Blazing Their Own Paths: How Small Business Owners Leverage Bold Ideas to Drive Success

Running a business is not for the faint of heart. Those who embark on the path of business ownership come in all stripes, but they possess one trait in common: an unwavering entrepreneurial spirit. This is the spark that powers the long days and sleepless nights that often come with startups —a reality small business owners know all too well.

The willingness to persevere is what enables small business owners to blaze new paths to success. At The Mom Project, we’re honored to partner with driven leaders who embrace challenges and aren’t afraid to try new things. Recently, we sat down with customers who’ve incorporated future-focused workplace trends into their businesses in a four-week series of workshops designed to engage and inspire SMB owners. The series, Blaze Your Own Path, shows how inventive entrepreneurs find success through flexibility, respect, inclusion, and innovation.

Boldly Embrace Flexibility

In today's rapidly evolving work landscape, organizations increasingly recognize the significance of leveraging people intelligence and data insights to make informed business decisions. One decision that holds immense potential is embracing workplace flexibility. In our first session, A Business Case for Workplace Flexibility, we dove into the topic in discussion with Graham Thornton, CEO of Change State. Graham shared his insights on the business case for flexibility and how Change State has successfully innovated its workplace flexibility. By being bold enough to embrace flexibility, Change State has transformed their business for the better.

1. Navigate Change and Find Success through Flexibility

Change State, a company specializing in optimizing HR tech and recruitment marketing, shared how embracing flexibility allowed them to get the best talent and collectively thrive with zero employee attrition and no client loss since they founded in 2019. By pivoting their operations to meet the needs of both clients and employees during the COVID-19 pandemic, they witnessed positive outcomes, including employee and client retention and employee satisfaction. Creativity, collaboration, and agility became central to their organizational culture, with workplace flexibility significantly supporting business success.

2. Attract Top Talent through Flexibility

Change State recognized that top-tier professionals actively seek flexible work opportunities. By witnessing their clients successfully attract exceptional talent from various regions, they realized the importance of agility in their recruitment efforts. In partnership with Spot Virtual, they established a cultural metaverse that launched their remote future-flexible way. Flexibility is driven by fostering a culture of respect, trust, and support for employees.

3. Organizational Support and Personal Autonomy as Key Drivers

Research conducted by Werklabs on flexibility sheds light on the factors that positively impact the flexible experience. The most significant elements identified were organizational support and personal autonomy. Organizations can better cultivate flexibility by respecting and supporting employees as whole individuals. At Change State, this mindset is deeply ingrained, even implementing bonuses for employees who fully disconnect during their time off, recognizing the importance of recharging.

Leveraging data insights about employees, talent, and people is essential for organizations to make business decisions that align with human progress. By prioritizing organizational support, personal autonomy, and a culture of respect and trust, companies can create flexible work experiences that benefit employees and the organization.

Let empathy and respect guide your workplace culture 

A bit of empathy can go a long way, creating positive workplace cultures that benefit both workers and companies. In our second session, we chatted with Bill Keane of Keane Studios, where he highlighted the importance of integrating flexibility from the early stages, fostering a culture of support, and aligning flexibility with employees' needs. In Attract and Retain Talent With Flexible Work, Bill shared his experience and wisdom on the benefits of flexibility in attracting and retaining highly dedicated talent.

1. Show flexibility from the beginning

The journey towards a flexible workplace begins right from the job description. Organizations can attract candidates who prioritize work-life balance by crafting job descriptions highlighting workplace flexibility. A study conducted by Werklabs found a significant difference in the appeal and interest levels of job listings that mention flexibility, emphasizing the role of flexibility as a recruiting tool.

2. Show organizational support to improve the employee experience

Data insights have shown that providing organizational support for flexibility is crucial in driving a positive employee experience. Employees who feel supported in balancing their personal and professional responsibilities are more likely to thrive in their roles and remain loyal to the company. Keane Studios serves as a testament to this, as they have prioritized flexibility for over two decades, enabling them to retain their best employees and foster a strong sense of trust and teamwork.

3. See employees as people with full lives

Keane emphasized the significance his organization experienced by respecting employees as individuals with multifaceted lives. When employees' personal lives are valued and respected, they can show up and contribute their best in their workplace. By designing and offering flexibility as a staple, organizations demonstrate their commitment to supporting employees' well-being, resulting in increased loyalty, productivity, and overall job satisfaction.

Organizations prioritizing flexibility as a recruiting and retention tool are more likely to attract highly dedicated talent, nurture loyalty, and create a positive employee experience. By embracing flexibility and understanding the data insights surrounding it, businesses can pave the way for a more agile and successful future.

Enrich your team with inclusive hiring practices

Finding the right talent to support and grow your organization takes patience and dedication. In our second session, A Fresh Take on Inclusive Hiring Practices, we explored the significance of inclusive hiring and its benefits with Julie Lorenzo, a Talent Acquisition Manager at The Mom Project. Below summarizes the key takeaways emphasizing the need for organizations to consider character traits, goal alignment, and skills when evaluating potential candidates.

1. Recognize shifting talent trends

The talent landscape has undergone notable shifts recently. We have seen a rise in high-contributing talent pivoting into new career paths, parents returning to the workforce after caregiving leaves, and individuals gaining marketable skills through alternative routes. Julie highlighted the importance of recognizing these trends and adapting hiring processes to better evaluate and consider individuals with non-traditional backgrounds. By doing so, organizations can tap into a wider talent pool and benefit from the unique perspectives and skills they bring.

2. Understand the value of mom talent

During the discussion, Julie emphasized the unique value that mom talent brings. Moms who have taken breaks, made career pivots, or acquired skills through alternative routes exhibit traits such as determination, dedication, and tenacity. Often overlooked by traditional hiring practices, these qualities can contribute significantly to an organization's success. Organizations can enhance retention, productivity, and overall company culture by creating opportunities for mom talent to shine.

3. Move beyond resumes

Organizations should design and integrate a hiring process beyond the narrow resume-first focus to expand the inclusive hiring approach. Relying solely on degrees and credentials can limit the pool of talent considered. Instead, organizations should focus on key character traits, skills, and lived experiences that align with the role and the organization's values, as these aspects of talent cannot easily be taught. Organizations can identify potential superstars who may have been overlooked by adopting a broader perspective of the candidate's story.

By considering character traits, goal alignment, and skills instead of relying solely on resumes, organizations can build diverse and talented teams. Implementing transparent, inclusive, and prepared hiring processes further ensures equal opportunities for all.

Innovate with contingent work

Innovation drives new discoveries and is key in business growth. In today’s shifting work landscape, many leaders have had to re-examine their workforce and adopt new ways of working, one of which has been the emergence of contingent work. In our final session, we provide research recommendations and share key learnings from best-in-class contingent work leaders. 

The discussion centered around a Werklabs study titled "Unlocking the Potential of Parents in the Contingent Workforce," completed in partnership with Staffing Industry Analysts. The study drew on insights established in another Werklabs study with workforce management leader, Magnit, where we dug deep to understand the drivers that impact contingent workers' experiences with their employer. We shared learnings from best-in-class contingent work leaders and discussed how to replicate their success. 

We were privileged to have Briar Dougherty, the Founder, and CEO of Career Organic, which partners with professionals making career transitions. She's been a hiring manager for the past 20 years. Briar reinforced the recurring theme we heard throughout this workshop series about aligning work experiences with data-driven insights to find success. The perspective Briar shared offered real-world examples where these practices have been implemented and positively impacted her business, Career Organic. 

Briar’s experience echoed a key theme from the report — parents offer tremendous potential in contingent work. Werklabs study revealed that 71% of moms with children under 18 are drawn to project-based work due to its flexibility. By including and supporting parents in contingent work programs, organizations elevate the alignment and, thus, the success of their contingent initiatives. Designing contingent workforce programming with the specific needs of parents in mind ensures these programs benefit both the talent and the organization.

The research study and Briar Doughtery's first-hand experience helped provide several advanced practices to create positive contingent talent experiences. 

Advanced Practices were classified into three fundamental areas:

Opportunity: Organizations should include contingent hires as an integrated part of the overall team. This includes providing growth opportunities, upskilling initiatives, and incentive programs.


Empathy: Personal inclusion is crucial for building a cohesive team. Companies should create avenues for contingent hires to participate in cultural activities, employee resource groups, and team-building exercises.


Flexibility: Instead of rigid policies, organizations should prioritize flexibility tailored to the needs of their workforce. This includes flexibility in contract lengths, working locations, work schedules, and hours worked per day.

Briar highlighted several best practices that Career Organic has incorporated, including treating all team members equally, providing comprehensive training and resources to contingent workers, prioritizing growth and advancement, offering competitive compensation and benefits, and recognizing the importance of work-life integration. 

Briar shared some simple ways to meet the needs of contingent workers, particularly parents, in a way that yields high returns for both the parent employees and the business. She made recommendations that we see validated in the data that are simple yet impactful, such as setting appropriate expectations through clear communication and cues that respect the schedules of all team members. 

Career Organic accomplishes this by having all employee email signatures reflect the available working hours of that team member. 

By prioritizing data-driven decision-making and adopting people-centric solutions, organizations can optimize their contingent workforce programming to meet the needs of the talent they want to support while benefiting their business outcomes—a true win-win.

Throughout the series, we heard stories of bold decision making and innovative ideas, all of which are instrumental in business success. If you are a business leader who is charting new paths toward success, we’d love to be part of your journey. Join us today.

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