Nicole Martin is Chief Empowerment Officer and Founder of HRBoost® LLC, a HR Shared Services HR firm, that leads as a PEO Alternative based in Chicago, Illinois. In recognition of her professional excellence as well as her community, Nicole has been honored by multiple organizations including most recently as one of Mirror Review’s 10 Game Changing Women in 2019. Awardee for Business Excellence by the Chicago Daily Herald, and a 2016 Enterprising Women of the Year Champion by Enterprising Women Magazine. A sought-after expert, her knowledge and advice have been featured in newspapers and magazines throughout the country. In addition, Nicole is the host online of HR in the Fast Lane and contributing writer for the Chicago Business Journal. Nicole has authored, International Literary Award and Amazon Best Seller, The Talent Emergency, the accompanying Talent Emergency Guidebook, The Human Side of Profitability,The Power of Joy & Purpose, and her newly released co-authored book No Fear Negotiation for Women.
Why was the HRBoost® started? And how did you expand your company and its offerings over the years?
Being an entrepreneur is an amazing privilege. I find I created a business long before I knew I was “in business”. Today, I consider my business to be a marvellous intellectual playground. Every day is different, and the landscape is always changing. Even now, these unprecedented times will spawn new industry and it is inspiring to see businesses pivot in real time. I have been working since I was a teenager, but I feel that when you have a blank canvas by which you paint, it can be daunting, even scary and yet so very satisfying. I believe that we can all lead from wherever we stand.The currentclimate requires shared leadership. A culture invitation is at the forefront of a successful leader. Our world is uncertain and while we look to leaders to lead, more people seek for leaders to care. The silver lining to the pandemic has been amazing to witness authentic empathy and compassion in good leaders. We are gaining in feeling our shared values as Americans. I am motivated by the endless opportunity to bridge to other humans and live-in service. I seek to live with joy and purpose through my God given graces and I believe every human deserves to experience joy and purpose through their work. It is heart-warming to know this is becoming more and more relevant in business. Today, my team is over 20 seasoned HR professionals that build HR from scratch, and we meet our clients at their pace and budget in the middle market.
How successful was your first project roll on? Share the experience.
My first retainer client was in the aerospace industry and the objective was to partner from an HR perspective to grow and scale from $10M to $26M and then partner through due diligence to acquisition within 36 months. The testimonial of this client is public and lives on our website: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Gmz-W6xfN8&t=3s
What kind of mixed responses have you received from your consumers over the years? How have they motivated you to shape your offerings/grow the company?
Originally, we served a specific niche with 50 to 250 employees. These clients have budget and begin to understand the need for a solid HR infrastructure in their business scaling plans. As of late, larger competitors selling HR but not aswe know it, began targeting the smallest ofemployers. For example, 5 (five) to 10 (ten) employees. We always served this sector ala carte, but it became clear our service ideals of being proactive meant bundling our services in packages that these clients could afford but still realize the value of strategic HR in their business. In contrast, larger employers that have internal HR already find they are having to pivot and fast. We are strategic practitioners that hit the ground running so we can often partner to conquer the wish list projects that often day to day support cannot accomplish. For reasons like this, we have three verticals of revenue and products as well. Thus, we can serve any client at their pace and budget.
What challenges did you face in the initial years? What can your peers learn from it?
In 2010, and amidst the great recession, I left my corporate career to establish HRBoost, LLC. My initial vision was to find leaders who wanted to be the next Best & Brightest® employer while providing support to growing businesses facing a myriad of workforce challenges. By 2012, I realized the business was more than me and I needed a team. With 50% growth year over year in the early years, it became clear HR outsourcing was not HR as I knew it and HRBoost had found a niche. I suppose surviving this pandemic with my entire team still at the helm and me still thriving as a business owner, that may be my latest accomplishment
Fostering a culture of feedback is crucial to the success of every organization. How is this true with your company?
At HRBoost, we practice what we preach. We gather quantitative throughout the year and then drive Accountable Culture Management® with transparency and deep dive interviews around a culture theme. Culture is not an event. At HRBoost we believe it is a process that takes rigor and we put our money where our mouth is be empowering our own associates to reward peers when they see our values lived in action. It is only through shared creation that we can live a culture of joy and purpose through our work.
About the adaptability, how do you stay relevant to the consumer interests and needs in this high volatile market?
We are the PEO alternative and when it comes to HR outsourcing, the middle market needs an alternative. Our Shared Services approach has been working for clients and for 11 years, we have enjoyed word of mouth growth that keeps us busy. The next few years will be a calculated investment in marketing to see what we can accomplish, and we are excited at the prospects.
If you have to list five factors that have been/are the biggest asset to your organization, what would they be and why?
Vision – Having a vision and culture invitation that speaks to values has been pivotal to me and my team. I believe our employee value proposition is as equally important as our unique selling proposition. Business growth is challengingespecially when it comes fast and withoutpeople with passion for the “why” behind the business, it can lead to serious growing pains.
Everyone is a Leader – Do not ever underestimate your role as a leader. We believe everyone leads from where they stand. Embrace the power and responsibility to create an environment where you and your employees love to come to work.
Network – The world is small and globally linked. Word of mouth counts, and I wouldn’t be in business if it weren’t for my network. To this day, I still commit time to open meet and greet exchanges with anyone. These open exchanges keep me in the know of the external environment even outside my vertical and I love it.
Generational Agility – While everything has been moving fast around us and the #TalentEmergency is clearly upon us, many are having a hard time finding agility in their interactions with emerging talent and the rapid change at which our work environments have evolved. The work ethic and motivators of each generation in the talent pool today is different and unique and policy must speak to each not a one size fits all approach.
Capital – Growing a business takes capital. I recall a time when my investor said, if you aren’t paying yourself first then you aren’t in business. So, if you are new to business, make that your first goal and then overcome it. As your business grows, your needs for capital increase and it seems the more debt you incur, the faster you can grow. To be a viable contender, get three years of solid financials that demonstrate a sustainable pipeline of revenue and then apply! The most inspiring business owners I meet are the ones that didn’t give up equity along the way.
Customer service varies, but companies can still be successful. How do you maintain the quality of your services?
At HRBoost we don’t believe in reactive services. Sure, we can deliver HR Triage but we prefer to be proactive and educate our clients on what HR is and how it ties to five areas in their P&L. Proactive communication means we are educating along the way not just preaching and expecting them to do it. We show up and do it in partnership.
What do you feel are the reasons behind your company’s reputation?
We always say you can fire us sooner than a HR person you could hire. And we have never been fired. We just work ourselves out of a job. When we do this and leave a company better than where they began with us, we become referrable.
Do you have any new products or services ready to be/getting ready to be launched?
Yes, leadership development is a critical need for every business, and many have forgone their investment in training. Covid -19 compounded this issue as skilled talent became scarce and less was done in person. We are launching a Character Based Capitalism Leadership program on a self-serve platform on our website this summer. Furthermore, we are offering Manager Insights and Cognitive Assessments so leaders can gain access to quantitative and qualitative insights to help them lead better.
About your plans, where do you see your company a couple of years from now?
We are hoping to expand to reach more companies seeking to become an employer of choice. The future of talent is open sourcing and culture is the new organizational structure. Many companies are not operating this way and we seek to be their partner in thriving amidst the paradigm shift.