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Jennifer Opare-Aryee: Redefining HR Consulting in Key Sectors

Written by:

Carolyn Young is a business writer who focuses on entrepreneurial concepts and the business formation. She has over 25 years of experience in business roles, and has authored several entrepreneurship textbooks.

Jennifer Opare-Aryee: Redefining HR Consulting in Key Sectors

The role of Human Resources (HR) in shaping successful organizations cannot be overstated. It is in this dynamic and challenging arena that Jennifer Opare-Aryee, the visionary founder of JOA HR Consulting Limited, has made her mark. With a keen focus on sectors like health, hospitality, construction, housing, and social care, JOA HR Consulting Limited stands out as a beacon of innovative HR solutions. Jennifer’s journey, from the inception of her idea to the flourishing of her consultancy, offers invaluable insights into the world of HR consulting — a field that is pivotal yet often underappreciated in the business world.

In this exclusive interview, Jennifer delves deep into the inspiration behind her venture, the hurdles she overcame, and the strategies that set her firm apart in the competitive HR landscape. Her experience in identifying and engaging with niche markets, coupled with her expertise in shaping organizational culture and employee engagement, provides a roadmap for aspiring entrepreneurs and established businesses alike. From the intricacies of legal compliance in HR to the integration of technology in human resource management, Jennifer’s comprehensive perspective is not just enlightening but also an inspiration for those looking to carve their own path in the HR consulting sector.

Join us as we explore the journey of JOA HR Consulting Limited and the mind behind its success, offering a unique blend of practical advice and visionary insights for anyone looking to make a mark in the world of business and HR.

Inspiration Behind the Idea

SBS – What inspired you to start JOA HR Consulting Limited, particularly in the sectors of health, hospitality, construction, housing, and social care?

Jennifer – The inspiration behind launching JOA HR Consulting Limited stems from a multifaceted journey that weaves together my professional background and personal experiences.

Initially working as an HR manager and business partner for the NHS, I decided to resign after a Transfer of Undertaking (TUPE) in 2011. The catalyst for this decision was the desire to take control of my career narrative, choosing projects and clients that resonated with my professional goals. However, a return to the corporate world followed by a break due to complications from laser surgery interrupted this path.

The trajectory of JOA HR Consulting took a more profound turn when familial responsibilities called. My grandmother’s wish to bring my niece from Ghana to the UK for educational opportunities led me to take on the role of a single parent. Despite facing personal challenges, including the loss of my grandmother and uncle, my commitment to education persisted.

A pivotal moment occurred a year after my grandmother’s passing, redirecting the business’s mission. In honouring her legacy, the focus shifted towards supporting education, especially for underprivileged children. My grandmother’s sacrifices by selling her belongings to fund my education played a pivotal role in shaping my life. This newfound purpose fueled my determination to create a lasting impact through JOA HR Consulting.

I stumbled into HR during college, excelling naturally in a field then known as personnel. It was a work shadowing experience at Manchester Airport’s HR policy development department during university that revealed the power of employees’ voices in shaping policies. This experience, coupled with a keen interest in the psychology of work, led me to specialise in HR.

With a first degree in business studies, a master’s degree in HR, and a CIPD qualification, my academic foundation solidified. JOA HR Consulting emerged not only as a career venture but as a tribute to a grandmother who defied the odds to provide me with an education. The diverse sectors of health, hospitality, construction, housing, and social care became focal points, driven by a mission to contribute meaningfully to these vital industries while upholding the legacy of education and empowerment.

Challenges Faced

SBS – What were the major challenges you faced in the initial stages of setting up your business, and how did you overcome them?

Jennifer – I encountered several challenges that tested my resilience and determination, but one major obstacle was the transition from a stable corporate position to entrepreneurship. Despite facing this major challenge, I was determined to be in control of my career and time. I wanted to align my career with my other important commitment, which is running the Mary Sowah Foundation, a non-profit organisation supporting children in Ghana. Recognising that having my own business would afford me greater control over my time, I saw it as a means to allocate more time and attention to effectively manage the foundation.

Unique Value Proposition

SBS – How does your business stand out from other HR consulting firms, especially in terms of your service offerings?

Jennifer – JOA HR Consulting solves the critical issue of people management for businesses. By offering customised people management solutions, the company ensures that clients’ processes are legally compliant, people-centred, and user-friendly. Emphasising the impact of human relations on driving profits sets JOA apart in recognizing the broader business implications of HR.

Furthermore, JOA covers the entire spectrum of the employee life cycle, with core service offerings in employee relations, employee engagement, policy review and development, and organisational change and training. The flexibility in pricing, considering client requirements and sector specifics, demonstrates a tailored approach to diverse business needs.

Target Market Identification

SBS – How did you identify and reach your target market, particularly in the specialized sectors you cater to?

Jennifer – I started by delving into my interests, focusing on building a clientele aligned with my background, e.g. healthcare which led me to assess the scale and location of the businesses I aimed to work with. Understanding the unique pain points and people management challenges in the sector became a priority. My research efforts targeted potential customers through social media platforms, trade shows, and business networks. LinkedIn served as a valuable resource, and speaking engagements with the Federation of Small Businesses and participation in trade shows facilitated meaningful connections with prospective clients.

Business Planning

SBS – Can you describe the process of developing your business plan, and what key elements you focused on?    

Jennifer – I began by identifying my customers and addressing their pain points. This became the platform that helped shape my service offerings. Subsequently, I researched market and competitor pricing to strategically price my services. I also determined optimal methods, such as trade shows and networking, to elevate the business profile for increased sales. The process integrated a financial plan outlining monthly sales targets to sustain cash flow and cover wages. Additionally, I identified potential funding sources to support the business during challenging periods.

Initial Funding and Financial Planning

SBS – How did you secure funding for your startup, and what advice would you give to new entrepreneurs about managing finances in the early stages?

Jennifer – A considerable part of my personal funds has been dedicated to running my business, complemented by loans from financial institutions. For new entrepreneurs, maintaining good creditworthiness facilitates access to bank funding. It’s also crucial to comprehend the market and economic dynamics, anticipate consumer spending trends, and establish a business budget with contingency funds for challenging periods. There are also government initiatives and financial support and it is worth commitment time to explore where to tap into the resource. In addition, family assistance, when traditional bank borrowing isn’t feasible, can also contribute to business stability and sustainability.

Advice for Aspiring Entrepreneurs

SBS – Based on your experience, what critical advice would you give to someone looking to start a business in the HR consulting sector?

Jennifer – Understanding industry trends, staying abreast of employment law, and establishing a robust HR network are vital. Use the networking opportunities to collaborate to potentially secure associate work while building your own client base. In addition, develop and implement a strategic plan to increase visibility and authority to establish presence and build trust and credibility. Consistency is the key to increasing your visibility. Achieve clear visibility and authority by consistently showcasing expertise, for example, through speaking engagements or podcast appearances. Finally, define your niche, emphasising your ability to address HR challenges.

Building the Right Team

SBS – As an HR professional, what are your top tips for startups in terms of recruiting and building an effective team?

Jennifer –

  • Develop an HR strategy centred on recruiting and managing employees
  • Design job descriptions and leverage the power of social media for recruitment where appropriate, establishing a clear timeline for the recruitment process and induction
  • Engage an HR consultant to establish employment contracts and policies
  • Implement a thorough induction program to facilitate seamless integration into both the team and the organisation
  • Establish forums to promote team building and foster collaboration among team members

Cultural Development

SBS – How important is company culture in a new business, and how can it be developed and maintained?

Jennifer – Company culture shapes the work environment and employee morale and engagement. To develop and maintain a positive culture, a company needs to establish core values and embed them in the organisation by leading with the values, ensuring that the values reflect in your work, encouraging open communication, and investing in employee development. As the business grows, regularly assess your values and adapt your culture to align with the evolving needs and goals of the business.

Employee Engagement Strategies

SBS – What strategies do you recommend for startups to keep their employees engaged and motivated?

Jennifer – Initiating strategies to engage and motivate employees begins with seeking input from staff on necessary improvements, which can be gathered through team meetings or polls. Enhancing communication flow for both upward and downward feedback is crucial for maintaining motivation. Cost-effective team-building activities centred around goal setting, values, accountability, career development, inclusivity, and health initiatives contribute to a positive work environment. Many of these programs don’t require substantial financial investment, and apart from initial planning costs, they can boost morale and motivation without significant expenditure.

Legal Compliance

SBS – What are the key legal HR aspects that new businesses often overlook, and how can they ensure compliance?

Jennifer – New businesses often overlook key HR legal aspects such as employment contracts, anti-discrimination laws, and proper record-keeping. Ensuring compliance involves creating clear employment policies, providing employee training on relevant laws, and seeking HR or legal advice when drafting contracts. Regularly updating HR practices to align with changing regulations is essential for avoiding legal complications and maintaining a positive work environment. Often, new businesses fail to invest in trained and knowledgeable HR professionals to oversee the work, which can pose a major risk.

Training and Development

SBS – How can new businesses incorporate training and development into their HR strategies, especially with limited resources?

Jennifer – To establish an employee training plan with limited resources, take time to explore government funding options for learning and development support. Implement regular one-on-one sessions for goal setting, mentoring, and feedback. Create a centralised learning hub for virtual training and materials. Facilitate peer-to-peer learning and join business networks providing complimentary webinars and training opportunities.

Handling Organizational Change

SBS – For growing startups, what advice would you give for managing organizational changes and transitions?

Jennifer – For growing startups, maintaining legal compliance during contractual changes is crucial. Effective communication for any type of change, both verbally and in writing, promotes transparency and involves employees and their representatives in the planning process. This approach enhances buy-in and allows for addressing fears and concerns early on. It’s equally important to ensure that those spearheading the change are well-trained, competent, and aware of their legal obligations as employers. Acknowledge that change may trigger a grieving process, impacting employees differently. Be prepared to offer and guide employees to resources where they can access help and support.

HR Technology

SBS – How significant is the role of HR technology for new businesses, and what basic tools would you recommend they start with?  

Jennifer – The role of HR technology is crucial for new businesses, streamlining processes and boosting efficiency. Basic HR tools, like those managing centralised employee data, including payroll, benefits, and performance reviews, contribute to improved data management and reporting. This, in turn, ensures compliance with essential regulations.


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Jennifer Opare-Aryee: Redefining HR Consulting in Key Sectors