Blog Featured Image - Biz Awards

Monday 30th January 2017 turned out to be a pretty momentous day. We moved into our brand spanking (and very spacious!) new offices and suitably marked the start of our new chapter with a red ribbon across the door. The team were chuffed with their little ‘moving in’ gifts, the technology seemed to behave itself (in the main) and the neighbours seemed nice, the types who’ll lend us the proverbial bowl of sugar. But just when we thought our day couldn’t get any better… We got a (metaphorical) knock on our new office door and were handed a golden telegram – ok, so it wasn’t an actual telegram, just a lovely lady on the other end of the phone – telling us that we’ve been shortlisted for the Teesside leg of the locally prestigious North East Business Awards in the Best Small Business category.


We’re not sure of our competition just yet and don’t underestimate it’ll be no mean feat, but we’re already feeling pretty incredible that we’ve been recognised for our potential and shortlisted as one of just three finalists in Teesside.


“To be recognised for our contribution to the financial services industry, as well as the regional economy, is pretty amazing! There’s been an awful lot of blood, sweat and tears gone into making Para-Sols the success that it is today and with more exciting plans ahead for this year, this is an extra bit of cheer that will spur me on through undoubtedly lots more of the same!” Cathi Harrison, Owner & Director


Asked to demonstrate our innovation, judges were impressed with the investment we’ve put into the design of our bespoke case management system Rise, alongside our creative thinking in launching our very own Graduate Training Scheme approach to in-house training and our commitment to growing the paraplanning talent pool. With some plans up our sleeve to extend our services too, it’s important our ambitions are reinforced with courage and enthusiasm!


So come on cheerleaders, step forward and make yourselves known. We’d really appreciate the extra dance practice to perfect your pom-pom shaking and high kicks ready for the big night on 30th March. If we walk away with a trophy that night, we get the chance to fight it out with winners from the Tyneside & Northumberland and Durham, Sunderland & South Tyneside regions with just one of us crowned as Best Small Business in the North East.


Give me a P. P! Give me an A…

We all know the phrase ‘work hard, play hard’ don’t we? Well, last week we did just that and enjoyed some well-deserved playtime. But rather than our usual active boisterousness like go-karting and pub-crawling, we slowed it down (a little) and put ‘mind and body wellness’ at the top of the list. So, with a cosy country house retreat as our playground, we enjoyed a rather self-indulgent Sunday together as a team.

After a quick welcome from Cathi (who thanked us for giving up our Sunday lunches!), we kick-started the day with an introduction session to Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) – an approach to improving communication, managing behaviours and a set of techniques used for personal development and self-management. In a time where we typically spend more time awake with our colleagues than we do with loved ones, we think it’s damn important to make sure that we understand each other’s preferences and motivations. It’s this level of understanding that makes our environment at work one that is enjoyable and brings out the best in each and every one of us – what our goals are, what makes us tick, what makes us tock…

Arguably one of our most popular company values is ‘got your back’. It’s exactly that, we look out for each other in the same way older sibling’s do. With an ambitious year ahead, and what is already proving to be a busy start to the year, we put a lot of energy into exploring and perfecting meditation techniques to focus our minds on what we want to get out of 2017 and to keep our stress cues at bay.

It’s not a Para-Sols Away Day without some friendly competition amongst the team and a bit of physical activity to get the blood pumping so surrounded by the Durham Dales, we headed out for a ramble. When in Rome and all that. The girls also had the chance to prove their flexibility (or lack of in some cases, mentioning no names) with a Yoga masterclass and the boys rallied their testosterone on a tennis court and tested their strength with some resistance bands. When we all felt positively ‘pumped’, an outdoor bubbling hot-tub and raging sauna was on-hand to help us unwind and gave solace to our weary muscles.

People often liken the team to that of a family and that was no more evident than at the end of the day – all huddled around the one big table for dinner, sporting full stomachs, poking fun at each other and can-you-pass-the-salt style conversation.

“To see the team together, interacting with each other with such ease really is a humbling sight to see. When I first started Para-Sols, I never set out with the intention of running a company of this size so admittedly, the people management side of running a business used to scare the hell out of me. I realised very quickly that I was overthinking it. Yes I’d never been a manager before but I had been managed and actually, it is no more than making sure my team feel appreciated. It’s only when I engage their hearts and their minds that I can expect to see their discretionary effort which for me, is absolutely crucial to the way we service our clients” Cathi Harrison, Director.

Our Away Day’s are always well received (who doesn’t love a Sunday afternoon in the spa?!) but lasting change is never achieved in just one day. It’s habitual and doing something time and time again. And although we’d love to spend every afternoon in the great outdoors or sipping something fizzy poolside, it’s not realistic. So we were careful to take away an important message with us – that each of us are personally responsible for our physical and mental wellbeing. As a company though we need to match those responsibilities and make sure we create an environment which walks the talk. That’s why we always have a brimming fruit bowl, 2-minute meditations and a code word which gets us up out of our seats to get the blood flowing back to our legs. Oh, and wine chilling in the fridge.

P.S Incase you were wondering, the code word is ‘apricots’. Drop it into conversation during your next interaction with the team –  you’ll be doing your bit at keeping them healthy!

Wellness Day Blog

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Wow, it’s January again. The start of another new year and we’re feeling all warm and fuzzy with excitement and trepidation of what ‘new’ 2017 will bring – new offices, new team members, new products…

We know the old adage tells you “never look back” – and on the whole we don’t – but with an incredibly positive 2016 under our belt, we can’t help but look back over our shoulder with a smile on our face and naturally, we wanted to share the memories with you before we commit it to the archives entirely. So we’re doing it, looking back at some of the top highlights of 2016. What can we say, we’re rebels.


Back to 2017 and it’s time to sharpen our pencil and get motoring on our plans to make sure this year is just as, if not more, positive than the last. So join us in raising a glass – thank you 2016 and here’s to 2017 and embracing all the change it brings!