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Human resources to go

Profile: Local woman starts company to assist small businesses with H.R. laws

Posted: October 5, 2010 7:44 p.m.
Updated: October 6, 2010 4:55 a.m.
Julie Smith, owner of Custom Human Resource Solutions, meets a potential customer at a North Fulton County Chamber of Commerce Business Expo. Julie Smith, owner of Custom Human Resource Solutions, meets a potential customer at a North Fulton County Chamber of Commerce Business Expo.
Julie Smith, owner of Custom Human Resource Solutions, meets a potential customer at a North Fulton County Chamber of Commerce Business Expo.

“My advice to entrepreneurs would be to just do it, step out on in the ledge and go for it,” said Julie Smith.
Smith, 45, owner of Custom Human Resource Solutions (CHRS), began her business September 2007 after having served in human resources and executive-management roles with established companies for 27 years.

CHRS provides customized human resources support to companies of all sizes, with the majority of Smith’s clients being smaller businesses that have 25-100 employees.

Smith said companies of this size often don’t have a need for a full-time H.R. person. But the complexity of California’s employment-related laws is often too much for a smaller business to navigate alone.

“No other state has labor laws as strict as California,” said Smith. “As a result, it’s also a very litigious environment.”

Outsourced services
CHRS, an outsource service, fills the gap for businesses that need human resources support on an occasional basis. The firm assigns an H.R. generalist or specialist to work side by side with a company.

The benefit to a smaller business is that the company does not need to retain a permanent, full time resource and saves money on salary, benefits, taxes and any fringe benefits given to employees.

The cost to retaining a permanent H.R. person on a company payroll will vary depending on the skill level of the H.R. representative. According to Smith, a high-level generalist earns up to $100,000.

CHRS and the consultants, who are independent contractors, both carry liability insurance; another cost savings benefit for the companies using its services.

Unlike other human resources support companies, which bundle services into packages for a flat rate, Smith said CHRS bills on an hourly basis, and only for the hours a consultant actually did work for the company.  It does not package services that force a company to pay for something they may not need or use.

Smith recruits consultants through professional human resources associations such as the Professionals in Human Resources Association (PIHRA), and some come to her as referrals. All of the consultants have professional human resources certification or senior human resources certification. 

To become credentialed, an H.R. professional must be able to document two to four years of professional human resources management experience to be eligible to take an exam. The exams, offered only twice a year, run four hours in length and tests an individual’s knowledge in six areas of human resources. The exams are knowledge- and experience-based.

Varied assignments
CHRS pairs consultants with each company to provide customized services.
Some consultants are assigned an actual schedule to work on the company premise, serving as a resource for both the company and employees.

“We assign specific consultants to a client rather than force a client to work from a pool of consultants,” said Smith. “The consultant really partners with the client to understand their culture, needs and environment.”

CHRS also contracts with companies on multiple levels, based on the individual need. The business may need help with legal compliance issues, developing H.R. programs or hiring processes and documenting the procedures, company performance evaluations, safety programs and training in any related area.

Smith said the biggest demand for training comes in addressing sexual-harassment, customer-service and supervisory topics.

A lot of new supervisors, who are promoted, quit or are terminated within a year, Smith said. Training a supervisor to be successful demonstrates a company’s commitment to helping the person they hired succeed in their role.

“Supervisors are the first line of defense to protect a company,” said Smith.

Regulatory employment compliance is crucial, particularly in California. Helping a company navigate through the minefield of labor laws, helps them make the right decisions and represent their company well.

In some cases, training needs are highly specialized. As an example, Smith said a manufacturer might need help with injury and illness training when mercury is used in the manufacturing process. In a case like this, Smith brings in a specialist who can tailor the preventative program to the needs of the manufacturer.

CHRS also works with many nonprofit organizations and offers a significant discount to charitable organizations.

Making the leap
When Smith first launched her company, she felt she was taking a big risk and worried whether she would go through her savings. She said it has definitely been a challenge in a rough economic climate, but that she is pleased with the company she has built. Smith said she would have regretted it if she never took that first step.

Becoming an entrepreneur also allowed Smith the freedom to marry her husband, a resident of Atlanta. Smith spends time living in both markets, building her company into a somewhat bi-coastal enterprise.

Running her own company has given Smith an opportunity to give back to the community as well. She said she has served on multiple boards, and is a former 2008 Valley Industry Association Chairwoman. 

Consultants working with CHRS are also involved in the “Connecting to Success” program sponsored by VIA and Junior Achievement of Southern California.  The program mentors high school students to build professional work place skills, and develop the ability to influence others as responsible adults.

Custom Human Resource Solutions can be reached at (661) 254-5325.


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