Entrepreneur Spotlight: Advice from Fiona Gathright, A Minority Business Owner

Posted on May 28th, by a Guest Contributor in Entrepreneurship. No Comments

In the fall of 2004, my business partner Juliet Rodman and I founded Wellness Corporate Solutions, a national provider of workplace health screenings and corporate wellness programming. Back then, our headquarters was my kitchen table — and for the next three years, Juliet and I were the only employees. We worked every day to become part of an exciting and rapidly-growing industry.

 

Fast-forward to 2015. We now manage almost 100 full-time employees and thousands of subcontractors across the country. Our corporate headquarters in Bethesda, Maryland, is filled to capacity. Over the past ten years, we’ve worked with more than 500 private- and public-sector organizations, including Fortune 100 companies with hundreds of thousands of employees. Inc. Magazine has named Wellness Corporate Solutions one of the country’s fastest-growing privately-owned companies three years in a row.

 

As an African American and female small business owner, I’ve dealt with my share of obstacles along the way. But obstacles can be overcome, and I’d like to offer a few pieces of advice that may help you on your own journey.

 

Know your business. The fundamental hurdle most minority business owners face is access to capital. Forming lasting relationships with lenders, investors, and equity firms is absolutely crucial. To be successful, you must understand every aspect of your business and become fluent in the language of finance. Be comfortable discussing your business’s fundamentals: cash flow, revenue, overhead, profit margins, capitalization, and market share. Make it a priority to absorb everything you can find that relates to your industry. Corporate wellness was a relatively new concept in 2004 and I faced a steep learning curve. Even today, I’m still reading about industry best practices, the movement of my competition, shifts in the market, and legislation that could affect my business. The learning never stops.

 

Become certified. Wellness Corporate Solutions is certified as a minority business enterprise through the National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC), and as a 100% woman-owned business through the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC). These relationships have given us the opportunity to network with other minority-owned businesses, which I believe is essential. We should seek out and support each other whenever possible. From a business perspective, certification has also helped us connect with large organizations that are actively seeking to work with minority-owned businesses, often to meet internal supplier diversity goals. Certification can and does open doors.

 

Make the case. In our company’s early days, Juliet and I pitched to (mostly) male CEOs and CFOs time and time again. I met with countless high-level corporate executives who did not look like me. You may find yourself in similar situations, making the case for your business under challenging circumstances. But when you have genuine passion for what you do, difficulties become what I call “teachable moments” that just prepare you for the next challenge, and the next. Never forget the passion that drove you to start your business in the first place. In my case, I often hear from people who attended one of our health screenings and found out they had a serious health condition — serious, but treatable. Knowing that our work is changing lives for the better is what motivates me every single day.

 

Owning your own business requires tremendous energy and commitment, but if you’re truly committed to your mission and are willing to learn, go for it. You already have what it takes to succeed.

 

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About the Author: Fiona Gathright is the founder and president of Wellness Corporate Solutions, an award-winning woman-owned business that builds customized, high impact corporate wellness programs. WCS clients include media companies, law firms, associations, non-profits and private employers nationwide.

 


Legacies

Posted on May 19th, by Jennifer Payne in Business and Workplace, Leadership, On My Mind. No Comments

I’ve been thinking a lot about legacies lately.

You see, last week I had the opportunity to participate in a unique and amazing experience.  In preparation for and in honor of the impending retirement of long time music teacher and director of the Quaker Marching Band from Orchard Park High School outside of Buffalo, NY, a group of current members and band alumni gathered for a surprise final performance and tribute to our leader of so many years and so many graduating classes.  The group numbered at 175, encompassed 6 states, and spanned the years 1986 – 2015.  I was there, proudly spinning my flag with the color guard, something I hadn’t done in 21 years.  The feeling of being a part of such a salute was overwhelming, his reaction was heartwarming, the video and verbal tributes were touching, and I’d be surprised if there were many dry eyes in the auditorium by the end.  And that group of 175 people who had never performed together before approximately 7PM that night….pretty darn impressive, from my not at all biased opinion.  It was our own version of “Mr. Holland’s Opus,” if you will.

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But the theme that kept running through my head the entire evening was that of legacies, and I feel as if it manifested in several ways.

There was first and foremost the legacy that Chris, our band director, leaves behind.  When you can get that many people, from all parts of the country, some of whom hadn’t picked up an instrument, flag, or rifle in decades, to drop everything to be a part of a tribute, you know that person has made a lasting impact.  The number quoted was 700 people who have been a part of the band over the years, and there were many who were devastated that logistically they just couldn’t be there for this final tribute.  Talking to some of the alumni from my era afterwards, we all agreed that being a part of the band was something we would never forget, that was such an important part of our high school years, and the lessons learned still remain with us as adults.  I had the privilege of serving as color guard captain my junior and senior years, and those leadership skills learned are certainly still relevant to me as an adult.  Chris was our leader throughout this critical, wonderful time in our lives, and as such he was always be remembered for it.  Being a part of “QMB” taught us the value of hard work and dedication; resilience and how to bounce back from failure and defeat; and confidence, pride, and that success requires practice, some wrong notes, and more than a few dropped flags.  A true legacy that spans decades, crosses state lines, and likely finds its way into the personal and professional lives of hundreds.

The other aspect of legacy that touched me was a little more personal, and that was having had the opportunity to be a part of something much bigger than myself.  There was a good sized contingent of alumni from my era that took part, but as I looked around as we were gathered in the gym beforehand and read the nametags and graduation years of others there, I realized how many eras this band has spanned.  There were those that came before me, and many, many who came after me.  In the four years that I was a member, I helped to set the stage for the success of those who came after, just as those who came before me set the stage for my success.  Pretty inspiring when you think about how many people have worn that uniform, marched those football fields, and accepted those awards at competitions across the years.  And we all played a part in making the band what it has become today.

If you’ve stayed with me and indulged my walk down memory lane to this point, you may be thinking, “What does this have to do with a human resources blog?”

The truth is, we ALL have the opportunity to create a legacy, no matter what we do or where we work.  We often talk about the legacies that teachers or coaches build, but it’s not unique to those professions.  As leaders and as HR professionals, we have the opportunity to touch our employees’ and coworkers lives every day.  So I ask you, as a leader, as an HR professional:

  • Are you helping to create work environments and cultures that encourage failure on the way to success?
  • Are you creating environments where employees feel a part of something bigger than themselves?
  • Are you personally helping to set the stage within your company for the successes that may come after you are gone, either from your position or from the company itself?
  • Is your culture one that instills the values in your employees that you would want them to keep with them and pass on to others?
  • As you make decisions that affect your employees, do you make them within the framework and mindset of how they might impact their lives?

When your employees, coworkers, executives, and others you work with on a daily basis reflect on your time with the company and your contributions, what kind legacy will they say you left?  I know that I hope mine is even a small fraction of what I felt around me on May 11, 2015.

Band ten HUT!

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About the Author: Jennifer Payne, SPHR, SHRM-SCP has over 16 years of HR experience in employee relations, talent acquisition, and learning & development, and currently works in talent acquisition and development in the retail grocery industry.  She is one of the co-founders of Women of HR, and is currently the Editor of the site. You can connect with her on Twitter as @JennyJensHR and on LinkedIn.


6 Key Components for Launching a Successful Mentoring Program

Posted on May 13th, by a Guest Contributor in Business and Workplace. 1 Comment

One of the most important functions of HR is to acquire and retain top talent. And since millennials, who will make up close to 50 percent of the workforce by 2020, rank mentoring as one of the most important factors they weigh when choosing between employers, many companies are turning to mentoring programs as a way to set themselves apart from the competition. In fact, three-quarters of Fortune Magazine’s top 25 companies have employee-mentoring programs.

Mentoring provides much more than just a “good feeling” among millennial workers. It also provides an avenue for honing and developing your employees’ talents and skills, while making them more confident in their abilities and more connected to the company. In addition, mentoring helps you discover which employees have leadership potential.

However, mentoring is only effective if it is properly planned and executed. According to How to Build a Successful Mentoring Program, a how-to guide produced from the research of UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School, mentoring should include six key components:

  1. Purpose: There should be a clear, strategic purpose that aligns with organizational goals and objectives. For example, the mentoring may be needed to fill a skills gap. Also, both the mentor and mentee must be committed to the importance of the mentoring process and make it a priority.
  2. Communication: There are two types of communication involved. The first communication is to introduce employees to the mentoring program and ensure that they know what the mentoring is for and who can participate. With proper communication, even the employees who don’t participate can support the company’s efforts. The second type of communication is between the mentor and mentee. They may meet one-on-one, in groups, by email or videoconference, or by other means, but the meetings should be regular.
  3. Trust: The relationship must be built on trust. For both parties to feel comfortable sharing at the level that can truly be effective, there must be an understanding and commitment to maintain the confidentiality of the communication.
  4. Process: The process may be formal or informal. However, there should be a way to match the mentor and mentee, and it’s also important to determine such things as the length of the mentoring and the meeting dates and times. In addition, both parties must be actively engaged to move at an appropriate speed.
  5. Progress: HR should establish check-in points (two months, four months, six months, eight months and then a final meeting) to ensure that both parties are reaching their goals and milestones. This includes having metrics for measuring the progress of the mentoring sessions.
  6. Feedback: Both participants must provide constructive feedback and be open to receiving feedback from each other.

Following these tips will help you plan and carry out an effective mentoring program that creates engaged, confident employees, leading to a more unified and productive workforce.

 

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About the Author:  Alison Napolitano is the community manager for MBA@UNC, UNC Kenan-Flagler’s online MBA degree. Alison has a background in digital marketing, and account management. As a former college athlete, Napolitano is goal-driven has a passion for helping people and brands succeed online. Her other interests include content marketing, any form of athletics, and family.


Why Leadership Skills Should Be Universal Skills

Posted on May 6th, by a Guest Contributor in Business and Workplace. No Comments

Leadership skills are one of the many traits needed to be a successful leader. Women have closed the gender gap in entry and mid level positions, but have yet to reach that in top leadership skills. Susan Colantuono calls this the missing 33%, as women still need to be taught business, financial and strategic acumen to fill this gap. These leadership skills enable people to easily and confidently lead others, skills including but not limited to: ease of communication, natural flexibility, an ability to visualize a goal, thinking critically, and the ability to delegate responsibility effectively.

The ability to communicate effectively is absolutely critical in positions of power in an organization, a small team of people, and even for those not in a leadership position. In organizations, effective communication can save time, can prevent misunderstandings, and oftentimes can relax workers beneath you and above you. We’d all like to think we’re the perfect manager but there is always room for improvement. In a small team of people, the ability to communicate effectively can prevent misunderstandings, assist with visualization of objectives, and make things easier to achieve. Individuals who aren’t in leadership positions can use these skills to better present their needs to management. This skill can be developed through regular practice, and doing things to lessen anxiety felt by the speaker.

 

Flexibility

Leaders who are naturally flexible in a business are able to naturally shift objectives and methods used to achieve objectives. Flexibility is also vital for those not currently in a leadership position. This skill will allow them to be teachable, and always in line with the end goal of management. Overall, employees with flexibility will become an essential element to the business, increasing their job security. Flexibility prevents all employees from getting terribly stressed in a world where plans change, and where things tend to be less simple than they might have appeared initially.

 

Visualize Objectives

Visualization of objectives enables leaders to have a set destination. It’s also the first thing a good leader should do, so he or she can recognize when they’ve accomplished a goal. How does this benefit those outside leadership positions? Well, visualization enables these people know where they want to go within their professional lives. Do they see themselves as a manager, or even the next CMO? Visualizing this will help them take the steps necessary to get there. This aligns with the known method of focusing on a single large objective and devoting energy to achieving that goal, while taking other factors into account but not losing sight of the overarching goal.

 

Critical Thinking

Thinking critically is a useful skill for it enables an intelligent leader to take factors into account. Leaders use critical thinking to troubleshoot in the moment, and to come up with reasonable solutions. Critical thinking is a skill for all members of an organization. When given new tasks and assignments learning the new process quickly is essential for keeping up with the ongoing business. This is a situation where critical thinking skills will help employees be a quick learner. Ultimately this can lead to an increase in trust from management, leading to more responsibilities.

 

Delegation

Delegation in the context of leadership refers to the ability to divide labor intelligently and assigning people to the areas they are the most responsible and able to contribute. Make sure you are an effective delegator. Understanding yourself is a part of this skill, knowing your strengths, your weaknesses. This is an extremely useful skill in business and in the professional area, but in terms of the average employee it can also be used to mean the ability to manage time equally and effectively. Delegate your day and what time of the day will be devoted to specific tasks.

 

At the end of the day, leadership skills should be a part of your professional life in order to progress and lead effectively. Even those who don’t currently have a management position can be devoting time to the development of these skills. Practicing these skills will prepare employees to promotions and strengthen the organization as a whole.

 

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About the Author: JP George grew up in a small town in Washington. After receiving a Master’s degree in Public Relations, she has worked in a variety of positions, from agencies to corporations all across the globe. Experience has made JP an expert in topics relating to leadership, talent management, and organizational business. 


A Look in the One-Way Mirror: Facing Inequity as a Female HR Executive

Posted on April 29th, by a Guest Contributor in Business and Workplace. No Comments

 

In Human Resources, as much as any professional discipline, we women have hit our stride. Given the opportunity to compete in the field, we’ve succeeded: to reduce turnover, attract and retain those diamonds in the rough, and build reputations for respectable (and even press-worthy) organizational culture. It’s been our ticket to the C-suites of the Fortune 500 – and not a moment too soon. And as the scope of the job changes from “intuition” to data-driven strategy, we have the chance to show our adaptability, too.

But then again, our stature puts us in an awkward position. Despite our best efforts to promote organization-wide diversity and inclusion, all too often we discover unfair treatment – especially of women.

And we want to do something about it.

Really, you want to do what’s best for your own professional development and career goals, but you also want to support the marginalized, underrepresented people in your own organization. How can you do both of these things both effectively and fairly? Even if these distinct goals aren’t completely at odds, how do you send a message to those around you what your priorities are?

It’s a question I’ve seen come up to the surface over and over for a long time. Our exit interview software actually came out of a project to identify the greatest barriers to the advancement of women and minorities in the workplace. We’ve uncovered pivotal opportunities for our clients, but we’ve also encountered challenges that most executives would hope to sweep under the rug.

One of the best – and worst – parts of creating a truly anonymous exit interview system is the abundance of brutally honest answers.

These are the real voices of women at one of our clients. This is a large (10,000+) and decentralized organization, but neither a poor performer nor ideologically backwards. The employees’ reasons for leaving, for example, hardly deviate from our measured industry norms. And yet comments like these are far too common:

“The biggest thing I noticed at [the company] is that if you’re a woman, you had better act ladylike. There was nothing more contemptible than a woman who spoke her mind. As a woman you were supposed to just nod and do as you were told. I was described as “aggressive.” I’m not aggressive. I am passionate and dedicated. I take pride in what I do and do it well. This is not what was rewarded. Being demure seems to be ‘leadership’ quality most desired at [the company].”

“My boss had a very hard time providing accolades, at least to the women who reported to her. She didn’t seem to have a problem telling the men who reported to her that they were doing a good job or even giving them credit for work done by somebody else, but she had a hard time telling a woman that she was doing a good job… Most of the time, my boss would cut me off if I started to speak during a meeting.”

“Men are definitely recognized more than women in the department.”

“I was repeatedly harassed by [a male coworker]. When I demanded it stop… [he] went to management and lied.”

“I was harassed several times and nothing was done about it.”

Of course I’ve picked a few especially unpleasant-to-read examples, but haven’t you felt this way at least once in your career? If not, I envy you. If you’re anything like me, this sounds all too familiar, if a bit distant. And, if you’re anything like me, part of why you’re still in the business is because you believe it doesn’t have to be this way.

But what now?

Imagine these were your findings. Or, maybe you don’t have to. Maybe you’ve already faced this issue within your organization. How do you deal with it? Tell us in the comment section.

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About the Author: Deb Dwyer is the founder and president of HSD Metrics, a provider of organizational surveys designed to increase retention, engagement and organizational effectiveness. With over 30 years of combined experience in human resource management and survey research, Deb’s extensive knowledge reaches beyond organizational research to include expertise in work climate improvement, retention, hiring and selection, employee orientation, performance management systems, recognition programs and career development systems. 


Not Haunted

Posted on April 21st, by Jennifer Payne in Business and Workplace. No Comments

Last week I had the opportunity to visit New Orleans with a few friends.  New Orleans is one of my favorite cities in which to spend a few days, and I’d been there many times previously.  I love to wander the French Quarter, immersing myself in the sights, sounds, and of course the food of the Crescent City.  And for all of the times I’ve been there, it seems there’s always something new to discover, something unique that catches my interest.

On this particular trip, my friends and I found ourselves wandering down one of the cross streets a little bit away from the main hustle and bustle of the Quarter, and we stumbled across the sign pictured above, advertising an apartment for rent.  Of course we all had a chuckle and each of us stopped to snap a picture of it.  I posted my picture to Facebook with the caption, “Apparently here you have to specify.”

Needless to say, we (and many others, judging by the number of passersby who also stopped to snap a photo) were amused by this bit of information shared.  Was it a clever marketing ploy?  Perhaps.  A quirky tactic designed to draw the attention of tourists like ourselves?  Maybe so.

But here’s the thing.  Tourists like us probably aren’t particularly interested in renting an apartment in the French Quarter, so a fun bit of marketing to draw us in probably wasn’t the intent.  This sign was directed at folks with a real interest in finding a dwelling in which to reside.  And perhaps for those folks, the fact that this apartment is “not haunted” may very well be valuable information to consider in choosing where to live.

We all found it amusing because generally speaking, most of us don’t need to think twice about whether or not the places we live are haunted or not.  We were processing this information from our own individual perspectives, our own realities, through our own assumptions.  But in a city as rich in history at New Orleans, and with many well-documented accounts of hauntings (whether you believe in that sort of stuff or not), this information may not only be valuable, but also very necessary in making housing decisions.  And in fact, upon further research, one of our friends discovered that this is actually a pretty common piece of information to be included on real estate signs throughout the city.

So what does this have to do with human resources, business, or leadership?

How often in the workplace do we fall into the trap of making assumptions based on our own realities, without really digging into the real facts?

  • Do we tend to assume a particular employee or teammate is thinking a certain way….because that’s how we would think?
  • Do we assume everyone is motivated in a particular way or by factors x,y, and z….because that’s what motivates us?
  • In communicating with employees, do we tend to neglect certain details that might be important to others, because they don’t cross our minds as being important?
  • Do we assume that particular female employee wouldn’t want that promotion into that demanding role because she has a young family at home….and surely she wouldn’t want to try to juggle all of those responsibilities?

Instead of striving to understand differences and thinking from a more global perspective, do we tend to fall into the trap of viewing the world through our own lenses?

As fun as it was to stumble across this “Not Haunted” sign, it also provides a valuable lesson in leadership, engagement, diversity, or employee communications.  By making assumptions based on our own reality, we could tend to run the risk of alienating, de-motivating, or misleading our employees, our team members, our coworkers.  Before we jump to conclusions, it’s critical to take a step back, lose our blinders, and think beyond our own realities, lest we find our actions and decisions haunting us!

 

This post was one of several posts written using the same title and inspiration, but examining various topics.  You can read the other Not Haunted posts here and here.

 

About the Author: Jennifer Payne, SPHR, SHRM-SCP has over 16 years of HR experience in employee relations, talent acquisition, and learning & development, and currently works in talent acquisition and development in the retail grocery industry.  She is one of the co-founders of Women of HR, and is currently the Editor of the site. You can connect with her on Twitter as @JennyJensHR and on LinkedIn.


HR From a Different Perspective

Posted on April 14th, by a Guest Contributor in Business and Workplace, Entrepreneurship. 1 Comment

Editor’s Note: Today’s guest post is from Susan Axelrod  again features a female entrepreneur and her lessons learned about building a business and leading successful teams.

 

I started my bakery business, Love and Quiches Gourmet, in my home kitchen in 1973, purely by accident; from just one quiche. I was a clueless suburban housewife with no preparation whatsoever for business ownership. My only qualification was my passion for everything connected to food. I was a very good cook and was cajoled into starting the business by a carpool friend, an equally great cook.

 

We had no plan, we simply started. We made up some quiches, took them to a few local businesses, and before we knew it we had one customer, then two, and then ten. Adding desserts soon followed. By the end of the first year we were servicing about thirty restaurants, and took the giant step of incorporating and moving into our first tiny storefront where we hired one or two employees, and continued to grow.

 

We were the Keystone Kops Quiche Factory; two steps back for every step forward. My partner cried uncle shortly after so I bought her out and quickly realized this little business had a will and a pull of its own. I wanted to stick around though, to see how the movie ended. That was forty years ago.

 

I hired an accountant, and started asking a lot of questions of my customers, my suppliers, my newfound mentor, my peers, my competitors (who didn’t know I was watching), … and I learned from my mistakes, a vastly underestimated learning tool. And this was all before the dawn of the computer age. At the time, I was a one-man band; baker, buyer, salesman, porter and delivery guy.

 

Across the decades, we grew in concentric circles; Metro New York, Metro Tri-State, up and down the Eastern Seaboard, across the Continent, then across the globe. There were as many obstacles thrown in our path along the way as there were victories. There was brutal competition, key customer loss, key employee loss, location moves and so on. But many obstacles were beyond our control; commodity spikes, 9/11 after which the economy came to a dead halt, the Great Recession among them.

 

When looking back at it all, one thing stands out. It is after 9/11 that the business had its “Aha” moment and we reinvented ourselves and our business model; with Just-In-Time and Lean Manufacturing methods.

 

But, by far, our greatest achievement was the rebuilding of our organization from the bottom up— with strong high performance teams, and equally strong directors and middle management.

 

Our employees are our greatest asset and are valued insiders, each skilled in their particular area. We built it slowly through a combination of promoting from within and bringing in outside talent when needed. They are a passionate group— we have the right people on the bus, and in the right seats.

 

At Love & Quiches Gourmet we have eight teams- Operations, Quality Assurance and Food Safety, Engineering, Purchasing and Logistics, Research and Development, HR, Administration, and Sales and Marketing. These teams are all cogs in a wheel with its members highly dependent upon the other; keenly aware that one weak link can bring it all to a grinding halt. Some companies promote healthy competition… I think teamwork is healthier. And even more importantly, mutual respect and tolerance during conflict resolution (there will always be differing points of view; after all, this is a business and not a love affair).

 

We communicate with daily huddles, weekly management and executive meetings, team building, ongoing training, and more. We do not talk down to our employees; we need them. Communication is crucial to keeping us focused and all on the same page. By inviting input across the board, the ideas keep coming.

 

As a private company, there are fewer layers in our decision making which helps us compete with the giants. We are known for our flexibility and receptiveness to new ideas. From the top we set strategic direction, but our teams provide the “meat and potatoes” that bring the results. All 250 of us have “skin in the game”.

 

I have chronicled my forty year journey in my recently published business memoir, “With Love and Quiches: A Long Island Housewife’s Surprising Journey from the Kitchen to the Boardroom” where I emphasize organizational development in chapters devoted to our transition to lean and mean, next leveling, and company culture, all told from the Love and Quiches Gourmet experience.

 

We have come a long way, and it has been a great ride. I take pride that it was my product that put quiche on the map, now served on menus all over the world. And it was my devoted, hardworking and experienced team that got us there.

 

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About the Author:  Susan Axelrod and the word “pioneer” go together like cake and frosting! As the Chairwoman and Founder of Love & Quiches Gourmet, Susan’s journey has paved the way for women entrepreneurs. She started her business with no formal training, only a passion for food. Coupled with her energy and tenacity, Susan was able to take her small business, worldwide. Today, these desserts and quiches are found in restaurants and retailers around the globe. Susan chronicles her experiences in her blog, Susan’s Sweet Talk and her book, With Love & Quiches: A Long Island Housewife’s Surprising Journey from Kitchen to Boardroom

 

 


The Independent HR Practitioner – Achieving the Success You Deserve

Posted on April 7th, by a Guest Contributor in Entrepreneurship. No Comments

Editor’s Note: Although we typically feature content targeted at HR practitioners and leaders, from time to time we also like to highlight guest authors who bring entrepreneurial experience and advice for HR consultants or business owners.  Today’s post is by Ruth Hinds, who has previously been a guest writer for Women of HR, and features her advice on that topic.

 

When you’re running your own HR business, one of the most important skills that you can cultivate is the ability to attract the right clients and grow your operation. Of course, your HR knowledge matters and is vitally important, but if you can’t sell it effectively to the right people, you aren’t going to have a business for very long.

 

The truth is though, if you’re solely trading your time on a one-to-one consultancy basis, you’re inevitably going to reach the point where further growth just isn’t possible. What exactly do you do once you find that all your billable hours are booked up, you’re already increasing your rates steadily and regularly, and you also have a family life and other responsibilities to juggle?  It’s all well and good suggesting that you should ‘lean in’ to the opportunities that are out there, but as a business owner, you sometimes have to engineer your own.

 

Here, we’ll look at three strategies for leveraging your time, so you can grow your HR business to levels that you never previously thought possible, without burning yourself out.

 

Package up your knowledge into information products

If you want to expand your reach and help more businesses to get their HR practice in order, you might want to consider adding information products to your offerings. This is quite simply about packaging up your knowledge so buyers can take it away, digest it in their own time, and implement what they’ve learned. It could be in the form of webinars, online courses, workbooks, or podcast sessions.

 

The beauty of this tactic is that you only have to create the materials once, and you can sell them time and time again. Having options that are lower priced than your one-to-one consultancy services can also ensure that you have something available for those who are interested in what you offer, but don’t want to make a bigger commitment just yet. If you can create information products that are crammed full of value, your buyers will often go on to work with you in greater depth in the future.

 

Sell adverts to complimentary businesses in your email newsletter 

If you don’t already have a database of email subscribers who receive your updates on a regular basis, you should start at the earliest possible opportunity. It’s one of the best and most valuable assets your business can ever have, and it gives you a pool of people who are interested in what you have to offer and have given you permission to market to them.

 

The benefits of this are crystal clear. Next time you create a new service or want to run a special offer, you have an engaged audience that already knows, likes, and trusts you, and wants to know more about how you can help them. It doesn’t end there though. Many businesses create a lucrative income stream by selling advertising space in their email newsletters. It’s essential that you always put the experience of your readers before anything else, and thoroughly vet any potential advertisers. Get it right though, and it’s a relatively hands-off revenue generation tactic for your business.

 

Earn a commission from promoting products and services that you already recommend for free

You’re probably already recommending products and services to your clients, just because you’re passionate about those particular solutions. Maybe there’s a people management software that you think no small business should be without, or perhaps there’s a book that you always shout about to clients.

 

Many businesses offer affiliate programmes for their products and services, so make sure that you find out whether it’s an option for your business. Amazon offers a scheme that you may be interested in if you’re a big book fan, and many software providers will reward you exceptionally well for sending business their way. Be sure to only consider promoting things that you’re confident of the value of, and always be upfront and tell your audience that you’ll earn a commission if they go ahead and make the purchase. Transparency and honesty are key here.

 

The bottom line is that you deserve to be rewarded for your skills, and the value that you can bring to the table for your clients. If you’re serious about business growth, you need the right tools in your kit, and you need to embrace the opportunity to step away from the traditional service provider business model. Advances in technology mean that there’s never been a better time to grow a savvy business that works for you, rather than drives you to the end of your tether.

 

How can you make changes going forward, to better leverage your time and reach your full potential?

 

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About the author:  Ruth Hinds is a leading expert in client attraction and business growth for HR consultants, and the founder and CEO of HR Consultants Marketing School. A former HR professional herself, she’s worked in senior HR management roles and has an MSc in HRM. She’s recently released her first Kindle book, ‘Skyrocket Your HR Consultancy: The HR Business Owners Guide To Creating Multiple Income Streams’. 


True Grit

Posted on March 31st, by Kristin Kaufman in Career Advice, On My Mind. No Comments

Recently, I stumbled across a compelling book written by Paul G. Stoltz, entitled Grit.

He explores the components for extraordinary achievement and what it took to make it happen. I found his exploration compelling, and certainly worth highlighting. He boils the key contributing factors down to: Growth, Resilience, Instinct, and Tenacity. In a nutshell he defines these traits like this:

Growth is your propensity so seek and consider new ideas, additional alternatives, different approaches and fresh perspectives.
Resilience is your capacity to respond constructively and ideally make good use of all kinds of adversity.
Instinct is your gut-level capacity to pursue the right goals in the best and smartest ways.
Tenacity is the degree to which you persist, commit to, stick with, and relentlessly go after whatever you choose to achieve.

I loved his succinct way to bottle the traits so many successful folks have embraced to achieve their dreams. Hi book also compliments the Ted talk offered by Angela Lee Duckworth. Angela explores what distinguished the super star 7th graders from those just eking by. What was the common denominator?  You guessed it: Grit.

Grit is a trait embraced by thousands of unsung heroes in life. One does not have to be a well-known war hero, CEO, or social entrepreneur to exhibit GRIT in their lives. In fact, my most recent book in the ‘Is This Seat Taken?’    book series, highlights 15 folks who very late in life created the life of their dreams, and every single one of them exhibited grit throughout their lives. They are as diverse as one can imagine – from a hospice chaplain to a recovering alcoholic to an unlikely late in life writer. I was inspired while researching and writing about each of these individuals. For example, take Jacqueline Qualls who was laid off at age 62, without enough to retire in the manner in which she desired, and then embarked on a completely different career to create a 7 figure residual income a short five years later. And that is just one example of tremendously resilient souls who have set the bar for each of us to follow.

So, what is the takeaway for application in our lives? Net: we each have the ability to CHOOSE GRIT. We do not control what happens TO us; yet, we do have the ability to choose how we respond to it. Whether we are a corporate middle manager, an enterprising entrepreneur, a single mother, a student struggling with dyslexia, or a recently laid off ‘late in life’ business person – nothing difficult gets accomplished without the toughness and perseverance to see it through. Grit is always at the heart of it.

 

About the Author: Kristin Kaufman is founder of Alignment, Inc.™, formed in 2007 to help individuals, corporations, boards of directors and non-profits find alignment within themselves and their organizations. A prolific writer, Kristin’s first book, Is This Seat Taken? Random Encounters That Change Your Life, was released on 11/1/11 to national acclaim, and endorsed by Stephen Covey and John Maxwell, among others. Her second book in the series, entitled Is This Seat Taken? It’s Never Too Late to Find the Right Seat was released 1/13/15. It has already been endorsed by notables such as Marshall Goldsmith, Sean Covey, and Doug Parker, CEO of American Airlines. This book shines the light on late in life reinvention and encore ‘second half’s’ of diverse individuals. The individuals are in some cases widely known and others are somewhat  anonymous to the mass public. The common thread is their ‘post-50’ resurgence in life and in some cases their ‘fork in the road’ is quite serendipitous. Kristin’s third book, a sequel to ‘Is This Seat Taken?’ will follow later in 2015. Kristin is on Twitter as @kristinkaufman.


Actionable Tips to Grow Your Networks

Posted on March 24th, by a Guest Contributor in Career Advice, Networks, Mentors and Career. 3 comments

“It’s not what you know, but whom you know,” is a phrase with which many of us are familiar, and in today’s hyper-connected world it’s truer than ever. The power of one’s network can’t be diminished, an essential part of professional life that can further your career like nothing else. The right network can solve business problems, expand your knowledge, and catapult your career. It’s a personal advantage that shouldn’t be understated.

With all that said, I find most of us relegate networking to the bottom of our to-do lists, buried under other items that require more immediate priority. But I’d urge you not to delay developing this powerful tool. Building and maintaining one is easier than you’d think and, as I’ve recently discovered, one of the best endeavors you’ll ever undertake.

In the past 18 months, I’ve spent a great deal of time building my own professional network. Truth be told, I previously gave little thought to the power and importance of my professional network when I was in a corporate role, but once out of the daily grind and starting my own enterprise, I’ve realized the incredible value of active networking.

With that said, I’m keen to provide some quick networking strategies that can help you build a successful network, simple time investments that should benefit you for years to come:

Market yourself – Begin by identifying what you have to offer. Look at networking as a way to build your personal brand, which in today’s social media-driven world is incredibly important. Your network is your means of building connections that matter, regardless of your current level or position, so take stock of yourself and understand what you bring to the table.

Know what outcome you desire – Networks work best when viewed as reciprocal relationships, and you should understand what you could contribute as well as wish to receive going in. Here are the criteria that shape my choices:

(1) I create networks that are international in scope because global reach is important to what I do
(2) I wish to connect with people keen to disrupting traditional thoughts and business ideas, sharing ideas centered on changing how we think about the world of work
(3) I wish to embrace connection with other senior executive women across various industries and interests. I am passionate about what women can do in the workplace, and wish to support other women in our professional endeavors
(4) I desire to build a powerful portfolio of HR professionals at various levels. Giving back to my profession and shaping its future direction is something I am keen to do.

Be clear on your objectives – It’s important to be clear on what you wish to achieve. If it’s building your personal brand, select connections that can raise your profile. Identify people of prominence, and not necessarily in your same field. Also, set clear goals for yourself when it comes to building this aspect of your personal life. For instance, this month’s goal could be connecting with five new female technology executives across the industry. This helps you stay focused and provides you with tangible metrics you can track.

It works if you work it – A network is not something you turn on and off when you need it; those who are successful know it requires a regular investment of time and effort. Be consistent, as you’ll have a harder time reestablishing connection if you disappear for an extended period of time. A minimum of an hour a day networking with others via social media and/or in person via events helps to build your network tremendously over time. View your networks like any important relationship: get to know them, learn what’s important to them, and assess how you can help them reach their goals. The more you give, the more you’ll receive. That’s the true ROI in networks.

What are some of the best ways to connect with people?
Connection is easier than ever. Social media and networking sites, numerous professional associations, charitable connections, online meeting groups based on interest, etc. Before you find yourself overwhelmed with choice, decide on which means suit your intended result. I’ve found LinkedIn to be a superior means of interaction, both professionally and personally. It keeps you active in the eye of a good number of professional bodies, and it’s a great means of maintaining your professional contacts. It’s also a bit less intrusive and overwhelming than email, which can be challenging due to the size of everyone’s inboxes these days.

Twitter is an acquired taste: you either love it or you hate it. For me, Twitter is less about building lasting networks than a means of receiving and sharing real-time information. If used for networking, be certain that communication stays brief, and move it into private conversation as swiftly as possible so others aren’t disconnected by a connection that’s best fostered one-on-one.

Measure the ROI of your network – It helps to periodically take stock of your efforts. Some tangible ways to assess good networking ROI include an increase in connections and social media followers; more requests to contribute and/or share your expertise; an uptick in invitations to network events and in-person gatherings; and an increase in opportunities and social events, from coffee dates to interviews and/or business meetings.

Creating an ecosystem of peers, mentors, business advisors, friends, and advisors will reap rewards far beyond your dreams if you take the time to develop your approach, work diligently, and nurture it well. This ecosystem can support your career for years to come and bear opportunities you can’t imagine. Start networking today!

 

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About the Author: Rita Trehan is the Founder and Principal of Rita Trehan, LLC, a change management and leadership advisory firm focused on corporate leadership, emerging technology, and cutting-edge organizational design. As a seasoned top executive that has successfully transformed organizations at the Fortune 200 and beyond, she has extensive experience working with CEOs and top corporate management on process and organizational improvement for maximum profitability. A soon-to-be published author, Rita regularly speaks at industry conferences around the world. You can contact Rita on twitter at @rita_trehan and connect with her via LinkedIn. Rita’s blog can be found at www.ritatrehan.com.