Beena Sharma is the Group Director of Novus UK Group Limited and joined FSB during the first lockdown whilst starting her own business. Since then, Beena has grown her company, launched another business and recruited a team of employees. We caught up with Beena to find out how she’s been using her FSB membership benefits, from HR support to pensions advice, in her first year in business.
Tell us about yourself and your business.
My name is Beena Sharma and I’m the Group Director for Novus UK Group, under which we have several companies, mostly in the energy efficiency industry.
How did you find out about FSB?
FSB was introduced to me through a networking event around the time that the first lockdown hit. I was then introduced to a representative and initially had a chat with him. When I eventually set up and launched the business, that’s when I joined FSB.
What made you decide to join FSB?
One of the major reasons I joined was because I felt there was very little support out there for people like myself who were setting up. I hadn’t done this before, so I wanted to access information with regards to setting up the business, like HR policies, procedures, and so on. HR was a completely new area to me, so I wanted to make sure I had everything in place before I recruited.
I don’t have a background in business. I came from the construction sector and was going into business in the same sector, but when I launched my business, all of it was very new to me. I didn’t have that expertise as a small start up, so my first point of reference was FSB. The security FSB provides is great for those who haven’t been in business before.
How did the support from FSB benefit you as a start up?
I found the support from FSB was a huge help. Most importantly, the individuals who represented FSB were my first point of contact and would often refer me to where I needed to go. For example, when I was looking for business insurance, the representative pointed me in the right direction of the best person to speak to, rather than me having to look for information. It was really useful having the human touch, especially as all the information out there can be overwhelming. I could say, “I’m looking for XYZ” and be referred to the right link or the right person to speak to.
Do you find FSB helpful in running your business day-to-day?
Absolutely. When you’re starting up a business and you’re busy recruiting, quite often you do tend to forget what you have at your fingertips with FSB. Sometimes I found myself doing research online or asking an employee to look into something, and then we realised we hadn’t checked FSB, which would have saved us a lot of time!
Even with simple things like setting up pensions, we were so confused. We spoke to someone at FSB who gave us good advice as to how to set that up and what we needed to do, and I think we set up our pensions through FSB.
It’s very time-consuming as a business owner to be doing everything, so allowing my employees to go and look at the information on FSB in order to be able to do what they do is great. In a small business where there are so few of us and we all do what needs doing, having the ability to go away and find information from FSB about specific areas we haven’t dealt with before is so handy.
How have you found the transition to running your own team?
There were lots of activities that needed to be carried out as a start up. We worked quickly to get things done in just a few months and have grown from just me to a team of ten. Having access to FSB has saved me a lot of time.
Tell us about your experience with FSB’s legal advice line.
The legal advice line was one of those moments where I didn’t automatically go to FSB – and I wish I had! At first, I tried to do my own research and find the right people to speak to. I spoke to several legal representatives locally and a lot of it confused me. I was given contradictory information. Many of these representatives were looking at me as a client, whereas I just wanted to know what the law said and how could I go about doing things in the right way legally.
I then called FSB’s legal advice line and spoke to two different teams about two different issues, employment and corporate. From the first call that I made, I received communication within 20 to 30 minutes. The advice was impartial, professional, and based on ‘this is what the law says you can and can’t do’. I managed to speak to all the people I needed to speak to within a couple of hours. The service is fantastic. I wanted to appoint someone and unfortunately, they were booked up, but that’s good to know as it must be a good service if the fee-paying solicitors are all booked up.
Are there any other FSB benefits that have stood out to you since joining?
I’m very keen to get involved with networking when I have the time. Also, you can always plan but you’ll find a time when you’re missing a policy or document, so we’ve been able to download and customise documents from FSB Legal Hub.
Would you recommend FSB to other small business owners?
I would definitely recommend FSB to others and have done so, particularly those who are looking to start up and grow their business. For myself, the legal aspect was a big part because it helped me clarify a lot of things with regards to shareholder agreements and things you would need to go to a lawyer to do. It gives you a clear understanding of what needs to go into these documents. It also gives you an understanding of what your legal responsibilities are as a director. These are the nuggets of information that you tend not to have when you’re setting up a business because you’re focused on bringing in revenue and making the business successful is your primary goal.
There are so many parts to running a business and having access to this wealth of knowledge under one roof is nice. There’s lots of information on the internet but none of it is remotely helpful – it’s like finding a needle in a haystack! With FSB, you’ve got the security of knowing you can go directly to one place and it refers to what you need, rather than information about other countries or industries. You never know when you might need support. I didn’t think I would need to contact the legal team, for example, but knowing it was there is great.
I would recommend that people look into the benefits of FSB and access as much as they can because there is so much information that’s applicable to start ups, sole traders, and businesses looking to grow. If you’re looking for growth, then FSB is the way to go.