VoyageATL Featured an Interview of Julie Smith, CHRS Founder.
Today we’d like to introduce you to Julie Smith.
So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
CHRS was founded in 2006 in Los Angeles, California. I had been working in HR management and supported our community non-profits by providing pro-bono consulting and HR training to executive directors and key employees. I recognized that small businesses don’t typically have the financial means or justification to employ a human resources professional on their staff but the importance of sound HR practices is as critical for small businesses as it are for larger firms.
CHRS was founded on the idea that providing strong, knowledgeable information to small businesses is not enough. We need to serve as the external HR department, providing onsite services as needed and partnering with the businesses so that we are not just telling them what to do, we are doing it for them. Because we are a small business ourselves, we are able to customize our services to the unique needs of each clients. CHRS doesn’t present package options to our clients, we find out about the client’s needs, culture, and preferences, and then we customize a program that is right for each client.
I was a single parent and decided to further my education when my daughter was 3. I wanted to provide her with things that I didn’t have as a child and wanted her to have the opportunity to be successful and happy as an adult. I completed two degrees while raising my daughter and working full time. My daughter is now a key leader in my company, having completed two degrees herself. All the hard work and sacrifices of raising a child alone with a small income, working full time, going to school full time to improve our lives has been worth it. My daughter was the one thing that woke me up each morning and the reason why I kept pushing myself.
I have 4 children ranging in age from 10 years old to 29. The 10, 13 and 16 year old children are my husband’s children from a different marriage but they are my kids. Ask them? I’m not 100% sure the youngest knows for sure which mom she came from. My husband and I met on an airplane and lived 2000 miles apart. We have been married for over 8 years and we are very close with the kids’ biological mother, sharing responsibilities and spending holidays together. The kids get both moms, even on Mother’s Day. My eldest daughter is my rock at CHRS. She joined me in 2015 and is a superstar! I have two beautiful grandsons, William who is 5 and Harrison (“H”) who is 3.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
The challenges along the way are mostly related to growth and keeping up with the demands of the industry. Since we are a small business, it is financially challenging to keep up with the ever-changing technological demands and competition. Our service is intensely high-touch so many of the technological products and services don’t fit with our business model. But since we build strong relationships with our clients, they often become “attached” to their HR consultant and prefer to speak to the same person when questions or issues arise, someone who knows their business and history, rather than accessing a website or a portal for answers.
Each client is assigned a personal HR expert who is accessible by cell phone, text or email at most any time. We work with clients in different time zones so often times, a west coast client will call an east coast based consultant outside of normal work hours or on the weekend. Our consultants and employees are dedicated to being flexible and accessible, and understand that it is essential to supporting our clients’ needs and our business model. It can be challenging to source and identify top HR associates who are dedicated to meeting the needs of the client with a variety of issues and at a variety of times.
CHRS follows a strict vetting process to make sure that we work with consultants and employees who not only meet the high credentialing, education and experience requirements, they also must pass a series of interviews to identify that their critical thinking and communication skills are a match with our organizational culture. As a company, we take great pride in the level of professionalism and customer-focus of our team.
We’d love to hear more about your business.
CHRS is a small Human Resources service business. Our capabilities include all HR services but our “sweet spot” is human resources practitioner focused. Each of our clients works with a program that is customized to their specific needs. For some, we might provide an employee handbook or assist with a recruiting project or a difficult termination. For others, an HR partner reports to the client location for a specified number of hours per week and serves as the human resources department. We are not a payroll processing company, staffing agency or a professional employment organization, rather we coordinate and manage those services, and more, the same way an internal HR department would. If a client needs workers’ compensation insurance or medical benefits, we will coordinate with our partners to provide quotes, select provider, and orchestrate enrollment. Clients and HR specialists are partnered to ensure that all their HR needs are being met.
CHRS offers a service that is not only essential to small to medium sized businesses, our service is specialized to each client differently. We recognize that smaller companies are at great risk of labor and employment related claims, penalties and even law suits. Unlike many large companies, who have the financial means to resources, under some circumstances, a lawsuit could put a small company out of business. We work with our clients to ensure that policies and procedures are appropriate and in compliance with state, local and federal employment rules, minimizing the likelihood of penalties for violations and employment claims.
I am most proud of the fact that I have been able to help my clients sleep at night. Many of the HR issues that come up for our clients are scary! We help them understand their options and provide solutions to their problems, so they can actually close their eyes and rest at night. I am also proud of our unique approach to human resources, our entire team works collaboratively, even across state lines, to make sure that the service we provide is the best that it can be in all ways. I work with some of the most talented HR professionals in the business. I am proud of that.
What were you like growing up?
I was very shy. My mother took me to Florida on a business trip when I was 13 years old and I refused to leave the hotel room while she was in meetings. I was so afraid someone might speak to me. I have 4 siblings, one sister and three brothers and I am the second to the eldest and the eldest girl. I grew up all over the state of California but lived in Gastonia, North Carolina for a while as a child. With 5 children, my parents worked two jobs; one during the day and the other involved their ownership of a martial arts studio. Both of my parents are masters in Kung Fu San Soo, a form of martial arts from Southern China. My siblings and I spend most of our spare time in the studio learning how to fight and defend ourselves. My mother was a powerful independent woman and raised me to be the same, as I did and am still doing with my girls. As an adult, the shyness is long gone and I have learned to be strong, say what needs to be said, be dedicated, ethical, committed and forever focused on my goals.
In 2nd grade, I wanted to be an attorney when I grew up. I had an assignment to identify a career and then interview someone in that career. I remember bringing a cassette tape recorder to the interview. I decided then that I wanted to do something related to the legal field. I’m not an attorney but I am very knowledgeable of labor and employment regulations. I still may get a law degree someday.
I became fiercely dedicated to dance during middle school. I was a member of multiple dance teams, performance teams and was a dance competitor. During my early adult years, I choreographed country music videos in my spare time for artists like Brooks and Dunn and Tim McGraw.
To contact CHRS, please email [email protected]