Any blogger who has been writing for a while can tell you that sometimes their brain just needs a break. Mine needed one in October. Instead of blogging on a weekly basis, I took the time to reflect on where the business has been in 2017 and where we want to go in 2018. I’m so excited at the opportunities ahead and the things Christine and I have planned. There will be more announcements coming soon, but for today I wanted to share a change in our business model that I think will better serve our clients.
First, I should say that 2017 has been a very good year. This business doubled this year. It is something I take zero credit for. I didn’t plan for it. I couldn’t even tell you how I did it. My answer about the success of this business is as true today as it was a few years ago. I stumble and fumble through every day and somehow end up on my feet. I am proof that anyone with nothing more than determination can start and operate a successful small business. I could not be more grateful to my clients, past and present.
Our current business model provides two different types of services and support: HR Consulting and HR Outsourcing. Consulting covers HR projects: team building, single-role recruiting, handbook creation and getting a startup through the first few months after launch to name a few. Outsourcing covers every day HR support. Our clients who outsource their HR services to us, work with me or a member of my team who serves as their HR point of contact. We are an extension of that business’s leadership team and function, as much as possible, as if they had an in-house human resources person.
At it’s core, that part of the business model is not changing. We will still offer HR consulting and outsourcing services. We are building a diverse team with a wide variety of experience that enables us to help small business clients with a wide variety of human resources management services. Of that, I am very proud.
It is the HR Outsourcing model that we will be enhancing in 2018. I have piloted this model with a few clients in 2017 and the success has been exciting and a bit overwhelming. It’s one of those things I wish I had done sooner.
Our HR Outsourcing clients are startups or small businesses who have 75 employees or less. They either have no HR presence or they have an employee (office manager or CFO typically) handling HR along with their other duties. This person is not an HR professional and often, HR concerns fall to the wayside or are not handled properly. This is not deliberate on the part of the employee, but nature of the beast. Our clients do not really have a need for a full time HR employee, but know they need something more than the employee splitting their time. That is where we come in.
The way the service has worked until now is that their HR Consultant from my team (and for a lot of older clients, that is me) handles everything. From recruiting to compliance to more strategic HR offerings, this consultant does it all. What I have found is that doing things that way isn’t really the best use of the consultants talent. Some consultants are great at compliance (especially in CA) while others have a knack for recruiting. My talent centers around leadership and training and development programs or team building.
In 2018, we want to better utilize the talents of our staff. Which means that depending upon a client’s total need, their may be more than one person who works with them.
Further, I have learned that once employers reach a certain threshold of employees, they really need an HR person to be onsite at least a day or two a week. Once that need stretches to 4 or 5 days a week, we know they are ready to make their own HR hire and have outgrown our HR services. Which may sound like a bad thing for our business, but we consider it as good. It is like watching our baby grow up and be able to walk on their own.
We have piloted this in 2017 in two distinct scenarios. First, with a startup with a very aggressive growth plan in the first few months after launch. For that client we placed a California expert level HR Generalist who is on-site two days a week as well as a full time recruiter focused on growth. The growth plan required that an onsite HR professional be hired directly for the company after month 3. Now, the Acacia team will help the HR Manager transition into her new role before we step out completely. This is a very different scenario than other startups who hire an HR person months in and this person has to play catch up with all the HR stuff that hasn’t been happening.
The second pilot has happened with clients who reach or are very close to the 50 employee threshold. Until this year, I had been their sole point of contact. I was way over capacity and realized very quickly that at 50 employees the proverbial stuff hits the fan. Not only are their more compliance concerns at this employee threshold, the number of employee relations issues seem to double. Employers close to or over the 50 employee mark really need an onsite presence once or twice a week. Therefore, our business model has shifted to allow for this. A generalist on my team is assigned to these clients. This generalist is local and can sit onsite as needed. I am still a part of the team, but this generalist becomes the point of contact for all day to day HR concerns.
In both scenarios, clients have loved having that onsite presence, while also having access to a larger team when needed.
Of course, when it comes to small businesses, we know there is no one-size fits all approach. We will continue to better understand the needs of each of our clients and find the best solution for them. We want to make HR as easy as possible. We want them to know we have it handled and will support them through their growth plan until it is time for their own HR employee.
Again, I am so excited about next year and continuing to find ways to better serve our clients, while exploiting the strengths of our consultants and recruiters. We will have another big announcement coming out in a few weeks that we think will help those small businesses who do have an HR professional on staff. We know that this population is a very large component of our subscriber base and want to make sure that we keep them in mind as we roll out new offerings.
Here’s to an amazing 2018.