A lot of people…and I mean a lot…stood bewildered and puzzled (like when you make a high pitch noise at your dog and they cock their head in one direction)…when they heard I gave up a very steady, high paying, executive level human resources position to start my own human resource consulting company. It’s completely counter-intuitive to most professionals who have worked 25+ years in their profession and ‘made it to the top’ and ‘got a seat at the table’. Even more puzzling and for those that, at my age and career trajectory, quite frankly, are probably saying they are just going to ‘ride it out’ until it’s time to retire.
While it’s one thing I have learned over my career is that while no one owes anyone a long explanation on the ‘why’; I am going to do it anyway. I thought it would make sense in this case to try and succinctly describe all the reasons that led me to this very positive, very freeing decision, that at the end of day, might make everyone reading this reflect on their own professional situation and inspire just one person to do the same.
1. Quite simply, I wanted to help as many nonprofits and small businesses as possible.
According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics (NCCS), more than 1.5 million nonprofit organizations are registered in the United States.
In 2020 and according to the U.S. Small Business Administration, the number of small businesses in the United States reached 31.7 million, compared to 30.7 million just one year prior.
That’s a lot of gumballs. How many of those have I worked for in 25 years? 6 of them. My impact on the nonprofit and small business sector has been .00019%. This statistic was not lost on me.
But what is one thing in common that they all have? People! That is a lot of nonprofits out there and small businesses that can use a People Operations Consultant to help them with their people operations needs.
2. I wanted to empower other people solutions/human resource professionals (especially women) to realize they can do the same.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor in 2019, 76% of human resource managers are female and a whopping 86% of HR Generalists are also female. As gender equality proliferates in so many other professional fields, we have not seen that change in the human resource field.
Daily I have conversations with other human resource professionals who are trying to figure out their next career move. Human resource professionals are not exempt from thinking about their own personal professional trajectory despite their daily focus always being on the other people in the organization.
Hey, I get it. I am a woman and I have excelled working in HR, it fits me on many levels and I have benefited from being female in this profession. I also understand why it’s a female dominated profession. Therefore I also know, having worked in this area for so long and given my hard-wiring, how hard it is for women in HR to put themselves first and do what is best for them in all areas of their life, including their career.
All I can say is yes…it is hard, and yes.it is scary and so far, it’s one of the best things I have ever done for myself. Just do it.
3. I love my profession.
While talking about my transition into consulting, I had an uncle that said “Why would you keep doing this? Just keep buying investment homes and flipping them!” One of my brothers then said, “Why don’t you just get a part-time job at the wine shop in town and enjoy life a bit more?”
While I appreciated the sentiments of my loving family, and gosh darn that part-time wine bar job sounds like nothing by fun, it was never a question in my mind that I would not keep doing human resource work and helping others in the way I know best, passionately and enthusiastically.
At the end of the day, I simply love what I do, it is truly rewarding. I just needed to find another way to do it that worked for me on a personal level too.
4. I hated playing by the rules.
Ironic, isn’t it? HR’s role is to create the rules and also enforce them and do nothing but play by the rules. HR professionals are the poster child for the rules. And if you are the head of HR, you are the head of the poster children (your team) that also has to play by the rules. Every action you take, every work item you produce, every walk you take down the hallways, all eyes are watching. Ok, now I am humming the song by the Police (“Every Breath You Take”)….
While my nature was to always be the epitome of that poster child when I was in-house, there was always another part of me that always wanted to say more, do more, and have more freedom to be able to truly impact businesses without always being so worried about my own in-house perception of abiding by all the ‘rules’.
By working with clients as an external partner, my ability to influence is still there; my ability to create and understand the rules is still there and I now have more freedom to partner with clients and become truly innovative in helping them to resolve their people operations concerns.
5. I wanted to be my own boss.
Let’s face it, who doesn’t? And don’t get me wrong, I have had many, many excellent bosses who are still my mentors to this day that I have learned so much from over the years. And, like all of you, I have also had those bosses who were just plain awful.
I do not know one professional who has been working for 25 years who has not once said “I wonder what it would be like to work for myself?”. And now I get to find out.
6. I grew tired of toxic internal politics.
How many times have you heard someone say, “if everyone would just leave me alone then I could do my job”?! Working in-house, there is zero chance you can escape the ‘noise’ (as I like to call it) of toxic internal politics. Even the most healthy, flat structure organizations still have good old-fashioned toxic internal politics.
With my clients, of course I get a flavor and sense of the toxic internal politics and culture of their workplace and am sensitive to it while working with them. The difference as a consultant is that I don’t have to live in the toxicity, and I don’t have to be as distracted by it when trying to help a nonprofits or small business solve their people operation concerns.
7. Growing more objective in my role was key at this stage.
Is it possible for human resource professionals to be any MORE objective than they are all of the time? Turns out it is possible! With the work I have already being doing with a few small clients, I can already see that my strong desire to provide a completely objective approach has sprung back 100%. Emotional intelligence is key for anyone’s success at work and painfully hard to operate that way consistently when you work in human resources and truly care about everyone deeply that are impacted at work.
Being emotionally invested is important to a point, and detrimental to you and a company at some point if you are too emotionally invested.
Considering facts and circumstances in business decisions is critical, even human resource decisions. Doing that when it comes to your people operations can be hard because we all care about our employees at the end of the day.
As a consultant, I can assist nonprofits and small businesses in making the most objective right decisions for their company, while balancing the needs of the employees because I have the distance and focus on the situations at hand and am able to see things as they are and weed out all the noise.
8. I saw a gap and room for huge improvements.
If you have ever looked for a product or service and thought about a hundred ways you could make it more functional, more efficient or just better overall?
Like others that have branched out on their own, I see a lot that could be better about the human resource profession. I also see how my knowledge base can ultimately help nonprofits and small businesses improve their people operations.
The combination of my love for the profession and passion to create better, more innovative people solutions, led me to be where I am at today.
There is a gap out there. Nonprofits and small businesses who, by no fault of their own, cannot afford to have full-time people operations professionals in their organizations.
While I would argue all day that HR is not a cost center, sadly, by perception alone, human resources is still considered a cost center with no profit center.
It’s a capacity that some companies invest in strategically; yet so many nonprofits and small businesses simply cannot, at least not in the early stages of their businesses.
9. My person died and COVID-19 happened.
In 2019, my mom died suddenly in the blink of an eye, right in front of me, from a pulmonary embolism caused by a deep vein thrombosis (DVT) while in the midst of a battle with lung cancer. In an instant, my life changed forever. My perspective on all things in my life changes forever, and my career was a big part of that. How I spend my days and who I spend them with has become my top priority now.
In 2020, COVID-19 happened in the world and all of our lives changed forever. Everyone, including human resource professionals, have all taken a moral inventory of their lives and made different decisions in their life because COVID-19 happened.
Dr. Wayne Dyer in his book The Shift, illustrates how and why individuals make the move from ambition to meaning in this life. I have been fortunate to do my work in human resources mostly in the nonprofit sector which already brought a huge layer of meaning to my work and I have always been incredibly ambitious as far back and I can remember.
But since these two significant life events, it wasn’t enough for me anymore and it forced me to come to terms that the next step of my work needed to happen. It was clear that the meaning and purpose behind my work needed further exploration.
As odd as it sounds, my mom dying and the pandemic provided the energy I needed to move away from how I was working into doing it in a way that created even more meaning and purpose.
And from that, Alvis People Solutions, LLC. was created.