Number of employees you oversee: None, solopreneur
Brief background of your business:
Laura FloresI started my business in January 2023, so it is fairly new. I have always worked in the corporate world so being an entrepreneur has been an adjustment to say the least. And I love it. Ignite Consulting focuses on empowering businesses and organizations as well as individuals to reach their goals through training, coaching, skill building and guided practice.
As an HR consultant, I help small businesses with the complex tasks and processes in the area of human resources. This includes hiring, onboarding, offboarding, investigations, as well as process and document creation such as job descriptions, policies and procedures, and hiring checklists. As a trainer, I provide comprehensive leadership programs as well as single trainings varying from leadership, communication, emotional intelligence to workplace harassment and company culture. One of my favorite parts of the job is the speaking engagements to spread the word on having the courage to have difficult conversations and building the confidence in yourself to be the leader you want to be.
How has the HR sector evolved since you first started working in it?
It is so different now. Early in my career, the HR workplace experience seemed to have the HR department’s role as the “bad guy” who was a necessary evil. Even today, when I tell people I work in the HR field I get that “Oh, sorry about that” look.
Today, HR has evolved into a business partner with a large role in the strategic planning and implementation of company culture for an organization. Of course, there are the required responsibilities of risk and liability, employment law and all the legal compliance a company must follow. But in addition to those critical responsibilities, there is a more business- and people-centered approach to human resources. Priorities have shifted to focus on people in terms of engagement, staff development, strategic planning and company culture.
Can you share your best HR advice for small businesses?
Small businesses are one of my favorites to help because they truly have a passion for the product or service they provide. Human resources is not their passion. Their business is their passion. Unfortunately, all small businesses still must follow legal and compliance responsibilities. The best advice I can give a small business is to reach out. There are HR consulting firms like mine that focus on being a resource for small businesses, if and when they need it.
This includes referrals to trainings, webinars and other business development avenues. As small businesses, we don’t know what we don’t know. Awareness goes a long way. When small businesses can budget an HR professional, whether that’s hiring someone internally or contracting with a consultant, they can focus on what really matters to them, which is their business.
You recently spoke at the Tri-City Regional Chamber’s Women in Business conference, as well as the chamber’s Ask the Expert panel on “HR Pitfalls to Avoid.” Can you share these key pitfalls?
The Ask the Experts panel series is such a great resource for small businesses and organizations. The panel focused on a few areas in which many businesses struggle, including recruitment, onboarding, policies vs. handbooks, National Labor Relations Board language and company culture. The biggest takeaway for me was ensuring that a business’ company culture is clear and consistent. It is difficult to recruit top candidates and keep new hires from leaving if the company culture is not what they expect. In addition, having clear policies in place to help supervisors and employees navigate through the workplace is equally important.
It was an honor to be on the panel with Reanette Fillmer Etzler of CLT Coaching. She is an expert in her field with years of experience.
Are there any significant HR-related changes businesses should be aware of as we head into the end of the year?
One important thing to remember is that the minimum wage in Washington state is going up. Be aware of the increase at the beginning of the year to ensure your business is in compliance.
What do you see as the key challenges in the Tri-Cities job market?
In the Tri-Cities job market, as in the nationwide market, we have businesses and organizations that have several vacancies and a lack of strong candidates. Businesses continue to be short staffed and people continue to be unemployed. It’s funny, you would think that companies needing employees and people needing jobs would be a solution in itself. Instead, people have begun to take note of things that were taken for granted prior to the Covid-19 pandemic. There are ways to work now that are less conventional and more flexible. Potential employees are seeking such opportunities, and some companies are not ready for this new way of working. So, there is the issue.
One thing I have seen help businesses and organizations with this issue is to really sit down and contemplate how adjustments can be made in how they run their business. The No. 1 asset of a company is its people. When businesses listen to their people, it becomes easier to understand what motivates them and what they can do about their company culture to provide an environment where employees want to stay and thrive.
What is one characteristic that you believe every leader should possess?
Confidence. People will follow people who are confident. That doesn’t mean that a leader must have all the answers or be the most knowledgeable, extroverted or intelligent. Confidence, if used wisely, helps influence and empower others into action. Employees find it difficult to follow a leader that doesn’t seem to be confident in themselves. For example, if an employee needs guidance or a decision from their leader and the leader reacts in a way that is unsure, gets frazzled or stressed, or always has to check in with someone else, it can definitely affect the way their employees see them. Leaders who are confident are secure with their decision making, know that the guidance and decisions they make are working toward their mission and goals, and can pivot and stay calm when stressful situations occur.
What is the biggest challenge facing business leaders today?
Company culture. In my recent experience with clients, I have worked with a few companies who are thriving and it is apparent that they have created an amazing company culture. When chatting with employees from all areas of the business, the message is the same. They talk about how their leadership listens and quickly takes action when employees have concerns or requests. They mention that their leadership is accessible and relatable. They also state that they have opportunities to grow and develop. But the biggest thing I notice is that most employees not only know their mission, values and standards of conduct, but feel confident that the issues will be addressed when those things aren’t being met.
There are a few companies that are moving toward improving their company culture. When I chat with employees from these companies, the opposite is true. They sometimes struggle with understanding what the organization stands for and how that looks in terms of behavior, performance and communication. With a little adjustment, business leaders can create an engaging environment where employees can thrive and produce the best results for their employers.
If you had a magic wand, what would you change about your industry?
I would wave my wand to get rid of the stigma that HR is the “bad guy.” Yes, HR handles investigations, discipline, layoffs and termination of employment. These tasks are necessary but that is only part of the gig. In the past decade, many HR departments and HR leaders have become a resource and support for employees. They go above and beyond to assist with growth and development opportunities, help employees with urgent personal matters, such as medical leaves and accommodations, and provide positive guidance and constructive feedback to ensure employees are successful. My magic wand would ensure that people understood that HR is there to help and support employees.
What advice would you give someone going into a leadership position for the first time?
Invest in yourself. The best investment you can make in any leadership role is to invest in becoming the best leader you can be. A few suggestions I would make to invest in yourself are:
• Find a mentor. Someone who is in a place you want to be someday. Most people are happy to share their experiences as part of your learning and growth.
• Learn. There is so much information at your fingertips in different forms, such as books, webinars, podcasts, conferences, masterminds, trainings, etc. Take the things you learn and make them make sense to you in your role.
• Network. People are more helpful than you may think. You can gain immense insight from having a cup of coffee with someone new.
• Then, do it. With most of my experiences, learning and growing doesn’t happen by only reading, watching webinars or attending conferences. It happens by taking action. Knowledge isn’t power. Applied knowledge is power.
How do you keep your employees motivated?
This one is hard. Every person is motivated by something different. For some, it’s money; for others, it is recognition; and others, advancement. Leaders have to figure out a way to identify what people find important and the reasons why someone would do a job to the best of their ability. I have found that sometimes it is as easy as asking. Some of the ways I have kept people motivated is giving constant verbal credit and appreciation to the work they do. I also trust them to do their job and encourage and support them along they way by asking what I can do to help them do their job. Then, I get out of the way. Most people just want to be valued, appreciated and recognized for their hard work.
How did you decide to pursue the career that you are working in today?
I always knew I wanted to do something in business in the role of helping other people. Consulting is a perfect fit for me. It involves discovering what a business or individual needs and finding the best way to get them to their goal. It excites me every time I go through this process with individuals and businesses because I know there is a way I can help them achieve their goals.
How do you measure success in your workplace?
One way I know I must be doing something right is when I get approached by someone who was in my speaking event, mastermind or training session and they track me down to tell me they found value in the services they received from Ignite Consulting and that it changed the way they approached their situation. Specifically, when a company hires me to conduct training for their employees and the result is positive based on the feedback from the leadership team, I call that a win.
Another example is getting a call that my speaking engagement inspired them to start their own business. Getting feedback that the tips and techniques they received in my training helped them have the courage to have a tough conversation with a positive outcome. This is exactly why I do what I do.
What do you consider your leadership style to be?
I like to collaborate and come together to get a plan where we are on the same page and we know our vision and mission. Once we do, each person has a role and I trust that everyone is doing their part in making that happen. We check in regularly to make sure things are getting done and I provide guidance and encouragement to ensure they have what they need to be successful. I also like to be open to listening to others’ ideas on how to execute the plan. Most times I find people are creative, innovative and full of great ideas.
How do you balance work and family life?
I know people like to say “leave work at work and leave home at home,” but I struggle with that approach. As an entrepreneur, I am constantly in work-mode and mom-mode at the same time. In my experience, I have found there are a few approaches to work-life balance. When you are an employee who clocks in and out, the approach tends to be to leave work at work. There’s nothing else you can do once you leave work so be present in your personal life. A leader’s approach may be that they occasionally work from home after hours and take time off during work time for family business. As an entrepreneur, my worlds blend throughout the day. The great part of being an entrepreneur is I can create my schedule to adjust as needed. Sometimes I take the afternoon to watch my kids’ sports games then follow up with clients in the evening when family time has settled down. And vice versa with work. There is no wrong way to find balance. Everyone has to do what works for them. Just make sure you lead your schedule based on your priorities and what is important to you.
What do you like to do when you are not at work?
So many things. Family events (kids’ games, barbecues, celebrating birthdays, etc.) wine tasting, kayaking, drinks with friends, concerts, dancing, traveling, Zumba, guided painting — all the things.
What’s your best time management strategy?
Just start. Especially when working on tasks that are not your favorite tasks. There are certain things I don’t like to do so I look for other non-essential tasks to avoid them. I know, I know. When I notice myself doing that, I tell myself, just start. The best time management strategy that has worked for me is to pick my top three priorities for the day. Then, I start with the most important one and begin, even if it seems hard or overwhelming. I like to schedule blocks of time on my calendar as uninterrupted time to focus on only that task. I call them “jam sessions.” I make lots of progress when I focus for periods of time on complex tasks.
Best tip to relieve stress?
Move. Any kind of physical activity is always good. For me, Zumba is my favorite, and it gets me out of stress mode. I love music and dancing so even when I’m overwhelmed or feeling high levels of stress, I take at least 30 minutes to do my favorite Zumba routines and by the end of the session, I feel like I’m ready to take on what’s next. I’m sure this is the endorphins being released from physical exercise but for me it’s the music, the dancing, and sometimes the sassiness that comes from shaking your booty.
What’s your favorite podcast?
Every weekday, the first thing I do in the morning while I’m brushing my teeth is listen to “Darren Daily.” There is always a message I need to start my day and prime my mind with putting my best foot forward.
My favorite app is called Journal, where in the morning I note three things I’m grateful for, what I will do to make the day great and a daily affirmation. Then, at the end of the day, I note the top three highlights of my day and one thing I learned. It’s quick but the perfect start and end to my day.
Do you have a personal mantra, phrase or quote you like to use?
My personal mantra has been “figure it out.” I feel that there’s always a solution or choice. The unexpected, difficult and overwhelming happens all the time. It’s part of life. I take a deep breath and tell myself, “figure it out.” What that really means is to brainstorm all the possible options I can think of to find solutions to what is going on at that particular time.