This week, our hearts are heavy at Howgate Sable as we say goodbye to our longest standing employee, Alison Sharman. As we’re sadly unable to give our finance director the send off she deserves, we caught up with her to chat about her time with the business and plans for retirement.
The brains behind our back office, Alison joined Howgate Sable as practice manager in 1994. Despite the title ‘FD’, her role evolved over the years to encompass personnel, legal, IT and property. A true secret weapon, Alison has been instrumental in ensuring that things run smoothly.
How did your journey with Howgate Sable begin?
I was previously a manager in the corporate tax department at Coopers & Lybrand, working with clients such as Manchester Airport and Woolworths. After starting a family, I was looking for something more flexible and it was actually my husband who came across the job at Howgate Sable. He was given a complimentary newspaper on the one and only overseas business flight he has ever taken and noticed the advert for the role. Some might say it was fate!
What was the search industry like in the 90s?
Well, it was very much life before LinkedIn! IT was still in its infancy and there was no internet, so our processes were very different.
Recruitment was much more focused on selection than search. We’d spend a fortune on job advertisements in the broadsheets and applications would come in by post. Two sacks of mail would arrive each day and it would be all hands on deck to open and sort it, never mind assess and respond to it.
What are your career highlights?
There have been so many! In general, watching the business grow and seeing the calibre of clients on our portfolio progress over time has been wonderful. We are recognised by some of the world’s biggest brands as true experts in our field and that’s the product of years of hard work.
Converting from partnership to LLP was a pivotal moment for the business too, as well as our move to our current office. Milestones like this are real symbols of success and I’ve loved playing my part in them.
What advice would you give to any budding female finance directors?
I’ve been lucky to find an employer that valued my skills but also recognised that work/life balance was important to me, especially when my children were young.
With hindsight, I’d encourage female FDs to ensure that they place enough value on their own skills, knowledge and experience. Equality has taken big strides in recent years but we’re not there yet, so you have to believe in yourself if you’re going to persuade others to do so. However, that doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your personal life.
Modern working practices are changing – we’ve discovered during lockdown that whole businesses can thrive without using an office. Up-and-coming female professionals can take advantage of flexible working practices – you can still build a career and make an impact without working full time.
What are your plans for retirement?
Unfortunately, like everyone, the coronavirus outbreak has put a stop to my immediate plans for a summer of socialising and travel. However, once we get back to normal, I’ll be playing lots of tennis, catching up on lost time with friends and family and, of course, meeting up with my Howgate Sable colleagues for the leaving celebrations we had planned!
What will you miss most about Howgate Sable?
That’s easy – my colleagues. It sounds cliché but over the years, they’ve become true friends. Working with such a close knit team, you get to know each other really well and I’ll miss the camaraderie.
Thank you, Alison! We’re truly grateful for all your years of service and will really miss you. For now, we’ll toast your retirement from a distance and look forward to catching up soon.