Show Notes

15s: Nancy Prest of Doodle HR is many things: business owner, HR guru, the lead local aid for the federation of small businesses, mum to Harvey, wife to Andy, chair of the British Thyroid Foundation, a cancer survivor and more.

53s: What is Doodle HR? I incorporated my business on Valentine’s Day in 2013. I called it Doodle HR because I had a Labradoodle at the time who wouldn’t look at me as I dared to have a baby boy and I wanted to make it up to my dog, named Honey, and the colloquial term for a Labradoodle is Doodle hence Doodle HR. It was my office dog at Chorus in York but we couldn’t have a dog in the office because of the owners and became my own dog who comes into the office at Doodle.

2mins 20s: Who have you worked for? Profit, not for profit, public, private. North Yorkshire County Council, The Pensions Trust, Chorus which became Tata Steel which gave me a good grounding of dealing with trade unions and difficult complex disciplinaries and grievances, I’ve worked for law firms and a stockbrokers.

3mins 16s: How many people are you? We now have a business partner who used to be my boss at Chorus. We have people who like bad disciplinaries, redundancy, employee engagement.

4mins 1s: What is employee engagement? It is very important. If you have an engaged employee, they tend to stay with you, they don’t come and ask for more money. A disengaged one is usually disruptive which costs you money to get rid of them, time to manage them or even micromanage them. An engaged employee becomes an asset to your company.

5mins 1s: How do you make your employees engaged? It’s not just paying a high wage; they have to buy into your ethics. If you say you are family friendly, make sure you find out how their family are. How often do you get asked at work how your family is or what can we do better? It makes them part of the business.

5mins 53s: What do the worst businesses do with their employees? There has been a change in the past few years, Harrogate used to be very key to businesses which put women off, there is more flexibility now with more women, family friendly and engaged employees.

7mins 13s: Do you have any favourite restaurants etc? My favourite is William and Victoria’s and Carriages. My 7 year old loves going to restaurants and enjoys good food. He has a dinner jacket! Very Harrogate.

8mins 10s: Can you tell us about your thyroid? People think cancer is a scary word but it’s only scary towards the end. To make it less scary, my cancer is called Iris after the perfume Harvey Nichols was launching the day that I found out I had cancer. I didn’t want anything in me that wasn’t friendly, so I gave it a name. I have a stray secondary called Garry named after my consultant’s evil ex-boyfriend. Iris is currently at Cambridge University being assessed to see if we can find out anymore information on thyroid cancer. It used to be very rare but is now in the top 10 cancers. There is a theory it’s to do with Chernobyl and because we have a lot more radiation in our lives. It’s quite concerning when you’re an identical twin and you have it but your twin doesn’t.

10mins 18s: How much time does your work as the chair take up? Not that much because I’m passionate about thyroid and the issues. It’s a small organ in your body that regulates everything in your body. It might take up a day in my week, but I don’t notice it. It’s more females that it affects. Hormone changes can cause thyroid problems.

11mins 30s: Do you have any networking tips? I spent one whole year of networking; I’ve tried them all. My advice is to find one that fits your personality. I believe that to recommend someone, you need to know that person. I don’t want someone who I’ve never met and I don’t know if they’ll fit my client’s requirements.

13mins 20s: Top tips for recruiting? Communicate with them! Let someone know they’re welcome to the business, tell them what you expect of them. If they don’t know, they might think they’re working really well when they’re not. Make sure you live and breathe your business values and ethics.

14mins 38s: Can you explain what a protected conversation is? If it’s got to a bad situation, you need to say to them “can we have a protected conversation?” explain that what you’re about to say won’t go any further and it’s an open and honest conversation. Quite a few members of staff have wanted to leave to do something totally different and they have come to a mutual agreement.

16mins 1s: Nancy has lectured at Lower Temple in London, she was asked to do so by a very famous employment law barrister called Daniel Barnett, aka Mr. Employment Law. We have a group, an inner circle, who follows him and he gives us advice. As part of the group, I am a recommended person for him. He asked if there was someone from the inner circle who wanted to do a talk at the Temple chambers and I volunteered. I decided to do a talk on dealing with difficult people.

17mins 29s: What did you say to them? I started off with an ice-breaker and asked them to turn to the person next to them, look them in the eye and tell them “I really like you”. They realised the conversation wasn’t difficult. Two of the barristers had the same dog, they’d been working together for years and didn’t know that.

18mins 15s: You’re on some sort of calendar? I am going to be Daniel Barnett’s HR consultant of the month for May. There is no dodgy pin-up photos, just me explaining my passion for HR and Doodle and how HR and employment law could be changed if I were Prime Minister.

18mins 40s: If you were, are there any terms or laws you would change? I’m sure everyone would agree, the word “reasonable”. In employment law, reasonable for one client, isn’t reasonable for another client, especially in disability discrimination. We should be very prescriptive.

19mis 58s: Have you noticed any problems or opportunities with Brexit looming? I hated Brexit but then I realised it was a perfect chance for companies to review their companies and their structures. I’ve had quite a few phone calls asking me to look at re-structuring their business. Brexit is focusing their minds on their companies.

20mins 56s: Business owners find HR expensive; can you tell us how you price things? When I first started, I asked them what HR requirements they would have throughout the year and put together a package and how much they would be willing to pay based on the lowest, medium and highest costs of Yorkshire. Lots of people push a retained package, but small business just want to ask a question or want a contract but don’t know what needs to be in the contract. We have lots of little packages. E.g.: a contract package – for taking on your first employee, to our time bank which is buying HR hours to use as and when you want. We send out a monthly newsletter with a special offer at the bottom.

23mins 20s: How do people contact you? Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. Email me on our website is or my mobile is 07960223696. We are based on 19 East Parade by the Odeon.

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