Meet inspirational Suffolk business owner - HR specialist Chris Wright who doesn’t allow disability to hold him back
- Credit: Archant
Gina Long meets Chris Wright
What is it like being disabled in the world of work – and especially living and working through a pandemic? Gina Long talks to Chris Wright, who has cerebral palsy. He talks about his journey to being the owner of Talman HR and the lessons he has learned as both employee and business owner.
Tell me about your condition.
I have cerebral palsy which affects the functioning of all four limbs. I cannot weight bear without assistance/the use of mobility aids. I am a full-time electric wheelchair user and I live in an adapted flat where I also work from home.
Tell me about your life growing up in Suffolk.
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My family and I always tried to lead as normal life as possible. I have been lucky enough to benefit from many of the rich experiences that this county has to offer - even if access required a little ingenuity, particularly in earlier years, when I was travelling across much of the county. Close family and friends have always been important to me and while my social groups have never been particularly large, I have always valued and accepted their assistance and support.
What are your memories of education?
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I started off my education in a special school, at Thomas Wolsey in Ipswich, and quickly moved into partial special and mainstream education after two to three years, becoming one of the first pupils in the county to do so. I enjoyed mainstream education much more, this was largely because I was able to express myself and I saw my only major limitation as physical rather than cognitive. I feel that I went on to build many of my future educational successes while at Thomas Mills in Framlingham where the school could not have done more to accommodate my needs. For instance, I was often consulted when major adaptations to the school infrastructure were made for disability or diversity purposes and this is something that I have always advocated to organisations since. My university experiences were also excellent.
How would you describe the support given by your family?
Quite exceptional and hugely supportive. I have always thought that any member of my family has been able to support me during both the good and difficult times and I always try to do the same in return. They always gave me 100% and this is something for which I shall always be grateful.
What has been the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic in your life and how has it changed your perspective?
Very little has changed in terms of my routine apart from the fact that I have to manage my disability as an individual. A lot has changed on the work side, from a reduced workload, pivoting the business to provide advice and support on flexible and remote working needs. I find that some people struggle with the change due to the need to be highly disciplined and try to recognise or build in a degree of distinction between work and personal life. If I may put a largely positive spin on the situation, I feel that it has the potential to be a great leveller. It is very unlikely that the future of work will go back to being the same as it was before and therefore we will just have to adjust to these new realities and routines. People and organisations seem to be much more accommodating of flexible and remote working needs now because it has been forced upon them.
How have you found the workforce attitude towards you and in the broader terms?
Mixed – most people recognise the need to employ diverse talent, even if it is from a largely legalistic perspective. What few people and organisations realise is the value from a societal and economic perspective that fully integrated diverse teams can bring with their wide range of experiences, perspectives, attitudes and practices contributing to more dynamic and innovative organisations in most cases.
If you could change one thing about an employer’s attitudes to disabled people, what would it be?
How can organisations expect people to gain experience if they are only provided access to it in limited cases? This was one of the main reasons for starting my consultancy business so early in my career. Time will tell if it ends up being successful, but you never know until you try and anything in life is always worth a go.
Tell me about your HR company? Why did you take the plunge? Do you have a mission statement?
Talman HR specialises in talent management and inclusion because I feel that it is important to emphasise socio-economic benefits of diverse talent and diversity of thought more widely rather than just seeing it as a tick box or legal compliance exercise.
Do you advise companies on disability in the workplace and other circumstances?
Yes - this is where the majority of Talman HR’s work and interest comes from.
What would be your advice for a young entrepreneur wanting to start their own business?
If you have an idea, investigate and consider whether starting your own business is for you. Make sure that you come at most fields from an interesting and innovative perspective in order to try to gain advantage or at least parity as quickly as possible. Don’t try to do everything all at once and expect tough times ahead – it is unlikely that you will be able to make much if any profit in the first few years but you have to remain focused because you need to give your ideas and business time to grow and adapt before working out whether it is likely to be successful or not.
What is your biggest business achievement to date?
Securing funding for R&D projects, UK/Global networking and published articles in leading HR sector journals.
Are there day-to-day frustrations you would like to share?
Adapting my lifestyle around the needs of my disability can be challenging but you just have to take the positives rather than the negatives of the situation and except that this is the way that you largely work. There are no magic bullets or guarantees but at least if you go with your instinct and see whether things work for you, you can be safe in the knowledge that you tried your best
What does Suffolk mean to you?
A beautiful county in which to live and work in the area where I have spent most of my life. The benefits of a largely rural existence are only being emphasised now due to uncertainties with the Covid-19 situation. On occasions, I admit that I have thought about moving out of the county but I have decided the work-life balance which Suffolk provides, combined with improving transport links, and the move to remote working, means there is no better place to live and work in the UK.
To find out more about Talman HR, please visit www.talmanhr.com