Every company June Ranson has ever worked for has invested time and money in her, and now, as a business owner herself, she is returning the favour.
Ms Ranson is managing director of Lower Hutt based immigration/relocation/settlement firm Woburn International, a company she setup 22 years ago to smooth the relocation for employees and employers, nationally and internationally. In that time Woburn has grown from a one man band to an office consisting of 7 staff and 15 consultants nationwide. The key, she believes, is looking at what a potential employee can do now and how the firm can help them grow.
“That is the biggest thing of all, we have people who are ready to grow and develop and learn new things” she says. “I believe in empowering people to be accountable for what they do. I always look at someone’s overall attitude, how I can develop them, and people take ownership because they want to, because they’re part of the big picture. It is about collaboration, working as a team.”
Ms Ranson talks of two migrants she employed because not only were they qualified in their own right, she saw that they had initiative. One has since gone from an administration clerk to a senior administration executive within business development; the other was employed as a translator but has now obtained her provisional licence for immigration. “It is about recruiting the right people, and Woburn would not be as successful if it wasn’t for the people we have working here.” say Ms Ranson.
Her recipe for success stems from her experience over a number of years. She’s first to admit that her career path would have been completely different if her employers had not recognised her potential and invested in her along the way. “I have always joked that every employer I have ever had in New Zealand has sent me back to school, they’ve paid for me to go to university and in that respect I’ve been very, very fortunate.”
Ms Ranson began her working life as a general office administrator for a Christchurch insurance company. During her 10-year tenure the company went through acquisitions which proved to be beneficial for her – after a 12 month break to work in Britain, to work for recruitment firm Adecco, she re-joined, wound up sitting insurance exams specialising in fire and life insurance, and was given the chance to its life insurance department.
“I was a big experiment, being the first female rep in New Zealand for them, and as a consultant I was given a free run to go out and service existing clients, to visit clients who hadn’t be contacted in eight years, as well as look for new business. “ They invested a lot of time and money in me, and they have me the most brilliant training which has held me in good stead – if you can sell, and by sell I mean identify clients, issues and challenges, you can do that in anything.” Ms Ranson then took up a role at the then Canterbury Health Board as an EA, reporting to the medical superintendent, but working with surgeons and specialists, accompanying them on ward rounds. “ I was given opportunities to get involved in many different facets. I had a very broad exposure to the health sector, and you say I was thrown in the deep end. “But I’ve always been thrown in the deep end that is the best way to be, it helps you to expand your thinking, and I’m always prepared to face a challenge”.
A move to Wellington followed, where her husband transferred through work, and she too, was to transfer to a hospital here but had to wait for a start date. Not one to wait Ms Ranson started temping via a recruitment company as an EA to tobacco company WD and HO Wills, now British American tobacco (NZ). “I was supposed to be there a month and I ended up staying six years, progressing into human resources, which was a big learning curve. But they sent me to University, this time to Massey, and having been to Canterbury University I was able to move my qualifications across and wound up with a BBS, along with a diploma in Human Resources.”
Ms Ranson quickly put her new-found knowledge into practice in a different workplace, an engineering company where she was hired to put together their HR function. “They had a number of subsidiaries throughout New Zealand, and they operated in Fiji so I got to work with eight trade unions.” But when the “corporate raiders” came in she was flown around the country to deliver the bad news to staff as the company began shutting down its subsidiaries. “I had to lay off large numbers of staff, but it shouldn’t have been me doing it, it should’ve been the CEO- I was the hatchet person who hit the news media, and I was in the line of fire with the workers.
“Emotionally it was tough. I really felt for the people, and I took on the responsibility to help them see that one door shutting and that we could help them open another through counselling or finding them new jobs. “It was quite far-reaching because I was criticised at the time for getting too involved, but to me you’re playing with people’s lives and I was prepared to help them.”
The media attention and her dealing with recruitment companies led to an approach from one corporate recruitment firm about another role in quasi government, the New Zealand Meat Producers Board. “I set up their Human Resources function too, and, I didn’t know it at the time, but they were in discussions with the Government to hand back ownership of product to meat companies, which meant getting rid of a lot of staff at the meat board, which was why I was recruited.” Having learned from past experiences, this time she stood her ground as to how the company should approach redundancy issues with its staff. “I wanted to put people first and I was prepared to stand up for what I believed in – the CEO at that time and the board agreed with me, and respected that, thankfully.” Eventually Ms Ranson, pregnant at the time, decided to resign so that she could establish her business, realising that there was a niche in the market for a company that could help other firms relocate staff smoothly and with minimal stress. Having been an expat and worked on overseas assignments in Brain, Germany, Australia, Brazil and Bahrain in her previous jobs, she had experienced the stress of moving first hand.
“It’s going into the unknown, and it’s an extremely stressful time, so I thought if Woburn could smooth the waters, then we would.”
“At that time there was no assistance our there for employers to know how to assist their staff in going offshore for assignments, no co-ordination of how to put together appropriate remunerations packages so that people were not being disadvantaged, no help for employers looking to bring people into the country, no interview process to ensure the right people were being sent off-shore of being brought in.”
She drew on previous experience, tapped in her networks and took advantage of the good reputation she’d gained over the years bringing in clients.
These days Woburn International is dealing with 35 companies at any time, wanting help with anything from bringing in a person from overseas, sending an employee offshore for an assignment, organising host-country support, cultural orientation and settling in a newcomer, or helping to relocate someone who has been head-hunted from offshore.
Ms Ranson’s hard work has earned her and the company recognition – she’s been nominated twice for the Her Business awards while Woburn was named best global service provider at the Employee Relocation Council conference in Washington D.C based on client feedback, two years ago.
Regionally, it was finalist last year in the annual Hutt Valley business awards for professional service for small to medium sized businesses.
“I can appreciate the anguish people go thought when moving, my career has been a big adventure and journey for me, so if I can help others on their journey and smooth the waters for them, I have done my job”.
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