Howarths MD Gavin Howarth.
Jane Imrie

Meet the MD: Howarths managing director Gavin Howarth talks family values, forward thinking and future opportunities

When former police detective Andy Howarth spotted a gap in the market for fixed-fee HR, employment law and health and safety advice for small and fast-growing businesses in 2003, Howarths was born.

Fast forward 15 years and more than 500 clients later, the West Yorkshire business is now led by Andy’s son, Gavin, who is managing director.

Bdaily spoke with Gavin to find out more about how the Howarth family’s values have shaped the business, and what the future has in store for the firm.

Can you tell the readers about yourself first of all - i.e. your background, where you are from etc?

“Growing up, like a lot of young lads, I wanted to play football for England. The entire Howarth family are lifelong Leeds United fans and football has always been a huge part of my life.

“As I got a bit older, I wanted to follow in my dad, Andy’s, footsteps and be in the police (my dad is a former detective) but as I matured and did well in school, I realised a career in law would be a good fit.

“I went to university in Leeds and then went on to qualify as a solicitor at Squire Patton Boggs in Leeds. After I’d completed my training contract, I decided to join our family firm, Howarths, in 2010.

“I’ve been managing director now for six years after our succession plan saw my dad, Andy, take a step away from the day-to-day running of the business and assume his current role as chairman.”

What does your role entail?

“It’s two-fold really. From a people perspective, my number one priority is to lead and empower the Howarths team to be the very best they can be, and I see it as my duty to make sure the excellent colleagues I have around me can excel every day by providing a vibrant, positive and inclusive working environment.

“Operationally, I oversee all parts of the business and balance my time between supporting our employment law team online, face to face and over the phone to deliver support and advice to our clients, and making strategic decisions alongside the rest of the board to make sure we’re always pushing forward, innovating and growing.”

When was Howarths set up, and how has it grown since then?

“Howarths was founded in 2003 by my dad, Andy, and my mum, Helen, in the front room of our family home with little more than a computer, phone and list of contacts to start calling.

“My dad spotted a gap in the market to provide fixed-fee, unlimited HR, employment law and health and safety consultancy service to SME owners looking for honest, reliable and timely support as they grew their own businesses.

“Fast forward to 2020, and we now have a team of 22 supporting more than 500 clients across Yorkshire and the wider UK, including brands such as high street footwear retailer, Moda in Pelle, The Leeds United Foundation and The John Smith’s Stadium in Huddersfield.”

What is it about your organisation that motivates and excites you the most?

“The people I work with. At Howarths, we’re a relatively young but very experienced team, meaning we bring a fresh and dynamic approach to the work we do and are able to make what can sometimes be viewed as a very complex industry, accessible and relatable for the clients we work with.

“The fact it’s my family name above the door is a huge motivator, and every day I do my best to make sure that both clients and staff are proud to walk through it.” Looking back on the past year, what has been your biggest achievement?

“It’s slightly longer than a year ago, but in 2018 we celebrated our 15TH year in business. That was a very proud moment for both the family and everyone we work with.

“Taking time to reflect on how the business has grown and how far it has come was great, but we’re always striving to further ourselves and don’t rest on our laurels for long!

“We’ve also achieved a decent string of award wins recently, including being named Family Business of the Year at The National Family Business Awards and Family Business of the Year in the regional heat of the Chamber of Commerce Awards.”

What have been your biggest challenges during your time at Haworths so far, and how have you overcome them?

“I think the biggest challenge has been ensuring our identity and way of doing business has not been watered down as the business has grown.

“We now employ 22 people and as more people join the business - on most occasions from other businesses with different ways of doing things - it can sometimes be a challenge to ensure that our company culture and ethos isn’t diluted.

“We’ve worked hard to ensure the Howarths brand and ethos has remained strong and focused throughout our growth to ensure our continued success.”

What does the future hold for your company? Any exciting projects in the pipeline we should know about?

“We’re always looking at how we can work smarter and support our clients better, and we recently launched a new service to support companies with business immigration law, which has had a very successful start.

“We’ll also look to add new members to the team as the business grows, while remaining true to our day one values of trust, respect, honesty and integrity that have enabled us to build the business we have today.”

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