007: Sharon Hulce on the role of the CEO and personalizing the recruitment process

How does the CEO make or break a company’s work culture? David Alonso discusses the fundamental role of the CEO, fostering positive company culture, and personalizing the recruitment process with Forbes-recognized CEO Sharon Hulce of Employment Resource Group.

A special thanks to JobRobotix for sponsoring this episode! Why manually manage your work flows if our bots can do it for you? Free your staff to do more profitable tasks with our data automation technology! 

People don’t leave companies. They leave leaders. 

 Show Notes:

  • How a near death experience led Sharon on her recruitment journey (1:06) 

  • Sharon’s ideal client (2:39) 

  • How did the recession impact Sharon’s recruitment company? (4:06)

  • How has Sharon’s recruitment business changed in the last five years? (5:06) 

  • How does Sharon get a company’s business on brand and on message? (6:30) 

  • Sharon’s personalized approach towards candidate retention. (7:57) 

  • Why it’s important to be a storyteller in the recruitment business. (9:22) 

  • How many positions Employment Resource Group has filled this year (10:38)

  • How important is the CEO when it comes to the company brand? (11:06)

  • Sharon Hulce’s Top Recruiter experience and how candidates were selected (13:01) 

  • The role that emotional intelligence plays in recruitment (15:04) 

  • Sharon on ‘natural DNA gifts’ (15:25)

  • What the Pinnacle Society is and the role it plays professionally (17:35) 

  • Sharon’s daily schedule (18:52) 

  • Why Sharon continues to run a desk in her recruitment company (21:39) 

  • The candidate selection process and the importance of being involved as CEO (22:52) 

  • Employment Resource Group’s core philosophy (24:57) 

  • Does Sharon fear the coming of A.I.? (26:09)

  • Are there mistakes that Sharon has learned from in the recruitment business? (28:08) 

  • Does Sharon find it hard to hire for her own business at times? (30:10) 

  • Something Sharon is most proud of. (31:14) 

  • Sharon describes the workplace culture of Employment Resource Group (32:15)

  • Sharon discusses personal traits that may annoy some of her employees (33:53)

  • Sharon discusses “Shall We Dance?” (34:52)

  • A book or podcast that motivates Sharon (36:47) 

  • When will Sharon know she’s accomplished her goals? (38:12) 

Additional Resources:

If you are interested in listening to more recruitment business stories or wish to share your recruitment business journey, subscribe for free to The JourneyUp in your favorite app and listen to other informative and inspirational episodes! Feel free to contact me, David Alonso, with questions and comments.

Episode transcript

David Alonso:    Welcome to The JourneyUP podcast show feature and the very best CEOs in the staffing industry who share their passions and successes as well as giving you some practical advice that you can use in your staff in business. I'm David Alonso and today's show. I met the CEO of very successful search firm out of Wisconsin. She's an industry visionary of Pinnacle Society Member, so much passion for the staff and sector. She does it all from speaking gigs to TV shows and even has time to still run a desk. Her expertise has led to her from being listed by Forbes as one of America's best executive search firms for 2019 my guest today, Sharon Hulce from Employment Resource Group. A little shout out to Wendy Robinson for the introduction, so let's now hear what Sharon is all about.

David Alonso:    Hello. Thanks for being on the show. You know, I've been looking forward to this one for a while. I'm trying to keep it on point because I know that I could probably ask you too many questions and it could go on forever. So I'll try and keep it nice and concise for you today. But I love to start and just ask, being in the industry for for some time now, how did you start? What was your journey up? When I look on Linkedin, I don't see anything beforehand, so I'd love to get a feel for how that first day came about.

Sharon Hulce:   Yep. So I was working for a women's clothing company out of North Carolina as a national recruiter and I loved my job. I got to wear beautiful clothes every day and I got to meet very interesting women. I was flying from Saint Louis to Chicago and my flight had no landing gear. Oh, we didn't know it till we were already in the air. So it took four hours of circling and we finally landed on our belly and I became a very nervous flyer in that job. I had to fly every day. So I did what I tell everybody do. And that's make a list of all the things I really love and all the things I was sort of in my DNA naturally good at. And the piece that came out is I really loved recruiting. I loved helping people to find their life's vocation, all of that. So I accepted a position with another search firm, worked for them for six years and loved it. But my then boss was retiring and rather than buy his office, which was pretty much my desk, I just purchased my book of business and started Employment Resource Group.

David Alonso:    Wow. Well I've never heard a near death experience be linked to how they started in recruitment so far. So that's definitely the first time that has happened. And tell us a little bit about your kind of ideal client. Tell us about who you recruit for...

Sharon Hulce:   You know, I would say that for me the ideal client is one that lets us sort of become that trusted advisor. I hate the word headhunter, I just despise the word headhunter. So for us, we really try to not just fill positions but really help from a talent perspective to look at their whole organization. So it's really around how values bleed into the organization. Are they living their values every day? And then if their culture is strong, finding people that culturally can integrate in and if their culture's not strong, how do we help them to grow the kind of culture that they ultimately want within their companies. So I would tell you the ideal client for me is one that will open the kimono and let us really help them with their whole organization, not just, here's a position I have, go out and fill it.

David Alonso:    What's the reality of that? What sort of percentage allow you to kind of have that creativity would you say?

Sharon Hulce:   Well, I would tell you over time they all get there is I see things, I'll be honest with them about either their leadership style or they have a leader within their organization that people are commenting about. They're not living the values that they say they have as an organization. So I'll have those candid conversations. At the same time that we have those conversations, I'll try to also offer up services or things that we can do that will help them to understand where the disconnect is and how they can fix it.

David Alonso:    And have you over the years, you know, looking at the sort of the time period, there's at least been one or two recessions in there, did you ever kind of have to change your model to or did you always stick to the same certain process?

Sharon Hulce:   When I started we didn't have the Internet, so I'm really a dinosaur in this business. So lots of things have certainly changed throughout the years. I would say the recession piece, we were really fortunate that we had good customers, that while they didn't have a lot of openings that gave us what they had, we also did a lot of consulting during the recession because people had more time to really unpeel the onion on what they had for talent as opposed to looking for new challenges. So we spent a lot of time doing values analysis and creating cultures. Then keeping people engaged when, the economy wasn't as great and business wasn't as robust. People have more time to train and do all of that during those times. So we always had things that kept us busy. We've always had good years obviously when it's not a recession, it's better though obviously a little easier.

David Alonso:    We've had a good run right for the last, you know, eight, 10 years and so forth. But, and obviously you said there's been a lot of changes. What about the last five years? Is there anything you can kind of sort of say, well that's really largely changed for how I used to do business?

Sharon Hulce:   The biggest change I think that I see is the things that we used to sell about organizations. You know, we used to sell things like clean facilities and good paying jobs and, and we used to sell safe places to live. None of that really resonates with the incoming leaders. It really is that heart piece about purpose and mission and you know, does your organization offer an impact on the lives of those you serve? So if you sell something or you make something, what impact does that have? And if it's not impactful, they're not as excited about working with the organizations. So the messaging around how we sell an organization is very different. I mean, nobody cares if your facilities are cleaned and they're lean and they're, you know, you make a great product. It really comes down to how does what you do impact the world and everybody has that. It's just really getting companies to understand what that messaging looks like.

David Alonso:    Yeah, I did a podcast the other week actually. It was more contract based. They were saying to me that I'm, I think 70 [or] 75% of contractors can even remember the employment agency they were working for. So it was a huge number, which kind of just goes back to the whole brand and a message and so forth. So how do we get the whole company on board with the brand and the messaging? Obviously from a CEO perspective, we'll cover off that in a moment. I know you do tons of that, but how'd you kind of get your team and staff all onboard? Does that go back to the actual hiring process or is that something you educate as you get them through the door?

Sharon Hulce:   I would say it starts at the hiring process. So, so our own experience has to mirror the experience we want from an it perspective of our clients. So everything about what we do is experiential, right? So it's how we differentiate ourselves as a search firm is if the experience they have from the time they have the first phone call with us till we bring them in and we interview them and we onboard them. So we do a lot of things to give them a unique experience as it relates to interviewing with us. Therefore, we talked to them about emulating that same sort of experience with our customers. So everything from sending them shirts with the company logo to business cards to um, you know, that how many times that they have that human to human connection. All of that I think is what differentiates us as a firm is that fact that we really try to make it more of an attraction and an experience than it is just the transaction of you have an opening and we're going to fill the position and same thing with our on we go by the ideal team player.

Sharon Hulce:   So we hire a hungry, humble and smart. That's our three things that we look for.

David Alonso:    That's great. And when you talk about candidate attraction, you mentioned about you know, some swag and that sort of stuff. Is there a set process that they register, they get this, they get these touch points. Is there a cadence in place for just candidate retention?

Sharon Hulce:   Yeah, so every company is different. Everybody has their own. So we'll recommend things to our client if we work very heavy in construction, construction is an industry that comparably is the least likely to remain connected. They sort of expect us to keep the connection between the time they actually send an offer letter until the person starts. So we do things to keep the candidate engaged in the experience. And we will tee up your, you are on the clock to call them on this day. We actually set an appointment to say on this day you're going to give them a call. Say, you know, I'm getting excited. Or something as simple as that email. If the person is traveling, you know, I'm excited to get you on board. You know, we've teed up, we figured out your first project you're going to work on. So we in a lot of technical driven male dominated industries where it's not that natural. You know, I think in our industry it's more of a natural week. We started to have touch points where along the way we know who's going to connect with them when, but for people who are really busy in technically driven industries and they're out in the field and they're traveling and they're running projects, we have to be more thoughtful on making sure that that kind of stuff happens along the way.

David Alonso:    And you mentioned about a messaging being so important. Obviously a huge part of that is your employees and how they deliver that messaging. Is there certain training that you do around messaging or so forth? I'm curious to know are they kind of expected to post certain things or do certain things? Cause that's a challenge for every business, right?

Sharon Hulce:   We are not a "post and pray" company. So we don't post anything. Our number one job, and my people will tell you, they hear this all the time, our number one job is to be storytellers, but we don't talk about, so again, let's use construction as the example. All of the contractors that we work with all build beautiful buildings. All of the subcontractors we work with all do great work. So what differentiates them are the stories and the stories have to be about people and how the people connect one to another. So we tell a lot of stories about what the organization does to make themselves unique. And so for example, we have one client that they had heard that the CEO wanted to hit, always wanted to fly in a helicopter. So during a project meeting they had helicopter land in the parking lot. They'd take her around to see all the projects. So it's those kind of, we tell those stories as opposed to telling, you know, they build great buildings and here's what they sell because nobody cares about all of that. They do ultimately, but they want to hear what makes a company special.

David Alonso:    And how many sort of positions would you typically work on per year? Like how many instructions would you get?

Sharon Hulce:   Oh, a lot. So right now we have 70 open retainers. So we worked on hundreds a year.

David Alonso:    You know the whole JourneyUP podcast is really sort of aimed at CEOs exactly like yourself. So I do get a feeling that a lot of CEOs are really struggling with a personal brand piece about actually putting themselves out there. They may have had, they might be long in tenure, don't want to do it, nervous about doing it, that sort of stuff. How important is the CEO's brand or can we just let the employees do videos and build that whole brand up for us? We have to get involved.

Sharon Hulce:   Oh Lord. Well I think so. Here's what I would tell you is my observation. This is my 23rd year of being executive search. And if I had to say what makes or hurts a company brand, it's the CEO. And even myself, I had to go through a very personal journey of looking in the mirror and saying, what is it that you do that creates a good or bad experience within these walls? When we see that a company's in chaos or we see a company has a culture that people ultimately leave and they don't like it, typically because the CEO is so busy that they don't take time to really recognize their own personal brand and how their message is being felt across the organization. People don't leave companies, they leave leaders, and they tend to leave leaders who are not transparent or are not willing to look at their own wins or losses and share that with the team. They feel like they have to be above it all. The more warm I am, the more transparent a CEO can be, the more likely they'll have a really wonderful people first culture.

David Alonso:    Yeah, and for those who, who are new to Sharon, there's lots of stuff on Youtube. There's, there's TV shows you've been on, the some great stuff, um, presentations that you've done. Lots of books about top recruiter, new to me actually from the UK. So I enjoyed that. Well how did that all come about? And just curious, what was the, you know, tell me about how it came about and uh, what did you kind of take away from the experience? Cause it's taken you away from making money at the end of the day, right. So I'm sure that was a drain.

Sharon Hulce:   It was a fabulous experience. I'll just start with that. So a, what happened? Crystal Bois, who is the producer of top recruiter, had a talented traction series he was doing and bringing in people from either a search firms or high level HR people to come together and just have conversations about talent attraction. There's not a lot of people who have as much tenure as I do in search. And I think quite frankly, he needed a female who had been in a long time. So Chris and I had a conversation on the fallen. I flew to Miami and met with him and I did the talent attraction series and he called me and he said, I have, I got to do it for you. And I'm like, oh Lord.

Sharon Hulce:   And he said, I need somebody. I need a female to be the boss on top recruiter against Dick Felice, who is this long tenured, really tough kind of a teddy bear really. But it comes across as this really rough and tough guy and I need somebody who can stand toe to toe with Dick. Would you do it? And I just started laughing and I said, uh, you know, tell me a little bit more about it, and stuff. I ultimately decided I would do it. So I was one of two bosses to vote people off the top recruiter island.

David Alonso:    How did the people get selected for the actual candidates then?

Sharon Hulce:   So I think they had a group of people who actually interviewed different people to be on the show. And it was, you know, it was a really interesting prospect of people. I mean, no, no two people were alike. And I think the assumption was they would do tactical things that recruiters do. And it wasn't like that at all. It was really very emotional intelligence type. And as we took them through so it ended up being different than I think they anticipated. And I think the winner actually ended up being someone different than everybody thought it was going to be cause they thought it was just going to be based on pure tactics of making calls and you know, writing scripts and that sort of thing. Which we get wasn't that at all.

David Alonso:    Well isn't that interesting though? Cause there's so much emotion, right, that people never saw to talk about the emotional side of recruiting. And actually if you kind of break out your day, you are dealing with emotions every single time when you pick up that phone call, right? How you're engaging with that candidate, how you engage in that client, you know, do you have any empathy towards them? Are you nice? And I think we never hear about that sort of stuff.

Sharon Hulce:   And that is the number one thing that AI believe makes us successful. And B, I think is more important. I think that, so for us the technical skills are really a point of entry. If they don't have it, obviously why are we interviewing them for the job? So that's kind of what I call the point of entry stuff. Okay. They have the right technical skills, but it's all that stuff that is behind the curtain that makes people either wildly successful or not integrate into a culture and not integrate and be successful in a company. And that's why when I really unpeel the onion on a candidate and have that deep dive conversation, would I want to know is what makes them tick internally. And I'm a firm believer and I've always been a believer in DNA, natural gifts. So you think about the athlete in high school who was just a natural born athlete. Go to baseball, go to football. That's a natural DNA gift. Or the girl that never cracked a book and just got straight A's, right? Natural DNA. Get every person, everybody has one. If you can find out what that is and then put the person in a job where they will enhance that natural gift, they'll be a rock star because they're naturally good at it. It isn't something they had to train or educate themselves to.

David Alonso:    And when you're looking for recruiters internally, is there any, any advice about how to unearth those natural gifts on interviews?

Sharon Hulce:   I make everybody do the same thing I make everybody do here is make a list of all the things that you are really passionate about and actually it can be piano, it can be your family, it can be, it doesn't have to be work related. It can be anything that when you think about it you just absolutely really, really love it. And then the other piece is, what are the things that you just have always been good at? You didn't have to take a class, you didn't have to study. Like I always use my example. For me it's I'm just intuitive. I just have a really good spidey sense and I've always had that. And my sister, I says that I'm like my father, that my father had a really good intuition. So for me, my spidey senses what really helps me in this business, because I can usually cut through the wheat and the tape and figure out what the, you know, I always say somewhere in the middle lies the truth. So for me it's figuring out what is the truth.

David Alonso:    And you're someone who's in the Pinnacle Society. For those who don't know that, I'd love you to share what that is, but I'd love to kind of understand what those traits are that why they are there, is it purely tenure, amazing to making the most money? What is it actually gets you into, to, to be in the Pinnacle Society?

Sharon Hulce:   Yeah. You have to be nominated to be a Pinnacle Society and it starts with raw billings. So it is production. There's no question that there is a production component and it's a pretty hefty minimum that you have to achieve every year. So a lot of people are not as tenured as I am simply because people don't always run a desk as long as I run a desk. I am passionate about the business itself. So I'm still on a desk full time. But you have to bill on a desk. And then the other component really is what do you bring to the society? So at the top 80 recruiters in the country and it really is about what is a core learning that you can bring to this group. So you know, all high tide rises all boats and that's the theory of Pinnacle is great and great and great equals greater. So they are always looking to who are the thought leaders within our industry and how do those thought leaders help to innovate as a group of 80 all of us to make us better and better.

David Alonso:    It's interesting when you talk about thought leader and innovation, so forth, you know you're running a desk super busy from what I can see, how do you even get time to think? Where are you finding this time from? That's why I always wonder, when I look at someone life like, so active. Do you manage your day in a very strict and certain way or are you someone who commit, you know, is it coffee at six-thrity and looking at emails? Is there a process that you follow or is it...

Sharon Hulce:   Oh yeah. I'm a very regimented daily person. I start my day at four, I workout at four. It helps but, I'm an early riser, but I also go to bed early. But at four o'clock I work out... By 6:30/7 at the latest, I'm at work. My quiet time is from seven to eight. That's when I organize my day. But I am a list maker, so I have a constant list of things that I need to get accomplished. And then I run a pretty regimented day. As far as, um, when, you know, I have a calendar, I have an assistant who really is, thankfully I have an assistant who's amazing and she manages all the moving parts of my day. So she'll give me, if I have a board meeting the day before she'll have me and say, you need to read this tonight. So all of that is pretty much planned out.

Sharon Hulce:   The good news is, you know, good, bad or indifferent. I am single so I have a lot of time that's quiet time when I get home and I work a lot. I work probably 80 hours a week. I don't have a lot of hobbies. I travel a fair amount and that's sort of my hobby is I have a daughter that she and I love to travel together. So we do a third quarter, we go somewhere and that's my downtime and that's where I rest and rejuvenate and then I back at it again and put in another 80 hour week. But you clearly love to work. I do. I love what I do and that it really helps when you find your life's vocation. It's really not work.

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David Alonso:    Do you have advice for, it's interesting that you're still running the desk and you're still passionate about it. Most people kind of after five or 10 years of trying to like build the team, not run a desk and so forth, just curious why, why you didn't do that? Because you didn't want to stop doing it because it's just first and foremost. You enjoyed it. I mean, there must've been a point where you thought about, right now I want to build a different structure, for instance.

Sharon Hulce:   Yeah, I, you know, I've thought about it probably a lot in my 23 years of doing this. I actually went off a desk for three months and I just about went insane and I always say it's the control freak part of me. I like to be able to be that final gut check on candidates. So by running a desk and having that closed line of sight with my clients, I really can get to the right person. I think the other piece of it is, it's just being honest. I mean being transparent. I liked the money of running a desk. I like to be able to earn the kind of income I can earn when I run $1 million desk. So for me, if I get out of the game, I'm probably not going to be able to earn as much money as I like to earn by being able to run a test and I think I'm good at it and it doesn't feel like work to me. To me it's the challenge of the hunt.

David Alonso:    I admire that 100% and I would say also you definitely are a thought leader in the industry from what I can, what I know about you, what I've heard about you. And so forth. And even to some of the quotes that I've read going back some time and like this one here, um, three years ago: "Talent will be harder to find and we need to hire based on what they can bring versus what they have done." So definitely right. So I mean I know that you, somebody mentioned before about your clients, you'd like to educate them and you've actually kind of indicated maybe they have to comply a little bit because that's how you work and that's the right way in my opinion to be so. But how'd you, how'd you get them on board?

Sharon Hulce:   You know, I think a lot of it is we don't take a new search unless we visit. So we spend a lot of time inside our clients doors. We do not, this is not a phone business. Everybody says it's a phone business and it is a phone business to some degree where that's our daily communication. But if you don't really get to know everything about your clients, it's really hard to an impact to the level that we want. So I'm on a plane train or automobile a lot and I try to spend significant amount of time getting to know my clients. Um, I'm pretty outgoing, so I like to have a lot of fun with my clients and we build a really nice friendship on top of being people that work together. And I think that for me it's getting to a point where without it being offensive, we have candid conversations about how I think we can be the most impactful.

Sharon Hulce:   And a lot of times it's you see something and you know that the person is right or some change in something would be the right move. But it's really helping to get them to a place where they also see it. I've had a lot of nice arm around the shoulder walks with a lot of my clients saying, I know you would like to stay and I know you would like to stay in your office, but your 80 years old and you're hiring a new president and you need to move on to your office to give them significance. So that kind of conversation. I've had lots and lots of,

David Alonso:    Keepin' it very real. Obviously you hire nationally, right? It's not just in Wisconsin.

Sharon Hulce:   Yeah. We work nationally.

David Alonso:    When you are taking all your new people internally, you run a desk full time in running the business. I'm not sure what help you get as far as genuinely what people and processes you've put into place there, but how are these people buying your philosophy? Do you put them on a certain induction plan? Is it just shadowing you? How does it work for new people that joined the business?

Sharon Hulce:   Well, I think at our core hungry, humble, smart help, you know... We're big Patrick Lencioni fans, the ideal team player. I do believe those three competencies of hungry, hungry, of course in our business it's important. It's important in any sales business, right? I'm humble and that willingness to admit that we don't know everything and also to help each other or you know, admit when we don't know and ask others for help. And then smart and smart, isn't raw intelligence. It's really the emotional intelligence piece of what we do. If we stayed true to that core, the learning curve is not hard is when we don't stay true to that core and we make our own mistakes. Don't get me wrong, we've hired a lot of people that I'd like to have, you know, do overs so nobody's perfect. But I think when we stay true to that core and we really investigate those three things, if we can find people that have those three things, they integrate into our culture pretty quickly.

David Alonso:    Mm. And um, the people you have working for you are the future people and so forth. You know, that everything we read about is, you know, technology, AI... Recruiters are dying, blah, blah, blah. What was your kind of take on it? I mean, everything you do is up close and personal. How can that ever be replaced? I mean, did you have any fears for the future?

Sharon Hulce:   You know, I really don't. It's funny because I think about people are always talking about AI and all this and first of all, I don't have that many years to work. I'm going to work probably 10 more years. So, you know, good luck replacing me in 10 years because it's going to take a while for all that to take effect. When I think about the fear factor, I think it's more a level of frustration that people have as opposed to fear. So for me, I'm not fearful of where our business is going. I always figure, um, person to person contact, we'll always have a place in hiring of talent. I don't believe that will ever be replaced by a machine or someone who can't get at that emotional piece. I think people will try to, and then we will add them innovations. I know there's a lot of gamification and all this stuff going on right now and I think all of it has a place and I think all of it is an interesting thought.

Sharon Hulce:   But at the end of the day it's, I build a relationship review and you have a relationship with me and I think that's what helps to really just sort of seal the deal. So I think there'll always be a place, but I'm also not naive that, I mean I look at the 23 years and starting with no internet and you know, going to the library and going, looking up in the town was registered and ordering the yellow pages from every town we worked in to today. I mean that just, that transition alone has been tremendous. So I have no doubt that by the time I leave this business will look very, very different.

David Alonso:    Yeah. For someone who's got great tenure, who's been around, um, you've obviously learned a lot. They say that and um, you've grown and you've probably had some amazing ups and downs that have shaped the person you are today. I won't ask what you've learned, cause I think the list will be huge. Is there any sort of, any of the mistakes or uh, maybe share a few of those with us or,

Sharon Hulce:   Yeah, so I would say I'm, and I'll do this from an owner's perspective. I would say to certainly I hired the wrong people and I've hired the wrong people because I put too much emphasis on the aggressive piece. And not enough on the connection and the emotional attachment that they could have in telling stories.

David Alonso:    What'd you mean by aggressive?

New Speaker:    Sorry. Well, so I like people who are motivated by money. I don't look at that as a bad thing, but I do think there's a difference between confident with a low ego versus confident with a big ego. I would say years ago my focus was video bigger the swagger the better. So then there was always this fight on no, you have to understand what's behind the curtain, you have to understand how, how they'll integrate it in the company and that their swagger was all about making money.

Sharon Hulce:   So that was my bad early on. And even up until not all that long ago, I had sort of that trajectory of I would hire people that I thought could just get at it and would be aggressive, but not necessarily, I didn't really understand, did they have the emotional intelligence to be good at this business? Um, and then my other fault, and this is, I still am probably guilty of this, although I am getting better is I keep people to want to, if it's obvious that they are not a good fit and it's obvious that um, this is not their life vocation, I would be remiss to make them stay. A lot of times they stay because it's comfortable and we do have a very fun culture. We do a lot of things are really, we have a very unique culture where we play as hard as we worked. Yeah. So people like to stay here, but that doesn't necessarily mean that it's good. So I have a leadership team in place that really keeps me pretty honest on people and we did just put in place a chief culture officer that has a line of sight on that as well as helps with making sure that our culture is always growing and strong.

David Alonso:    Hmm. That's very interesting. Do you not find that, you know, it's so easy to recruit for your clients, but recruiting for yourself just, I mean I, I used to have my own recruitment business. It was great. It was so straight forward the minute I had to take on consultants or I just, I go, I get too emotional and I go for the people I like versus it's just not a good fill.

Sharon Hulce:   That's why I think it's good to have somebody who like us to help them because they do exactly what we do for our own organizations and that that's it. We hire people we like and I worked really hard to, you know, I have several people who have a line of sight on, I don't ever hire in a silo and we really do try to make sure that they emulate those three characteristics. And I mean there's no perfect person, but emulate those characteristics as much as possible because there'll be a good producer, but they'll also be a good teammate. And when we vary from that is when we end up saying, you know, we should all listen to our own gut. I have a pretty strong spidey sense. Yeah. It's funny because I'll hire people that everybody else likes and, and I'm like, I just don't know. But everybody likes him. So ... it ended up not being good.

David Alonso:    That one always comes back, doesn't it? No doubt about it. So what are you most proud of? If you could pick one thing or probably not just one thing, but you know, most of one you could share.

Sharon Hulce:   So I would tell you, I'm really proud of my team. I have a really awesome team right now, the best team we've ever had. And that's because we have a really strong team of people who really work as a collective unit. We don't have any big egos wandering around. We've had that again in the not too distant past where it was, you know, one person on an island and they shut their door and they didn't interact. And this is, this is the best team we've ever had as far as people helping each other to be successful. So I'm very proud of my team. I'm proud of my daughter. She's doing amazing. It's her first year in college and I'm very proud of her. She's just great. And I'm, you know, I'm proud of where I am today. I mean, I grew up on a dairy farm. You know, a young girl and I'm really proud to say that I have my own company and it's successful and it's been a hell of a journey. So I'm really proud of that.

David Alonso:    Yeah, I've seen you've got plenty to be proud of us for sure. And there's no doubt about it. It's interesting cause you mentioned culture and um, I've always asked this, you know, you clearly have a culture. How would you describe the culture? Is it, you know, you mentioned about it's a fun place to work, that people are on board with your ideas. It's kind of hard to kind of summarize what your culture is cause you've either kind of, got it or you haven't, you know, and I always find that that does come with tenure and sticking around long enough to create it. You know, if you're turning over people under a year, you know, it's a tough one.

Sharon Hulce:   Yeah. I described this to everybody who interviews here. I know we are sort of a collective group of dorks. We do the goofiest ,goofiest stuff and we laugh a ton doing it. So we have a ton of fun just being big dorks, but we also have a culture. We work extremely hard. We also have probably a culture and that's culture is already thrown from the top down of perfectionist to really, really, really work hard to get it right. And when we don't get it right, we beat ourselves up more than a client, whatever, beat us up. So we keep going until we absolutely get it right. So whatever it takes, but we also have a culture of whatever it takes to, to make it right.

David Alonso:    Bit of feedback. It really does shine through in your, on your social posts on when I look for your videos, you know, if people who are listed, we want an idea about, you know, how to be social on social, I think you're a great, perfectly, um, place to come people to be a reference on how to do things. So super congratulations on that. So we know how amazing you are, obviously. Clearly. What about the a and the, I have a list as long as my arm on this one. But tell me about the little traits that might annoy people in your company about you.

Sharon Hulce:   Oh Lord. And that's going to be the long list. So I actually know these because we talk openly about it. So I'm a perfectionist. I mean I really am. So I drive people crazy cause you know, I have recruiters that work with me and they'll work really, really hard to bring in resumes or within a minute I go no. And I don't even always give them a long answer as to why I just like no, they're not a fit. So that would drive me crazy. And I know it drives them crazy cause they work really hard. And then I'm like no. So that whole perfectionist piece, um, I think I'm better now, but I had to do a long look in the mirror of myself, learning how to be a better teammate, you know, not just be the leader, but on a daily basis. I'm really more a member of the team because I run a desk and we work together. So instead of having my leader hat all the time, sometimes I just need to have my teammate hat and making sure that I do that. And that doesn't always happen. So I'm sure that annoys them too.

David Alonso:    Well, you're definitely kind of someone who exudes passion. Right. I was curious to ask because it seemed very passionate about, um, Shall We Dance? You'd like to tell us a little bit about that. It looks like it was so much fun.

Sharon Hulce:   Oh, it was one of the best experiences I've ever had. So there was two reasons why I wanted to do it. One is I used to be a police and fire commissioner, so I knew that the sex trafficking and domestic violence was even within our area was a huge issue. So for me, I wanted to be able to raise money to help with that because unfortunately it's a bigger issue then people would even want to admit everywhere. So that was a big part of it. But then so I grew up, like I said, I grew up on a dairy farm and the only thing we had available was 4-H. That was it. There was no dance lessons. There was no, I mean we didn't even have a lot of sports for girls. I was a cheerleader. So because of that I never had a dance lesson and I do not consider myself very graceful. So it was a huge take myself outside my normal nine dots to learn how to do west coast swing. Wow. What we did.

David Alonso:    Wow. Well yeah, I mean it's, and it presume it raised a lot of money.

Sharon Hulce:   We did. I think we raised almost $40,000 and uh, I had the best, best death partner ever because he made me laugh every single day for six months. Is that a national thing or was it just local? This city happens to be a local line, but they are doing it all over the country. It's kind of off the dancing. But the stairs that the is on TV sort of same, same philosophy.

David Alonso:    I think I've actually seen that, um, there's an incentive similar where we are in, in sneakers, in California. There's, there's obviously a lot of that here. Yeah, it's definitely a big thing for sure. Um, it doesn't seem that you need to wake up and someone to give you motivation that you seem to have plenty of that. Do you have like a go to motivation book or podcast? Anyone that when you're feeling a little bit low that you'll pick up and try and get motivated by?

Sharon Hulce:   So, um, I read a ton. I'm always reading, so I will tell you that I love Tony Robbins. Um, I went to Jack Canfield's train the trainer and when I was a young girl, meaning 19, I actually went to Zig Ziglar, born to win seminar, loved that. And he was just an inspiration until he passed. And now we've been doing a lot of work with Patrick Lencioni so I'm never going to be an expert in everything, nor do I ever consider myself an expert. So I do look to other people who have words of inspiration or if there's challenges that we're having within our organization or other organizations, I look to reading material, podcasts, all of that to try to find, I'm a big believer in the information is out there if you just look for it. So my job is just to look forward so, and it also helps me to remain more of a thought leader because part of this business, part of what I, I mean it is going to evolve whether I go with it or not. So for me, I'd rather be the leader of it instead of following other people's lead.

David Alonso:    Yeah, that's great advice. And you're right, there's so much information out there and I think that's one of the things have employees, you know, when they look to their owners, there is a little bit of a case that, you know, there's a lot of information out there also for you to look at as well as come to me. So, um, I think people are kind of picking up on that. Um, it's been a real pleasure. I do have one kind of last intriguing question to throw at you. You mentioned 10 years, I'm not so sure about this 10 year mark. Is there like a compelling event in life that you'll say you're done?

Sharon Hulce:   um, retirement age.

David Alonso:    Oh yeah. That doesn't mean much. Right? You can still place through that I guess. But

Sharon Hulce:   you know, I um, my intent and my daughter keeps telling me she has no interest in doing what I do.

David Alonso:    That's where I was going with this.

Sharon Hulce:   Again, you know. Well she might, she has all the right, she has all the right swagger to be a good recruiter. So I would like to work long enough to give, she's a freshman in college so she's got some time. So I'd like to give her an opportunity to do that if she so chooses. If she doesn't, there's no pressure to do it. I'll uh, you know, obviously find a successor. I would tell you I at least want to work tomorrow. I might work more than that cause I really do love what I do and I, I healthy and I feel great. And you know, all of that. So I don't have any reason from a physical standpoint or mental standpoint to not be in the game. But that might change. I might, you know, I have these friends that we have a word every year. We're always looking for what is it that is next. And uh, my friend always says to me, even you'll never ever retire, you'll just have a new thing. So I might get to the point where I want a new thing, I don't know. But for the next 10 years for sure it will be this thing. Yeah.

David Alonso:    I was just curious cause you mentioned your thoughts and I kinda figured there must be some sort of subplot going on in the background there.

Sharon Hulce:   Well there's a sub plot in a mom's life.

David Alonso:    Well I have to say it's been a real pleasure. I've kept you actually longer than I anticipated, so I do. I knew that would happen. I'd love to meet you in person one day. So San Diego and shore pass across. But thank you so much for your time today. It's been a real pleasure.

Sharon Hulce:   Thank you too. It was great.


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