In the lead up to the 2017 Women in Defence Awards, we will be publishing a series of blogs from last year's winners. The first of these is Heledd Kendrick, Founder and CEO of Recruit for Spouses.
Collaboration and the exploitation of synergies is the key to success in a dynamic and fast-evolving world. I run a social business helping the wives and partners of our Servicemen and women into work and when I started out I believed that I could fill this gaping void in the recruitment market without collaborating across the plethora of existing agencies that operate on the fringes of the military community. I was wrong.
In realising my naivety, I discovered that the number of charities supporting the Armed Forces community was in excess of 2000. Most of which provided a terrific support, yet there seemed to be a lot of duplication of effort and work conducted in isolation within a congested petri-dish of activity.
Service life and the unique demands it places on our Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen is understandably transient in nature. I believe that this impacts on the charities established to support them as they chase an ever-shifting population at risk. As a business we are acutely aware of these shifting sands and work tirelessly to provide a degree of stability and consistency to the newly arrived or shortly departing military family.
One of our biggest challenges is collaboration – working with your competitors and those who have no obvious connection with your business is an uncomfortable experience. But through the exploitation of synergies, precious money can be saved and resources streamlined. Within the charity sector in support of the Armed Forces, the establishment of the organisation Cobseo (The Confederation of Service Charities) provides a forum for service charities to do exactly that - to save precious funds raised through the goodwill of the public by facilitating dialogue between charities, thereby preventing unnecessary wastage and duplicated effort.
To save costs as a business we often outsource activity, sometimes to our own pool of talented individuals to generate self-sustainability, but if we can’t we will look for businesses or charities that operate in (or in close proximity to) this space and our first port of call will be to Cobseo.
An example of how we have collaborated with one of our clients is the work we have developed in conjunction with BAE systems, who deliver our coaching programme; not only has it helped them demonstrate their support for the spousal community whilst making a genuine contribution to the lives of our spouses, it has also given one of the largest Defence contractors an insight into our community and an understanding of the challenges that spouses face in the employment market.
This programme took nearly four years of dialogue and collaboration to get it from its embryonic stage to launch. It required regular honest and robust communication between the two parties, transparency and a mutual understanding of the common vision we developed between us. With persistence, patience, tolerance and compromise we have been able to roll out a structured mentoring programme which has directly benefited (and will continue to benefit) the lives of many service spouses.