5 Harsh Realities of HR Pro to HR-preneur

You’ve decided to take off your Corporate HR hat and strike out on your own as a consultant, speaker or trainer. Here are five harsh realities of transitioning from HR Pro to HR-preneur…

No one is forced to listen to you. 

I remember the first time I went into an organization to facilitate a training session. I am standing in front of a room full or executive leaders, and it hits me…they are not forced to listen to me! As crazy as that sounds, think about it. In an HR role, employees have to listen to what we say due to the authority of HR itself. Employees automatically pay attention during orientations, open enrollments, and training sessions. They know when HR speaks it is time to listen up. After all, everyone knows the last person you need to cross at work is HR because we control their paychecks, promotions, insurance and makes sure your wonderful boss doesn’t dock your time card.

Take everything opposite of that and you will have your new audience. You have zero authority over attendees. They were assigned to sit in a classroom all day while their email boxes fill up, their phones ring off the hook, and their employees call out sick. The last place on earth they want to be is sitting through your training. Their organization hired you to sell them on why they should drink your kool-aid and go back to to work convincing direct reports, leaders, and peers to take a sip themselves. Fail to do so and you better believe you will have to send multiple invoice reminders to finally get paid 60 days later if you’re lucky. Not to mention, that organization will never be a repeat client.

“We” is dead.

In an HR role, it is all about the “we.” Everything you say and do is centered around working together as a team. We want everyone to sit in a circle and sing Kumbaya while holding hands. As an HR-prenuer, “we” is dead. You are the “we”. There is not one looking out for you but you and if you’re not singing your own praises in pitches to clients, posting all over social media about how great YOU are, you’re never going to make it.

You will also make the mistake of bringing others into your fold that you shouldn’t due to the HR brainwashing of “we”. You want everyone around you to succeed so you run across another consultant that specialized in something you do not. You think to yourself, “Why not help someone else succeed and offer another competency to my client base?” While this is imperative to remain competitive, you cannot think with your heart. The second you release your client’s info to your friend that is also a consultant, before you know it they are taking not only their specialization but your training and consulting services too! It’s not personal. Your friend is building a business just like yourself so why wouldn’t they? It’s how things work.

If You Can’t Sell, You Cant Succeed

If there is one thing the majority of HR pros are terrible at, it is sales. In an internal HR role, you sell nothing. People only come to you when they’ve already identified the need for your services, and you have no one to compete with. It’s either you or the incompetent manager they are complaining about. Easy choice.

In a consultant capacity, you are competing with EVERYONE. Consultants are a dime a dozen because there is such a low startup cost. Have a computer, Linkedin account, and a phone? Congratulations! You can start a consulting firm. Whether or not you are qualified is an entirely different story which makes the sales aspect of your new role so critical. Many organizations have been swindled more than once by an overnight consultant, which has made the road of landing clients tough as nails. Sign up for every sales webinar you can get your hands on, buy all the books and if you have another consultant that mentors you, shadow every they do.

No One Cares About Legality

If you’re doing any form of compliance, risk management or HR consulting, please remove the following sentence from your vocabulary, “you can’t do that because it’s not legal.” This is probably HR’s most favorite phrase because it’s not only true, it worked in our internal HR roles. If we needed a manager to accommodate an employee’s disability, we simply waved ADA in front of their face. This will not serve you well as a consultant.

Instead of performing as a wannabe employment law attorney, speak to the core problem which is why the conversation is taking place at all. Clearly this manager lacks the core competencies of leadership needed to guide them on whether or not to accommodate at all. Sell the fix for the origin of the problem, not the method of putting a bunch of red tape around what organizations can and cannot do.

You Can’t Fix Everyone

Remember why you took off your Corporate HR hat I the first place? For me, it was for many reasons but one of those was definitely because the organization I was with was not open to being anything more than they were. The harsh reality of being an HR-preneuer is that same company you left is everywhere. You will consistently run into clients that only want you to come in for a sexual harassment training after paying out thousands in a settlement, but when you pitch a Leadership Development Program, they shoot you down. They insist that their leaders are not the problem, only a few managers. They only want your services for documentation to get them off the hook the next time a manager grabs Sally’s bottom.

Treat this client as getting on the thin edge of the wedge. Complete the sexual harassment training and keep hammering away to sell more and more training. Over time, they will buy-in to your philosophy that all organization’s problems start with the leaders. Worst case scenario, you have a billable training day on the books.

Can HR pros be successful in their transition to HR-preneurs? Absolutely. But we must be humbled by the fact we are essentially starting brand new careers in which we are not experts. It doesn’t matter if you have thirty years of HR experience. You are a baby in the HR-preneur world.


Photo Credit: Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) via Compfight cc