Jamie Van Cuyk helps small business owners and leaders become effective day-to-day people managers so they can hire, develop and retain the best employees. She transitioned to consulting after seven years in leadership positions within the corporate world, which makes her uniquely placed to offer advice on how to thrive both in and out of the boardroom…
Please could you give our readers a quick recap of how you came to be a Business Consultant…
A goal of mine has always been to run my own business. In the spring of 2016, I decided it was the right time and left my corporate job to help start a software development company. However, the company I had been working for over seven years in both formal and informal leadership positions, was not ready to fully part ways. They hired me as a consultant where I focussed on two leadership assignments – helping a new manager learn how to transition into a leadership role and putting together a large, topic-specific training program for a subset of the management team.
Around the time that contract was coming to an end, I also realised that I have no passion for software development, but I was enjoying every minute of my consulting work. I then decided to put software development on hold and change my focus to helping business owners become better people managers and leaders.
How is JamieVC.com unique and what makes your company so successful?
What makes JamieVC unique is that I focus on leadership / employee management consulting for small business owners. When I decided to become a full-time leadership consultant, my goal was to work with corporate companies. However, I was meeting a lot of local small business owners while networking. This is when I realised two things:
- Most small business owners had never managed an employee before hiring for their own business.
- There was a lack of resources that talked explicitly to small business owners when it came to leadership and managing people. Consultants either focussed on helping employees climb the leadership ladder within a corporate company or concentrate on overall small business strategy and growth.
My goal is to help business owners learn how to hire and leverage their employees so that they can grow their companies.
Please could you tell us more about the time you managed more than 40 employees – what key skills did you learn and then apply to your next job?
The top two skills that I mastered during this time were time management and how to create self-sufficient teams.
When it came to time management, I had to ensure I was capable of staying on top of my projects while also being able to support my team members when needed. Now in my own business, I use the same time management skills so I can be sure to stay on top of my client work while also being sure I can complete all other in-office and marketing tasks that are needed to run a business.
One of the skills I am most proud of is the ability to create self-sufficient teams. The whole point of having employees is so you can give work tasks to someone else which allows you to spend some of that saved time doing other items. However, some managers get so involved in their team’s every move that they end up acting more like babysitters than leaders. I was able to create teams that knew what was expected of them. At the same time, they knew precisely when to involve me, and they did not overstep their roles. I now teach my clients how to create self-sufficient teams.
You’re a keen blogger – what HR / RPO / talent acquisition topics do you enjoy writing about the most?
Hiring and day-to-day employee management are my favourite topics to write about. I believe that to have a successful business, you must know how to bring the right people into your organization and how to properly manage them on a day-to-day basis. Otherwise, companies are wasting money on their employees and limiting their growth.
In addition, I really enjoy it writing more story-based articles on my experiences that show these topics in action.
Which project – business or pleasure – are you most proud of completing?
In my first consulting project, I was asked to write a training program for a select management group within my previous corporate company. The project was to help the management team understand and apply select concepts of Six Sigma within their roles. Before I was assigned the project, previous training had been ineffective due to the team not understanding how to connect the knowledge to the department’s activities.
The final training plan included teaching presentations that only focused on the topics they needed to understand. In addition, case studies were completed that used real data and application situations from their department. With both the training and the exercises being relevant to their teams and their roles, each member of the management group was finally able to understand the concepts at the level required by the company.
I am most proud about this project because I saw first hand the struggle they previously had with the knowledge and was able to create a workable solution. It helped me realise that when you connect the training directly to the person, they are capable of grasping harder concepts. This is why I love consulting clients one-on-one.
What’s your one piece of advice to a job seeker who is having trouble securing an interview, let alone a new job?
To get an interview, use your network! A referral is more likely to get an interview rather than a random resume. Why? Because they have someone vouching for them and most people are not going to give their name to an unqualified candidate. Also, let people know you are looking for a job and what type of position you would prefer. I’ll be honest, for the job that shaped my career, I got an interview because I told someone I needed to get out of my current position. They mentioned me to someone within their HR department. They were not hiring for anything I was qualified for, but the HR representative knew another company that was hiring for my skill. I was connected to someone within that company and two weeks later I had a job offer. To conclude, networks are powerful!
What keeps you up at night?
My children. Just kidding! They have always been great sleepers. My drive to complete tasks on my to-do list is what keeps me up at night. I have always been a night owl when it comes to doing work. With most of my days being full of client facing meetings, network events, and spending quality time with the family, I often save my in-office work until after the kids are in bed. Once I start getting into a good groove, it’s hard for me to stop and call it a night!
As a working mother yourself, how easy is it to juggle parenting and working? Also, do you have any tips for prospective parents?
I find it pretty easy to balance parenting and working. I was fortunate to work for a department that had strong female leadership with most of the women being mums. Flexibility was a part of the culture because we all understood that allowing people to balance work and families was important to mums, dads, the kids, and the company.
My advice is first to define what a parenting / working balance means to you. Then make sure your current situation allows for that balance. If not, you might want to explore a career change or see how you can leverage your employees to get the balance you want within your own company.
What was best piece of advice you were ever given?
A few years back, I was sitting with my dad, and he was telling me things about his career that I never really knew. While I knew he had previously worked for Kodak, I only really remember him as a small business owner. During the conversation, he told me about some of his achievements at Kodak. He said to me, ‘If I stayed at Kodak, I could have made a lot more money over the life of my career. However, if I had to make the choice again, I would still leave that career to run my own business. Owning my own business allowed me to live the life I wanted. Sometimes you have to pick between money and what you really want. Don’t let the money blind you.’ That conversation was one of the reasons I decided to leave my successful corporate job a year later to become an entrepreneur.
That’s enough about business, let’s talk about your life away from the office… if you could listen to one song for the rest of your life, what would it be?
That’s a hard one… I guess if I had to pick one song, it would be Calling You by Blue October. I have loved the song since I first heard it about 15 years ago and it was the song my husband and I danced to at our wedding. To this day, I am always put in a good mood when I hear it playing.
Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
As a business owner, if you are going to spend the money to have an employee, you need to know how to manage that employee properly. If you are ready to improve your day-to-day employee management skills, I am happy to help. Learn about my services here or join my free community.
Finally, what is your life motto?
I recently said to someone on a call, ‘Does the job need to be done by you or does it need to be done right? You can always train someone to do it right.’ Since then it has become my motto in business and in life.
Jamie helps small business owners everywhere move their businesses forward. You can contact her via email: jamievc <at> jamievc.com.