The process of working with the Development Bank was incredibly smooth. We had loads of support; there was always somebody on the phone to guide us with the paperwork to make it as pain free as possible.
Established in 1995, Insight HRC – a business psychology and leadership consultancy - had grown significantly under the stewardship of its founder John Lazarus and co-owner, Simon Wiltshire.
The award-winning consultancy supplies leadership development, psychometric assessment, culture change and team development for some of the UK’s biggest companies and public sector organisations, including Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water, Cardiff and Vale NHS Trust and National Power.
But after two decades at the helm, the pair were ready for a change and a four-strong team of women who worked at the company took over the reins through a management buyout.
So, who are the brains behind the operation?
Meet the Insight HRC team
Pip Gwynn has been with Insight HRC for over 17 years and is the current director of the company. During her time with Insight HRC, she has taken a specialist business psychology approach to design and deliver leadership development and assessment interventions for her clients.
An occupational psychologist, her purpose is to create human-centric organisations which enable leaders and teams to flourish.
She loves working with the ‘tough stuff’ with individuals, groups and organisations and is driven by a desire to help others learn, grow and create meaningful and lasting change for the better.
Jessica Cooper has worked at Insight HRC for over 20 years and is a highly experienced Administrator and Assessment Centre Manager. Jessica manages Insight’s administrative and business support and has collaborated on a variety of clients across a wide range of sectors.
By overseeing the logistics of selection and assessment processes and development programmes, Jessica produces high quality documentation, while playing an important role in terms of Insight’s client care.
Jemma MacLean is Insight HRC’s Client Relationship Manager. She is an experienced HR professional, with a strong track record in delivering practical business-focused solutions which provides support to the delivery of strategic objectives. Jemma has provided HR expertise on all people-related initiatives within private and public sector organisations, driving organisational change through the successful deployment of key talent and effective resource planning.
Finally, Laura Di Rienzo provides support to the business in its administrative and creative departments. Her responsibilities tend to include overseeing Insight HRC’s social media and marketing strategies, while helping to organise key networking events.
The decision to undertake a management buyout
Following the 25-year stewardship of Insight HRC’s founder, John Lazarus, and co-owner, Simon Wiltshire, in 2021 the duo felt the time was right for them to develop an exit strategy.
When Pip, Jessica, Jemma, and Laura learned the owners were considering a change, they were keen to explore the possibility of working together to take control of the business they had worked so hard for over the past 20 years.
In May 2022, Insight HRC completed a Management Buyout (MBO) - backed by the Development Bank Wales, and Social Business Wales.
They have a team of 10 consultants working across the UK, with the leadership team based out of the new head office in the redeveloped Newport Market. Their focus is to continue to support their clients by delivering psychology-based assessment and leadership development services.
Pip said of the MBO: “Insight HRC is a fantastic business, working with some of the best organisations in the UK. We are thrilled to have completed the MBO and with our solid business plan we aim to stretch our expertise and reach even further and continue the legacy of John and Simon.
“We support our clients to be at their best, which means ensuring people are valued, empowered, resilient and confident. This approach made employee ownership a great fit when we started looking at succession planning."
The MBO was part-funded by the Development Bank of Wales with a six-figure loan from the Wales Business Fund, as well as advice and support from Social Business Wales, which is delivered by Cwmpas, formerly known as the Wales Co-operative Centre.
Emily Jones, of the Development Bank, said: “Pip and the team have a wealth of experience and a proven track record in delivering for their clients.
“Our funding means that they can now take control of their own destiny; investing in the business and developing their UK-wide client base from their new offices in Newport.”
With the MBO completed, there are exciting times ahead for Insight HRC as they move into a new era headed by the management team who were vital to their recent success.
Increasing visibility of women in leadership
Following the completion of its deal, Insight HRC had been bought out by its all-female management team – a significant moment for the company and for female leaders across the UK.
When women become leaders they bring talents and new views, alongside structural and cultural diversity to companies, which may have not been possible in the past. When looking back at the response of their takeover, Laura could not help but express her delight at how the news was received.
“We have had a really positive response. When we have spoken to women, they think it is amazing that we have stepped up and are doing something different,” said Laura.
As she looks ahead to the future, Laura hopes that workforces up and down the country will reflect on the diverse society we live in and hopes to see full boardroom equality in the future.
“I would like to think we are making steps to getting a more even workforce – particularly with women in leadership roles, and the gender pay gap. It is going to be a slow process, as it has taken so long to get this far, but I really do hope it happens sooner rather than later,” she said.
Dealing with the MBO process
Whereas before, the management team had to focus on the day-to-day running of the business, the takeover has seen Laura and her team undertake a magnitude of different responsibilities that they had not been accustomed to prior to the management buyout.
“It has been a smooth transition, but to be honest as we have been so busy with delivery and working with our clients, we have to remind ourselves that we can be make our own strategic decisions as opposed to just worrying about our day-to-day role, which has been the major difference for us,” she said.
“The process of working with the Development Bank was incredibly smooth. We had loads of support; there was always somebody on the phone to guide us with the paperwork to make it as pain free as possible.
“We also had a lot of support from our accountants, Haines Watts and lawyers, Darwin Gray, who were amazing, and thankfully we got there in the end.”
What is next for Insight?
Laura has stressed how keen she is to prioritise expanding her knowledge and become more focused on what the business can offer moving forward.
“We are looking at things to elevate the business to the next level. We want to make sure we improve our knowledge about everything that we are delivering. We want to be more niche in our offering, as opposed to an ‘everything to everyone’ approach,” she said.
“We want to increase our internal team, so we can spend more time being strategic, allowing us to plan how we want to grow in the future.
Now the management buyout is complete, there is huge excitement for everybody involved with Insight HRC. There is a sense of pride as well, and Laura is hugely optimistic about the vision of the organisation under the stewardship of Pip Gwynn and the new management team.
“I am really proud,” said Laura.
“Pip has been amazing, and she led us through the entire process. We are very on board with her vision for the future. She is totally committed to making it the biggest success it can be.”