As the name of her business suggests, Bina Briggs likes to talk – and, now, her plain talking, straightforward yet open and helpful approach has been recognised by a national women’s networking organisation.
Bina, who runs Plain Talking HR in Luton, has been selected to be part of the f:Entrepreneur Top 100 Businesswomen #ialso campaign for 2021. The organisation highlights inspiring female business leaders through events, content and storytelling, and her inclusion in the list is simply the latest in a long list of projects through which Bina reaches out to help others – from clients to local students to other business owners.
Having arrived as a refugee from Uganda in 1972 and seeing her family build a new life from an almost penniless start, Bina understands the need for support within any community. She and her family were supported by the people of Luton and so it has become her home in every sense.
“I come from an Indian family where family and community are very tight knit, everyone helps one another and is there in times of need, and I guess I just grew up with that approach to life, that if I can help someone, I will.
“A lot of it came from my mother. She was a very strong woman who had been through a lot and she taught me to just get on with things and help where it was needed and to be part of the community spirit because you can’t survive without a close community around you.”
Bina founded Plain Talking HR in 2009 when she was 57, after a long career in HR at Luton Airport. Her focus has always been on small businesses and start-ups, where honest, straight talking advice is essential but where resources have to be utilised very carefully.
In her free time, Bina volunteers for local charities in her own Indian community as well as being a trustee with Level Trust (a charity that helps families overcome the costs of education) and is a governor at Luton Sixth Form College. She is also a trustee of Bedfordshire and Luton Community Foundation where she advises on employment law issues as part of the Evolve initiative that supports gender equality.
Over the past year, Bina has also been selected as a finalist for The Best Business Women Awards, The National Business Women Awards, SME Bedfordshire and The National Paralegal Awards for 2020.
“The #ialso100 campaign began when Michelle Ovens, the founder of the f:Entrepreneur campaign, realised that the words she heard most often when talking to women at events were ‘I Also’,” said Bina. “People, particularly women, rarely just run their core business. They run their business and then added that they’re also a trustee of something, or they’re also running a side business, or they’re also in a carer role within the family, or writing a book. It struck Michelle how much people give back to their communities and how hard they work in all areas of their lives.
“Because of my background, I’ve always done that and it seems natural to me. If you have time and advice to offer, then you just do it. And I know that although I’ve had this recognition from the campaign, I’m not special. Thousands of women all over the country are doing exactly the same kind of thing, people just aren’t hearing about them.
“So, whether I am advising clients, or mentoring students, or being part of a businesswomen’s networking group, the process is the same. You call on your experience and common sense and, most importantly, you just listen to people and if you can help in any way, then you do. In business, as you know, we call it ‘adding value’. When you’re mentoring someone, for instance, sometimes all you need to do is be a sounding board, they’ll talk it through and often work out the solution for themselves, and if they can’t, then you offer advice as far as you’re able.”
At work, it’s a slightly different matter and Plain Talking HR works with small businesses on all aspects of employment law and HR matters, who Bina feels need vital support and know-how as they get established and grow. Membership of Bedfordshire Chamber of Commerce brought Bina and her then business partner into contact with SMEs across the region. The typical client is a growing business, maybe family run, where rules and regulations weren’t always a main priority.
“Small businesses grow organically, often relying on family and friends to fill roles, and compliance with employment law isn’t a priority until, suddenly, the company reaches a certain size and this throws up issues,” explained Bina. “HR advice is vital, but at the same time, with small firms, it has to be tailored exactly to their needs, so that it meets all the requirements, and protects their business, but doesn’t take up time and resources they don’t have.
“We soon realised, that our clients needed us to go in, tell them what processes they needed to put in place, help them implement them and then leave them to get on with running their business. When issues do arise, they want a solution rather than a distraction, and for things to be resolved as soon as possible.
“It’s also important to see that although we’re dealing with compliance with the law there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Getting to know a business and understanding their needs is the best way to approach providing the service they need.
“There is one common thread in all this, that the business owners want someone like me to be there as part of their senior leadership team that they can call upon.”
Contact Plain Talking HR on 01582 488410 or visit www.plaintalkinghr.com
Find out more about f:Entrepreneur at www.f-entrepreneur.com