Rebecca Fielding is the founder of Gradconsult Ltd. As a lead partner working with Creative Sheffield, Sheffield Hallam University, The University Of Sheffield, Gradcore and local SMEs to deliver RISE (a Sheffield-born talent retention scheme) Gradconsult specialise in people and talent management, particularly the graduate market.
Rebecca shares her experience setting up and growing her business in Sheffield and gives six pieces of advice to her 14 year old self.
What were your early ambitions?
As a young girl I actually wanted to be a vet. It was not until I was older that I realised I possessed neither the dexterity or stomach for the job! But one thing I knew was that I could be and do whatever I wanted to. I was always extremely ambitious, hard-working and excited about the limitless opportunities life held in front of me, so perhaps that entrepreneurial flair was always there bubbling away.
What support did you get to start your business up?
The Sheffield business and education community were integral to the origin story of my business and leap into Entrepreneurship. Without the support, belief and opportunities that network of people have afforded me I would have struggled to get my business off the ground. Sheffield is such a close-knit city it’s amazing how quickly we can get behind and support new businesses, ideas and great people. The key of course is being prepared to put yourself out there, meet people and make things happen. By being prepared to contribute and support the city in a wide range of ways I have reaped huge dividends in return.
How did you choose which city to start a business in?
I had lived in Sheffield for a long time before choosing to start the business here. So other than living here, why Sheffield? Well most of my first clients were here, the support for new businesses is excellent and I simply love the feel of the business community here. Unlike Manchester and Leeds we are not dominated by big, corporate organisations. We are more diverse, vibrant and quirky. That is something I really value and I’m proud of when I travel around the UK. In terms of evolving the business in Sheffield we have ambitious plans for the next three to five years with further people, client and finance growth targets not least of which is taking our work out to a non-EU, international audience. Watch this space.
What is the most challenging thing about running your own business and what is the most rewarding?
The most challenging thing for me now is managing the transition from being a one-woman entrepreneur to being a talented and growing team of six (soon to be seven) people. The demands of running a bigger business mean I can often find myself embroiled in marketing, finance, policy, legal or IT conversations that simply aren’t things I enjoy but have to happen now. And of course as the team grows I need to ‘let go’ of some control over projects, clients or pieces of work that were all once within my immediate control. This is much easier said than done when you have that ‘be perfect’ entrepreneurial driver – but I’m working on it. The most rewarding is simply having control over your own life and career. This extends across simple things like hours and place of work, to much more important factors like building the team, the culture, working practices and employee conditions I am creating in the business. In the words of a friend and Chief Exec elsewhere in the city I never want to run a business where you need to ‘have a better plan’ than being with your child when they are sick.
If you were giving careers advice to your 14 year-old self, what would you say?
I’ve got so much to tell me! So here it is in rapid fire advice…….
1 You’re 14. Don’t worry if you don’t know what you want to do yet. The most interesting people I know are in their 40s and still don’t know what they want to do with their life.
2 Just keep working hard and get the grades that will open the doors for you. BUT know this. Your qualifications will simply enable you to apply. They are not what will get you the job. It is your personality, resilience, tenacity, maturity, grit, positive attitude and life experiences that will get you the job.
3 Offer to do the difficult, complex or even boring jobs that no-one else wants to do. Do them really well and willingly with a smile on your face. The people who do this make everyone else’s life easier and get noticed for getting things done.
4 Keep looking for better, quicker, cheaper ways of doing things and then do them. The vast majority of people you work for will thank you for it every day.
5 Talk to everyone and listen more, everyone has something to teach you and you don’t know it all.
6 At the end of it all remember you only live once and whilst your career is important your family, friends and life mean more. No-one ever said on their deathbed ‘I wish I had made more of those 7pm resourcing meetings’.