Nicola Ford - "Like a lot of us, the pandemic made me wonder 'Is there more to life than this?'"

education the forge May 02, 2024

I was lucky enough to be raised my two strong parents. My Dad worked really hard to look after his family with a 4am start every day. He took on a second job to provide but he never complained (well, I never heard it). My Mum was a tough cookie and took control of everything at home. I have definitely gained resilience, perseverance and a good work ethic – from the best.


In the five years prior to launching F&B HR, I worked for a national franchise consultancy based in London. I learnt so much. It was an experience that expanded my knowledge far beyond what I had encountered in my previous HR roles. Despite my long background in HR, I found myself continuously surprised by the intricacies of human behaviour and thought processes. Each day brought forth new challenges, pushing me to grow both personally and professionally.


During my time with the consultancy, I played a pivotal role in its expansion. From nurturing the growth of our team to being at the front of business development efforts, I found my niche in identifying subtle yet impactful areas for improvement within businesses. While I may not have been a natural salesperson, my approachability resonated with our clients.


When Covid hit, the world went crazy but in the world of HR, it felt like it would never end.


Dealing with business owners who were having to make redundancies, seeing people invest everything they had to save peoples jobs, I was working in a landscape that seemed to change each week.


We were often asked what the 5pm announcements would be by Boris and what that would mean in terms of lockdown, furlough and new rules (just to be clear, we only knew what you knew!).


We were seeing people really struggle with their mental health – it was intense. Like a lot of us, the pandemic made me wonder 'is this it? Is there more to life than this?'. I worked hard and kept going but the hours were long, relentless and the pressures felt huge. This didn't appear to be stopping anytime soon, so at the end of 2022, I resigned.


I didn't have another job to go to, but I knew I need time and space. I needed to make my family and my health a priority as working full out for so long takes its toll. I went on a pre arranged trip with my family to Australia. That gave me three weeks of space to think, and I knew I had to make some life changes.


I wanted flexibility, I wanted to be present – I had to cancel way too many things in the evenings to prioritise work and then often at weekends, I was too tired to do anything. Work occupied every conversation and I felt lethargic and exhausted all of the time. I thought I would see how self employed life was and after publicising that on social media, people reached out and I become reconnected with people I had worked with and lost contact with over the years. I haven't looked back.


I firmly believe in practising what I preach, embodying the values that I seek to instil within the companies I serve. If I am trying to explain best practice and demonstrate what a company can do to incorporate values or to improve a company culture, that needs to come from a meaningful place. Let's be transparent, up front and trustworthy.


Since starting my own business I have learnt so much. Don’t count your chickens before they hatch, collaboration over competition, and above all; learn to be outside of your comfort zone. It’s where I live now.


I was so nervous going into The Future Smiths. I had severe imposter syndrome. I had to seek validation and asked if they just let everyone in (they don't!) as I couldn't believe that someone else felt there was worth in my business and my ideas. Through all of the weekly workshops, we covered every topic that we needed to be aware of. The connections you make in your cohort are like no other. You are in the same boat as others and ideas are shared, shoulders are provided to cry on and there's plenty of 'is it me?'. You simply cannot regret joining. Be open minded and enjoy everything you can learn from Simone and Duncan. They will be your biggest supporters.

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