HR Suite’s Caroline McEnery on growing organically

The HR Suite’s managing director Caroline McEnery is a highly-respected authority on human resources. Celebrating 10 years in business, she shares her insights on growing a business organically.

In recent weeks we wrote how The HR Suite, the Dublin and Kerry human resources firm, marked 10 years in a different way than most, with the publication of a book for children on diversity and inclusivity entitled Celebrating You.

The book was the brainchild of The HR Suite’s  founder Caroline McEnery and is aimed at teachers, parents and guardians who can read it as a storybook to children to spark conversations around various topics. It is also hoped that other companies will use it as part of their corporate social responsibility (CSR) programmes. All of the issues covered in the book were encountered by her company during the course of its work and McEnery has also authored a people management book entitled The Art of Asking the Right Questions, which she describes as a toolkit for people managers to ensure they maximise the talent of their people.

“I do what I do because I love people, I love HR and I love helping people to be the best that they can be”

It is clear that McEnery lives and breathes HR and she is an employment law expert and a former member on the Low Pay Commission and I am also an adjudicator in the Work Place Relations Commission. “I have also completed a Masters in Human Resources at the University of Limerick, I am CIPD accredited as well as being a trained mediator. I have worked across various areas of HR for over 20 years in Kerry Group and in the retail and hospitality sector where I was the operations and HR Director of the Garvey Group prior to setting up the HR Suite in 2009.”

“I started my career in human resources with the Kerry Group where I was involved in all aspects of strategic HRM. Kerry instilled a real work ethic ethos and encouraged me to develop my experience and knowledge in best practice HR management,” McEnery recalled. “Prior to setting up my own company, I worked as operations and HR Director at The Garvey Group.

“The Garvey Group has over 850 staff in their 10 supermarkets and two hotels. As the operations and HR Director, I was responsible for all aspects of operational and strategic management in the business. I was involved in managing all aspects of the business from store standards to profitability and making our mission of being best for fresh with our staff and management team. I introduced a new management tool, known as the Quad system, to the Garvey Group. This system has introduced very high levels of consistency, autonomy and best practice in all aspects of the business from the HR aspect, to operational standards of the store, customer focus and business performance. As a result of bringing in this system, the group achieved many prestigious accolades, such as Supervalu Store of the Year, Emerald in the Hygiene, many Best for Fresh Retailer and the group were also the first retailer to achieve the Excellence Through People Platinum Award. I continue to work for the Garvey Group, which is now one of my key clients.”

The personal touch

The HR Suite stands out from the crowd, offering a specialist, tailored and effective human resources and business solutions to clients throughout Ireland.

“We have four key departments: human resource management; employment law; training and recruitment. With offices in Dublin and Kerry and a nationwide client base of SMEs and multinationals, The HR Suite has over 500 clients throughout Ireland and employs a team of HR Advisors and a dedicated recruitment department.

“We provide a popular telephone, email and Skype support service when needed with client business requirements. Clients who subscribe to our retainer service frequently ring in about a wide range of issues from advice relating to: disciplinary, grievances, maternity, fixed-term contracts, etc. Our skilled team are on hand at all times to answer all queries and to send them relevant follow up information pertaining to their issue if necessary. We also provide our clients with factsheets and guidelines that are developed with reference to their specific topic of query.

“This personalised per client approach allows our clients to have access to expert advice without worrying about the cost every time advice is required.”

As well as speaking widely and writing articles and papers on thought-leadership for the future of HR, McEnery also mentors women entrepreneurs through the ACORNS programme, Going for Growth and Continuing the Momentum.

“I do what I do because I love people, I love HR and I love helping people to be the best that they can be. The company resources lie in its people. We have clients in a diverse range of business sectors from SMEs to large corporate multinational businesses therefore it is important to note our team is equipped with the knowledge and expertise to cater to all our client’s needs.

“In terms of the needs that we are meeting- HR has essentially become very niche and we can help the core business in two main avenues: to support SMEs in HR; and support large HR departments.

“Our unique selling point is that our clients are appointed a dedicated HR Consultant who will support and manage the client account on a continuous basis. We operate with the utmost friendly, yet professional approach and always in a confidential manner. We conduct work with professional integrity and transparency in all interactions. Our team perform with a strong work ethic through self-management and positivity. We work effectively together in a strong team environment with an enthusiastic and responsible attitude. We complete the work and strive to get it ‘right first time’ and are viewed mostly as the ‘Phone a Friend’ company.”

Start as you mean to go on

McEnery has grown her business organically from the start. “It started as organic growth; as we grew a client base, we grew the team and the business has grown rapidly since it was established in 2009.

“The company is growing steadily, and the majority of the growth was as a result of client testimonials and recommendations. The business has also grown as a result of expanding her client demographic, moving from primarily the retail sector to other sectors such as legal, financial, and pharmaceutical. This current expansion in the company has led to the recruitment of new senior HR and sales and marketing professionals, all in the past few years. Being 10 tears in business, we anticipate further rapid growth and to expand rapidly in the Dublin market. The growth plans are near on +20pc each year, to focus on the national market and two offices with a specialise team.”

Her greatest inspiration comes from the Going for Growth leads, mentors and communities.

The most challenging aspect of growing a business is putting the right experts in place.

“It has been a rollercoaster of highs and challenges, but at the start we were not able to have expert teams such as finance.”

If she were to do it all over again she would have grown the expert teams faster. “We had to wait for the turnover to springboard the rest and the team [it is like the chicken and the egg situation].

Her advice to fellow business founders? “Remain positive and happy to enjoy what you do. We work to live, not live to work. Remain passionate about life and what you do! Self development and self-awareness is key.”

The books

The Art Of Asking the Right Questions by Caroline McEnery

Negotiating Skills by Tim Hindle

Who Moved My Cheese by Dr Spencer Johnson

The Intelligent Entrepreneur by Bill Murphy

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

The tech

My Fitness Pal app and my Fitbit device – for a health focus to look after myself, which is key.

Smartsheet for my diary and project management as well as all the normal tools for daily life.

Written by John Kennedy

Published: 15 July 2019

Pictured above: Caroline McEnery. Image: Pauline Dennigan