Capture every piece of learning, every experience and story whilst in employment. They are what you will use with future clients.

Gary Cookson

Gary Cookson, Director of EPIC HR Ltd

How did you get into a career as a consultant?

I always had it in mind that it was what I wanted to do as I wanted to use my skills and expertise with a wide range of people and organisations. I spent nearly 20 years in in-house HR, OD and L&D roles and eventually took the plunge to help me in a difficult time re family responsibilities, having made the opposite choice twice before.

What are the key responsibilities in your role?

Supporting clients with their priorities, which obviously differ. And running and building the business.

Describe a typical day.

There honestly isn’t one. Every day is different and that’s one of the attractions. One day I could be delivering a leadership programme in one part of the country, before doing some project work with a client in a different part of the country, then a day at home catching up on stuff and delivering webinars and sessions for a wide range of people on different topics from home or coffee shops, and more besides.

What skills are needed for this role?

The ability to run your own business and all that comes with it is critical. The ability to build client relationships and maintain them is obviously important. Spotting and following up opportunities. Delivering work on time and to the full satisfaction of the client.

What challenges do you face in this role?

Managing my work life balance as there isn’t any consistency. In one week I can be largely home based and do all the school runs and family stuff I need to, but in another week I can be out of the house every day and hardly see anyone.

The loneliness of being a consultant is tricky as you don’t build relationships with clients in the same way as you would as employees and can often have no one to really talk to. Set ups like LnDCoWork really help as does social media.

Constantly thinking about your future income streams and working on them whilst delivering current work is a juggling act.

What keeps you motivated to go into work every day?

I made the move for my family so it’s them who keep me motivated. Of course I want to make the world of work a better place and to help people and organisations to improve but they’re nowhere near as motivating as keeping my family happy.

What advice would you give someone considering a career as a HR consultant?

Wait for the right time. There’s a tipping point when your accumulated experience and skills make it viable to sell these back to organisations. Too soon and you’ll struggle to make it work.

Capture every piece of learning, every experience and story whilst in employment. They are what you will use with future clients.

Build your network before setting up, for at least a year if not more. Without a solid profile and reputation AND a good network, clients will be hard to come by.

Help people without expecting any return, and you will find karma has a way of repaying you in time.

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