Nicole Martin: A Trailblazer in Developing Powerful Businesses

Nicole Martin | CEO & Founder | HR Boost
Nicole Martin | CEO & Founder | HR Boost

Women in today’s time are not just great home makers but are also great businesswomen. They are the ideal example of being patient and strong. In recent times, they are breaking the stereotype of society of women being fragile. Indeed, they are passionate and brave towards everything they do. The never giving up attitude of women makes them stand out of the crowd. Such women are capable of bringing change in the world.

While searching for such world changers for our edition, Champions of Change | 2021, we came across an amazingly talented woman, Nicole Martin, CEO and Founder of HRBoost®. Nicole’s leadership skills and passion towards bringing a change have proved that she deserves to be one of the most successful women in the world.

In the following interview, Nicole briefed us (the team of Insights Success) about her journey to build HRBoost®. She also mentioned about the challenges she faced while bringing up the change in the industry and about how she managed to serve best to the clients during the Covid-19 pandemic. Nicole has also shared her future goals and advised the budding entrepreneurs and youngsters who wishes to bring a change in the world.

Following are the focal points of the interview:

What is ‘change’ according to you?

Change is inevitable. However, to receive it and become agile through change requires an astute awareness of how we are feeling amidst the external environment—and then feeling safe enough to communicate it to those around us in a way that allows us to embrace it together.

Kindly tell us how you are bringing change in this world with the help of your business. Describe about your company in detail.

Ironically, the biggest threat/change to the marketplace is talent, even now. Only the truly forward-thinking companies will make winning moves even in the downturn of economy.

The best just competes against themselves. The concept of the best is to be rooted in continuous process improvement. The one thing that won’t change is, change itself. The time is now to incorporate not just intrapreneur strategies in your business, but also augmented talent attraction strategies for freelance and/or skilled resources.

With culture being the new organizational structure, the benefit of access to freelance expertise in various areas of business will not be just desirable, but necessary. This can be beneficial for businesses too. Businesses that are good at building a framework to uphold the culture as a common language and experience for all their resources working in synergy with clear focus to a shared goal, well then, business can acquire what is needed at a fraction of the cost. This can help fuel a growing business and when done right, it can improve efficiency and contribute to the economy.

None of us can foretell the future. I am confident however, that the talent won years ago. Despite the current unemployment rates, you hear about, the skilled talent is at work and resources are skim in several industry verticals. Get ready to witness people making life changing decisions. People who are purpose driven to claim their joy through flexible work that fuels their intellectual passions is now at the forefront.

The new evolution will be seeing this take place from the former bread winners in families who no longer fear the risk in the face of uncertainty, knowing nothing is more important than their well- being and the well-being of their families. The hospitality industry is already painting the future with staycation retreats because working from home can be great especially when it is not mandated.

The talent of the future will seek to work from anywhere and on their terms. I feel this is all evidence enough to put every business owner on notice. If you did not know it when I wrote The Talent Emergency in 2015, then heed my notice to you now. The talent still has the upper hand and women remain an opportunity! Now, I would like to pose to you, is the talent landscape a threat or an opportunity?

At HRBoost®, we specialize in meeting companies at their pace and budget to integrate an authentic culture invitation that can be reinforced again and again through leadership at all levels with solid HR infrastructure. Strategic HR Day 1, Employee 1.

What made you venture into the industry you are catering to?

It is my number one responsibility to empower my team of Boosters, invest in ongoing education, tools, and resources to optimize my team. I have a faith that they will in turn delight our clients with the love for what they bring. I was truly humbled when after years of serving on Advisory Board and being part of a winning organization in my prior roles, my own company took the stage of Best & Brightest ® Companies to Work for in Chicago, in 2019. Now, we just aim to get others there with us.

What kind of products or services do you provide that are making a difference in people’s lives?

We recently engaged a partner to be the HR Expert on Demand, and this truly takes our bench strength to small businesses across the country via phone or their chosen mobile device. While we prefer in person like everyone, these days we have gone digital.

Given we are not your Broker, your Attorney or a 1-800 number.

We believe HR expertise is essential to any business as they grow their enterprise. Our Shared Services approach allows businesses to access strategic HR at their pace and budget, all while taking a holistic approach to integrating a culture plan that enables their strategic and/or operational plans as a business.

We deliver skilled talent to our clients. We also believe they need both strategic and tactical resources at the same time. One human is not ideal as there are various cognitive abilities to optimize HR strategically. We believe our shared services approach to the middle market is the PEO Alternative. And yes, the middle market needs an alternative.

What kind of challenges have you faced while bringing the change through your business? How has it affected your professional life?

Like any business, talent is critical to growth and skilled talent is critical to our business. As a result, we have reinvested in our talent and our approach is not only towards acquiring talent but also, to enable it. We have also been careful to listen to our clients, their experience, and ways we can better serve them. Our flexibility and custom approach to how we work with clients, has fuelled our growth and success. The challenge will always be access to capital, both financial and human. As the business grows, those challenges just increase in scale.

How has the ongoing pandemic affected the operations of your organization? How are you driving your company to sustain its operations and ensuring safety of your employees at the same time?

We have always trended with growth year after year, however amidst the pandemic we were hit hard like many. Thankfully, we have successfully returned to pre Covid-19 revenue levels, and this is something we are pleased with given the level of uncertainty in the market. We have revealed some new innovative ways to reach our clients and as talent shifts occur, we are ready to help the businesses that seek to retain talent.

What would be your strategic approach to scale your business in 2021 and beyond?

Like many businesses, my organization was hit with a decline in revenue when lockdown occurred. Challenges like many others, we facilitated several furloughs, layoffs as a service to our clients and even partnered with others that had to dismantle their business. Thankfully, as businesses that were ‘essential’ needed support, 50% of our portfolio kept talent onsite and have never been virtual.

Our lost revenue was recouped but with a new portfolio of clients that realized their culture invitation and compliance was critical to continued talent retention. Our largest revenue ever in one month occurred in October 2020. Now, a year later, the talent is moving and not just from one company but across the country to where they choose to live. I also have talents in my team that made choices to keep their families safe and in balance. Thankfully, we practice what we preach so we have talent in the pipeline. Regardless, it is clear, the competition for skilled talent has no boundaries in our country, and virtual and hybrid approaches to working will outlive this pandemic.

Our Recruiter on Demand services have increased throughout 2021. Diversity and Inclusion became the forefront as well as Safety and Well-Being. New measures of engagement include wellbeing and overall health to include mental health in the workplace. Businesses that showed care during this past year will retain talent but those that failed to keep talent informed, part of the discussion and ahead of the anxiety will see their team change and likely in a big way before year end.

What would be your advice to budding entrepreneurs and youngsters who are striving to bring a change in their community?

I feel it is imperative to get hands on experience doing what you seek to learn. Make sure it brings you joy before investing time, energy, and dedicating your life to it. Enjoy the journey and be prepared to learn, unlearn, and relearn. Surround yourself with people who inspire and support you, but also don’t patronize you. Remember, even if it gets harder, or takes longer, stay diligent. Anything you love will be worth it.

Where do you envision your company to be in the long run and what are your future goals? How do you plan to embrace the changes happening in your industry?

We created a Covid Business Bundle within 30 days of the legislative changes that swept across our country. I priced it at a nominal fee ($149.00) for all the policy, forms, and instructions to manage the new paid sick leave and emergency family medical leave. We included a free consultation because the last thing a business needed was to learn they weren’t in compliance, when they were trying to do what was right. The most fascinating part was to see how many out of state clients found us before many in own back yard did.

We kicked off 2021 with a Culture Leadership Summit with 11 international speakers and only charged $2.95 cents. The cost of fuel but instead of your car, it was for you personally. Proceed benefited A Safe Haven, a Chicago non-profit addressing homelessness in our city. We also inked a join licensing deal to bring our Phone Client program to Android and Apple, something we now partner with Brokers to bring HR Experts on Demand to their clients. Looking to the coming year, much of what we did in person will now be available online and on demand.

What is the current industrial scenario of the sector you are catering to?

If you do not have a positive work culture, talent will not tolerate it for long. Creating a culture conversation take rigor where two-way exchange is fostered and upheld. We were recognized as a Best & Brightest® company to work for, in Chicago before the pandemic. Regardless, any organization committed to excellence knows culture can change with every promotion, hire, or termination. Put separation and a pandemic in the mix and more conversations were needed.

If you do not have a common language for how leadership lives across the organization, morale can suffer. We implemented pulse Covid Surveys in addition to our standard culture surveys and metrics. Anonymous pulse is important, but we also began more company check-ins across peer levels. We have kept Monday Motivation, Happy Hours, and Wellness Wednesdays with the long term in mind as we feel we created a deeper connection during these tough times. We also had Chaplains in the workplace before Covid-19.

I was thrilled to see them working more proactively to connect with our team in a virtual world and we had high utilization these past 12 months. I feel proudest of what we discussed, exchanged on, and shared. The subject matter has not been around easy subjects. We had a team meeting to discuss racial unrest and while it was emotional, I was touched that my business has a culture that feels psychologically safe, where I can hear and see my team sharing with each other and beyond without fear of peer judgement but rather seeking to learn from one another.