By Kim  Silvers, President of Silvers HR, LLC

We’re celebrating our 20th anniversary in the HR consulting business this year.  (Although I’m pretty sure the last year has been equivalent to a dog year in the life of an HR nerd.)  I started this business in 2001 after  many years in the corporate world.   There were certainly many lessons I learned working for large organizations that spurred me on while “working for the man.”  Today, I’ll share a few double-decade business owner musings for those of you who may wonder if I ever think about anything other than weaving through the maze of COVID-19 rules.  Nothing earth shattering here – just five essentials that guide our values-driven business twenty years later.

  1. We figured out our ideal client profile early on. To this day, our clients need to exhibit the following:

Our clients must have integrity, be solvent, value their employees and our services. 

We work with an impressive group of organizations representing just about every industry you can imagine. This profile continues to serve us well.  If one of the four criteria above are questionable, our relationship starts to wobble. Take away any two and we’re outta there.  We work with about 50 percent of the businesses that reach out to us.  Yes, we’re picky. So if you’re still with us, it’s because we generally share and admire your principles.

  1. I used to be the smartest person in the room – and then I hired my first employee. Once I gained my leadership sea legs, I learned that hiring smarter people and then taking care of them is vital to my and our clients’ success. That “slow to hire” mantra is absolutely true. Inevitably, when I’ve hired just to have someone (PULEEZE ANYONE!) take the pressure off it has resulted in weeping and gnashing of teeth –  and a loss of my credibility with the rest of my team.  I’m blessed to be surrounded by smart, funny, talented people. Yowza, they’ve taught me tenfold what “resilience” looks like in the last year. I never stop networking and looking for talent. It is a delight to coach and align good people with good people.
  2. We don’t have competitors, just potential collaborators – or acquisition targets. This is a small town and our professional community is a fairly tight one. Burning bridges by “going in for the kill” is not my personal style.  I’ve been around long enough to watch those shooting stars go down in flames.   Could we be a much larger firm? Probably. But at the end of the day my integrity is the only thing I have. And I need sleep.  So be nice, respectful and show some grace. There’s plenty of business for everyone. 
  3. Self-care is essential for long term survival.  Although I’m no longer the smartest person in room (HMMM I probably never was going to win that award) I have always been able to work longer and harder than anyone else.  And once a laptop and internet arrived in our home in the 1990’s – there was no quitting. (Fortunately, my wife has a similar work ethic.) Through the years as the highs and lows came along, I began to see that my physical and mental being needed more caretaking in order for me to show up with my A game as a leader.  Setting an example for my team and instilling it in our company culture is paramount to our success.
  4. It’s rarely about the principle… I often hear business owners say, “It’s not about the money, it’s the principle of the matter with this #$&@ lazy employee!” Bottom line – it costs a small fortune to fight the good fight based on principle, and even when you “win” it still costs a boatload. Run it up the flag pole with legal counsel and if it’s not a quick win, settle and move on. The emotional toll alone is well… a dog year of your life.

Now, there are other lessons (UHHH scars and bruises?) I’ve gathered over the last few decades that are for another day, such as –

  • If you don’t like learning (and unlearning), then California HR is not for you.
  • HR employees should avoid hiring their relatives in the same business. Oh good heavens, let me count the ways this has backfired on my profession’s credibility.
  • Involuntary demotions rarely work. It’s like having the walking dead in your midst.
  • Suspensions for being tardy usually hurt the business more than the employee. (“You were late 15 minutes 3 times this month, so now you’re suspended for 3 days.” AHEM who is doing the work? Now everyone is ticked!) Write them up, state the consequences, and if they still don’t get it, send them off to work for someone else.
  • Yup, you can find a cheaper HR solution with a 25 year old call center employee reading off a monitor. Our “customized, committed, credible” model takes more people power, and we’re still a screamin’ deal.
  • Dreading it is worse than doing it. Ok, I live and relearn this one frequently, including the project I’ve put off while writing this.

My deepest “thank you” to our clients and my team who have been hand-picked and make me smile every day.  This gig is a hoot and I’m fortunate to be able to do it with you.