Happy Birthday Elevated HR Solutions!

By Michelle Berg, President & CEO, Elevated HR Solutions

It’s true, Elevated HR Solutions was originally launched in 2007, just before the height of the boom.  But Elevated HR Solutions didn’t really begin until August 24th, 2010 (especially the solution that catered to start-ups and small businesses, vowing to take HR out of the business). That means today is our 1 year anniversary from the date that I left my post as a Senior VP of Human Resources for an international land banking company and followed the dream of going corporate to entrepreneur, making it a reality.

While I wouldn’t admit it at the time, the first 5 months were the scariest I had ever gone through. Even though I had a small cushion to rely on, I watched it dwindle monthly.  Admittedly, my salary as an SVP was quite good and of course we were living in a house and I drove a car on that salary.  In late September, I talked to my husband about downsizing and I remember having a beer in the hot tub with him and he almost got angry and said, “You failing is not an option. This house is our dream.  We’re not losing the house. You need to figure this out.”  I remember getting out of the hot tub, saying nothing to him and promptly going up to our spare bedroom, locking the door and sobbing.  I remember my lungs feeling as if they were filling up with water and I was finding it hard to breathe.  I didn’t exactly believe I could do it.  Afterall – I was an HR person. Not a business person.

After about an hour, I wiped my tears away and walked downstairs.  I went to meetup.com and decided to sign up for a bunch of networking events.  I didn’t really have a massive network that I thought I could ask for help from (I was scared to ask for help from people I knew.)  The first event I went to was Womanition.  I didn’t really fit in there, but I was happy to debut my awful networking skills there. It was safe. I was afraid to speak to anyone in public.   I came home again and cried in my spare bedroom.  I didn’t want my husband to see how upset I was so I kept trying to hide it as much as I could (the crying was a regular occurrence the first month).  A week or so later, I went to another meetup called Calgary Start-Up and Entrepreneurs where I met Cameron Chell. Actually – I didn’t meet him, because I was a chicken — but I heard him speak and wanted to meet him.  I vowed the next month I would walk up to him and introduce myself.

A month later (and a few more networking events attended) I saw Cam Chell again.  I chugged a beer and walked over to him and introduced myself.  Something amazing happened – he was actually intrigued by what I had to say.  He made an over the top comment about wanting to get together and perhaps even “buying me”.  I ran back to my car, and literally screamed in excitement in my car.  An ear piercing scream.  While nothing was concrete or in writing, all I needed was validation.  Validation that what I was about to do (change the world of HR) was worth it to an entrepreneur like Cam Chell.

Long story short – I found my mojo.  I started making connections and selling.  December actually became my busiest month and for the first month ever, I didn’t have to draw on my “cushion”.  Christmas wasn’t even too shabby (although my family came to us instead of us going back to Winnipeg…which was almost better!)  I ended up winning a condo in Vernon and went up there for a week for New Year’s where Jeff and I decided to renew our wedding vows.  It was as if in that moment on the top of the ski hill that my life would forever be transformed.  My amazing husband was by my side and I remember him whispering, “I told you failure was never an option.” I needed him to light my competitive spirit in that hot tub to make this a reality rather than just give up and sell our house. Even though I reacted with anger and fear, it spawned a commitment to make it work.

The last 8 months have been a roller coaster.  We have hired staff and lost staff.  We have brought on clients and fired clients that didn’t fit us. Some months I hardly made enough to cover my expenses but started to finally see small gains each month.  I have been in arrears with clients in the 10′s of thousands of dollars.  Now I look at our bank account and shake my head.  We’re in a good spot. Actually we’re in a great spot.  We are growing this engine to be something so much more than I ever expected.

Amongst the biggest lessons I have learned this year, the ones that I cherish the most are these:

- I could not have done it without my husband, my mom and dad, my best friends, my mentors, my colleagues, my team and clients who believed in me more than I believed in myself sometimes. Thank God they had my back.  Thank God they knew me better than I knew myself.  Thank God they convinced me failure was not an option.

- Goal setting and reviewing those goals helps me to stay on track. A visual business plan courtesy of Business Instincts Group is my best business tool that I rely on most heavily. My 90 day, 1 year and 5 year goals are right in front of me always.

- That when the going gets tough – it’s just time to suck it up and get tougher. With the right frame of mind, nothing can stop you.

- That the best mantra that I repeat daily was given to me by the great Adam Joyce (@adjoycapital on Twitter) “Michelle just stop worrying about making money and just make magic.” BEST BEST BEST ADVICE EVER!

- That practicing what you preach is sometimes hard. But that if you’re going to be authentic, you have to practice it.  This is thanks to Jillian Walker, my amazing confidant, teammate and friend (even after a long drive to Vancouver to set up our new office there!)

So for all of those that have believed in me and the concept of Elevated HR Solutions – thank you! It wouldn’t exist without you!

6 comments

  • Really inspiring story. Thank you for sharing! It seems we have a lot in common. I’m an entrepreneur going through what you went through, originally from Winnipeg, moved to Calgary and I’ve probably attended the same networking events that you have with Cameron Shell. Keep up the great work!

  • What customers see from the outside is often not what is happening on the inside. I can relate to that.
    Congratulations of bringing it this far. The next phase will have its interesting moments as well.

    Note: I know it is a well known statement from Gene Krantz (Apollo 13 Flight Director): Failure in not an option.
    What I learned as an entrepreneur is that failure is an opportunity to improve. You become stronger from certain failures (as long as it is not affecting the company too much). I recently started to realize that the more people warn you for potential failure the more I get excited about proving them wrong.

    Keep up the great work!

  • I am one of those forever grateful clients, thankful you allowed yourself to go through that process. I am now one of the people whose life you have impacted and altered…for the better. Your vulnerability and authenticity have encouraged me to keep going in one of the scariest seasons of my life too. :)

    If you consider the impact you’ve had in the past 12 months, just imagine what the next year is going to look like. Happy 1st Anniversary Elevated HR!

  • Thanks Robert, Peter and Shandra – your comments mean the world to me!

  • Klaus Von Tresen says:

    There is much more to life then Business. It sounds like your husband is wealthy enough. Take a deep breath or maybe many deep breaths. I think your Foray into Vancouver may be a big mistake.

  • Thanks for your feedback, Klaus. Agreed – life is more than business – but it’s definitely been an amazing ride so far to have it part of my life. As far as my husband goes – we have a great life together and will continue to do so regardless of dollars. As for Vancouver, we’ve already got a solid base, Jill is amazing to have out there and it’s already growing. So I’m definitely not worried! But thanks for igniting my competitive spirit :)

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