Our #MVPtoVIP series celebrates the inspirational journeys of some of the fantastic founders in our Farillio network. This time, we're chatting to Louise Hosking, director at Hosking Associates Ltd. Get to know her better below...
Tell us about Hosking Associates and the problem it solves
Hosking Associates provides a completely independent and bespoke Safety, Health & Environmental (SHE) competent person service to organisations who either prefer to outsource this work or are too small to have their own internal resource.
We provide flexible cover to larger organisations and can supplement the work of their internal teams too. We have launched a service to support current SHE Managers who are often alone within the businesses they work within, and we deliver bespoke training.
We employ consultants who, backed up by a hard-working support crew, deliver bespoke training and SHE support. They effectively become part of our customers’ teams. We pride ourselves on great service and positive guidance, so our customers know what good looks like rather than being overly critical or finding problems with everything.
We take our customers on a journey, which means our involvement should become less over time. This doesn’t scare us; we’re honest when we think we’re needed less because this is how it should be as their safety model becomes more integrated.
What inspired you to launch Hosking Associates?
When I was Head of Environmental Health & Safety at Savills, the consultants I used only really wanted to undertake inspections rather than being part of a broader solution.
At the time, they didn’t have the skills needed to solve problems, help move certain areas on, or project manage.
I wanted to create a service that helps businesses identify and break down their own blockers and reach SHE objectives as a planned project - just as you would for finance, marketing or sales projects.
What do you feel is the most challenging aspect of being a business owner?
Finding and retaining the right consultants. We do something different and those we engage need to think differently and be good managers not just SHE technicians.
As consultants, they need to hit the ground running and expect to stretch their comfort zone.
What’s the most alarming thing anyone’s said to you in business?
If you knew how hard it would be to set up and run a small business, you would never do it – it’s true!
What’s the most important piece of legal advice you’ve ever needed as a small business owner?
Around HR issues. There are so many ways to make really big mistakes because you don’t know what you don’t know at the start.
What’s the next piece of legal advice you predict you’ll need as a small business owner?
Terms and conditions are really important.
We have special clauses in ours to protect our customers from poaching our staff and to protect our templates and ways of working.
We review everything at the start of each year, so I know our terms and conditions need looking at next.
How important would you say creativity is in business?
Business owners need to constantly be thinking differently to their competitors to find a niche and stay true to their values, so creativity is hugely important.
Our staff need to be creative to identify solutions or different ways of working that might not have been considered before.
It’s also important to create a brand image - I regularly write for magazines and online publications to raise awareness of our business and talk about what Hosking Associates does.
Why do you think health and safety is so misunderstood/feared by small businesses?
Because they haven’t met anyone quite like me before!
Also, the penalties are really high and there have been mixed messages that say you can do this yourself, but then business owners get caught out as it can become vast really quickly.
If advice is not aligned to the real risk within the business, it becomes too much – and people feel they are being told what to do rather than being allowed to make their own risk-based choices.
How are you changing business owner attitudes to health and safety – and busting the negative stereotype of H&S inspectors?
By being #POSH, which stands for Positive Occupational Safety & Health!
We also show owners it makes really good business sense – because when you put your people first, they will, in turn, look after your customers.
When we help to identify hazards and create processes to manage this, it has a knock-on effect to everything else, which is really positive – communication improves, and people know what is expected of them.
What motivated you to design your very empowering and flexible business model and the fantastic culture that you’ve created?
I believe it’s the right way to deliver SHE competent person service.
If a business is low risk, they really do not need to do very much at all. I also wanted us to be able to pull on services from other places and, because we are independent, we can do this.
As an example, we help some customers identify the right online systems for managing their health & safety. We don’t have our own system, so they are free to choose from the marketplace.
I also hope our customers and staff will reach a place of health & safety happiness, which is part of the key values within their organisation.
I would like organisations to see health & safety as interesting and positive, not a burden.
If there’s one piece of advice you’d give to small businesses, what would it be?
Start thinking about health & safety from the very beginning or when you are still small.
If you incorporate good practice at the start, it is much easier for someone like us to help you. I have worked with businesses before they even had any customers and, very quickly, they only need a light touch support service.
Once you are more established there is a lot to do in one go, which can be hard for a small business.
And if you found this startup story inspiring, check out the rest of the Farillio blog to discover more!