Innovation — Employees who have different backgrounds, whether due to ethnicity, education, or culture allow a company to utilize their ideas and see things from a different perspective. This results in the ability to diversify product lines and services.
As a part of our series about “How Diversity Can Increase a Company’s Bottom Line,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Nicole Anderson, owner and CEO of MEND, a human resources solutions firm based in West Palm Beach, Fla. MEND has an impressive client list that includes companies in the manufacturing, distribution, geriatrics, medical, and technology industries, as well as a wildlife sanctuary. One of their clients is a Fortune 500 electronics manufacturer. Before founding MEND in 2017, Nicole held corporate leadership positions in the legal, retail, and manufacturing industries. Nicole received a Bachelor of Business Administration in Human Resources Management from American InterContinental University in Weston, Fla.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit more. Can you share your “backstory” with us?
I grew up in a very small town that lacked a lot of diversity, so when I got out of high school I moved to Orlando and had the biggest culture shock of my life, but I loved it. I learned what makes everyone unique and how we all play a dynamic role in life. While I finished my degree, I had my daughter and had to move back to the small town for a while. I got a job at a local prison in HR and realized that the diversity I came to love was not anywhere to be found within the walls of the business. I knew then I was going to spend my entire career fighting for businesses and employees to have a happy healthy relationship. I spent the next 11 years building my HR experience and 3 years ago I knew it was time to make a difference, so I started MEND, an HR solutions firm. My goal is to help companies build better companies and help employees become better employees.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? Can you tell us the lesson or take away you took out of that story?
I received an anonymous letter under my door at the law firm I worked at. The letter read that a fellow co-worker had been bragging in the lunchroom about poisoning her own food because someone kept stealing it. At first, I was like this cannot be true. I pulled the employee into my office and she confirmed that she was indeed poisoning her food to get back at whoever was taking it. I asked her, “How long has someone been taking your food and why haven’t you reported it?” Her response to me was, “Well, they took it 6 months ago and I let the prior HR know.” Then I said, “Why are you poisoning your own food now?” Her response was a shoulder shrug.
This incident reminded me that you just never know someone’s mental state and what is going on in their personal lives. So, this taught me to always handle people with care and no matter what, treat them the best that I know how.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
I speak business talk to owners and not HR. I also tell them the truth with no sugar coating. When my owners come to me, they come to me tired and they are tired of red tape and being told they cannot do something with no alternatives. We give them alternatives. We give them options. For example, we have clients who have spent months arguing with the prior HR staff. In one case, the owner wanted to move some salaried employees to hourly because he felt they deserved overtime. His HR person told him that he could not do this and it would be violating the FLSA (Fair Labor and Standard Act) rules. While the HR person is not wrong especially if the job description is not modified and they are still completing tasks assigned to a salaried role, moving an employee from salary to hourly is actually benefiting the employee, whereas if it was the other way around, it would be benefiting the employer and could potentially cause some issues. My alternative to him was to restructure his departments, recreate job descriptions that are more in line with the hourly role, and move the employees. At the end of the day, it makes everyone happy and he was still in compliance.
Are you working on any new or exciting projects now? How do you think that might help people?
I am currently writing a book. This will be my first book and will showcase the way I see HR in the future. This book will provide information to leaders that will help turn their HR department into a business partner that is saving them money.
What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?
Be transparent and honest. Let your employees know the state of the business whether good or bad. Let them know that bad things happen to you as well. This shows you are human and relatable.
What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders about how to manage a large team?
Be consistent in all your actions, decisions, and policies. Ensure that you are not making your team guess from day to day about what the organization is going to look like. Also, it is important to know your team and know what makes your leaders the people they are.
Ok. Thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main part of our interview. This may be obvious to you, but it is not intuitive to many people. Can you articulate to our readers five ways that increased diversity can help a company’s bottom line? (Please share a story or example for each.)
1) Innovation — Employees who have different backgrounds, whether due to ethnicity, education, or culture allow a company to utilize their ideas and see things from a different perspective. This results in the ability to diversify product lines and services.
A client we have has a very tenured and highly educated staff. Their sales were stagnant. Their revenue did not grow over a 3-year period. They believed they had tried everything. My suggestion was to hire interns from the local university. This was a tough sell because these leaders had been in the industry for over 25 years. They finally agreed. We brought in three students who were in their junior year for a three-month internship program. We gave them all the information needed to help give them a new direction. Each intern took on their own market research project the first month and then combined the research and collaborated with each other for the second month. In the third month, the interns brought forward their ideas of where the company could go. The owner and the leadership team were on board and not only did revenues go up by 30-percent the first year, all three interns were hired full time and there is an internship each summer!
2) Reputation — Companies who champion a diverse work force and stand behind diversity do have better reputations. It is important for companies to value their reputation as it attracts better talent, more customers, and ultimately more profit.
I worked for a company that did not have much diversity. The age gap in the office was either extremely mature or extremely young. There was no in-between. This resulted in a clash of ideas all the time. No one could decide anything. Leadership’s idea of keeping the age gap so far apart was that they could have the more mature staff train the younger staff and they would come on board with no bad habits. Besides age, there was an education and experience gap. When we finally talked leadership into bringing in more diverse candidates, we found that people did not want to work for us. They had heard that there were never any ideas used, no final decisions, and that it was a waste of time to even try. We worked very hard to recreate our brand and establish diversity. When I left, they had hired numerous people, and today they are a leader in diversity in the area.
3) Less Turnover — Companies who strive for diversity see less turnover. While this can go into reputation, turnover is a separate issue. Turnover is a costly metric that if not property controlled, can be a huge hit to the bottom line. Companies who do not strive for diversity find themselves in a revolving door of limited candidates and limited ideas. When they do hire someone who is diverse, but the rest of the company is not, they never feel secure to share ideas. This results in the employee leaving. When a company lives and breathes diversity, people want to stay.
A client we worked with has very little ethnic diversity. The employees belong to only two ethnicities. I brought up my concern to the client as I thought they were missing some valuable talent and felt it was important that they look into diversity and inclusion programs. After one year of championing diversity in his new leadership role as the COO, this client has increased their diversity by 20-percent and is now on trend to have their best year ever.
4) Fewer Lawsuits — Companies are regulated by state and federal law when it comes to discrimination. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) heads this effort. Companies who do not participate in a diverse workforce are more likely to be involved in a charge complaint or discrimination lawsuit than a company who sets polices and standards for diversity and inclusion.
For example, if a company is an all-white male company and a Black woman applies for a leadership job within the organization and does not get the position, whether or not she is qualified for the job, the assumption would be that she did not get hired because of the lack of diversity at the organization. Now, if the company’s leadership had healthy diversity, then the assumption could be made that she was just not qualified for the job or there was a better candidate selected.
5) Increased Skill Level — An organization that has a wider range of skill can offer more to the consumer base or expand their market from local to global.
An example of increased skill level would be breaking down language barriers. Language barriers prevent you from opening or offering products in a certain area. If the organization was more diverse, they could hire employees with the skills necessary to provide customer service and support to those areas. This results in expanding markets and more profits.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Mentoring young women and entrepreneurs. It is my passion. I am a survivor of sexual abuse. I have also been a single mom since my daughter was born. I know the struggles some women face and I want to show other single parents that they are worth far more than their circumstances offer.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”?
“Opportunity should not determine your drive. Your drive should determine your opportunity.”
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?
I am 100-percent grateful to my daughter. She has given me the drive and determination to get where I am today. I had her at 21 and was just a kid in college. I had to grow up. I knew I had someone watching me. She has sacrificed so much while I built my career and am now building a company, but every step she has said, “Go for it.” So much so, that she wants to start her own cosmetics line. It makes me so happy to know that she is growing up to be whatever she chooses!
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this 🙂
I would love to have lunch with Daymond John. Where he came from to where he is now is an amazing testimony to drive and determination. He gave me the hope that even with no money, you can still be prosperous. He also shows true leadership in his companies and models that behavior in all aspects of life.