Louise Stonier joined Pets at Home in 2004 as Head of Legal and Company Secretary and was promoted to Group Legal Director and Company Secretary in 2008.
She became Chief People and Legal Officer in 2017. Louise is also the Chair and Trustee of the charity, Support Adoption For Pets. Louise graduated from Nottingham University with an LLB (Hons) and joined CMS Cameron McKenna as a trainee solicitor. After qualifying as a Corporate solicitor in 1999, Louise moved to DLA Piper LLP and as an associate in the Corporate Team, acted on a number of corporate finance and M&A transactions.
Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role
I am Chief People and Legal Officer at leading UK pet care brand Pets at Home. I graduated from the University of Nottingham and then qualified as a Corporate Solicitor at CMS McKenna. My first job was at DLA Piper as an Associate, where I gained a taste of working in a large team with a broad mix of views and skills. This was my first appreciation of the complexities of the workplace and the importance of effective HR in practice.
Motivated by my love of animals and an appreciated for the Pets at Home ethos, I took a big step up into the role of Head of Legal and Company Secretary. The variety of the business was both exciting and a challenge. Driving the HR function of a business that encompasses traditional retail, grooming, vet practices in addition to head office means you must constantly adapt to different roles and expectations.
I have now been at Pets at Home since 2004, progressing to my current role as Chief People and Legal Officer. At Pets at Home I am committed to driving an inclusive, engaging and productive workplace for our teams up and down the UK.
Did you ever sit down and plan your career?
Yes, to the extent that I always wanted to work in a people-centric role and to make a difference in whatever company I joined. I originally trained as a Corporate Solicitor so expected to be working in corporate environments, but did I expect to find a job that combined my love of animals with my career goals? Absolutely not! You never know what opportunities will present or what skills you pick up along the way and for that reason it is essential to be open to every avenue! One of the great aspects of HR is its versatility.
What has been your biggest achievement to date?
“In terms of what I am most proud of I have to say that our partnership with MIND which has placed colleague mental health firmly on our agenda is a particular highlight. Talking about mental health is now becoming part of our DNA. Receiving positive colleague feedback about how the business is empowering colleagues to address this topic, is something I feel really proud of, because 12 months ago it would not have featured on the list of what colleagues think we’re doing well at.”
What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?
I believe that adaptability is key to achieving and maintaining success. You must be willing to learn and flexible to new ways of thinking. Across my career, I have always been open to feedback and improving. Being a leader in HR means that you create a support system for all company employees, and so you are engaged with all aspects of the business. At Pets at Home, every day is different; you must be an expert in the retail, grooming and the vet practices in order to foster an environment of communication and true teamwork.
How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?
I am a firm believer in mentoring. I remember starting my career as an Associate at the DLA Piper LLB Corporate Team and feeling overwhelmed by the stark difference to my university studies. It is times like these that a mentor can be a powerful tool, as a source of expertise and advice. Similarly, as you progress up the career ladder, mentors are vital sources of support.
If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Parity, what would it be?
Gender parity is about more than the number of men and women in a company. For me, the emphasis must be on inclusivity. Fostering an inclusive environment in which all employees feel important and valued is fundamental. All employees should feel empowered to achieve their potential, regardless of gender and ethnicity. In my role at Pets at Home, I make sure that this is maintained at all levels of the business.
If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?
Be bold! Take every opportunity and seize every adventure. Often young people worry about their next move and getting their career ‘just right’ straight away. In reality career paths are unpredictable but whatever role you are in, there are always skills to gain. I am better equipped to do my job well because I have been through different job roles and experiences. Moving to Pets at Home was a bold move for me because it was a significant progression, but my courage and self believe means that I am now in a role that combines my passions and skills – and allows me to make a difference to the working environment of hundreds of people.
What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?
It’s an exciting time for the Pets at Home and it’s fantastic to see the business develop! My focus is to continue to drive support and engagement across the business – happy and engaged employees mean happy customers and that means happy pets!