Alison has over 30 years practical experience as an HR practitioner, employment lawyer and business leader. Prior to qualifying as a solicitor she spent 8 years as an HR practitioner in the public, retail and consumer finance sectors.
Alison practiced as an employment lawyer for almost 20 years with 12 years as a Partner.
Alison set up her own business (Alison Love Limited) in 2011, providing workplace mediation, conflict resolution training and associated services. Alison is more and more convinced that workplace mediation and positive approaches to conflict management provide a better way to resolve or even avoid damaging conflict in the workplace for the benefit of both business and the individuals concerned; a real win-win. She is also a firm believer that the ability to positively manage conflict is a key leadership and management skill.
Tell us about your journey of how you got to where you are today.
I went straight in to HR from school following A levels. It was expected that I would go to university, but as I didn’t know what I wanted to do, I joined the civil service and completed the Institute of Personal Management qualification, now known as CIPD.
After completing my IPM, I worked for my parent’s retail business; I set up an HR function and acted as a buyer before joining a consumer finance company as an HR executive. I began to regret not going to university by this stage so gave up paid employment to go to Cardiff University to study Law. This was with the view of utilising the employment law element with my HR experience, but I then went to law school and qualified as a solicitor. Twenty years later I found myself as equity partner for one of the biggest law firms in Wales before leaving that all behind to set up my own business.
I sum up leaving a successful career and starting on my own in the middle of the deepest recession in the UK as my midlife re-evaluation! I’d reached a plateau in my career; and wanted new challenges. At the same time, I found myself attending two funerals in two months of close colleagues following which I completed a very challenging charity walk along the Great Wall of China. These events were a trigger for reflecting on “what next”.
The seeds for Alison Love Limited followed some career counselling with a good friend where we worked out what was important to me in going forward. Alison Love Limited then came to fruition about 8 months later. I provide workplace mediation and associated training, executive coaching and employment investigation services. I love what I am doing, it feels far more positive to be seeking to resolve workplace issues or developing skills rather than picking up the pieces when disputes are heading towards a tribunal.
Three years on, the business is thriving and about to enter a new era. I’ve already achieved on of my long terms goals of writing a book.
How has life experience shaped you as an individual?
If I’m in a situation where people tell me I can’t do things or there is a set back this increases my determination to prove I can do it! There have been a number of situations where there has been a set back and this has often prompted a change and greater determined to succeed and I rise to the challenge.
My drive and determination comes from both my parents, in particular my Dad, he started his own business having left school at 14 with no qualifications and built a successful business. My work ethic very much comes from them.
As I said earlier, I haven’t taken the traditional route when it comes to both education and career, having gone to university as a mature student and with a number of career changes along the way.When I went to university I did wonderhow I would compete against younger students who had come straight from school. However, it certainly worked for me. I’m prime example that much can be gained from a different approach and changes in direction. Life is too short to be stuck doing something you no longer enjoy or which no longer challenges you. It’s never too late for new learning and new opportunities if you have the desire to create them.
What have been the highlights and challenges in your career to date?
For me, it has to be highlights in the plural. It’s about having the faith in myself to take ‘the leap’ on a number of occasions and with faith that a net will appear. The message for me, is that you have to go for it and not to worry too much as things have a habit of working out. This is not necessarily in the way you anticipate but then that is part of the fun. In the words of Charles Handy, “You have to be in the orchard to catch the apples.”
My challenges are ones that I and many women see as their challenges too. That is managing my career and family, or perhaps more accurately managing the almost inevitable guilt that mothers seem to have. It’s about doing the best you can and realising that sometimes your best just has to be good enough.
What have been the challenges in setting up your own business?
Learning to do everything for yourself; it was a rude awaking when I realised there was no IT or marketing department to fall back on. In some way, I’ve really enjoyed the learning that this has brought as it’s forced me to gain skills and appreciate that I can do things that I didn’t think I could. This has given me a great sense of satisfaction.
The business has now grown to a point where I have to “say no” or rely on others to help. As I can’t say “no” it’s got to be the latter.
What do you think are the biggest challenges for women in the workplace today?
Whilst women still don’t have parity in the main in the workplace, we women need to worry less about it, stop complaining and just go for it. We should celebrate our differences and prove that we can do anything.
What’s been your greatest career achievement to date?
As I said earlier one of my longer term goals was to write a book. This has happened much quicker than I ever imagined. The book is a managers guide to workplace mediation but also demonstrates how the mediation skills set can be used to improve day to day people management skills
I was approached by publishers out of the blue; being active on social media has meant that my business profile reached far beyond the UK. With social media, you can compete on a global basis, and it shows you don’t really need a marketing department. The most important thing is that my personality comes through enabling clients to see the real me. As I control what I write in my blog and tweet feed I can be more creative and I have enjoyed the freedom to develop this. If you are part of a corporate environment, you have to tow the party line as you have to have one eye on the corporate brand.
I was approached by an American publishing house to write a book and several drafts later, it is being published! Following the book, I’m now being asked to run mediation workshops in the Hong Kong and Singapore this Summer. Alison Love Limited is really going global, who would have thought that in year 3!
What’s the one word that sums you up?