Interview with Emer Hinphey - Co-Founder/Director, Think People Consulting

Posted in : HR Interview Series on 14 March 2017 Issues covered:

Emer explains how she most admires the team at First Derivatives, how she keeps busy whilst unwinding with her local Camogie club and why ‘you can’t build a great business with average people’ is good business advice.

Emer Hinphey, Think People Consulting

Name: Emer Hinphey

Position & Organisation: Think People Consulting, Co-Founder/Director

Number of Employees: 7 supported by a team of associates

Time in Post: 10 years

Previous Job: Head of HR,

Tell us about your business in a sentence

Think People is a Business Transformation Consultancy; we help organisations improve performance through their people.

Give us an idea about your early life and career 

My first job was a petrol pump attendant, I was 15. I have always worked since then.

One of my most interesting early roles was a sabbatical in the Student Union where I was site President for a year. It was a great opportunity to develop commercial and political understanding, and to manage budgets and teams.

My first ‘real’ job was with AIB Capital Markets first as a HR Officer and then HR Manager. The Capital Markets sector in Dublin was booming. Working with our Capital Markets teams as well as all the international banks we supported was a great professional grounding and fun.   

I then took a role as HR Manager in a telco/ start-up,  This was another high energy and demanding role, but great fun and experience. I was promoted to Head of Human Resources after 3 years, a career high at 28. After that I did some freelancing, my now business partner Anne Dougan and I crossed paths and eventually set up Think People. The rest, as they say, is history.    

What are the key challenges you face in your role?

‘Working in’ or ‘working on’ the business. We need to focus on the management, growth and development of the business but I believe it’s key to spend time with clients and continue to deliver consultancy projects and facilitation with teams to stay at the forefront of what we do. It can be hard to get the balance right.

What keeps you going when things get tough?

I am pretty resilient but we all have our moments. I always start with reminding myself that most stressors or problems fall firmly in the category of ‘First world problems’. Getting some perspective is important!

My business partner is incredible at bringing pragmatism and perspective to any issue and calmly plotting a way through. The team are great and always willing to lend an ear or support when I’m under pressure – I’m very lucky.

I also try to exercise and stay healthy.  Much of resilience comes from the work you do when things aren’t as tough.

If you could do any job in the world, what would it be?

So many options! In the past I’ve had fleeting day dreams of being anything from a ski instructor to joining Amnesty.  My lofty teenage dream was to be Secretary General of the United Nations.

Who do you most admire in business locally and/or internationally? Why?

I really admire the team at First Derivatives.  I’m not sure if many people know this but the business was founded with a credit union loan and built with a deep commitment to the local community. As the organisation has grown they’ve provided opportunities for our young talented people to get really good quality experience abroad and they continue to build pathways to ‘come home’ when ready. That commitment continues as they grow their base of opportunities locally. It proves to me that you can compete and excel globally, with a strong value set and also deliver back into your local areas and people.

How do you unwind after a tough week?

People who know me would probably tell you I’m not a particularly good ‘unwinder’ and always doing something. Lots of my ‘doing’ is also unwinding though.

Spending time with friends and family is really important to me, sometimes with a glass or two of something!

Although recently retired from playing Camogie I am very active in administration and coaching in my local club.  I like to get outdoors and stay fit, I’ve done yoga for years too.

What’s your top office/business bugbear?

Not having enough time for all the possibilities, opportunities and alternatives.

What are the key characteristics of your top performing employees?

We are lucky to have a really good team of experienced, committed and clever people.  Consultancy is not for everyone.  Finding people with the capability to build relationships, deliver a range of projects to a consistently high standard, keep knowledge bang up to date while balancing the needs of a number of clients and having the flexibility to move with the sometimes fast changing requirements can be difficult. You have to enjoy the pace and variety.

What skills are essential for a top career in HR and will these still be the same in 5 years time?

  • Flexibility – as in many careers now the ability to adapt and respond effectively to changes and challenges sets you apart.
  • Commercial awareness – to have a place at the table HR professionals need to understand the business and have impact and influence as partners in the business.
  • Relationships – I don’t think this will ever change, building strong professional relationships and networks is essential to influence and continuous learning.
  • Harnessing technology – keeping up to date and increasing efficiency and engagement through technology will in my view define lots of the changes in our profession and how we positively contribute and create impact in our organisations.

What is the best piece of business advice you have ever been given?

I have received different advice along the way and different things resonate at differences stages of the journey. A recent one I read that resonates is ‘you can’t build a great business with average people’.  This is absolutely true.

This article is correct at 14/03/2017

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