Why it’s never too early for a small busines...

Why it’s never too early for a small business to start thinking about human resources

April Halliburton explains the pitfalls small businesses can avoid if they start with a strong human resources foundation.

April Halliburton is pictured in looking straight into the camera and smiling, while wearing a black blouse and denim jacket.

April Halliburton. Courtesy photo

New entrepreneurs bloom frequently, and with the employment shakeup many experienced in 2020 thanks to the pandemic, there is no shortage of emerging small business owners. We thought that made it the perfect time to learn from professionals who focus on serving businesses directly. 

April Halliburton is the founder and president of All-4-HR & Business Solutions, a Michigan-based, full service human resources company. All-4-HR & Business Solutions offers HR management, recruitment, HR risk management, training and development and employee relations services to businesses nationwide. 

Throughout our conversation, Halliburton made it clear that however small your business is today, it has the potential to grow. But without a strong human resources foundation, it’s possible, perhaps even likely, that a business’s growth is being stunted or it’s growing in the wrong direction.

The conversation below has been slightly edited for length and clarity.

The Blend: Tell me how you began your work in human resources and what led you to start All-4-HR & Business Solutions.

Halliburton: My professional background really starts in labor law. I have over 20 years of experience in labor law as a legal assistant, and a ton of it was in employment law. I thought I wanted to go to law school. But after working for an attorney for some years, I decided I wanted to change directions and go into business. I found my love for HR in 2009 while being the caregiver for my mother. I’d found work that allowed me to work from home and care for her. And while transcribing hearings for the unemployment commission for various states, I noticed the huge gap between HR management and great HR management for small businesses. 

What’s the difference between HR that simply exists and great HR?

There’s a huge difference, actually. Plenty of companies have HR, but they may not be applying it. The world of HR is ever changing, just like technology, so it’s important to stay up to date on laws, changes and trends so that you can adapt. Paperwork must be filed on time and the necessary policies and procedures have to be in place. So, the difference is that companies with great HR do those things. They implement and maintain policies, practices and procedures that protect and empower their existing employees, leading to growth in their workforce. This is in contrast to companies that don’t have an employee handbook, or that maybe have a handbook, but only update it every few years. Business owners have to be proactive when it comes to HR to grow a great culture, a good company and a strong team. 

What do your virtual services entail and how do you ensure they work to assist small businesses without being on-site?

Some companies want HR management, while others seek consulting to develop an employee handbook or develop and facilitate sexual harassment training. Or, we may even do an employee engagement program. Everything is done in the cloud for our clients in Michigan and across the country. Each company has a portal where we meet with our clients, hold team meetings and apply the whole gamut of HR.

April Halliburton is pictured in looking straight into the camera and smiling, while wearing a black blouse and denim jacket.

It’s easy to imagine how All-4-HR & Business Solutions can support companies that employ a dozen people or more, but what do you have to offer businesses with just two employees? Why would such a small business choose to call you rather than manage things on their own?

The important thing to keep in mind is that many companies that start will grow. And even if they don’t, leadership should want to protect two employees as much as they’d want to protect 10, 50, or 100 employees. They still need to have policies, procedures and practices in place so that the company and culture is healthy and primed to grow. So things like performance management programs, employee engagement and having a handbook are important, so that your employees—however many there are—all have the tools that they need to perform the best they can in your business. And it’s critical to put those policies and procedures in place at the beginning, as opposed to waiting until an incident happens to put something in place. 

It’s funny that you said that because HR is almost like PR, in that it gets noticed when folks are in trouble, rather than when things are smooth. 

That’s one of the things that we work really hard to let our clients know. We’re not here just for the bad. We’re here for the good. Really, we’re here to prevent the bad. So we work on things like engaging employees, reward programs and employee management so that employers are appreciating the great work their teams provide. Those things are just as important as progressive discipline. It all goes hand-in-hand. If you are appreciating your employees, you’re pouring into their training. It’s not necessarily that you’re putting thousands and thousands of dollars into training, either—you’re maybe cross-training—[but] your employees are learning new skills and getting opportunities to work together. You’re resolving and stamping out toxicity in your company swiftly. Those things will help grow and improve your company culture. Our focus is helping companies make their cultures healthy and happy. 

There’s been a whole lot of talk at companies, especially in the last year, about diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). What role do you feel HR plays in developing and suppressing DEI?

It plays a huge role. DEI is at the base of it. If your HR isn’t thinking about DEI, then DEI likely isn’t getting done in your business. HR is the component that is holding trainings, making sure you’re hiring a diverse workforce, and ensuring that you’re welcoming and including everyone in your workforce as part of the company culture. This even includes holiday and individual cultural celebrations. DEI is huge. 

What advice do you have for people without an HR background considering a transition into HR work? 

Volunteer. You can volunteer with organizations like the Detroit Chapter of the Society for Human Resources Management. You can join your local chamber of commerce and help them with the HR component of that organization. Then, just get yourself out there and network with other HR professionals. Just as importantly, keep up with the ever-changing trends of HR—consider all that’s changed in this last year with COVID-19. Knowledge in this field is power. 

What’s the most vital fact that you wish people understood about HR?

HR is there to build and help. I also really want small business owners to know how important HR is to their company’s growth and culture. You simply cannot grow a successful company without a good team and you can’t grow a good team without effective HR. 

This story is from The Blend, a digital magazine for Detroit women to find inspiration, advice and resources, while connecting with an inclusive community of women dedicated to supporting each other.

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Courtney Wise Randolph is a native Detroiter with a heart for people and their stories. A WDET Storymakers Fellow, she also writes for nonprofits and individuals through her small business Keen Composition.