Ladies Behind the Scenes at H&H

15th March 2019

As this month focuses on the global celebration of the social, economic and political achievements of women through International Women’s Day (IWD), we meet with some of the ladies behind the scenes at the H&H Group (H&H), who have vital roles, within the companies that they work for.

The theme for the 2019 International Women’s Day was “Think Equal, Build Smart, Innovate for Change” and this is something that H&H do day in and day out.

Across the Group, which employs 300 members of staff, 64% of the team are women and are integral to the ongoing success of one of Cumbria’s foremost business. Whatever their roles, catering, letting property, marketing, livestock trading or land agency, they are all hugely skilled, knowledgeable and totally committed to their jobs.

Amy Johnson is Catering Manager at Harrison and Hetherington’s Borderway Mart Café and every day, throughout the year, her job is to ensure that there is food on the tables for those who attend the hundreds of sales annually. Originally from Hexham, 33-year-old Amy moved over to Carlisle 17 years ago. Her passion for catering started at a young age, when she worked as a waitress at the Sour Nook Inn, Carlisle. After leaving school, she began full-time with Sour Nook Inn and spent one day a week at college where she completed her Level 2 and Level 3 NVQ in Catering Hospitality.

Amy joined H&H nine years ago and was initially employed as a cook. When the huge Show Hall was revamped, the catering was taken in-house and David Pritchard, Joint Managing Director of Harrison and Hetherington, offered Amy the job of Catering Manager without hesitation, and she said “Yes!”.

Amy works within a team of nine women – 7 part-time and 2 full-time: “I love working with my team, they are paramount to this café. Without them, we simply would not be able to do it.”

“Through our events and regular auctions, I meet so many different farmers and people from all walks of life and that is what I love about my job.”

Amy’s busiest day of the year is always the Borderway Agri Expo. An early start at 5.00am, with breakfast served for those exhibiting cattle from 6:30am onwards; the second busiest day is the Bluefaced Leicester Sale.

“As you never know how busy you are going to be, you have to be able to quickly think on your feet and often put on extra food, and we are certainly busier that we used to be. The pedigree sales, in particular, have grown significantly in interest and, in turn have made the café a lot busier.”

“I enjoy my days at H&H, especially a busy day. I always feel it is a major achievement when we know it’s been a success with many happy customers. We also undertake buffets and lunches for the different companies across the H&H group, so it is nice to work with and meet people from the other departments.”

Do you think catering is still a woman’s role?

“Despite many people assuming that catering is women orientated, this is not necessarily the case. If you look on the television, it’s all men. Like on MasterChef, which is primarily male-led, with male chefs and male judges. Even my lecturer at college was male! I do feel that the higher up you go within catering, the more you see men running it, so I am delighted that Nigella Lawson and Mary Berry are still flying the flag for women.”

Amy’s motto is ‘work hard, play hard’: “Get your head down, get the queue down, have a laugh, re-stock and start again.”

Sarah Wright, Lettings Manager for H&H King based at Rosehill.

“International Women’s Day is there to inspire future generations and show women can do just as much, if not more, than men. Our lettings team is made up of four women including myself. We work tirelessly to make sure the properties are being maintained, rent is being paid on time, and expectations are met from our landlords, and our tenants.

“I’m not a fiery feminist but women deserve recognition where recognition is due, and women need to support each other’s achievements as it is tough enough out there!”

Sarah started as Residential Lettings Coordinator in 2015 and was promoted in 2017 to Lettings Manager. Originally from Malton in North Yorkshire, she has lived in Cumbria for the last 17 years. She graduated from the University of Cumbria in 2012 with a BA in Journalism, before spending time working for a publishing company in Carlisle within Client Services. Sarah gained admin experience at a private security company, before starting out in H&H King.

Looking to the future, Sarah looks at the marketplace: “It is a very competitive market – we are one of 16 agents in this part of Cumbria and our all-female team prides itself on providing a quality, trustworthy service and we most certainly hold our own.”

Tracey Jackson (MRICS FAAV), Associate and Chartered Surveyor for H&H Land and Property.

“Agriculture has always had been strongly male dominated, and it is important to highlight the work of females taking roles in agriculture, for which International Women’s Day is a great platform.”

Now living in Carlisle, Tracey grew up on a Mushroom Farm near Thursby, and a livestock farm near Sebergham. She studied Rural Enterprise and Land Management at Harper Adams University.

Tracey looks at the extra hurdles she has faced as a woman working in an industry which has been very much a man’s world: “Being female and petite is not without its barriers; clients can be inclined to prefer the male agents, as they are perceived as knowing more. Therefore, I feel like I have to work harder to build my reputation because I am a woman.”

Dealing with all aspects of land and rural management, Tracey has many years of experience and works throughout the business supporting and advising clients on a range of rural issues, including Utilities, Compulsory Purchase and Compensation, Landlord and Tenant, Valuations and Property Sales and Acquisitions

Looking to the future, she adds: “Generally Brexit is the big concern at present, and the unknown with regard to what threats or potential opportunities this will bring. It makes business planning extremely difficult. However, I can see potential to embrace technological change, for those who are looking to progress their business.”

Lynne Grieve, Fieldsperson for Harrison and Hetherington.

Originally from Whiteside Farm, just north of Hexham, Lynne aged 40, has worked for Harrison and Hetherington for over 16 years.

She first started her career with ADAS and then went on to help Defra with their helpline during foot and mouth, “this was a very challenging and emotional time, some farmers during this time just wanted to chat.” With a farming background and many years of experience, Lynne has a very natural synergy with farmers.

When she joined Harrison and Hetherington in 2002, to telephone and negotiate with the farmers, she was the only female on the team at that time: “It was challenging to begin with, being the only female but I am hugely well supported by the team of 14 auctioneers.

During her time with H&H, Lynne has completed her auctioneering exams, a hard and in-depth 4-year course. She is now well qualified to complete valuations and can assist with auctioneering.

“I have wonderful customers right across from Carlisle to Northumberland, and yes it was a challenge to gain the respect with some of the farmers, but that is certainly not the case today”, she said.

Now, Lynne works across Harrison and Hetherington’s 9 auction marts and is mainly involved with the store cattle side of the business. Her single most important aim is to work with farmers to ensure that she keeps a steady flow of livestock coming though the auction marts, as well as driving sales, both online and farm to farm.

Today, Lynne is no longer the only female in the team, and she now sees a lot more women working within the industry. “When I first started, if a vehicle backed into the loading bay, it was 99% of the time a man that popped out, now I am delighted to see that more and more women are driving the wagons.”

Lynne’s favourite part of the job is being responsible for taking in the livestock entries for the annual Agri-Expo, and on the pedigree days where she is responsible for bid spotting. “I absolutely love it, I love to support the auctioneers, and act as their assistant. They are a great team, and it is a pleasure to work with them all. They look after me and certainly, if there was a wild cow, they will always make sure I am safe and secure.”

Nina Oxley, Marketing Manager at H&H Group

Originally from Northamptonshire, Nina worked and started her career in marketing with Willett International Ltd, a barcoding and labelling company. She started with the H&H Group in November 2018 as a freelance marketeer but now works full time for the company, and has created a job that she is absolutely passionate about.

She was initially employed to help H&H bring seven companies under the one umbrella. “The companies used to all work independently, but now we all work as a team.”

Nina is the person responsible for establishing an identity for the H&H Group and its companies, which include H&H Land and Property, H&H King, H&H Insurance Brokers, H&H Reeds, H&H Auction Rooms, H&H Michael C L Hodgson and Harrison & Hetherington, and, it is without a doubt, thanks to Nina’s work, that the H&H lozenge is now recognised throughout the United Kingdom.

Nina is especially proud of the work she has recently completed in the last year with H&H Insurance Brokers, scooping two major awards, the Marketing & Customer Engagement award at the 2018 UK Broker Awards and the Feefo Gold Service award for two years in a row, an independent seal of excellence that recognises businesses for delivering exceptional experiences, as rated by real customers.

“I am a traditional marketeer, who has embraced new technology and have brought consistency across the board, uniformity and visibility. My mantra is ‘whilst I can make a difference, I will continue’ and utilising my business knowledge and understanding accrued over the years, I am able to offer advice and mentor on all aspects of business life (not just marketing) throughout the Group.”

The H&H Group today has a wide-ranging portfolio of farming businesses, and Chief Executive Richard Rankin, applauds the great progress made since the days working women were limited to strictly gendered roles:

“My time as Chief Executive has shown how the H&H group only benefits from a diverse work force. With expert skillsets, women consistently contribute to the company with their vast experience and great passion. Taking major roles across all the industries that we operate in goes to show how far females are supported within the H&H Group. We want all employees to feel that their successes speak for themselves, and encourage their progress and career development, especially for those breaking boundaries and traditional roles.”