Best friends since kindergarten, Singleton’s Nicole Furness and Angela Penton run Be Human HR.
With small businesses in mind, these lovely ladies offer a unique and very ‘human’ approach to HR, underpinned by their fervent belief that happy humans enable a business to thrive.
I recently chatted with Nicole about how they are doing things differently and why happiness in the workplace is so important.
Hi Nicole, great to speak to you again. You and Angela are both from Singleton, what do you love about living here?
The number one thing for me is that my family and all my friends are here. I love having that sense of connection to the community that I have grown up in. In Singleton everyone knows everyone, we are all linked in some way, but there are also lots of new people in the community which makes it interesting. It’s a two for one – all the old people that you know, but then lots of exciting new people to meet as well.
You started Be Human HR in 2019, what was your motivation?
Angela and I met in kindergarten, went to school together, studied Human Resources at university together and even delivered our first babies within 24 hours of each other. Professionally we had been doing our own things for a while, but we had both got to the point where we found it hard to have a meaningful job while also being the mums we wanted to be. When you can only work part-time your level of authority dwindles, you aren’t seen as being that valuable. So, we decided to do something on our own terms and make it fit for us.
You believe that happy humans are key ingredients for a successful business. Can you tell us a bit about this philosophy?
There can often be a negative undertone with work, an attitude that “You are my employee, you’re here to do a job and I am paying you, so you need to do what you are told.” The truth is, an unhappy person isn’t motivated, they are not focussed on what they should be doing at work, they are probably planning their next holiday, or looking for another job which means they are not productive.
But if we flip this around and are more positive about the whole work relationship, then we get better outcomes. People who are happy genuinely want to do better. If they are being looked after and have meaningful jobs, they are more inspired to do better and be better. If someone’s personal value system aligns with the business they work with, then everyone is working towards achieving the same goals. Work isn’t just about work it’s also about enjoying what you are doing. If it’s a more positive experience, everything surely flows better.
When I hear the term HR, I tend to think of a big department in a corporation with lots of employees. How is Be Human HR different?
We saw a market here in Singleton for smaller local companies, businesses that we’ve grown up with. Smaller companies are really good at doing what they do – being plumbers or graphic designers or whatever it is, and generally want to do the right thing by their employees, but often they don’t really know where to start. This is where we come in.
We provide help in areas where people are not experts because when you are running your own business, you shouldn’t need to be an expert at everything. The companies we work with all have good intentions and we want to help them succeed by putting them on more of a level playing field by having HR services available to them.
So, what kind of services do you provide for startups and small businesses?
Everything from recruitment and selection to onboarding processes, policy and procedures. Then we move on to more exciting things like how to look after the awesome people that you have employed! I think sometimes employers get really excited about hiring an amazing person because they’ve got all these core skills and bring such value to their business, but then they really need to focus on how to keep them happy once they are there.
We talk a lot about getting the basics right, such as contracts and entitlements, as well as motivational factors that keep people happy – making sure they have meaningful work to complete, that they are being well looked after and rewarded for the great job they are doing so that the company can retain these amazing people.
You also provide a service for employees, including a school leaver package and a resume and cover letter package. Is there much call for this?
Yes, there is. This service mostly started from friends asking us to help them write their resumes. A resume creates the first impression, it’s such a vital piece of the puzzle, but it’s not something that you are really taught in school. We want to help people present themselves the best way they can. Often, when we sit down with people, we find they have all these amazing skills that they didn’t even realise, so it’s a really beneficial process and gives them confidence.
Any advice for people considering starting a business with a friend?
People warned Angela and I against starting a business together but it has worked out really well for us. We are unique in that we are such close friends. We both have the same goals at heart, we are doing this for the same reason and we provide great support for each other. We talk about everything openly and honestly and we don’t try to compete with each other.
So, I guess my advice is firstly to be smart about which friend you start a business with. And to be really clear from the outset. You need to be on the same page and have the same goals, same ideals and same values.
One last question, how are you finding running a business here in Singleton?
We’ve had a few awesome mentors here that have given us some amazing practical skills and advice, as well as the confidence boost that we have needed every now and then. Singleton is a great place to be in business when you are servicing small businesses because there are so many incredible businesses and so many amazing people behind those businesses, it really is an honour to be a part of this incredible community.
We have had amazing support from the businesses that we have dealt with and are genuinely grateful for the clients that we have. We both realise we are lucky to be doing something we love and to be in this position where we can still make all these commitments to our kids and be there for them.
Thanks so much, Nicole. Congratulations on creating a successful business, and finding a great work/life balance, it’s more important than ever these days.