Name: Fiona Irvine.

Age: 50.

What is your business called?

Rainbow HR Ltd.

Where is it based?


What services does it offer?

We offer a broad range of HR Consultancy services mainly in the transport sector. These include more unusual activities like writing bids to run rail franchises. We also do recruitment and provide a Fairy Job Mother service, which is for people looking for career coaching.

To whom does it sell?

Our main clients are transport companies in the UK and the Middle East, although we also operate across other sectors including retail and utilities. We look after a range of businesses from SMEs to Blue Chip companies.

What is its turnover?


How many employees?

We have two part time employees and I use a virtual PA who is amazing! I also have over 20 associate consultants who we work with regularly and can slot into projects as they come along.

My Virtual PA works by the hour and effectively helps me manage my business and personal life. She does everything from collecting birthday cakes, to booking travel, finding my lost property to doing desk top research. I use someone locally but I know lots of business people who use their virtual PA on-line only – it’s a great concept.

When was it formed?


Why did you take the plunge?

I had always believed I’d ultimately end up with my own business. My father ran his own company doing asbestos removal and I felt I had an entrepreneurial spirit. When I was made redundant from my role as HR Director at ScotRail, it was the push that I needed to go for it and ten years down the line, I have no regrets. I felt I had a strong network and a reputation for getting things done and that gave me the confidence to set up Rainbow HR.

What were you doing before you took the plunge?

I loved my job at ScotRail, where I worked from 2006 to 2009. I was HR Director under chief executive Mary Grant. At that time the franchise was given the power to make things happen – it was very exciting. We had great people in place and we took the good bits of the business and protected them, while changing the way of working across the business. It was a ground-breaking place to work; we invested in people, and made staff’s health and wellbeing a priority.

How did you raise the start-up funding?

My redundancy money funded the business and through my connections and networks, I quickly found work to build and develop Rainbow HR.

What was your biggest break?

Due to my interest in the transport industry (particularly my love of trains!), I was able to specialise, which in the formative days gave me a great focus on an area I was passionate about.

I also discovered early on that I can turn my hand to anything, which gave me the confidence to go for projects and get involved.

What was your worst moment?

I worked on a bid to run ScotRail with National Express in 1997 as a consultant. This took six months of my life, followed by six months of waiting for the result and we came a close second. It was really disappointing, but I had a project in Bahrain mobilising a new bus company to work on, so I threw myself into that and moved on.

What do you most enjoy about running the business?

I love meeting new clients and really getting to understand how our HR solutions can help them drive business success. People are key and at the heart of almost every business.

I also see the business as an opportunity to help people. We give one per cent of our profits to charity as well as championing various charities and great causes including supporting the Railway Benefit Fund and local charities including Cancer Support Scotland.

What do you least enjoy?

I’m not keen on paperwork and administration; it seems to pile up, especially as I travel a lot. I made a life changing decision to appoint a Virtual PA and what a difference it has made! I wish I’d done it years ago. My time is now focussed where it can really make a difference.

What is your biggest bugbear?

I think it’s a really unsettled time for businesses and Brexit has brought about a lot of uncertainty. It’s difficult to predict how it will all end, however, all businesses are all surviving in the same turbulent times and there will be opportunities out there for the taking. So my bugbear is those who complain and do nothing… I would say; prepare, harness the opportunities, get a mentor, work in partnership, treat your staff well, read the advice available, attend the free seminars, network, look at funding options, don’t do nothing.

What could the Westminster and/or Scottish governments do that would help?

A reduction in corporation tax would be very welcome, and a continued focus on promoting SMEs in the supply chain.

What was the most valuable lesson that you learned?

I would say (to myself, my team and clients): “Don’t panic”. If change is afoot whether you are employed or run your own business, it can be an opportunity and a chance to be creative. Use your network and be adaptable.

How do you relax?

I don’t!! I do love to have fun, whether it be arranging charity events or socialising. I recently set myself a bucket list of five things to do before I turned 50 – random fun things that were just a bit different including being a zoo keeper for the day! Life is all about experiences and you work for such a lot of your lifetime so you should do something that inspires you and makes you smile.