Dianne Shaddock Austin realized that many small businesses and
non-profits could not afford the expense of hiring either an in-house
Human Resources professional or a fee for service consultants to
implement H.R. strategies and advice on staff management. So she started
EasySmallBusinessHR.com. It is specifically geared toward these small
businesses – your small business!
Easy Small Business HR gives small businesses one-stop access to expert, up-to-date, easy to understand and implement human resources advice and best practices.
She spoke with TNJ.com about how and why she built, not one but, two businesses:
TNJ.com: When did you launch your company?
Dianne Shaddock Austin: I launched my first company, New Day Organics in July of 2006. New Day Organics was an online natural skincare product retail business that focused on products developed by women entrepreneurs. I closed that business in late 2008 and in 2009 I started my online HR business, Easy Small Business HR. My current business was started as a blog as a way of testing the viability of an HR Business online.
TNJ.com: Why did you launch your company?
DSA: Fear. My background is in HR with a specialty in recruitment, hiring, employee relations and diversity and inclusion. In my capacity, I have witnessed quite a few employees who had to be laid off for budgetary reasons. I realized that being a great employee and having exemplary performance reviews did not matter if a company has to lay you off for legitimate business reasons. I am fortunate that I have never had the experience of being laid off from a job, but during that period, I recognized that I never wanted to be in a position where someone could give me my walking papers. In the process, I found that I had a proclivity for business; particularly online business, Internet marketing and social media. I love what I do.
TNJ.com: How did you fund the startup?
DSA: For my online skincare business, I obtained an SBA loan. I bootstrapped my second business, which is easier to do with an HR information product business. I develop and create my own products.
TNJ.com: What were some startup challenges?
DSA: For the retail business, it was competing with larger skincare companies who had the resources to keep higher levels of inventory and charge lower prices than I was able to. For both the retail and my current HR business, getting up-to-speed with marketing the business effectively was also a huge challenge for someone like me who did not have a marketing background or a budget to play in the same league as the larger companies. I had to learn a lot about guerrilla marketing and social media as an alternative way to market my business. As it turns out, these methods have been much more effective than the traditional marketing tactics that I used early on.
TNJ.com: What have been some issues you have faced while expanding?
DSA: Cash flow is still an issue for me in terms of expansion. I now know exactly what I need to do to get to the next level in terms of business but I’ve had to redirect my business income to other areas that are essential for my business in the short-term. The other small challenge has been that my business model is almost 100% virtual. I’ve learned that I still need to get out there and network to help build the online business.
TNJ.com: Goals for this year?
DSA: I am working on rolling out two online courses this year, which focus on management best practices and how to deal with difficult employee situations. I am also working on expanding my brand through various public relations and marketing strategies with the help of a marketing professional. I also have some very specific financial growth goals for this year which are to grow the revenue by 50% by the end of the year. Lastly, I’d like to develop at least one solid partnership with a company that provides complimentary services. For example, it would be great to partner with an owner of a CPA firm or some other small business service that targets the small business market to exchange information and products that would benefit our clients across the board.
TNJ.com: What has been the most important business lesson?
DSA: For me, it has been that I can’t grow a business alone. I had that mindset at first. I thought that because my business was online that I didn’t need to devote the level of time into networking and partnerships, as someone with a brick-and-mortar business might need to do. Regardless of the type of business, it is important to develop relationships and your brand by being visible. I haven’t mastered it, but I’m much better at getting out there now than I was early on.