Scaling new business heights

October 1, 2019

Sophie Milliken, managing director of SRS, reflects on a career that has led her to become an awarding-winning businesswoman and author

At the recent FL National Awards and Summit in Newcastle, where I won the Female Entrepreneur category, Jacqui Miller-Charlton MBE gave a keynote speech about business being a ‘fun hobby’.

That comment resonated.

At events I speak at, I always talk about how if you do what you love and take consistent action every day then it doesn’t feel like hard work and you can’t fail, and I truly believe that.

I have applied that to my own career and to my recent achievement of writing my first book, just published.

My career has been filled with fun.

I joined the John Lewis graduate scheme from university, securing an excellent grounding in leadership and business by being a manager on virtually every department in the Newcastle branch.

I moved into the HR team, cutting my teeth with a store-based learning and development role, coaching managers, designing and delivering training.

I took a secondment to head office and six months turned into six years, while my last role at John Lewis was managing graduate recruitment.

I really enjoyed networking with other graduate recruiters and developing relationships with universities throughout the country.

A proud moment was achieving the number nine ranking in the prestigious Times Top 100 Graduate Employers list.

While I loved my time at John Lewis and living in London, my heart is in the North East, so I set up Smart Resourcing Solutions (now SRS) in 2013.

Specialising in graduate recruitment, we design and deliver assessment processes and materials for employers.

We are the leading supplier of assessment centre simulations for universities, evidenced by winning awards for this service and running the largest-scale assessment events in the UK.

The first few years saw steady growth and provided time to understand how to run a small business.

In 2017, I took over full ownership of SRS.

In the two years since, SRS has seen a huge growth in turnover and profit, more than trebling in size.

There are more employees, bigger office space and the associate team has grown to 43.

University work has grown hugely. SRS is now known for running large-scale assessment centre simulations in football stadiums and this year the biggest event hosts over 3000 students at Watford’s Vicarage Road.

These events are not only huge fun, but they make a positive impact on the employment prospects of thousands of students who are better prepared when they apply for jobs.

Each year, I take on a self-development challenge. This year that included writing my first book.

From Learner to Earner was published in August and is a guide for students and graduates, helping them secure their first job.

It has received praise from students, parents and academics for its practical advice and useful templates.

I’m now planning a textbook version of the book to support my aim of encouraging every UK university to embed employability into every course.

This year, SRS has also won more awards than every previous year put together and achieved a record turnover year.

On the back of that, the company has been proud to merge with GradTouch, a graduate media company based in Manchester and London, supporting our joint aim of improving job opportunities for UK students.

Culminating in a stunning new rebrand for SRS, I am confident to say it’s been quite a year!

From Learner to Earner out now via Amazon and all good book stockists.

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