Laurence is CEO and co-founder of emphasisHR and previously co-founded a prominent corporate benefit consulting firm, Global Group. He has turned his passion for entrepreneurship and insatiable hunger to stay in front of the curve into one of the most responsive and imaginative HR outsourcing companies in the market today. Focusing primarily on growth-stage small and mid-sized businesses, Laurence has set out to level the playing field for companies who need great benefits, world-class technology and forward-thinking HR to compete for the best talent. With the belief that growth comes from focus on the “right” things, Laurence delivers a platform that gets entrepreneurs out of the back-office and back in the driver seat.
Where did the idea for Emphasis come from?
I’ve been an entrepreneur since I was a child. One thing that was made crystal clear is that I could not do it all. Even painting addresses on curbs, which hundreds of kids used to do informally for summer work, I turned into a business – one that grew slowly when I was running sales, production, accounting and recruiting, but much faster when I took myself out of the “jack-of-all-trades” role.
Of course, that alone wasn’t the “ah ha” moment for creating a human resources outsourcing company – but it did lay the foundation for a life spend advancing the idea that people should focus on the things that make them great.
Emphasis was formally born as a progression of another business I co-founded, Global Group, Inc, which provides benefits consulting and benefits administrative outsourcing services to mid-sized employers. HR departments’ head-count had been heavily depleted due to budget cuts and it began to be clear that, at least in the small to mid-sized business segments, this trend would continue. At the same time HR departments were shrinking in small business, the demands on all businesses for high level HR where growing exponentially. So I knew if we created a company that could address those complexities – in a more efficient and cost-effective way it would resonate with business owners. It is no coincidence that this entire model hinges on the belief that “jack of all trades” stymies growth and that business will become greater and grow faster when its leader(s) are laser-focused on what makes them great.
Name a trend, in your industry or another industry, that currently really excites you?
For many years, the “old boy network” or the golf-buddy ruled the business services space. It didn’t matter what services or solutions an organization brought to the table, most business owners or leaders chose their vendor/consulting partners based on a relationship mainly valued by two parts friendship and one part trust.
While trust was, is and always will be a bedrock part of vendor/consultant selection. What started about 10-12 years ago and has really accelerated in recent years is that more value is being put on solutions and the ability to challenge the status quo ways of the “old guard”. For a firm that brings extreme value and lives by challenging the status quo, this is a very welcomed trend.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Entrepreneurship is a constant battle against distraction. Marketing, sales, employee and HR issues, accounting—you name it, there’s always a fire to put out. So my best answer is waking up at 4:45 in the morning and riding my bike for an hour, which is a great way to collect my thoughts—that leaves me about two hours of administrative coverage and time to think, so I’m ready for the employees, clients, kids and family that all need me later in the morning.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
We teach business owners to “let go” of certain no core duties so they can focus on more strategic, growth-oriented work. It’s a big idea but worth it in the end. That line of thinking, however, transcends HR outsourcing – it applies to finance too. Like many entrepreneurs I have my “comfort zones” too. If I were to start over I would leverage capital markets sooner to scale ideas faster.
What people have influenced your thinking?
Simon Sinek, because of his insights on leadership, and Jason Dorsey due to his amazing grasp of the Millennial mindset.