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Go Fast, Go Alone; Go Far, Go Together: Women in Business Share Insights on Engaging Talent

Dozens of business-owning women came together in Baton Rouge recently to celebrate and learn from each other.

The June session of Womentreprenuers, sponsored by NexusLA, featured a practice pitch from Andrea Leyerle for her small business, Andi Lynn’s Pure & Custom Formulary, and an inspiring and informative panel of local women who’ve found success in business: Mary Ellen Slayter, founder and CEO of Reputation Capital Media Services; Lakeisha Robichaux, founder and CEO of Chief of Minds; and Beverly Brooks Thompson, president of Brooks Thompson Consulting.

Here are some insights regarding talent recruitment and retention shared by this team of women leaders.

Know the Difference: Employees Vs. Contract Workers

Moving into business leadership requires managing a staff, and Robichaux says it’s important to know what type of workers you have on your payroll — especially the distinction between contract workers and employees. Contract workers have more freedom — you pass work off to them and they meet deadlines; you can’t ask for much more than that.

Employees, on the other hand, are an investment. You exercise more control over their schedule, and you can train them to become important functionaries in your business. If this is what you need, cover your bases and be sure to file them as employees. Slayter says similar attention is needed for interns — make sure they’re compensated for their work, and also that they receive coaching along the way. An internship is a journey, and you set the itinerary.

An HR Company Can Be Your New Best Friend

If you’re just starting out as an entrepreneur, chances are you have a lot on your plate. Slayter says outsourcing payroll and HR can free up time for you to focus on growth and give you a competitive edge when it comes to recruiting top talent. A trained HR firm will help you determine the best allocation of resources for your employees and make it more likely that you can offer competitive benefits.

Knowledgeable HR consultants can also help when it comes to filing your taxes. They can advise you on how to differentiate between contract workers, full-time employees, seasonal employees and so on — and how to file appropriately.

Sourcing — and Maintaining — Top Talent

Scaling up your business can lead to a loss of personal touch — at some point you’ll probably have to switch to a management-heavy role and leave much of the hands-on work to others. So how do you find the right people to make that happen? Robichaux suggests an active search — don’t wait for talent to find you; go out and look for it. For example, chatting with a winning server or barista could lead you to your next great employee — skills can be taught, but finding the right personality that jives with your business is priceless.

And as you expand, Thompson says, make sure your employees have the resources they need — including your time and coaching — to achieve your goals. Invest in people you trust, and train them to lead your business. Taking vacations is a great way for you to unwind and for your employees to prove themselves in your absence, as long as you’ve given them the tools to succeed. Just remember that no matter what business you’re in, you’re also in the business of making leaders.

Stephen Loy