Starting a New Virtual Business, Moving to France and Changing Direction
Like increasing numbers of UK professionals, Rhian Bradley has found herself in the unfamiliar - and exciting - position of being in a startup...
So where did she start and what made her Go Virtual?
I started in HR – with much fear and trembling! – which was my gateway to understanding business, and also to understanding that I wanted to learn more. After an MBA at London Business School I’ve just been working internally with people to help them make structural changes, helping them, their boards.
What my business partners and I do is work with organisations to help them restructure; to reorganise with them when they’re going through growth or change. Our field is organisational development, which is everything internal in an organisation that helps to make it more effective and harmonious: personal, organisational, structural, etc. Our focus is on the relationships – my sister has a therapy background, so together we pretty much span the Human Resource spectrum!
I’ve been doing this by myself since 1994, but recently we teamed up to bring our skills together under the same banner. We’re all very experienced, but In a way we’re like a startup.
So a new angle…
Yes, it’s a more comprehensive approach. We see organisations as organisms, as whole bodies made up of constituent parts.
We go in and try to look at the connectivity between different individuals, teams and entities within organisations. We’re trying not to treat symptoms of a company rather than just diagnosing it and just saying: “Do this, change that,” because we’re learning too; the process of helping people is never codified into a single set of immutable laws.
It’s easy for people to just say “can you just get someone in, can someone just fix it?!”...
... But that’s not what we’re about.
We make sure we check constantly whether we’re still on track. Have we checked where all the clients are in the process? Is it working? How’s it happening? You’ve got to ask yourselves these questions.
Often in life when someone asks for help, they immediately feel themselves to be in a position of weakness, they can feel like they’re immediately one-nil down; but it’s essential for them to feel equal, for it to come from the same page. It’s not good to come in and say “we’re the experts, do this and you’ll be fine.” We also need cooperation and collaboration on how to help.
When people see for themselves how working with us can help, it means they can own the situation, own the steps, and participate collaboratively so it’s not just putting a plaster on a wound.
You’re looking for ripples and things behind symptoms that reveal some of the underlying patterns and structures of people and groups.
What types of business do you focus on?
When you do HR and the transformation of the human resources function it’s usually large, corporate, private sector organisations.
But now we’re starting to explore the best way to take our expertise online, with programmes, webinars; if we help people with technology rather than having to do everything face to face, it’d be perfect.
I’d like the opportunity to live more in France. I split my time between the UK and the French countryside at the moment. I love the small holders dream. (She laughs) I’ve got 6 goats, 12 hens, some pigs, 2 beehives and a cockerel.
I think the biggest thing has been the ability to be location independent - the whole Digital Nomad thing. You can focus on what you really love and know, you can really take control with it and decide that this is the life I want to have. It’s encouraging to me that it's possible. I don’t know what I’d do without the virtual office.
Yeah I always ask people about this. The internet is transforming how businesses work: there are industries where you just don’t need to be in the office, especially with rents so abominably high.
Exactly. Do we retain focus on big organisations? Do we help smaller ones? I’m finding it fascinating being in the position where, after all these years of experiencing the industry, I’m in the position of being a startup! It’s strange. All of us are attracted to the idea that we could have an online business. Still go in when necessary, but just go in a virtual direction.
Have you got more time then for “extra-curricular” stuff?
Yes it’s quite strange really, I just thought I’d start and before I knew it it was written, it was real. I’m going to see the first copy today.
Brilliant, what's it called?
Timmy’s Magical Life, available on Amazon now! Living in France means I’ve got the time to explore this important part of my life that’s had to take second place til now, I’ve even got another book on the way.
I love how you talk about your interests on your website, sharing you as a person as well as a professional.
I think people need to see that, besides technical skill, an organisation has heart, that they’re real people. Putting that up was about revealing who we are. By sharing those elements we’re allowing people to get to know us.
Our goal with the website was that it wouldn’t just be a stereotypical blue-grey computer with a man and a woman gazing lovingly into each other’s eyes’. We wanted it to be business oriented, professional – but also a personal approach.
It fits in with the mentality I think. It sounds like quite a holistic approach.
Yes, and it means different things to us: it’s about the totality of the person, or the system that we’re looking at. When one area is effected, the entirety is put out of joint.
So much of consultancy is of that ilk where people come in, do some interviews and write some reports, filling up bookshelves with the stuff.
Where we differ is the emphasis on process, on working together to find solutions. It’s a shared venture, a shared discovery.