The idea of working toward “higher-ambition” goals that go beyond just short-term shareholder value is something many visionary leaders would agree. Even when rough patches are encountered, it’s important that these higher-ambition efforts are not abandoned completely. These leaders go above and beyond to make sure their higher ambitions are achieved while making sure that their teams share the same ambitions and work towards completing it. One such leader is Nicole Martin, the CEO and Founder of HRBoost™, a full-service human resources consultancy.
After gaining nearly 20 years of human resource experience in everything from small start-ups to enterprise size corporations, Nicole Martin struck out on her own and founded HRBoost in 2010. Her vision was to provide a dedicated resource, offering the best advisement to businesses that didn’t have an internal human resources department. Today, HRBoost offers over 170 services and a team of professionals who provide our clients with proven, measurable results. Nicole is also the author of the chapter, HR Practices: The Human Side of Profitability, in the book, The Book by Entrepreneurs, for Entrepreneurs. In addition, she is the host of “HR in the Fast Lane” on advisor.TV. Beyond Exclamation recently had the pleasure to be “In Conversation” with Nicole, in which, she took us on her journey of being visionary leader beyond ambitions.
What was your goal while growing up? Did you always wanted to be where you are right now?
Growing up in small town in Montana was a privilege that I never truly appreciated until well into adulthood. I had accomplished all I had wanted to do in my small town by the age of 18 and without hesitation, I left the day I graduated high school. I dreamed of working in an office environment in the big city and was soon hired as a Receptionist pre-Y2K (Year 2000). I worked in the financial services industry and the global company I worked for had hired many programmers via H1-B Visas. In the fishbowl lobby, it became obvious these people could be greeted better; I didn’t need a degree to see that. I developed a presentation – before I was aware of politics or bureaucracy – and I fearlessly knocked on the door of the man that ran the place and asked if he had 15 minutes so that I could share it with him. When I was done, he said, “You are my Receptionist, correct?” I replied, “Yes” and he simply stated, “You belong in Human Resources!” I will never forget my reply. I said, “What is that?” I have been in the field ever since.
What are some of the most important achievements, highlights, biggest challenges or roadblocks of your journey as a leader? If possible, kindly help us with statistical insights as an overview of your individual achievements.
I like to believe we are all leaders from wherever we stand. Thus, my leadership journey began long ago. As a young girl, I worked part time while attending school and managed to maintain good grades, volunteer, and become Editor of my high school newspaper as well as Student Body President my Senior Year. I entered the job market right after high school and was more interested in being self-sufficient rather than attending a University. I didn’t intend to get ahead that way. I can say that by the time I completed my undergraduate studies while working full time, I had five years of solid experience in my field. As a result, I went right into a HR Management role at the age of 23. I learned early experience is priceless and education was the ticket to play the game.
When I was promoted to the role of a Director, I was proud to be the sole woman on what had been a purely male management team. When I completed my graduate degrees, I truly pondered what would replace my studies. After the recession, I helped my former employer slowly scale down and despite pay freezes and downsizing, we were still an employer of choice. I learned a great deal about people and culture through those years. Looking back, I now consider myself an accidental entrepreneur. I never intended to grow a business. In fact, I left corporate in 2010 and began consulting.
My vision was to find another CEO that wanted to be an employer of choice and build it from scratch all over again. I was referred into my first Shared Services client and back then I embedded myself into a high growth business. My client aimed to grow, scale, and sell. In less than 36 months, they did exactly that; scaling from $10M to $26M and then sold for $58M. My team served the client two years post acquisition. When all was said and done, it was my client that said, “Nicole, I like your business. I would be interested in investing.” It took me a year to see who he saw. In 2015, I created my five-year business plan and engaged my investor on my terms. I became my own high growth business with 50% growth year over year. In fact, 2018 was HRBoost’s biggest year to date; with 15 Boosters on my team, we have served over 500 businesses in Chicago. We are proud to be a viable option for high growth and transformational businesses seeking HR services.
Have you achieved all that you had desired? Tell us about the moment when you realized that your hard work has finally paid-off. What keeps you driven and determined towards work?
I can see now that I have well exceeded what I had originally envisioned when I left my corporate role. However, for many years I was reacting to my business. In recent years, I have enjoyed becoming more proactive and strategic as a leader in driving the business. With HRBoost’s track record and growing adoption by our customers, HRBoost is uniquely positioned to leverage the demand and current momentum. The business has successfully been growing by word of mouth and has solid client retention and client referrals as well as network referrals.
What seeded the vision of HRBOOST? Brief us about the services that HRBOOST provides and tell us why customers choose you?
I have long been affiliated with Best and Brightest® and in the summer of 2010, I was bored with my role and seeking challenge. As the annual Awards Symposium in Chicago neared, I was asked for my company name. I did not have one. I read the definition of the word boost in the dictionary: BOOST (verb): refers to raise or lift by pushing up from behind or below, to assist in further development, to stir up enthusiasm, to increase. I knew in that moment, that was exactly what I want to do for businesses.
HRBoost offers services on an ala carte, project, or retained basis. Our HR Services allow our clients to do what they do best. We help companies contain costs, minimize employer related risk, and relieve the administrative burden of HR while creating results that rival big competition. Our clients care about culture and for retained clients, culture is included.
Our Vision is to bring joy and purpose to people through their work. I believe our clients choose us for a few key reasons. First, we meet them wherever they are on their journey to be an employer of choice. Second, not only do we integrate as their partner, we believe in strategic HR, day one, employee one. Finally, we are fluid with our clients. Business flexes and HR must flex with it.
Amidst all your responsibilities and roles at HRBOOST, how do you manage to balance between professional and personal life?
Work Life Balance is a joke. I believe in Work Life Integration. I am a mother of two young children and my husband and I parent equally. I have set boundaries and built my calendar to achieve what is important to me personally first, professionally second. I expect my team to do the same. Work is personal and anyone who is still separating their work life from their personal persona could benefit from digging deeper to ensure their work is meaningful and allowing them to live authentically as the leader they are, from wherever they stand.
What are your individual plans going ahead? What does the future hold for Nicole and HRBOOST?
I am investing capital into HRBoost and I expect to see sustained growth. The Talent Emergency™ is real, and businesses are going to be continually challenged to not only attract talent but develop it and retain it. We are positioned to partner with businesses that know their Culture Plan is critical to realizing their Strategic and Operational plans in 2020 and beyond.