Meet the team: Vanessa Scrimshaw, Human Resources Business Partner, Founder and MD of New Dawn Resources

At New Dawn Resources we pride ourselves on being the ‘People’s People’. From our earliest days it was clear that there was an appetite among business owners and directors for a different approach to HR outsourcing, and the contracts and clients grew quickly. As we have evolved, so has our team. 

In this latest ‘meet the team’ feature we’re introducing the founder and managing director of New Dawn Resources Vanessa Scrimshaw.

Vanessa’s early career led her to creating New Dawn back in 2008. As a Chartered Fellow and a well respected practitioner, Vanessa’s specialisms and commercial outlook have made her an invaluable partner to many businesses across the UK. She is well known for delivering business solutions through effective people management, strategy development and resourcing. 

Here she shares insights into anything from how she built New Dawn and her working practices, to how the pandemic affected businesses both under her care and indeed her own.

So Vanessa it’s over to you...

Could you tell us a little about your background

I spent much of my early childhood in Germany. In the words of Joanna Lumley “I'm an army brat”. I have great memories of my time there and it’s still one of my favourite places to visit. After my Father retired from the army he settled in Nottingham just as I was finishing my GCSEs and finishing boarding school. So I went to college in Nottingham, but later I studied for my degree through the Open University. I then completed my CIPD and achieved my Masters through Manchester Open Learning (MOL).

You personally created New Dawn Resources. How did that original concept come about and what challenges did you face in the early days?

I can't actually remember what triggered the original thought process to start the business. However, I do know that it occurred to me to start it while I was in my mid 20’s. I knew what direction I wanted my life and career to head in and being my own boss was always my aim. In my late 20’s my now wife was an MD of a business, so had a huge amount of experience in creating and building a business. She actually presented me with the company house registration for New Dawn Resources as a 30th birthday present. 

We then started the business together in 2008. That just happened to also be the start of a recession, so we spent several of those early years wondering whether we were brave or just stupid. 12 years on, I think I'll go with brave, but it was in the balance there for a while! 

What challenges did you face in building your new business?

For anyone that remembers the recession of 2008 they will remember how tough this time was. Initially we decided to build very slowly. As with many new ventures it began at our kitchen table. Back then, as now, everybody was watching the expenditures of their businesses. Very few people were spending money on anything that was not absolutely essential. 

Initially we did quite a bit of networking. We were both new to the area, so we didn’t have a local base of friends or associates that might require our services. We had to get out there and find clients. I don’t find this practice particularly comfortable. However, my wife Sarah was much better in this area. So we developed a little bit of a formula where Sarah would be the door opener and then I would build the tailored proposal, present my thoughts, close the deal and develop the service for them.

What are the benefits of outsourcing HR? 

For many small businesses, having the ongoing cost of an HR person on their payroll can be a stumbling block and they may not have enough work to warrant the role on a permanent basis. The ability to simply pay for what they need when they need it is a real benefit. It means they can remain compliant and get the support they need without the fixed ongoing cost. The other significant benefit is the independence that an external person can bring who isn't influenced by internal matters. There can be a risk of an internal HR’s decision making having an impact on their own career prospects. They could also damage internal relationships with people they have to work with day in, day out. 

Do you think the size of a business impacts on the need for more specialised outsourced support?

There is a natural point where your team gets to such a point, in terms of headcount, that there is a lot to do. At the point where a business may have 70 to 80 staff members they should consider having at least a junior internal HR employee who has a good understanding of day to day issues. Once you get much towards having 200 to 300 staff, that's when you probably need to start looking at an HR manager. However, this role will still only encompass more general functions. We are often contacted to support those businesses at the point when more complex issues arise. For instance we may help guide and advise HR managers on complicated changes and in employment law. There are other times, such as during maternity cover, when we take over the role of being the HR manager too. 

What do you think attracts clients to your business?

As a team of six we fit very neatly within a gap in the market, which ranges from the standalone consultant to the large call centre based service provider. The fact we do not require clients to sign a ongoing contract is also a significant point of difference. 

The six of us are all very different in our specialisms and we all came to HR  through different routes, which means we have a wealth of knowledge to share. Our clients all have one dedicated HR business partner, who knows their business although, should that person be away another member of our team will always step in. 

When onboarding a new client we analyse their needs and select the best HR partner for not only their sector, but also their culture, style of business and their personality.

New Dawn Resources client base is very varied. However, what sort of clients and businesses do you personally support and advise?

My own clients range from food manufacturers and hospitality businesses, through to specialists that may include architects and niche forms of engineering. So pretty much everything. With HR, what the business actually does is almost irrelevant. There are some sectors that are unionised or their requirements are particularly different, however what matters to us is the people. The ‘people’ challenges remain the same irrelevant of what the business does. So we don't really need to be too concerned. 

A lot of my time is spent working at board level or at leadership level in terms of advising, strategy and legal compliance. I often get involved with training individuals and coaching them through different situations. We all share a common goal to use our time to provide learning opportunities and for new managers or new supervisors, it's a chance for them to see how outcomes can be achieved professionally. It also really helps with their personal development and enables them to build their confidence. Increasing their capacity and knowledge is an important part of HR.

Please give us a brief description of your average day at work.

Being in HR, in any situation, let alone in a role as diverse as ours is not for the faint hearted. I tend to be on site at least two days a week with clients and when I’m on site, I can be doing anything from acting as their HR director, attending a board meeting, through to hearing grievance appeals, disciplinary appeals, running consultations, interviewing, coaching their managers or delivering training. 

I try to keep my days on site to two, maximum three a week as there's so much to do in the office in terms of emails coming through with inquiries that need quick responses, on the day or within the hour. 

When I'm in the office it's a mixture of being reactive to things coming through, to planning and working on longer term projects. We're all constantly reprioritising and we're constantly juggling. You could be working on a project and think that's my aim for today, and then the client has something happen and they’re facing a crisis situation. They need an immediate response. So you've got to immediately drop your work and pick up the new challenge.

The last 18 months have been incredibly difficult for so many businesses. How did the Corona virus affect your business? 

The impact of the pandemic on everyone in HR, whether you're in house or outsourced has been massive. I can't praise the team here enough for the dedication that they've shown our clients over the last 18 months. It's been hard for everyone, and has been quite emotionally draining. Because we have a genuine relationship with these businesses, we feel their fears and concerns. 

In the early days of the virus during the spring of 2020, it was very much about emotional support and encouragement. Later it was about interpreting furlough, the technicalities of the scheme and getting that information out promptly and quickly. 

The government updates regarding furlough were coming in at all hours. The changes that arrived late on a Friday evening never helped. It's been very, very difficult for everyone in HR, but obviously, we all wanted to be there to support our clients. For my clients in food manufacturing, it was crucial that I was seen, and that I had a presence in the business. I sometimes walked the factory floor, so that the workers knew that we were there supporting them. It was imperative for HR to be seen and for all to know that we were in it together.

New Dawn Resources has grown steadily over the years. Where do you see your business in 5 years? 

For starters it's certainly fair to say that we have grown cautiously. We've been very selective over the businesses we work with. We've also been conscious about who we've employed as part of the team too. Every member of our team is an employee and is fully engaged and aligned emotionally with our values. That formula has worked for us up till now and I can't see that changing. It's important to us all to feel that our values and our ethics aren't compromised. Our growth will continue at a quite cautious and manageable pace, which we're all happy with. 

I don’t foresee any significant changes in terms of how we develop. However, we shall remain at the forefront of changes in our industry. We shall stay focused on the new trends and emerging ideas and approaches to delivering our services. We will obviously continue to grow and we welcomed a new HRBP, Lauren Sharp to New Dawn this month.

To discover how New Dawn Resources can aid your business then why not drop us a line. You can contact Vanessa directly on vanessa.scrimshaw@newdawnresources.co.uk