Nikki Lachar – StartUp FoCo Podcast

Nikki Lachar and Tina Todd, co-founders of simplyHR, are shaking up the world of sexual harassment training. Crowdfunding Define The Line, their comic book-based team training tool, to the tune of $10,000, the comic book is taking root nationwide.

Nikki’s panels are:

Let’s get to know Nikki!

Nikki, introduce yourself!

Hi, I’m Nikki Lachar, I’m the co-founder of simplyHR and Define the Line. simplyHR is an HR consulting firm that’s been in operations for the last three years. Our latest project is Define the Line and we’re revolutionizing sexual harassment training for our workplaces.

You just recently published a comic book.

Define the Line is our first comic book. It is a training tool for organizations to use and we’re kind of taking a different approach to sexual harassment training with the comic book format. We think it’s worth taking a look at how we train and educate employees on workplace harassment and how to respond to situations when people are inappropriate.

Have you heard back from businesses that they found that this is applicable for them?

Yes. We finished the project at the end of December, and within now the first month of 2019, we have seen exponential growth. We’re seeing companies nationwide reaching out to us, so whatever we’re doing is working because it is growing. We are taking a look at how we’re going to kind of tackle that growth as it comes on.

You Kickstarted the whole comic book?

Yes, we did a Kickstarter campaign, and we successfully raised over $10,000 for the project, which was phenomenal because there was no other way that we as a small business could have done the project.

Having that community behind the project supporting us and saying this was a good idea really gave us the fuel to go after it. Now we’re seeing growth after the Kickstarter campaign wrapped up and the response from sending out the comic books to our backers.

It’s available for purchase as well, right?

Right. We have an online store, so you can go right onto DefineTheLineComic.com and purchase it there. We also have services like on-site training for our clients as well.

What is the biggest challenge for small businesses looking at HR issues today?

Employees that are unpredictable. Navigating complex situations with employees when they come up, understanding what kind of laws or regulations can impact our decision as business owners, and understanding risk levels when we’re making those decisions.

When it comes to Techstars Startup Week Fort Collins, what are you most excited about?

So many things. We’re kind of dipping our pinky toe into what VC funding and angel investors could look like, especially for Define the Line. We’re really excited that there is a track specifically for funding. We’re going to be at every single one of those sessions so we can get as much good advice as we can from those in our community.

What would you say to a small business owner or a startup founder who says, “I don’t need to focus on HR right now?”

There are a lot of things that you’re risking if you go that direction. Setting up a business the right way the first time is much easier than after growth, trying to backdate, or back look at things that happened in the past and document what we did before.

A small business owner can really take a look at how they hire their first employee, and how to do that correctly from a compliance standpoint. Also, how are they going to create a culture for their team moving forward? HR is really important for those small business owners even when the business is really small.

What would you say to an evil corporation that wanted to set up a really horrible company culture?

Maybe they shouldn’t have a business.

Just kidding. But everybody’s culture is different. So, something that I personally think sounds evil might not be evil for other people if they’re fine with how it’s set up. It would just really depend on what this mean, evil corporation is trying to do.

Have you noticed that different HR issues come up across different kinds of startups, or are they pretty universal?

We see a lot of common themes and trends. We’re in the space of compliance, so the rules and regulations that impact one industry, impact all industries for us. There are industries where we’re seeing some difficulty as far as retaining a female workforce, but for the most part it’s very similar. You’d be surprised.

What is the single craziest HR issue that you’ve encountered so far?

There was an employee who asked for some time off because her pet had passed away. When I spoke to the employer, they let the employee have some time, but then they never returned. A year later, the employee informed the company that they were ready to come back to work. Essentially they needed a year off after the loss of the pet, which seemed a little crazy. I mean, I love my dog, but I could probably go back to work before a year is up.

You hear stories about emotional support animals, how do you handle some of the crazy employee requests that are reasonable from a certain view, but might be totally unreasonable from a startup?

Oh my gosh, we get so many things, like employees that want unlimited time off or PTO. And we have employees that are demanding that their wages be increased by astronomical amounts. It’s really about being consistent in those practices. We might say yes to an employee who is a great worker and they’re asking for their emotional support pet, but we’re not really thinking long-term.

If we said yes, and now five years later we’ve grown to a team of a hundred employees, do we let everybody bring their pet in? Is that the culture that we want to have? Is that how we want to structure our business moving forward? You can change things as time progresses, but making one decision early on, you could accidentally offer quite a lot of benefits that you might regret if things get out of hand.

Tell us about your panel at Startup Week.

We have a phenomenal panel of experts talking about how we keep women in the workforce. We’re focusing on unconscious bias. We’re looking at empowering individuals, women specifically, and also looking at parental leave, and how that works to support women. When they do leave to have a child, or they’re looking for that next step or that promotion, how do we make sure we’re retaining that workforce, and not seeing a big dip where they kind of fall off the earth before they come back a few years later? Also, how do we support that transition as well.

Where we can find out more about you and your business?

SimplyHRPartners.com and DefineTheLineComic.com, and we’re on social media at Define the Line Comic. You can find us on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.

To a newbie business just getting started out, what would be your best advice?

Seek out experts or people that have gone through what you are about to put yourself through. Leaning on individuals who have successful businesses, who are even just a year ahead of you as far as starting a similar business, can give you such great insight and inspiration and support as you’re starting a new business.

You’re going to end up doing things that you didn’t realize you would need to know how to do and you’re gonna have lots of questions. The sooner you can start making those connections and meeting with people, the better.

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