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.
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.
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?
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’.
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.
In our personal career path, we can be our own best friends or our own worst enemies. This is largely due to our mindset and what we believe about our ability. In working with leaders, I find that people have often set their own glass ceiling. Researcher Dr. Carol Dweck of Stanford University confirms, “Much of what might be preventing you from fulfilling your potential grows out of your mindset.”
Often, the difference between success and failure is your mindset; those with a fixed mindset will be limited as to how much they can achieve, while those with a growth mindset will not limit their ability to succeed. According to Dr. Dweck’s research, those individuals with a growth mindset outperform those with a fixed mindset. Those with a fixed mindset tend to do what validates their talent and are consumed with proving how good they are. Those with a growth mindset have the attitude that they’ll do what it takes and will apply what they learn from mistakes to develop their talent.
Where do you fall? Ask yourself the following questions: Do you believe intelligence is a fixed trait, without room for improvement or growth? When you make a mistake, do you try to cover it up or hide it? Do you make a point to conceal your deficiencies and take on projects only if you are sure you are capable of doing it? If you answered “yes”to any of these questions, you likely are limiting yourself.
Even if you feel that you have a growth mindset, we often limit ourselves in ways that aren’t as obvious. For example, how often do we say to ourselves,“No, I can’t go for that promotion. I don’t know enough. I’m not good enough. What if they find out I’m really not that smart?” That’s a limiting mindset.
Limited mindsets manifest themselves in all kinds of environments. Take, for example, the world record for the 100-meter dash. For years, it was believed that man couldn’t break the “10-second barrier”— it was commonly accepted that no runner could complete the 100-meter dash in under ten seconds. But that record was defied in 1983 by runner Carl Lewis. Once that glass ceiling was shattered, six more sprinters completed the dash in less than ten seconds during the 1980s. Since that time, nearly 100 sprinters have broken the 10-second barrier. All it took was one person defying the “unbreakable”record, and numerous others followed suit.
Our mindset ties directly into our emotional intelligence. Think this is all just mushy, soft- skills stuff? Think again. According to a recent study1from the University of Bonn, published in the Journal of Organizational Behavior in November 2014, individuals who displayed emotional intelligence were more likely to bring home a bigger paycheck than their emotionally-stunted colleagues. Emotional intelligence is a measure of your self-awareness and awareness of others. Are you self-aware about your own limiting beliefs?
So what can you do to grow your mindset? Set “stretch goals”that force you to stretch outside your comfort zone. Try to set goals that are focused on process and mastery, not goals that are solely focused on outcome. And finally, look for opportunities to fail. Yes, you read that right! Although most of us fear failure, we often learn more from our mistakes and failures than from our successes. Mistakes can lead to great ideas and new opportunities. So start looking for these kinds of opportunities. Your brain will find what you tell it to look for.
What can be learned from this? Bottom line: If you think you can’t, you won’t. When you limit yourself and your capabilities, you won’t break that glass ceiling or defy the odds. But when you unlock your mindset to allow for all opportunities, the possibilities open up to allow for remarkable achievements.
1Momm T., Blickle G., Liu Y., Wihler A., Kholin M. and Menges J. I. (2015) It pays to have an eye for emotions: Emotion recognition ability indirectly predicts annual income, J. Organiz. Behav., 36, pages 147–163. doi: 10.1002/job.1975.
About the Author: Kerry Goyette is the founder and president of Aperio Consulting Group, a human capital consulting firm based in Columbia, MO. Aperio’s mission is to help organizations increase effectiveness of their biggest asset, their people. Kerry holds her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from the University of Missouri with post-graduate studies in neuroscience and psychometrics. She was also recently elected to the executive MBA Advisory Board for the University of Missouri’s Trulaske College of Business.
It seems rather obvious, yet year after year, many people feel compelled to greet the start of a new year with grand ideas about losing weight, travelling more, catching up on their reading or spending more time with their loved ones.
I read this the other day and it begs sharing here :
“Most people like the idea of being exceptional, but not enough to do what it takes to get there… everybody says they want to be slim, healthy, attractive, and rich, but few people are willing to do what it takes to attain those things, which suggests they don’t really want those things as much as they say or think.
Paul Arden, former creative director of Saatchi & Saatchi, sums this up nicely by explaining that typically when we say we “want” something, we actually just mean we want to have it, but with no implicit assumption that we’re willing to do any work to get there. In reality, wanting something should equate with being prepared to take the necessary steps to achieve it. If you are serious about your goals, then you will do whatever it takes to attain them; your confidence is secondary. What matters is the desire you have to attempt to achieve your goals.”
- Dr. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, a professor of business psychology at University College London and author of the outstanding book “Confidence: Overcoming Low Self-Esteem, Insecurity, and Doubt
I agree that it is about how strongly we desire something. Oftentimes, it seems easier to just say that we want that something. You could look at a given situation, and realise that person has been very clear about her desires thus far and yet, failed to achieve them. It would be easy to conclude that their desire was simply not strong enough.
The problem with such analysis, though, is that it’s based on what is perceived, on what is on the outside. We see the successful tennis champion and their runaway success but we don’t see behind the scenes – their struggles, their passion and what they do on a daily basis.
What do you do with the person with real desire, who keeps failing yet keeps trying over and over? What do you make of that person, from the outside looking in?
While it is important, and I cannot stress this enough, to be clear about what we desire and to be relentless about it, I think there are two other critical aspects we need to consider if we are to make our desires real.
The first is that any desire or goal needs to be backed by a plan. I know firsthand, how easily your desires crumble by the wayside when there is no plan in place. A plan is simply a framework for how you will achieve what you so desire. The mere intent is simply not enough, you need to do. But thoughtless, rudder-less action is not the way to go. Your plan need not be cumbersome or overly complex – all you need to be clear about is a direction and a method for achieving what you seek.
Where applicable, I base my plans on the Five Ws and One H, or the Six Ws. I need a clear guide as to who this is for, what that involves, when I plan to start and when I expect to finish, in what areas this will apply and importantly, how I will put all of this together. If you wanted to take this a step further, a SWOT analysis would also be useful.
Granted, this may seem to make the whole exercise a tad theoretical and arduous. But if you go through the motions here, you will achieve clarity about what you’re doing and strengthen (or otherwise) your resolve for doing so. Either way, you know where you really stand.
If you decide that :
- the idea is not worth the time and effort to do so;
- it’s a lot of work, perhaps a tad unnecessary; or
- you’ll get to it later
then, the idea just remains an idea. It stays in your mind, cluttered with the other big picture goals or ideas you have, and it runs alongside the daily stream of to-do lists, emails, pings and emotional weather you sustain. Over time, the idea loses focus and it becomes a hazy option, one that will slowly but surely fade into the recesses only to resurface at the start of another year.
And the second thing you need to do is, quite simply, to act. Yes, you start with an idea, you back it up with a plan but things only start moving, when you do. There’s only so much you can understand and absorb on a theoretical level. There’s only so many days and weeks you can delay the onset of action while you prepare to ramp up before you begin to lose the momentum so needed to get started on your journey.
When you put all this together - an idea, the desire, a plan and action – you have a powerful combination of factors that can help you get closer to what you want. In isolation, each serves some purpose but lacks the strong foundation, if you will, to make progress.
I can’t help but agree with the powerful words of Seth Godin, who is a huge proponent of getting things done and of taking action:
“Ship often. Ship lousy stuff, but ship. Ship constantly.”
When you make the conscious decision to do what it is that you need to do, you wait for no one to tell you the things you need to hear. You don’t let the failures get in the way of your journey. You just keep moving, getting stronger, getting more focused, getting more traction.
So, why not take that next step you know you should be taking? Why not make that idea more real, to yourself, by embracing that desire, crafting a plan and just going for it? You will be glad you did.
Abou the Author: Rowena Morais is the Editor of VerticalDistinct.com, helping individuals develop their professional abilities and career to the fullest in either Human Resources or Technology. She is also Editor of the quarterly human resource magazine, Accelerate. She graduated from the University of Glamorgan, Wales with an LL.B (Hons) and is a regular blogger on personal growth.
I’ve decided that I’m not a big fan of New Year’s Resolutions. By their very definition, they seem to imply grand sweeping changes that we’re going to make, starting on January 1st of each year.
There’s nothing wrong with setting goals for yourself, as long as you put in a little work and set up a framework that will help you actually achieve them. But that’s the difference between many people’s resolutions and good, solid goals. Often times resolutions are either made as absolutes – “I’m going on a diet,” “I’m going to stop smoking,” – or they are so vague that there’s no accountability – “I’m going to lose weight,” “I’m going to spend my money smarter,” “I’m going to work out more.” Either way, they set the resolution maker up for failure by lack of a specific goal and actionable steps to get there. Perhaps that’s the reason that a large proportion of New Year’s Resolutions are broken or long-forgotten by the end of January. And with those broken resolutions, no real change is made.
However, I’ve noticed that this year, at least among many of the people I know, a shift away from resolutions. I’ve noticed more mentions of goal setting and/or philosophical and attitudinal changes. People committing to taking small steps towards improving their lives, or shifting their perspectives slightly to bring more positivity into their lives. My own approach, as declared on New Year’s Day, is “No resolutions, just goals, determination, and the right mindset.” I have changes I want to make in my life, but instead of making grand, sweeping, vague resolutions, I’ve decided I’m starting with my outlook and attitude at a guiding force, and then taking very specific steps towards making those changes.
But even beyond our personal lives, this approach can also benefit us in our professional lives as well. As human resource and business professionals, we have an opportunity to apply attitudinal shifts and start looking at our profession from a different angle. I wrote about this at the beginning of 2014, and I think it’s still very relevant a year later. Though I did call them resolutions at the time, in reality what I proposed was a mindset change with goals and steps to take to back it up. I know I made some progress in 2014, but there’s still work to be done and more progress to be made. As a profession, there are many great things being accomplished and ideas being generated by talented people, but there’s still work to be done.
So I ask you….how can you change your mindset in 2015? What are the steps you can take towards making changes in an actionable, goal-oriented way? How can you help make our profession better this year?
About the Author: Jennifer Payne, SPHR 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.
Throughout the years, women have faced – and continue to face – numerous challenges when it comes to succeeding in business. Yet despite significant challenges, female leaders are becoming more and more common – and they’re making a positive and powerful impact on society.
What are some characteristics that great women leaders share? We’ve put together a list of 5 of the best traits of powerful female leaders, as well as a few inspirational quotes from real women who are paving the way for future generations – in politics, business and beyond.
“Hope and change are hard-fought things.” – Michelle Obama
1. They work hard
Women who excel in leadership roles have a clear vision of what they want and what they need to do to get there. Their personal and professional goals are important to them, and obtaining success (whatever that means to them) is at the top of their list. They’re aware that it takes hard work and commitment to succeed, and they’re willing to work to achieve it.
Women leaders often need to juggle multiple roles or balance different areas of life in order to focus on their careers and professional aspirations. But they know with complete clarity what they want, and they’re willing to do what it takes to get there. The enthusiasm and strength these women possess is apparent to all who meet them, in both professional and personal settings.
“It doesn’t matter who you are, or where you come from. The ability to triumph begins with you.” – Oprah Winfrey
2. They recognize their own strengths (and weaknesses)
Great women leaders have a strong understanding of their own gifts, and they understand the significance of these strengths and the role they play in their ability to succeed. Great leaders know what they can do well, and they use these assets to their advantage to help them excel in what they want to do.
Conversely, great women leaders also know their own weaknesses. Instead of letting weaknesses limit them, however, great leaders surround themselves with people who can support them and make them better.
“A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don’t necessarily want to go, but ought to be.” – Rosalynn Carter
3. They take risks
The greatest women leaders are confident in making decisions, even when those decisions are difficult or represent big risks. They rarely procrastinate or hesitate, and they are are remarkably assertive and influential. They don’t wait for direction – they jump in and get things done. They’re known for coming up with innovative solutions, because they aren’t afraid to take big risks or question rules and regulation in order to get the results they want.
Perhaps most importantly, as Margaret Thatcher reminds us below? Great women leaders aren’t afraid to ruffle a few feathers when it comes to getting things done.
“If you just set out to be liked, you would be prepared to compromise on anything at any time, and you would achieve nothing.” – Margaret Thatcher
4. They welcome change and challenges
Successful women leaders don’t just embrace challenges – they face them head-on. Moreover, they are excellent listeners, they seek out feedback, and they are genuinely interested in what others have to say about the issues they are faced with. Highly respected women listen to multiple points of views before they decide on the best possible decision.
Great women leaders welcome challenges, but they also welcome change. Women who are frontrunners in any industry embrace change, because they know that true progress can only be achieved through adaptation and innovation.
“I don’t run away from a challenge because I am afraid. Instead, I run toward it because the only way to escape fear is to trample it beneath your feet.” – Nadia Comaneci
5. They have a strong desire to make a difference
All great leaders, regardless of gender, should be kindhearted and giving of themselves. This is a trait that’s even more evident in great women leaders, in every field and from all walks of life. Truly successful leaders not only have an incredible desire to lead, but also to help others and make a difference.
The most successful female leaders believe in the value of paying it forward, and they practice what they preach.
“I would rather make mistakes in kindness and compassion than work miracles in unkindness and hardness.” – Mother Teresa
What characteristics do you think great women leaders share?
Editor’s Note: Several of our Women of HR contributors also host their own blogs. Today our writer Judy Lindenberger talks about her own quest to continue to improve her blog and blogging skills.
If you search the internet for the best HR blogs, two that make the top of every list are Evil HR Lady and HR Bartender.
In her blog, Suzanne Lucas, otherwise known as the Evil HR Lady, answers questions, posts tips, and has garnered a large following.
Sharlyn Lauby, creator of HR Bartender, cleverly compares herself to a bartender – “that friendly face who’s there when you need them” – and blogs about human resources and social media, as well as food and drink.
Because I want to attract more readers to my blog, Open Door HR, I contacted Suzanne and Sharlyn to ask them a few questions about how to be a more successful blogger.
1. When did you start your blog?
Suzanne – I started my blog way back in August 2006. It was completely anonymous back then because I was employed at a very large pharmaceutical company and I didn’t think the people there would take kindly to my blogging.
Sharlyn – I began blogging in 2008 after my husband, who is a marketing professional, starting nagging me about writing an electronic newsletter. As a busy professional, I know what often happens with newsletters – we have every intention of reading it but time gets away from us and the newsletter is deleted. So over dinner one night, I suggested starting a blog.
That being said, I should clarify. We do have an electronic newsletter but now with the blog we’ve really defined what each accomplishes. Every communication medium does not have to do the same thing.
Me – I started my blog in 2010 when my website designer told me that it was one of the newest, best ways to market my business. I love writing so it was a fun task to take on.
In 2012, I was listed as one of the Top 25 Women HR Blogs and my blog was described “taking a “more professional, serious approach to Human Resources (where) visitors can scroll through … a broad range of topics.” That description is accurate and complimentary and I’d also like my readers to think, “Ahhhh …. I’m finally here and I can get my questions answered and she’s going to understand!”
2. What is your goal for the blog and how have your goals changed over the years?
Suzanne – My goal, at the beginning, was to have fun. I always wanted to be an advice columnist, and then suddenly, I was one! Cool. My goals have changed over the years. For a long time it’s been financial. You’ll notice I’ve done a shift from full articles on the blog to links to articles posted elsewhere. Why? Because other people pay me. To be honest, I’m kind of unhappy with that situation right now, so my goals are evolving. I still want to make money, but I may move back to my own platform and see what I can accomplish alone. But, my overall goal has always been to help other people. That’s why I went into HR in the first place–I like people. I want them to succeed. I want bad managers to go away. I want bad policies to go away. I want more brownies in meetings.
Sharlyn – Great question. I originally started HR Bartender to be a marketing tool for my consulting firm, ITM Group. And while I write about our business (being leadership and management training), it’s not exclusively focused in that area.
Over time, HR Bartender has become a place for me to talk about human resources and share information. I get a lot of reader questions and really enjoy answering them in the “Ask HR Bartender” series.
Me – My goals have always been to drive more readers to my company website, www.
3. What do you attribute to the success of your blog?
Suzanne – Consistency, humor, and the ability to explain things to non-experts. This is a problem in all fields–we all get so wrapped up in our own lingo and with our own knowledge that we forget that not everyone knows everything we know. Sometimes I think, “How on earth can you not know that FMLA is only 12 weeks!” but then I remember that this person has probably never dealt with FMLA before, so why on earth should they know?
Sharlyn – I try to include a takeaway in every post. I’m asking people to take a few moments of their day to read HR Bartender. The least I can do is provide a takeaway.
Me – I am not sure I would say that my blog is a success right now. I define success as having a large number of loyal readers, and lots of new readers, who “Like” and share my posts, relay their experiences, ask me questions, and laugh together.
4. As a relatively new blogger in the HR space, what do you recommend that I do to increase my readership?
Suzanne – Lots of links to evilhrlady.org, of course! But seriously, write things of interest, and keep your own voice. Don’t try to copy other bloggers, do what works for you. Post often and on a schedule, and make the most of social media.
Sharlyn – IMHO, here are 3 things every blogger should do:
-Market your blog. I wish I could say that writing is enough, but it’s not. If you’re serious about blogging, you have to put together a plan to market your blog.
-Write regularly. When I first started blogging, I wrote one day a week. Then when I knew I could handle two days, I added another post to the schedule. I believe part of success is publishing regularly. Readers want to feel like they are getting to know a blogger. You can’t do that if you publish once every four months.
-Read other blogs. Adding to my last point, if you’re having trouble finding topics to write about, start reading other blogs. There are tons of lists available about HR and business blogs to read. Find the ones you like and use them as creative inspiration.
Me – I’ve gotten some great advice from these two smart, funny women who are masters at blogging in the HR space. Thank you Suzanne and Sharlyn! My takeaways? I’ll keep working on posts that let my readers know more about me, The Lindenberger Group, and what’s new in HR. And I’ll try really hard to do it on a regular schedule!
About the author: Judy Lindenberger is the President of The Lindenberger Group, an award-winning human resources consulting firm, located near Princeton, NJ. They are experts in career coaching, customized training workshops, online training programs, mentoring, 360-degree assessment and feedback, HR audits, employee handbooks, and more. Learn more about them at www.lindenbergergroup.com.
Earlier this week I talked about my initial impressions of this year’s HR Technology Conference – how upon arriving back home and beginning to process everything I learned I was left feeling a bit overwhelmed, and how that feeling is actually a positive thing. If you missed that post, you can check it out here. Today I wanted to touch on some of the key ideas and themes I took away from this year’s show.
There’s an App for That
As our worlds outside of work become more and more connected, instantaneous, and mobile, there’s becoming more of an expectation that life inside work will mirror that. Candidates and employees expect a consumer-like experience with their technologies. In the session “How Digital Radically Disrupts HR,” Accenture’s Anthony Abbatiello discussed several trends that are reshaping the future of HR, and one of those was new channels for service delivery. As HR learns to “break away from the desktop,” mobile and social technologies will augment our HR services, allow us to reach our geographically dispersed and extended workforces, drive new ways to engage our employees, and even allow us to better anticipate employee needs when we utilize social listening tools. Not only do these social and mobile technologies help up to meet an expectation that our organizations are functioning like the outside world, but they allow us much more timely (even instantaneous) reactions to our employee and business needs.
Data, Data Everywhere
You cannot attend an HR technology related conference without hearing the term “big data” over and over. But this year it started to become more of a discussion of not necessarily “big data,” but just data in general and how it can be used to make HR more effective. Anthony Abbatiello in his session proposed that HR insight is the new leading edge – big data will help HR gather actionable insights for better business decisions, and that theme showed up throughout the show. Andrew McAfee from MIT, in his keynote “Making the Right Choices in the Second Machine Age,” demonstrated how data based decisions consistently outperform gut based decisions, and talked about how the business world needs to become “geekier.” As HR professionals, we need to encourage considering viewpoints beyond the “HIPPO” – or the “highest paid person’s opinion” – because they tend to be gut reactions rather than data based decisions. In addition, we need to continue to encourage input from those that come from outside of our companies and industries, because that’s where some of the truly innovative thinking comes from. In Thursday’s General Session, “Workforce 2020: How Data and Analytics will Shape the Workplace,” we were encouraged to use data to keep us close to the hearts and minds of our top performers; for instance using data to determine whether or not we’re losing the wrong people who are taking their knowledge and innovative thinking elsewhere. Which HR professional wouldn’t want to know that?
Where Man Meets Machine
No, robots are not going to take over the workforce. At least not yet. But as technology gets smarter…to the point that it’s not just spitting out data, but actually manipulating data to tell compelling stories, we need to figure out where the intersection of man and machine is for optimal results. Andrew McAfee talked about how humans are especially good at complex communication, but technology is getting surprisingly good at it too. As our technology gets smarter, we’re getting closer to the point we can feed data into machines and get an actual story or narrative back. Though, despite technological advances, humanity will never be pushed completely out of the picture, as HR pros we still need to start rethinking the balance between technology and humanity and how that affects our business processes. It will become our jobs to find the best way to combine human and digital intelligence.
Every time I think I’m finally starting to understand all of the technology available to us as HR practitioners, and the implications of that technology, I attend the HR Technology Conference and realize everything has changed and evolved.
And THAT’s why I’ll keep going back. See you in Vegas next October!
About the Author: Jennifer Payne, SPHR has over 16 years of HR experience in employee relations, talent acquisition, and learning & development, and currently works in talent management 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.
It’s about a week and a half since the 2014 version of the HR Technology Conference wrapped up in Las Vegas. I once again had the opportunity to attend as part of the social media & blogging team, my second time attending the full conference. I continue to be impressed by the sheer size of the conference, as well as the variety of topics and tracks available. It’s a conference that’s not just about seeing new technologies or new iterations of existing technologies available to help with our HR needs (though there is plenty of that if that’s what you’re looking for). But it goes beyond that to offer insights into HOW various companies are leveraging the technology available to address their HR challenges, and WHY we, as HR practitioners, need to be not just aware, but knowledgeable enough to be able to make recommendations as to how our organizations can leverage existing and yet to come technologies to maximize the effectiveness of our employees and drive success for our companies.
I have to admit that I walked away from this year’s conference a little overwhelmed. You see, I come from an interesting, dual viewpoint. In my day to day job as it currently exists, I don’t have much opportunity to work with or make decisions about the technologies we currently have in place. So to take what I hear and learn about at the conference and put it into perspective from a real-life, day to day, life in the trenches outlook becomes a bit of a challenge. But as a blogger, and someone who is (at least I like to think) a big picture and future focused thinker, I’m fascinated by what’s happening in the space. So this conference becomes a place where I’m soaking in as much as I can for my own benefit, while at the same time trying to pull it all together, step outside of my day-to-day responsibilities, and think about and share what I’ve learned from a much bigger perspective. And that can be a little overwhelming, but in a very good way.
You see, that feeling of being overwhelmed is a sign to me that it’s critically important for me to be at this conference. And it’s a sign that it’s probably important for many more HR practitioners, who are not that much different than me, to be there as well. Because even though we might not be responsible for technology in our day to day jobs now, that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t become more knowledgeable. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t make it our business to understand what’s out there and how it could make us more efficient and effective. Maybe more of us need to take the reins in our organizations and help drive decisions about how technology could and should make our processes and functions better drivers of business success.
Though I didn’t have the opportunity to attend it, there was quite a bit of buzz around the conference and on social media about one of Jason Averbrook’s (Chief Innovation Officer at Appirio) sessions in which he offered this bit of advice and wisdom: “We are all technologists.”
Think about that. What that’s saying is that as HR professionals, we have an obligation to understand technology. We live in a world where technology is everywhere, and is constantly changing, and we have a responsibility to ensure what happens inside our organizations mirrors the reality of the world outside of our organizations. And if we as HR leaders, and our HR teams, don’t have the skills to be technologists, we need to start teaching ourselves and our teams those skills. The HR Technology Conference is a place where we can come to ensure that we stay abreast of what’s happening in the space. Is all of right for every organization? No, of course not. Do we have a responsibility as HR leaders to understand the key trends so that we can make informed decisions about what’s best for our individual organizations? You bet.
Check back later this week when I’ll share some of the key themes I picked out from this year’s show.
About the Author: Jennifer Payne, SPHR has over 16 years of HR experience in employee relations, talent acquisition, and learning & development, and currently works in talent management 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.