Hiring and Firing with Vicky Brown

George Grombacher October 25, 2023

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Hiring and Firing with Vicky Brown


LifeBlood: We talked about hiring and firing, the importance of having policies and procedures, how to avoid making costly mistakes, and staying in compliance, with Vicky Brown, CEO of Idomeneo, an HR consulting firm.       

Listen to learn why taking a breath could be the best HR decision you ever make!

You can learn more about Vicky at IdomeneoInc.com, Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn.

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Our Guests

George Grombacher

Vicky Brown

Vicky Brown

Episode Transcript

george grombacher 0:02
Vicki Brown is the CEO of E dominate enterprises. They are an HR consulting firm, she has a passion for helping entrepreneurs to succeed. Welcome, Vicki.

Vicky Brown 0:12
Thank you so much. I’m thrilled to be here. Thanks for the invitation.

george grombacher 0:17
I’m very excited to have you on tell us about your personal lives more about your work, why you do what you do?

Vicky Brown 0:24
Sure. Well, I’ll tell you a tiny bit, I’ll make it a short story, but about how I actually got started as an entrepreneur, because I didn’t have anything to do with it. It was somebody else’s ideas, was a human resources professional in the corporate world for a long time, a really long time. And now I’m dating myself. But in any event, the last kind of corporate job that I had was with a technology and financial services company. And we were doing great. Unfortunately, we did have a big technology component, and that was in 2000 2001. So if you remember that time, there was a rather sizable tech bubble happening, and it burst at about that time. So we actually our funding dried up. So we had to close the company, which we did in 2001. And the president of the company came to me at that time, and said, you know, you do HR in a way I haven’t seen it done before, and you did it with no money. So I think you got something there. I think perhaps you should think about doing that as a business. And I thanked him and laughed and said, Absolutely not. I am not a business owner. I am the number two, I’m not number one, I’m number two, I sit on the shoulder of the CEO, whispering to their ear, listen to all their competences. That’s my job as the chief HR executive. And he said, Okay. And two months later, he called and said he got a new gig. And he needed Human Resources Services. He couldn’t afford me. But could I just do this and that as an independent contractor, I said, Sure. And he kept adding to this and that list, until that was started in April of 2001. By August of 2001, my compliance gene was getting very itchy. And I said, Listen, I’m doing a lot of stuff for you, I have access to a lot of information. So I need a corporate veil, you need a corporate veil, we need a contract, we need to have insurance, things need to happen. And so I incorporated the next within the next 60 days. And that’s how he dominated was born. And he laughs now because that was his grand plan anyway,

Unknown Speaker 2:37
do you think it really was, it really was

Vicky Brown 2:39
he’s, he’s told me, that was his plan. I totally walked into it, we are still in contact, we’re still great friends. And his company grew tremendously. And they were our very first client. And we worked with them for, I want to say a good five to six years. So it was a really good, really good experience.

george grombacher 3:00
That’s awesome. So when he told you that you do human resources differently, what what did he mean?

Vicky Brown 3:08
Well, again, I’m dating myself, but the first thing that I that I thought was, why are we sending all this paper everywhere now can’t stand it. Now, the Internet was not nearly as sophisticated as it is now. And so, you know, just clicking on a link and getting access to all of your esign documents wasn’t a thing in 1999. So

george grombacher 3:31
I remember that.

Vicky Brown 3:35
It’s, you know, I say that these days, and I realized that there are people, unfortunately, some people who work for me, who were not born in 1999. So good on them. But so I wanted to do something different. And besides, you know, we were a air quotes technology company. So I took all of our forms and our documents on new hard pack and everything. And I put it on a very nice floppy disk, remember those, we would then package it very securely and send it off to the candidate. And so they felt like we were a very fancy company. And that’s actually what he meant. I really like to leverage technology. So whatever was available at the time, I was using it. So. So there was that. And also, organization is a big thing. And having standard operating procedures is a big thing. And processes is a big thing. So, you know, we really kind of were able to get things very organized. We went from ultimately we had about 500 employees. So we grew quite a bit in a fairly short period of time. And it was a fun ride. Yeah,

george grombacher 4:45
I can only imagine. So that is a lot of hiring. And probably for better for worse. Some of those people probably didn’t stick around. And so there’s probably some firing mixed in there too.

Vicky Brown 4:55
Unfortunately, yes, that does happen. But you know, when That happens. I think that we, as business owners, and leaders have to understand that the buck really does stop with us. So if someone is a bad fit, or they’re not doing a great job, or they just kind of can’t get done, they’re not meeting your expectations, we really have to take a look inside and say, Okay, first of all, what are the expectations of the job? Is that reasonable? Was Am I clear about what the expectations are? Did I truly hire for someone to fulfill those expectations? Or did I kind of, you know, get the halo effect, because they walked in, and we had camaraderie right away. And they seemed like exactly the kind of person I would want on the team. But I didn’t dig deep on skill set or experience, or, more importantly, how they think, and how they problem solve. So if it’s on us, we’ve really got to dig in, and understand what we’re looking for, first of all, and then do our due diligence to find it. And once we do that, then again, it’s on us to properly train those people and onboard them and give them the best chance of success that they can possibly have. And so that means we really have to have our ducks in a row, we have to know what our business is, we have to know how to communicate what our vision is, we have to know where we expect that person to fit in with the team, and where that job fits in with the delivery of our service or product. And then we have to have training that supports that and an ongoing growth opportunity. So you know, I don’t want to blame the victim as it were, but because it’s hard to have someone on your team that kind of really doesn’t get it or really doesn’t live up to your expectations. But I think the piece that that I know in the past, I’ve forgotten to do is to really look at my role in that, because that’s what I have control over also. So if I can shift some of the way I’m approaching that, then I can have a more successful outing the next time around.

Unknown Speaker 7:11
A very enlightened of you that’s That’s not easy.

Vicky Brown 7:15
It sounds really great. Now, if I can remind myself to do those things, when I’m in the weeds, that would be really good. Maybe I’ll just play this back occasionally, when we hit one of those days, you know that you explain something to someone 14 times and they’re still making the same mistake?

george grombacher 7:33
How often do you interact with organizations that have done all the things that you just talked about? Is it uncommon?

Vicky Brown 7:45
Yeah, it’s uncommon, I would, I would say that I’m fortunate in that the majority of my clients make a best effort. And I’m going to put myself in that group to make a best effort, you know, you do the best that you can, you’re not perfect at it. But so most of the folks that we work with, they really do think about their role as a leader, when they’re thinking about things going right or things going wrong. And that’s terrific, because those are the kind of businesses that we want to work with and the kinds of leaders that we want to work with. But, you know, sometimes you just need to get it done. And it’s not happening. And you’ve explained it a few times, and there’s some frustration there. And so you you want to take some quick action. And that may or may not include looking at the job description, and how you did the interview, and you know, all of those things. So hopefully, in quieter moments we can kind of get through.

george grombacher 8:45
Yeah, well, that certainly makes a lot of sense. And if I were in your shoes as I would be working to evaluate potential clients or partners how, however you think about the probably probably one of the same, that you would want to work and only work with organizations that had their heart in the right place. And the CEO or the president or founder thinks of themselves as the leader of the organization wants to create a great place to work, and then recognizes that there are a lot of gaps to fill in from everything you’ve been describing. And then making sure that they have somebody that they’re working with that has that compliance gene that you met that you mentioned a little bit earlier.

Vicky Brown 9:23
Right, the compliance piece is very important. And because of that, and because of the importance of compliance. Human Resources can very often be seen as the No department. We work very, very hard to be clear. You know, with our clients, they are they get the joy and sometimes the the less than joy of running their business the way that they want to run it. It’s a wonderful thing to be an entrepreneur. It’s energizing and fulfilling and scary and terrifying and all of those things and they get to have the joy of all of that At unfettered from, you know, consultant or department saying we can’t do this, you can’t do that you can’t do the other Our job is to really let them know where we see potential pitfalls. So, you know, my, the vernacular I use is it’s a red light issue a yellow light issue or green light issue. It’s a green light issue, it’s fine. If it’s a yellow, technically might not be exactly, you know, I’d be a better way to do it. But a lot of people do it this way. And I haven’t seen anyone, you know, get in the soup doing it this way. But I want to tell you that technically, you should do it the other way. If it’s a red light issue, red light issues are, yeah, it’s bad and something’s going to happen. And that won’t be good. And we don’t generally have a lot of clients who move forward with red light issues. If we’re running into a red light issue all the time, then we are not the proper fit for the client, because we just end up raising our hand a lot and saying, Oh, that’s not really a good idea. And again, the client gets to make the decision. But we also get to decide how much support we can reasonably offer. If they’re really going in a direction that’s, you know, not a good one.

george grombacher 11:20
Right? You don’t want to be working with chronic red light runners, Vicki,

Vicky Brown 11:23
we do not use that. We absolutely do not. But we’re very fortunate we have lots of green light, little bit of yellow light. But yeah, we have some some really great clients. And I believe that the vast majority of leaders absolutely want to do the right thing. And what happens with human resources sometimes and employment laws, is that the thing that makes the most sense from just kind of a reasonability perspective, is illegal. So you feel like well, you know, I love my team. So I give them an extra day off, or I’ll pay them a little bit of a bonus, or I’ll give them something or give them a gift and Amazon gift card or something. And well, the Amazon gift card has to be taxable, and the time off is fine. But it doesn’t like take the place of paying overtime, you know, things like that. So trying to do the right thing. It’s just the way you do the right thing. And that’s where we come in, we can we can help you help you with that. We meaning HR professionals, so so we can help you with that. So it’s, it’s a fun job, and I get to work with great people. But sometimes I get to explain things that seem a little unusual. So

george grombacher 12:44
for sure, for sure, for sure the devil is in the details. And there are a lot of attorneys. So we have lots of details and lots of doubles and better just to make sure that we are doing things as well as we possibly can. Exactly what percentage if we can visualize pie chart on you working proactively helping clients and your existing clients set up systems and processes? What kind of chunk is that? And then how often are you just sort of being that sounding board? Like we we’ve we’ve run into this issue or I think you understand what I’m asking.

Vicky Brown 13:19
Absolutely. And I’d say that that’s one thing that I really love about our business is that we spend a lot of time on compliance and on what I call administrivia. So we will get the form and put the form where it’s supposed to be and follow up on the signature and make sure that the personnel file is audit ready and make sure the I nine has all of the documentation in it and there’s a copy and you know, all of those things that are compliance related. That’s you know, we eat and breathe that stuff. We are HR dweebs, I say that with love, after all, so So you know, that’s a stuff we’re going to make sure that you’re kind of not going to get surprised on. But the thing that I love about our businesses, we also have clients that will actually ask for support and ask for feedback and ask what do you think? And that is a very special. It’s a special question. And it’s a special relationship. And I truly value it. Our HR business partners, those are the individuals who work with our clients. They are brilliant HR minds, and they’re really great people. And so they end up building relationships with those leaders, those business leaders, and we have CEOs, you know, just want to run this by you want to brainstorm together, thinking about acquiring a company even. And I want to have a meeting and think about and talk about what does that mean for the team? What does that mean for my budget? What does that mean, you know? So it’s really great to have clients where you can, when you’re quote unquote consulting, you can really offer kind of a higher level of interaction. And I love that

george grombacher 15:04
100%. And I imagine that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure and drink sure you’d rather have somebody on the front end. Hey, Vicki, we’re thinking about doing this, like, no red light, do not do that. Whatever you do, don’t do that.

Vicky Brown 15:20
Exactly, exactly. I think I tell potential clients this all the time. And I think what that I think one of our greatest strengths is we know when to tell you to call your labor attorney. And it’s always going to be earlier than you think. So we really, we love being out in front of the wave. But sometimes things happen. And so you know, you just have to adapt. The other day, we found out about someone that had been terminated two weeks prior. So, you know, you were like, Oh, well, there are lots of things that should have happened two weeks ago, well, we’re gonna get them done now. And, and that’s fine. So. So that’s the kind of thing I think that the thing that is most important, when you’re taking on some level of human resources, in addition to all of the other things that entrepreneurs and business leaders have on their plate, really only kind of two things that I I really keep, try to make sure they keep in mind. One is to don’t ignore things really, make sure you have your compliance ducks in a row. And if you don’t know what that is, if you don’t know what you need to do, then either find that information or find someone with that information. There are lots of seminars and things that legal firms do. They’ll do seminars, they do webinars, they send out information on a weekly basis, to keep you on top of what’s happening. As far as employment compliance is concerned. So make sure that you either know that or someone on your team is you know, keeping an eye out. Or that you just have a really great labor attorney who’s going to raise their or HR person who’s going to raise their hand and give you a call and say this is going to impact your business, the minimum wage is going up. And I know you have a few people who are below that. So let’s talk about that. That kind of thing. So that’s one thing. And then the other thing, we talked a little bit about bringing people on and talked about, you know, terminating someone’s employment, and mostly around that particular situation. But in all situations, whenever you’re dealing with your team members, remember that they are human beings first. So everybody gets to keep their dignity, you can solve a lot of problems by remembering that if you tackle the issue, if you attack the issue instead of attacking the person, if you realize that that person may not meet the qualifications, or the expectations that you have for your job, but they might be spectacular from my company, or the company down the street. So don’t let the emotion of the moment take over. It’s as a leader, one of the things that we really have to recognize is we have to take a moment and take a breath. If we can take a moment and take a breath, then our response will be helpful versus not helpful. blowing off steam, not helpful. blowing off steam at an employee. Definitely not helpful. It doesn’t accomplish anything. And even if ultimately you figure out that you have to let this person go, because they’re really not the right fit for your organization and what you need, that’s fine. But you can do that in a way that allows them to retain their dignity. And as long as you do that, got it. I mean, anyone can sue anyone for any reason. But if you at least keep that in mind, you’ve got a really good shot of not only not getting sued, I mean, that certainly is a worthy cause. But aside from that, being a leader that people want to follow. It sets a tone for your leadership, because it’s not just the person that you’re letting go, that’s paying attention to what’s going on. It’s everybody on your team. So those are kind of my two b’s, get your get your compliance in order. And remember to let people keep their dignity

george grombacher 19:18
and love it. Take a moment, take a breath, pursue the problem, not the person or attack the problem, not the person. Let people have their dignity. Is it that hard? You know, we just over complicate things too much, Vicki.

Vicky Brown 19:32
We do but you know, I said some pithy little statements there that are really challenging to do in the day to day. So it’s a matter of staying aware and, and again, giving your best effort

george grombacher 19:47
and have having the right people that call Becky so appreciate you coming on where can people connect with you? How can they learn more?

Vicky Brown 19:53
Absolutely. Well, I actually have a little gift for for your listeners. So Ha You can connect with me and also get your podcast gift at more human more resources dot info slash podcast gift innovative title. So you can certainly get that there and it’s probably easier to do that than it is to type any nominee or.com But so you can get a little gift there and it will give you a guide to some of the things I talked about the new hire process the termination process and things like that.

george grombacher 20:31
I love it. Give us that the it’s more human more resources. Tell us that again, please.

Vicky Brown 20:36
More human more resources dot info slash podcast gift.

george grombacher 20:42
Perfect. If you enjoyed this as much as I did show Vicki your appreciation and share today’s show with a friend who also appreciates good ideas go to more human more resources dot info slash podcast gift and pick up your free guide to some of the things we’ve been talking about today. Make sure that we are not running any red lights and running afoul of compliance because that is not a happy place to be. So thank you again, Vicki.

Vicky Brown 21:11
Oh, thank you so much.

george grombacher 21:13
Till next time, remember, do your part by doing your best

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