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Chapter 7
United States


Marlaine McCauley
Apex Facility Resources
Delivering innovative workspace solutions
75 employees, founded 1997

I love connecting with other entrepreneurs because everyone has had their own unique path to success. For Marlaine McCauley of Apex Facility Resources (“Apex”), her “ah-ha” moment came in February 1997 when she was eight months pregnant. She did a consulting project for King County (where Seattle is located) for five hundred wall panels. Marlaine recognized a niche opportunity for building out new workspaces. She then went out and established her own business account and business license with just $500 in her pocket, and a business was born. Now it’s fifteen years later, and Apex employs seventy-five people.

The company is a one-stop shop for planning, furnishing, relocating, and expanding productive workspaces. Their menu of products and services enables customers to partner with Apex, get responsive and nimble service, and save the hassle of shopping with multiple vendors.

Marlaine shared some great people management tips.

Separate Performance and Compensation Reviews

Apex conducts 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 reviews together. But I can definitely see the benefit of decoupling them so that the performance review really digs deep into performance without co-mingling with compensation implications.

Conduct Semi-Weekly 1-on-1s

Doing reviews frequently eliminates surprises to the reviewee and reviewer. In addition, the reviews all roll up into the annual review, making that process much more manageable and streamlined. In fact, Marlaine admitted that her annual review is actually easier than her 1-on-1s!

I know entrepreneurs often rush to the urgent at the expense of the important. So I commend Marlaine for sticking with her 1-on-1s, which not only give her a pulse on what’s going on, but also make her annual reviews a breeze. I think a good way to keep the momentum and rhythm of these 1-on-1s is to just schedule them on a recurring basis in your calendar.

— David Niu

Helping Managers Help Others

Apex leverages an outside consulting firm to help them continue growing successfully. Everyone took a course from Performance Management Consultants, who provided particularly valuable guidance to managers on how to deliver a variety of messages.

Performance Logs Vital

The semi-weekly 1-on-1s use performance logs to focus discussions. Employees bring to the meeting a sheet with four completed squares that log and measure goals and achievements. Apex wants reviewees to take the first cut at the performance log so the employee will own their performance and improvement.

HR Compassion

No matter how hard you try, managing people still takes the most time and causes the biggest frustrations. It’s just a very challenging task set. We’ll never know everything there is to know. However, simplifying the process is huge for Marlaine moving forward.


I loved hearing how Marlaine stumbled into being an entrepreneur, and the opportunity turned into a seventy-five-person enterprise. She remains very grounded. I admired her honesty when she admitted that HR is challenging and frustrating, and that she’ll never know everything there is to know about it. Nonetheless, she seems to have established a great review rhythm makes the big annual reviews relatively easy. Investing in chores regularly helps challenging tasks go more smoothly in the end. And just like Apex swoops in to help clients with the tough stuff of moving offices, bringing in outside help for developing managers has paid off for Marlaine and her company.