It’s hard to believe, but we’re publishing the last article of our #smallbusinessSHEs series. Hayley Shelton is the founder of Park Avenue Consulting Services, LLC & Park Avenue Career Services. Through Park Avenue, Hayley not only supports herself but gives back to her community and empowers!
Name: Hayley Shelton
Company: Park Avenue Consulting Services, LLC & Park Avenue Career Services (501c3 pending)
Industry: Human Resources/Learning & Development/Organizational Leadership
SHEroines: Working mothers, SHE breadwinners, SHE business owners, and all the ladies on the UrbanGirl Facebook page. I have a good friend that raises three (rowdy!) boys, homeschools them all, and also runs a successful small business. I have friends that stand up to injustices, friends that defy expectations, and friends that help support and mentor others. Heroes are around you daily, and most don’t wear capes… do yourself a favor and get to know a few.
Tell us about your business: who are you, when did you start, what do you do?
I am a Nashville native, and I have been using my HR skills and experience to benefit others (for free!) for years. When I decided to start an HR consulting firm, I needed to also start a separate organization for my community givebacks. I formed the Consulting (LLC) arm at the same time as the Careers part (501c3), assembled a Board of Directors, and found a very talented CPA and an understanding lawyer to help me through both processes.
Park Avenue Consulting Services provides professional consulting services in the areas of HR, Learning & Development, and Organizational Leadership. We work with small businesses, organizations, and some individual operators to closely assess their needs and devise a plan toward compliance and a healthy, functioning organization. PACS works with companies that care about compliance, and we have fun doing it!
Park Avenue Career Services is a nonprofit organization (pending!) dedicated to providing career and talent services to underserved populations in the Nashville area. Currently, we partner with Nashville Rescue Mission, and Stone Street Housing Foundation to deliver job readiness and life skills classes to targeted populations. We have big plans for 2018, and look forward to receiving our official certification and helping more people in Nashville realize their career goals.
What was your path to owning your own small business?
I have always had a passion for people and giving back, but I had a hard time channeling how I was going to do it in a sustainable way. My call to help only got stronger after attending Sewanee (YSR!), and I took a few years to move around the country for school, picking up a Masters in Environmental Law/Policy, and another in Organizational Leadership before returning to Nashville in 2008.
As a Nashville native, I’ve had personal giveback goals, around the holidays and throughout the year to individuals – always in Middle TN. I like making an immediate, tangible, local impact. I found Human Resources was a good career path for me, kind of marrying my interests in people, organization and laws, all of which I enjoyed! I have worked for several companies, both in a full time and contract capacity, and I have seen some things – whew!! I could write a book on some of the things that shocked and surprised me throughout my career. Through this, I was able to recognize deficiencies, sharpen my career skills and start helping people on the side. After a few years of that, and gaining more senior experience in Human Resources and Learning & Development, I was ready to start my own company AND another organization dedicated to giving back. Career skills and a good, clear resume are stepping stones to a good living – and we help with that.
I guess an obstacle of our is helping our clients understand the importance of compliance, government HR/Labor regulations, and the overall need for investment in Human Capital. When companies invest smartly in their people, it shows – both staff and bottom line benefit 🙂
What about being a small business owner brings you the most joy?
1. I love developing people. LOVE IT, CAN’T GET ENOUGH OF IT. So, in addition to watching the people we work with benefit from our expertise, I get to see our employees professionally develop. Camille Gentry is our People & Program Specialist, and she handles most of the scheduling, Administration and research in the organization. Recently, Camille completed her first solo client consulting project with little assistance, and she knocked it out of the park. In 2018, Camille plans to sit for her PHR, and also obtain her real estate license to help out with one of our existing real estate clients.
Obviously, the best part of the job(s) is giving people education and training to make them better at something. When we leave them, they have something that they didn’t before. They are better off, armed with a professional resume and ready for action – or, perhaps a client is brought up to date on their annual training through custom designed live presentations. A goal is achieved, a mark is made, and you can proceed with a greater likelihood of success than ever before!
2. Being a small business owner has some flexibility – and I have a young daughter. I can spend more time with her during the day – though it guarantees me working hours into the night. The work still has to be completed – I just have a bit more flexibility as to when and where it is accomplished. It’s totally worth it!
3. We can be selective about who we work with. Our approach is solution-driven, laden with best practices, and we aim to educate, explain and design programs that can help your organization become compliant, and decrease legal exposure. If a company is not interested in being within legal bounds, fair, and/or ethical, that organization probably won’t be a good fit for our approach.
What’s the most difficult part of being a small business owner?
We do everything! Though on a much smaller scale, Camille and I do all functions of a business, including business development, marketing, payroll, etc. We work very collaboratively, both with online work sessions, and “live” in-person meetings throughout the week. It’s my first business, and I put a lot of pressure on myself. We’re looking to begin the grant writing process in Q1 of 2018 for Park Avenue Career Services – and the more we raise, the more people we can reach. I have big aspirations. 🙂
What’s the most exciting thing happening at your company or in your industry?
For us, everything is exciting right now, since we’re running young organizations. I really enjoy consulting, and helping people learn and understand why these “pesky” rules/regulations/laws are necessary. I like to explain the big picture and have everyone understand how they tie in. Everyone is important, since everyone contributes!
Similarly with the volunteer work – most people do not recognize how critical a resume is to a career process. Some people have never had one, and wouldn’t know where to start. They are confused and unsure of how to begin. We help! For example, the program we run at the Hope Center at the Nashville Rescue Mission is nine days of classes – and they have the chance to freely converse with HR Consultants, Talent Specialists, Business Owners, and an Attorney about everything from resumes to Labor Law to Budgeting & Personal Finance. We also keep in touch with them after their graduation and answer any questions they have about the job hunt, interviewing, or individual companies.
Another exciting thing – Park Avenue Consulting offers a unique alternative to team building. We write, stage and oversee a type of live-action roleplaying game – where a mystery must be collaboratively solved. These interactive mystery games have our clients raving, and are available for groups of up to 75 people. They are intricate events that stretch your imagination, problem-solving skills and allow you to interact with co-workers in a new way, sharing a unique experience.
What has motivated you the most in your small business journey?
I have spent nearly 15 years in sometime of Legal, or HR-type position. With small business, you have a chance to cut through bureaucracy and make a large impact early on. It’s amazing how smoothly things run when they are done correctly from the beginning, and leaders can focus on what they do best. Our motivation is helping people and assisting businesses – we have a hands-in approach, rooted in explanation. So, PACS doesn’t just come in and make a bunch of recommendations – we explain the motivators of the regulations, break down indicators and ‘best practices’ and why they are important. You’d be surprised how many business-savvy people have serious misconceptions about Human Resources/Training from previous negative experiences.
Additionally, my approach to HR, or any other business function is rooted in Servant Leadership – it is our responsibility as fortunate individuals to give back to those around us. Support each other, share skills and come together. This is a major motivator of both organizations, and a guiding principle on how I live my life. I mentor individuals when they ask, and am currently working with a successful business owner in town on business etiquette and organizational coaching.
If you could go back to just before you launched your business and offer yourself sixty seconds of advice, what would you say?
Calm down, and don’t be too hard on yourself. We started the business with a couple of clients, and we are looking at controlled growth – I have seen first hand what happens when companies value profits over people, and I don’t want to run my organization in that way. I am a person that will work on things 24/7, and I have to make a concerted effort to relax – there’s so much to be done!
What are you looking forward to the most in your personal or professional future?
I am interested in growing my company in a responsible way that benefits my employees, and the community we serve, as much as myself. For example, in the Park Avenue Consulting handbook, we have a very generous Maternity Leave policy – 16 weeks paid! – and three paid weeks for expectant partners. Employee development is important to our organization as well, and we have clear goals on an annual basis. On the Park Avenue Careers front, we’re looking to expand our Career Preparation/Job Readiness offerings to two other community partners in the Middle TN area. The more we work, the more we are able to assist others in achieving their goals.