Lisa Thomson


What was your first job after leaving school/further education?

I’d studied French and Politics at University and had planned to join the Civil Service (foreign office) but although I passed the entry academic exams I was rejected based on psychometric assessments. So I had to think of a new plan, initially I worked in an insurance call centre until I figured out what to do. I was lucky to start my HR career with Wolfson Microelectronics a high tech spin out from the University of Edinburgh, who also funded me to undertake my HR post graduate studies part time.

When did you start your business & what prompted you to do it?

I’d worked in HR for a number of privately owned high growth technology companies, mainly in stand alone roles or setting up HR functions. The last company I was employed by had grown organically very rapidly, from 10 to over 80 employees within 2 years, and then needed to downsize due to a change in circumstances.

In 2014 I took redundancy and realised there was a gap in the market for tailored HR support to startup and investor backed companies in this fast growing sector so I launched as a consultant.

I was very fortunate to receive a funded place on an entrepreneurship programme studying at Babson College Boston, US for 4 months and this was the launchpad for my business growth plans and ambition. I was lucky to engage a former employer as my initial client and grew the business from there.

What did you find most challenging at the beginning?

It was hard going juggling a young family and building a business. When I went to the US my husband stayed at home with our (at the time) 3 year old daughter and it was hard to be away from them both but I knew it was an investment in all of our future and I’m so glad I took the opportunity and stuck it out.

When I returned and initially started the business it was just me and I found it a huge juggle to combine delivering consultancy, finance, marketing, sales and operations along with achieving balance in family life and also could be lonely at times. I much prefer things now with a fab team around me.

Who did you ask for advice & why did you choose them?

I’ve been lucky to have had support from many business mentors and experienced entrepreneurs who have advised and supported me when starting out, too many to mention individually. I am always grateful when people take the time to share their learnings and advice.

How did you fund your business?

As a services business I was able to get started with minimal upfront costs other than IT equipment and a friend who built my initial website. I have funded the business growth since through revenues and have invested in building my team.

What would you do differently now looking back?

I would have brought in my first employee sooner rather than waiting too long and trying to do everything myself. When I first brought in admin/operations support it was a game changer for me as I could find someone much more organised to take on the responsibilities I was not best skilled at, keep me on track and more productive, and thankfully stop having to get up at 5am to send out invoices and try to plan my diary before the kids got up for breakfast! I now have a team of 7 and I can focus on my areas of strength with skills and talents of others around to support and complement each other.

What or who has helped you to grow your business the most?

In 2018 Purpose HR was selected to be part of the first Unlocking Ambition cohort, of 20 values led, socially impactful businesses accepted onto the Scottish Enterprise-backed programme for high growth, purpose-driven organisations.

This was a great opportunity particularly as a services business which can sometimes struggle to get access to these opportunities as we had the chance to access SE account management support and funding, develop my own leadership skills, confidence and ambition, make great connections, and to gain a better understanding of how to build a truly scalable profit for purpose and values led business.

What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced?

At times I have definitely tried to take on too much or overstretched myself especially in early days of my business before I built my team. As a typical entrepreneur I get excited by new and shiny opportunities and projects and I like to get involved and help others but I have definitely learned a lot about the importance of team work and focus, the importance of self care, and not spreading myself too thin.

What are the future plans for your business?

To hit £1m turnover and to continue to grow and develop an incredible team and support amazing innovation driven businesses.

What advice would you give to anyone wanting to set up their own business?

It’s so important to really take time to understand the market and where your product or service can fit and add most value within that – to work out what you can do differently or how you can build a niche or disrupt the status quo.

Also don’t get disheartened or knocked if people say no – you can’t work with or be the right fit for everyone and neither would you want to… it’s really important to understand your customers and market fit and to work in partnership with the right clients.

Tell us something about you that isn’t commonly known.

Some people are surprised to find out that I’m a bit of a thrill seeker and a dare devil. One of my favourite ever experiences was cage diving with great white sharks whilst in South Africa on honeymoon.

And finally, why did you join WeDO?

I was recommended to connect with Belinda by a mutual acquaintance who suggested we would get on well and I hugely enjoyed our initial chat. When I read up on WeDO I was really impressed by the ethos, community and energy and by how they have continued to support and connect your members during the pandemic. Particularly now I think peer learning, support and collaboration are key to success in business and so I’m excited to join such a great network.


If you’re interested in finding out more about WeDO Scotland membership, click HERE.