Women’s History Month Small Business Spotlight: An Interview with Mary Webber of L&R Human Resource Consulting
An Interview with Mary Webber of L&R Human Resource Consulting
Altice USA has committed $3 million to support relief efforts for businesses impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic through partnerships with the Save Small Business Fund and the Coalition to Back Black Businesses. We are proud that 40% of the businesses supported through these programs are women-owned. One of those businesses is L&R Human Resource Consulting, owned by Mary Webber.
Mary Webber’s relentless passion for teaching, inspiring and motivating others is what sparked her ambition to start L&R Human Resource Consulting. Mary established L&R Human Resource Consulting in 2013 to provide instructional Hum an Resource guidance, HR consultation seminars, management training, employee relations and more. With over 17 years in the HR field, and 8+ years as an adjunct professor at LSU Shreveport, Mary Webber uses her vast experience to thrive as an entrepreneur. As a mother, wife, business owner and HR professional, Mary has plenty to balance day to day, but manages to take it in stride. This month we are proud to spotlight Mary’s story as she provides insights on her business experience, challenges, and how she continues to grow.
What advice would you give about starting a business?
In speaking from my own experience, there are multiple steps I would give about starting a business. For starters, I would say make sure that your business involves your passion and that it solves a problem. If you are not doing what you love, how can others be enthused about it? Additionally, if it doesn’t solve a problem, what steps or pivot moves can you make to ensure that the product or services you offer, solves a problem? Once you have determined the “problem solving idea,” develop a roadmap or business plan. With all the free services and classes now available, I would advise to either enroll virtually or make appointments with different agencies that provide guidance and information about securing funding to grow a business. Decide on a business structure (i.e., sole proprietorship, partnership corporation or nonprofit). Be prepared to pay federal business taxes, income and employment taxes, plus state and local taxes for your business. Obtain any federal and state licenses and permits needed to run the business, and if you will have employees, be sure to seek an HR professional or consult with an employment representative who can assist with legal issues that arise.
How would you recommend setting goals/achieving goals?
My advice when setting goals is to always be true to yourself. Set realistic goals that are achievable and attainable. Your goals should be for short term and long term. Short terms goals should be ones that bring you closer to fulfilling your long-term goals. The best advice I have learned throughout my journey is that failure is inevitable. Just as we plan to achieve all the goals set, there will be a “bump in the road” along the way that will cause us to reroute or reanalyze the goal and determine what will be the next best step. When this happens, discuss the issue(s), the outcome and how to avoid a reoccurrence, and readjust your goals for long-term success.
What essential business communication/technology tools do you recommend?
Pre-Covid, I would have recommended face-to-face connections and in-person training to build personable relationships. However, in the current COVID era, pivoting to a virtual platform has become the norm. Technology savvy knowledge and tools to communicate with companies have become the norm. Companies who are unable to compete in this new arena will be left behind. I would strongly recommend knowledge and use of virtual tools (i.e., MS Teams, Zoom, WebEx, etc.) to connect with customers/clients, to stay afloat in the current business arena, and provide the same “in-person” service by virtual means.
Do you have any personal advice on how you were able to overcome challenges and persevere?
On a personal note, I have had to overcome so many challenges that I decided to write a book, “Miracles Still Happen…Trust Me”. Having been homeless and divorced with two young children, I have had to overcome many emotional and financial challenges. The greatest challenge was becoming paralyzed at the age of 40 and miraculously (with much perseverance) and determined will, I began to walk again. This paralysis taught me that I had a choice to either accept the condition (paralysis) as a permanent state, or fight to walk again to show others that they too can overcome adversities in life, if they are determined not to give up. Giving up should not be an option. Success is imminent with sacrifice and commitment. It has been 11 years since I was paralyzed. Since that time, I have completed an HR Certification to represent as an expert in the field of HR, opened an HR Consulting business, and currently have six months remaining for completion of a second Masters Degree in Employment Law, from the Shepard Broad School of Law. My personally favorite quote that sums up overcoming challenges and persevering is, “If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” – Martin Luther King
Oftentimes it is thought that as an entrepreneur, business and personal life do not exist separately. In your experience, how do the two affect one another and how do you find balance?
As a wife, mother, and HR professional, balancing business and personal life has been very challenging. You must tell yourself constantly to make time for yourself and family a priority. Not doing so results in stressful situations either in the work life or the business. Working long hours and neglecting family or avoiding family activities, can lead to burnout. Burnout starts a trickle effect that impacts both work and family. You begin to see signs of poor mental and physical health, inefficiency at work and strain on your family’s relationship. I personally try to find balance by establishing boundaries, and then making sure I do not cross (nor allow others) to cross those boundaries. I also found in the early years of the business as an entrepreneur, it helped to allow a trusted source (whether family or a work colleague) to help me out with things, such as picking up dinner for the kids, or picking them up from school activities, when I had to complete a huge project. Now, I find balance by just accepting the situation as it is. Viewing life in this manner deescalates any stress. We just have to determine whether business or personal life is worth more to us at any given time. We also have to be okay knowing that sometimes business and personal life will be imbalanced.
What are some tools, tips and tricks have you used and felt were helpful in your entrepreneurial experience?
There are so many tools, tips and tricks that were helpful to me. The greatest tip is to be organized and know your business greater than those who are needing it. There is nothing worse than being asked questions about your business or the services provided, and not being able to convincingly respond. Another tip would be to join some professional organizations (i.e., Chamber of Commerce, Rotary Club, other service organizations), that would help gain networking connections and build relationships that lead to business opportunities. Oftentimes, individuals in the service and community organizations know contacts who are in need of your product or service. Additionally, being a member of your local Chamber of Commerce allows you to hear the latest developments or openings of new businesses that are expected in the area. This could be a potential new client for you, if you are “in the know” before the general public. Having inside knowledge of local, state and oftentimes federal projects, could be the window of opportunity your business needs to move to the next level of entrepreneurship.
A trick that I have used to gain business or to obtain a new client, is to review the speaking engagements or online calendar of the CEO or President of the company. Have your business packet or marketing materials ready to hand deliver to the prominent leader (even if your chances of having a close-up conversation are slim to none). If you have a chance to speak briefly, introduce yourself and ask if they ever need your services, to please reach out. I have tried this on numerous occasions, and believe it or not, either the CEO or one of their administrators called me for a business opportunity in their company. Sometimes you must be bold and “think outside of the box” to get an opportunity. Trust me, it is so well worth the risk.
How did you know it was the right time to grow and expand your business and what is your advice on how to do so?
From my experience, you can change or switch your business at any time. As an owner, knowing how and when the time is right is critical to business longevity. It was not until the onset of Covid-19, that I considered changing the platform of my business. Having multiple contracts with vendors needing in-person training solutions, I had to quickly pivot to 100% virtual training to ensure my business remained successful, and clients were able to continue receiving the same or better training for their staff and employees. The only person who will truly know your business’ strengths and opportunities for growth, is YOU. My advice would be to map out what it will take to pivot or change, and what it will cost to stay “as is”, as it relates to your brand, cost, and profit, amongst other factors. The most memorable tip is to remember that when and if you decided to switch from just growing your business to growing and expanding, have a plan in place. Evaluate any threats or opportunities that may impact your business, and be ready to switch until you have found what grows your business, and how your customers respond to the change. When they get bored and tired of the platform you have put in place, and if it seems to be at a standstill, maybe it is time to switch again.
As you were building your business, did you ever experience challenging thoughts such as imposter syndrome or lack of confidence?
Building a business can be challenging. Even with the challenges, I must admit that the feeling of failure, or insecurity never crossed my thoughts. With my brand, I also encourage listeners and followers to “never give up.” To allow imposter syndrome or lack of confidence to enter my spirit, would contradict what I strongly believe for myself and for those in my inner circle. Did the thoughts surface? Absolutely, the thoughts surfaced. Having a strong faith in God and believing that he always has us in the perfect place at the perfect time, my thoughts about the business remained positive, even when reality revealed concerns.
Have you ever experienced roadblocks during your entrepreneurial journey? If so, what were some of the roadblocks you’ve experienced and what are some solutions that helped you overcome them?
Yes, I have experienced roadblocks during my journey. The greatest roadblock that I experienced was having access to capital. As a small business owner and entrepreneur, the lifeblood of any business is capital, funding, loans, etc. When I initially began, my personal savings was the lifeblood of the business. Any equipment, supplies, advertising materials, etc., were purchased from my savings account. It was not until I was awarded my first big contract from a Community College in Flint, Michigan that I sought funding from my bank. At that point, because my business did not have credit established and my only income was from the consulting business, the bank only loaned me $5,000.00, with a co-signer. Another roadblock was being overlooked as an HR Consultant, because small business owners were seeking an attorney for matters that involved employment law.
A few solutions that helped me to overcome the roadblocks were gaining access to and building relationships with local banking institutions. Having this community connection provided me with business development resources and secured the finances for sustaining my business and maintaining client needs. To resolve the concern of business owners seeking legal guidance from a costly attorney, I returned to college and enrolled in an Employment Law Program at Shepard Broad School of Law. I want my company to be a “one stop shop” for small businesses and large corporations that seek my service. This solution keeps my clientele out of court and gives them comfort in knowing they are operating within legal guidelines. The most intriguing solution is that business owners will get reliable, expert, employment law guidance, without cleaning out their business accounts by using an attorney.