate member of CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel Development), and an award winning author. Kind and compassionate, Dr Wendy Sneddon is an experienced Business Mentor and Purposeful Leadership Coach with 20-plus years of experience helping start-up businesses to grow, strategic planning, and team management/training.
‘I am passionate about doing what I love and loving what I do. I help entrepreneurs to build solid foundations for a successful business, through engaging and motivating their teams, so they love what they do and stay with you. We design & implement strategies to attract, recruit and retain Great Employees & Loyal Customers.’ Dr Wendy Sneddon says.
Also a property developer, Wendy is converting commercial property to residential, and have a few projects underway. She is on the board of a homeless charity, Rowan Alba, based in Edinburgh, supporting them to provide accommodation to end homelessness.
The secretary of the Links Group, Wendy is involved in raising awareness of the link between animal abuse and human abuse. ‘We teach vets to recognise non-accidental injuries and how to deal with the clients in the consulting room. We teach social care professionals to understand animal welfare in violent homes and to include the family pet in their assessments, and what to do if they suspect abuse. There is a lack of suitable accommodation for families with pets to move to when they want to escape a violent home. The Say Something Foundation has been set up to work towards developing suitable properties for this purpose.’
What was the motivating factor that made you leap into being your own boss?
Its always been a dream of mine, when I was 17, a psychic told me I would never be my own boss. That became my belief and held me back for a long time. I am quite good at problem solving and I’m always looking for a better way to get things done. Over the years, I have been very frustrated by the way people run their businesses, this led to me deciding that by the time I was 45 I would retire from employment and do my own thing. The month before my 46th birthday I was no longer employed – it was just me! When I made that wish in my late 30’s I had no idea how it would happen – or really consciously gave it any more thought! Now I have part time employees, and I get to choose who I work with. I work harder than ever, and I take time out when I need it, because I can.
What problems are you solving?
The pain of building a team of people! Our HR software keeps you legally and procedurally covered for business-critical functions, saving you time and money!
Most entrepreneurs start a business because they are really good at something, or they come up with a new innovative product or service. They are often not skilled in basic business skills and muddle along learning as they go. I coach them through the challenges, mainly around employing people. The first mistake they often make is not recruiting the right people. You need to be really clear about where your strengths lie and what you want to do in the business, and then recruit to fill the gaps. Business owners like to do everything themselves, so micro managing is quite common. They find it hard to trust their employees and give them responsibility. Or they do the opposite and abdicate all responsibility without proper guidance and support. The biggest mistakes include not giving appropriate feedback to their employees. It can seem like they don’t appreciate the good work, but are quick to pick out the bad bits. Quite often they ignore issues, or discuss with anybody but the employee. Then when it happens for the tenth time they blow their top!
How does it work?
We offer a membership to an online community, provide contracts of employment and all the policies and procedures you need to keep you legal. A forum to ask questions moderated by experienced HR professionals. For early stage businesses we are your HR department. We have software to systemise your business and keep everything together. And access to an employment lawyer if things go wrong. We can also offer coaching, support and training for anyone who is managing people within a business. We help with vision clarification, strategy planning, culture creation and values clarification. Get all of this set up at the beginning of your journey and you are laying the foundations for success.
The last few years have been very challenging for business owners and 2019 will have its challenges too. I am making plans for supporting even more amazing entrepreneurs who want success in business. The Lodestone Lounge will become a physical space, a hub where you can network, rent desk or office space, hold events etc. We will provide support services and coaching for all the members and support the creation and growth of businesses.
Who are the people who could benefit from your unique solution?
Any business owner employing people. Whether you employ 1 person or 1000’s you need the same policies and procedures in place. More specifically, we work with entrepreneurs who have ambitions to grow their business, work in multiple locations and are building a team.
What are the challenges to make the public aware of your work?
Our biggest challenge is that most business owners aren’t aware of their legal obligations, or really know how to manage people to get the best out of them. So they don’t know they need us until they hear what we offer and how we can help them improve their success.
Who is one person you admire most and why?
I have always admired Andrew Carnegie. He was very successful despite a tough start in life and the many challenges he faced. He saw opportunities and he took them, giving his all. He was probably the instigator of self-development. He believed that knowledge was important and wanted everyone to have the opportunity to read. His legacy included building 2,800 libraries across the world. One of his quotes which resonates with me is “The man who dies rich, dies disgraced.” I do believe that any business should have a strategy for giving back to its community.
What have you found to be the most challenge thing about working for yourself?
The biggest challenge is sharing my worries. I made a bold decision to go on my own, there’s a lot of pressure to succeed and prove the doubters wrong! I was scared to admit that sometimes I find it really tough. The WHYs women network has been so supportive, as have some of the other people who get what I’m going through and won’t tell me to just pack it in and go get a real job. The fear of running out of money, the fear of failing and having to be employed again , are challenging aspects when working for yourself!
If you could time travel back to that time just before you made that decision about being your own boss, what advice would you give to make your business grow even faster?
Figure out who your customer is and get some sales before you drop the secure income. Outsource what you can afford to and focus on what you are really good at. Consider partnerships or joint ventures. Build multiple income streams, so if one thing fails you have other income.
You are a published author, how has writing a book helped you with your business?
When I was working for a start up business, I did my HR training and set up policies and procedures and systems. There was no support to do this and I did a lot of research into how other companies did this. It was the same in the next business and I was surprised that so many people who were starting business and employing people didn’t know what their legal obligations were to employees, many weren’t even issuing contracts. I wrote Get Out Of Your Way, the step by step guide for entrepreneurs in how to attract, recruit and retain a winning team, to help entrepreneurs consider how to prepare themselves for bringing in their first employees. The book has helped to build my credibility and has helped many of my clients to improve how they treat their employees.
You have a business offering that helps small businesses with the people aspects of doing business, what are the common mistakes that small businesses make with people?
The first mistake is not recruiting the right people. You need to be really clear about where your strengths lie and what you want to do in the business, and then recruit to fill the gaps. Micro managing is quite common as business owners find it hard to trust their employees and give them responsibility. Or they do they opposite and abdicate al responsibility with proper guidance and support. The biggest mistake is they don’t give appropriate feedback, they don’t appreciate the good work, they are quick to pick out the bad bits, which they often ignore or tell everyone else it’s a problem and then when it happens for the 10th time they blow their top.
Read my book and learn how to be a great employer, join my club and I’ll support you on that journey providing you with everything you need to set up your HR department, use my software to manage your team, keep their data secure and accessible from anywhere you can access the internet.
What are your 3 top tips for growing a business?
Define your purpose, why you do what you do, where you want to go with it and plan out how you are going to get there. You need to be able to articulate this to attract customers and employees.
Take great care of your employees, give regular feedback – tell them what they have done, tell them what impact this has on the team/customers/the business, and if somethings not gone well, tell them what you want to see instead.
Be spontaneous. Make it fun! For you and everyone involved, makes the tough days bearable when you can share a bit of humour.