You went to Lehigh University. Are you originally from that area? If so, how did you wind up in the Washington D.C. area?
I’m from Pennsylvania, but I grew up on the other side of the state in Pittsburgh. I attended University of Pittsburgh for undergrad and went to Lehigh where I graduated with my MBA. I moved to the D.C. area (Alexandria, VA) in 1996 for a career opportunity with a marketing firm that provided services to trade associations. During my work with trade association members I realized that many smaller organizations had little, or no, HR expertise on staff. Smart HR was created as a cost-effective HR solution to help these firms.
In one word, what has it been like starting Smart HR from scratch and seeing it succeed to this level?
Rewarding, although I’ve been so busy with moving the organization forward that I haven’t spent enough time reflecting on the journey itself. I do believe in the power of entrepreneurship, and I think entrepreneurship represents so many of the ideals that have made this country great…commitment, hard work, results, creativity, achievement and self-reliance, to name a few.
Smart HR is growing! What skills and personalities fit in best at Smart HR?
Our people are our biggest differentiator. We have such a committed team and we’ve worked hard to create an environment of mutual respect and support. We offer a lot of workplace flexibility to our team, and they, in turn, are highly motivated to deliver for our clients. We try to create this type of workplace engagement for our clients as well. We live what we preach.
How have you seen the outsourced HR landscape change over the last 10 years?
When I started the company in April 2001 there were only two or three HR outsourcing firms in the D.C. area. Back then people weren’t familiar with the concept. During the past 15 years the outsourcing industry has exploded. Organizations have realized they can get high-end expertise without hiring fulltime senior level directors and vice presidents. Again, we practice what we preach – we take advantage of outsourced marketing, IT, accounting and payroll.
Knowing what you know now is there anything you wish you had done differently when you first started Smart HR?
Looking back I’m surprised by how many things we got right — from marketing, to company culture, to client retention. One thing I am proud of is our client and staff retention rates. Year over year both are above 95%.
The one thing I would’ve done differently is tapped into the knowledge of other entrepreneurs and business owners who’ve already been down this road. I’ve done this more in recent years and it’s been really helpful in allowing us to make better decisions.
What other companies or brands do you most admire and why?
Amazon’s customer service amazes me. Order something online and have it on your front porch the next morning. That is magic.
Where would you like to see Smart HR in the next five years?
We’re all about moderate, sustainable growth. We want to maintain excellent service levels and we don’t want to grow too quickly and sacrifice the quality of our service. We have been growing 25-30% a year for the past five years. I’d be happy if we continue on that path.
If you could talk to one person from history, who would it be and why?
Thomas Jefferson. He was the Renaissance man, and so ahead of his time in many different ways. He practiced a healthy diet high in vegetables generations before most. I could go on and on…visit Monticello. My father and my grandfather were both named after him, Thomas Jefferson Stevenson (it would also be interesting to talk with my great grandfather on why he was compelled to name his son after Thomas Jefferson).
Describe your ideal weekend.
I’m a pretty simple guy. Perfect weekend would include going on hike with my wife and dog and grilling out with friends. Even better would be if I could fit in a round of golf.