For Marlaine, her company's 3 most important assets are:
(2) Being nimble
(3) One stop shop. They combine a menu of products and services to enable customers to do more with one vendor rather than to shop with multiple vendors.
To keep Apex growing and successful, they are one of the only companies that I've interviewed that leverages an outside resource, Performance Management Consultants. Marlaine shared some great HR review and people management tips, including:
*Separate performance and compensation reviews - they conduct performance reviews in June. Compensation reviews are done once a year in December. Throughout my career from Andersen Consulting (Accenture) to NetConversions to aQuantive to BuddyTV, we've always coupled the two together. But I can definitely see the benefit of decoupling the two, so the performance review really digs deep into performance without co-mingling with compensation implications.
*Conduct semi-weekly 1-on-1's - by doing this, there are seldom any surprises to the reviewee and reviewer. In addition, these all roll up into the annual review which makes that process much more manageable and streamlined. In fact, Marlaine admitted that her annual review is actually easier than her 1-on-1's!
*HR education very helpful - not only did Marlaine take a course from Performance Management Consultants, but everyone at Apex did. This has also been very helpful for her managers, especially since it provides guidance on how to deliver a variety of messages.
*Performance logs vital - these are the focus point for the semi-weekly 1-on-1's. They leverage a 4 square format, and all reviewees must bring the sheet with all 4 squares completed to the meeting. The reason why Apex wants the employees to take the 1st cut at the performance log is because they want the employee to own their performance and improvement.
*HR compassion - no matter how hard you try, managing people still takes the most time and causes the biggest frustration. It's just very challenging. We'll never know everything there is to know. However, simplifying the process is huge for Marlaine moving forward.
*Conclusion - I loved hearing Marlaine's accidental entrepreneurialship that turned into a 75 person enterprise. Yet she remains very grounded when she admitted that HR is challenging and frustrating, and doesn't think she'll ever know everything there is to know about it. Furthermore, she seems to have established a great semi-weekly 1-on-1 review rhythm that actually is harder than the annual review. That's a problem 90%+ of entrepreneurs would love to have.
*Follow @TINYhr on Twitter to get the latest insights and best practices from entrepreneurs as David continues his travels and interviews around-the-world.