How to create a better company culture | Interview with Jennifer

How to create a better company culture | Interview with Jennifer

Do you know company culture can make or break your business? Well, yes, company culture plays an important role. Learn how a company sets up practices to create a better cultural environment.

In this episode, my guest is Jennifer. Jennifer is one of the prominent leaders, authors and CEO at FlexHR. FlexHR payroll, hr, payroll and outsourcing company. She had experience in sales in marketing and did an MBA from Kellogg University. She is the co-author of a book called CEO from Home, done a Successful Business on Your Terms. She was recently featured on San Francisco TV discussion. 

She will mainly discuss company culture and how a company sets up practices to create a better cultural environment.

  • Discuss focusing on understanding the company's story and value culture, always starting with setting up basic necessities like training rules, compliance and everything. 
  • Having a super employee handbook is a necessity. 
  • What are the things you need to look for when joining a company? 
  • Discussing the current layer scenario and how the market will respond. 
  • How is the government helping or taking on people impacted by the layer? 

So welcome to the So Jennifer, and let's start with an introduction about you and your company and what you're doing.

Here is the detailed transcription.

Jennifer:
Thank you. My name is Jennifer Morehead. I'm the CEO of Flex hr. We are an HR and payroll outsourcing company. We also do HR, strategic consulting, and some recruiting. I have a sales and marketing background. I attended Northwestern University; I went to Kellogg for my MBA, and my background was B2B sales. I started a company called Sales Boxer that I ran for 10 years and sold in 2020, then acquired Flex HR from its original founder in 2020 and have been running it since. 

Okay. I do consider myself definitely a culture creator and a builder of teams, and that is a huge part of the success of a company. So I get really excited about that part of running a business.

 

Sam: 

Wow, that's really great. I'm sure our audience will definitely love hearing about how to set up a good culture because that's one of the biggest problems that most companies are facing. Right. All right, so let's start with it since you already have one company, and you sold that company to know some other different people, and then you acquired this flex. So, is that right now just focusing on flex or are you also having something different on maybe consulting with others?

 

Jennifer:  

My full-time work is running Flex HR

 

Sam:

And how big is this company? How many people are working on this one?

 

Jennifer:          

We have 25 employees, and we have 25 consultants who work as independent contractors. They have their own HR consulting businesses but then do consult with our clients as well.

 

Sam:

Wow, that's great. Alright, fine. 

So let's start with the culture I have seen while I also build the company. So I know how difficult it was to set up the culture and hire the right people who could be a good fit for our company. 

So, what are the obstacles or what are the things that you feel that setting up culture is not something that is already laid down or something, but it's something that is a regular practice that we have to do? So what do you see from yourself? How to set up a culture which can be good for the long term?

 

Jennifer: 

Sure. I think that story is so powerful for humans, and so what is the story of a company? I acquired the company from its original founder, who's still with us, and it's a pleasure to work with him each and every day. But that was a pretty powerful story to tell the background of him; the background of the company started, and when I acquired the company, we were in the midst of Covid, and that was a particularly hard hit for HR and payroll work. 

Just the work of covid and the work of processing those leads and figuring everything out and being there for companies. And it was a pretty beleaguered crew when I acquired the company. And so it was nice to be able to rely on the company's story, what is our story, what are our core values?

Those were some of the first things I set up. The story, the values and making sure that we come together and celebrate instead of just getting beat down every day by all the nuances of hr, the nuances of payroll, and the clients potentially having a bad day. We work very intimately with our clients day in and day out on their people; sometimes, that can get very messy. 

So I really focused on the story of our company, the core values, and the wins, and set up institutionalized ways to build that into our day-to-day culture. So, for instance, we have a biweekly town hall meeting, for the most part, remote. And so we get together on teams, I lead that call, but we highlight different people within our organization. 

What have you been doing lately? What have you been doing lately? The quick wins. We highlight what's going on, and we highlight the wins because we wanna make sure, especially in 2022 going into 2023, that people experience joy in their work. Otherwise, what is it all for? I think enough companies have caught on to the fact that employees can find nice places to work now with good work-life balance and with people who care, and if you are not one of those companies, you're falling behind.

 

Sam: 

Yeah, got it. Yeah, most of companies want to create a kind of very good culture, but it's not everyone’s cup of tea. I think cause some people will exit and some people fail in that. 

Okay, great. So how it is difficult because if you really wanted to create something,setting up rules and compliances. And especially for the startup, it's very hard because you can't have that many resources to set up everything. And most of the time, people don't believe in a startup, right? Because maybe there would be high pay, but believing in the startup and setting up these rules and regulations compliance is very difficult. 

So what are the main few things, or maybe what are the few parameters that you think that is very good to get started for the startup from the rules and compliance point of view?

 

Jennifer: 

Sure. I think from this Flex HR wasn't a startup, it was started in 2001 by the person who I bought the company for. And I'm fortunate that every one of our employees is very knowledgeable and compliance, especially for HR and payroll, that's what we do for our clients. So if there's anything where I fall out of line as a leader for our company, I'm told immediately, hey, we have to fix this piece, we have to fix that piece. So I am judged very critically by my own people about that. 

So I'm lucky in that sense that the content of what we do is so focused on compliance and so we really stick to the absolute best practices. One of our core values is ethics and how we value a strong moral compass because at the end of the day, who are you without that type of reputation?

So I think you are talking about compliance. I think it's setting up a payroll and a process on HR side for my own people that makes them know that everything is transparent, everything that I say I'm going to do will happen and that builds trust. 

I had to build a lot of trusts very quickly because I was taking over from another leader who had been there and so I needed to get some wins right away. One of the things that happened, and I think that will be very valuable for startups, is that they didn't have a strong training module for Got it. The employees at our company. And so I set that up right away. We absolutely have to have strong training for the people who come in. What is it that a Flex AHR employee is supposed to know on the HR side, on the payroll side?

And so we build in the rules of what they need to follow. They should already know it depending on their interview, but we need them to know exactly what we expect. And so from the very beginning, from the job descriptions that they see that show exactly what an exempt or non-exempt employee will do to when they come on board, our HR director takes them through exactly this very, very strong process. 

And then the training that their hiring manager is going to do, we do the one-on-ones with the manager and their direct report every week or every other week we have an executive meeting, we have a manager huddle twice a week in addition to that meeting. So there are those pieces that you set up to make sure things don't fall through the cracks.

 

Sam: 

In addition to that, you mentioned that, but you know setting up our practice before a startup training is the biggest problem, right? Because they (most employers) don't have that resources. 

Because I had seen many startups even when I started, I didn't have any background in that. So as a founder, you have to start something for and at least create a team of 20, or 25 people. So literally till 35 people, we don't have any HR in place; we don't have full-time hr. So whatever, I'm doing it to job practice. 

In that case, I missed a lot of things, right? Because I don't have that many rules and practices in place, even training that requires a lot of other people. 

So do you think that this practice should start from the beginning, or is it can be okay for maybe hiring at least a few people, 20, or 25 people, and then you start setting up all these practices and at all? Because I've seen that people, first people make a startup, then they set up the practice, not at the beginning.

 

Jennifer: 

And I understand that. I understand that being a founding CEO compared to being an acquiring c e o, there are differences there, and you're starting from day one just hustling and making sure that you are paying the bills on time and making sure that you're acquiring clients, that you're acquiring the right employees who have the right mindset to do kind of everything. It's not just a specific set of roles; you have to find the people who are really excited about that. 

So I do think, though to keep your, you know, protected on a basic level after one W two employee, you need to have workers' compensation in the US to be compliant. There are regulations for 15 employees, and you need to have a third-party administrator at any rate du Cobra for benefits after 20 employees; after 50 employees, you need to offer benefits.

There are many other pieces that I'm not listing here. So I think Google is your friend at the beginning. If someone in HR or know someone who's willing to give you some of that advice, it's just like what you need to, it's the hustling that you have to do as a startup, c e o where you need to find a friend who's a lawyer, you need to find a friend who's in hr. But true HR professionals, good HR professionals will protect you as an employer. 

And so it's critical to have your employees sign a confidentiality agreement so that your work and the intellectual property you're developing are your own. Because employees can turn on you, and it's very hard, and it's hard and sometimes a very costly issue for your company and for your startup. And so you need to treat them fairly; you need to make sure that things are documented and that you comply with your knowledge. And when you're able to afford it, it's good to at least start with as-needed hourly support before you maybe do an outsourced HR solution and then potentially get and hire a full-time HR person.

 

Sam: 

Okay, that makes sense. Yeah, I wasn't aware of that, that at least you should have something if you have 20 people, 15 people. So you should have something in one place. Okay, great.

 

Jennifer: 

And it's also the employee handbook is so critical. That's the bible, if you will, of the agreement, the contract that you have between employee and employer to say this is how we're going to work let's have no surprises, let's have an acknowledgment form signed. And so it's laying out every part of what this work will be and what we could, surprises that we might expect and how we're going to address those surprises so that no one's surprised. 

And I know that it feels like, in the beginning, a potential cash situation, but you can hire a consultant to do that work and drop an employee handbook, and you can get into serious trouble if you are in a state that allows you not to have to pay PT O when someone leaves, that's one thing you have to kind of check off, but you also have to specify it in your handbook and have that signed. Otherwise, someone could leave in February, and a benefit that you were going to pay them that was just going to be time turns into money that comes away from your cash flow. 

So you do wanna think ahead about whether am I doing this right? And have someone, either a friend, double check things on Google if you can double check things but ideally with a professional that you're at least paying just as needed hourly help to start.

 

Sam: 

Okay, now that's okay, that's compliance, it's done. Now you know how to set up practice. That's done. Now, how do you see this current scenario where people are laying off from one side and the other side definitely the other, especially in the HR or the agencies or maybe the company's consultant? 

So do you see that the requirements will be less in the coming years where you have fewer people to hire or it'll be seen as it was in like 2020-21 where it was very big time after I think there was a surge in the hiring and people wanted to hire a lot of people? So what do you see in this trend?

 

Jennifer: 

Yeah, it really varies according to where you are in the US and what industry you're in. I was just featured on a TV station in San Francisco about the tech layoffs, right? And it's a blood bath there and not bad. We were talking about solutions for those tech workers to get add education, take a job that gives them additional skillset where there are jobs to be found, move to a different location because Flex HR is co-located in Chicago and Atlanta, we're not seeing anything like that blood bath at all. 

And in fact, especially in the southeast, we are still clamoring to find people. It's very hard to find enough employees for the jobs out there. It's simply not available. So I think we're seeing that certain companies I think really did a lot of hiring irresponsibly where they were paying astronomical salaries, the benefits were astronomical, and it was irresponsible.

It was kind of lazy hiring. And then that has meant that we have really unfortunate layoffs here. And so for an employee too, when you're looking at a company, think about what the longevity of that role is going to be. And if it's too good to be true, it usually is, right? Because there are definitely options, easier options for us born workers. 

But for foreign nationals that are trying to look for work and they only have 60 days, that is a big situation for them. And that's really hard. And for that, I would recommend it because the others who aren't meeting the visa support, they can do consulting on the side and freelance work, but for the visa situation, it's scrambling to find another job. It's scrambling to find an education route that will keep them living where they're living. I think there are still a lot of people out there looking for a tech co-founder, and if they're willing to go the entrepreneurial route, that's an option just to keep them safe in their homes.

 

Sam: 

Okay. Yeah, I have seen a tweet from Joi Biden talking about training. They started some kind of training for people. So they will get a job anyhow, not something they will just stay away from. So that's really great initiative by the government of the US government. 

Great. So what are the key things that you (the employee) need to keep up to date as an employee? Because for employees, it's really hard to keep up to date with the laws and compliance. 

So what are the best ways people can get to know the company? Is that only the employee handbook that is included in everything, or will they have something different? I know Google is there, but sometimes deciding what is right is tough for a lot of people. Or to know if they (employees) are being treated correctly.

 

Jennifer: 

Okay. So I think when you get that offer letter at the very beginning, you really need to pay close attention to the pieces in that offer letter. 

You need to see what differences there are between if you voluntarily leave a job and involuntarily leaving a job; you need to see that job description to see exactly what is going to be expected of you to see. 

Am I able to do this? Am I going to be able to stay at this job? And then you also should very much research the company and the financial backing of that company to look at the leaders of that company. Do I trust the leaders of this company? It's a lot to do too, and you are giving your time and your, energy and your expertise to a company. 

And so it's really important to pay attention to that at the beginning, to talk with friends, to have them look over the offer letter to have them because we were talking about the tech layoffs, especially on the west coast, and it's really important now for them to go back to those offer letters to see where could I dig into places where I could find things to get from my company and would unpaid leave be possible just to give me more of a runway to find that next move.

So don't be concerned about the confrontation. I know a lot of people don't like confrontation, but you can do it very effectively and respectfully and you can ask about that offer letter and you can ask for certain things to be put in because the company is asking a lot of you as the employee. So it's okay if you do it respectfully and especially if you've developed a group of skills that are high, hard to get and they want you as the employee, you're in a good negotiating position to really ask for different things or clarify things to make sure it works for you.

Alright, let's have a quick firechat where you need to answer a single word or line. 

 

Sam: 

Okay, that makes sense. Alright, fine. So we have just one minute, and let's have a few quick rounds. So name a person or company that inspires you most.

Jennifer:       

Sarah Blake.

Sam:             

Okay, great. And what do you do when you are not at work?

Jennifer:       

I’m Niro Point. I do Pilates, I have kids, and I drive them around. I'm a chauffeur.

Sam: 

Wow, that's good. Okay. Okay, great. Nice. And how do you celebrate your success at a company?

Jennifer: 

Sure. Every other week we do the coffee break. We call it the coffee break, but it's really a town hall meeting and we focus on those wins because great things are going on every day with my employees and what they do for clients. And so we really like to highlight that.

Sam: 

Wow, that's great. And what is the best way if somebody wants to connect with you?

Jennifer: 

Oh, you can connect with me over email. That's the easiest way. Its jmorehead@flexhr.com

Sam: 

All right, fine. Thanks, Jenny, for joining us today. Nice talking to you.

Jennifer:  

Oh, great to talk to you. Good luck with either a blog or your business. I can't believe you do it both. That's amazing.

Sam: 

Thank you so much.

Jennifer: 

All right. Have a good rest of the day. Bye-bye. Bye.