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Replay of Laurie Ruettimann's Career Advice Hangout

Replay of Laurie Ruettimann's Career Advice Hangout

Last week we had the pleasure of hosting our latest meetup with Laurie Ruettimann the popular HR writer/speaker/podcaster. She talked for an hour about how she makes a living in the HR world and dished out some great tips and tactics for any freelancer. Visit her website.

One of the attendees called it "one of the best, down to earth Zoom meeting I have ever attended." You can now watch the replay below or skim the full transcript.

Chris Russell:

Welcome everyone, to HR Lancers Live. I am Chris Russell. I'm the founder of HR Lancers. Glad you could all join us today, in our latest community hangout. It's been a while since we had one. We're really looking forward to today.

 

Chris Russell:

If you are new to HR Lancers, we are a platform for freelance HR pros, and independent recruiters. To find remote roles, projects, contract gigs. Think of us as the Upwork for HR. That's the goal here. To help you to find projects, and gigs, and jobs out there in the space, and help you build your own careers.

 

Chris Russell:

Today's topic is career advice for HR freelancers. With our guest, Laurie Ruettimann. Laurie is a speaker, author, podcaster, and influencer in the HR industry. I came to know her more than, I think over 10 years ago probably, through a blog called Punk Rock HR. Which is now the name of her podcast. Today I consider her one of the most outspoken and truthful voices in the world of HR. She loves cats too, so that's her hobby.

 

Chris Russell:

Laurie, welcome to the show. It's great to have you.

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

Thank-you. Yes, cats are my hobby. That's an interesting hobby. But yeah, they are actually. That's accurate. It's nice to see you, Chris. It's been a long time. We've been doing this forever. But what I love about being part of this social community, is that you get new faces, and new names, and new people coming in.

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

I'm looking at the screen, and it's a nice mix of people I know and don't know. Thanks for having me. It's fun to be part of a new community.

 

Chris Russell:

Totally. It's something I'm trying to do, is build a community here with this. Not just a site.

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

Oh, I love that.

 

Chris Russell:

But I want to get to know people, and hopefully one day we'll do these in person. But for now, we're stuck with working at home. Just starting out with, Laurie, how are you handling this whole new reality we're living in today?

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

Oh, yeah. Thanks for asking. Well, I guess I'm handling it fine. Because I'm healthy, and my family for the most part is healthy. Right before the lockdown, in late January, early February, my brother was diagnosed with state three colon cancer. The hardest thing for me is not being able to be with my family during his journey. He's in Chicago. But he's doing real well. The chemo is doing its job. He's an athlete anyway, so he's really bringing all of that mindset to his cancer.

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

I think it's just such a small thing, for me not to be with my family. Magnified by all of you, who are in isolation, or quarantine, and have other stuff going on in your lives. This period has just reminded me that we're all very human and vulnerable, and we're all fighting our own battles. The past couple of weeks, on top of COVID, with all of the civil unrest, have really got us on edge, and rightfully so. But I think the early lessons from COVID, around wellbeing and wellness, and being kind, still apply.

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

I don't know. I have a new appreciation for people and what they're going through. I'm so appreciative that people have been thoughtful to me during this process. So thanks for asking, Chris.

 

Chris Russell:

Yeah, no problem. Empathy is something that everyone should give out, and needs as well in this time.

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

Yeah, that's [crosstalk 00:03:35]. Thanks.

 

Chris Russell:

Awesome. Well, so give us a quick rundown of your career. From your time in HR, to where you are now. Give us a quick history there.

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

Sure, yeah. I had a job in HR. Quite a few of them, and I wasn't very good at it. I'm actually writing about this in my book that's going to be out in January. I asked for and received a severance package at Pfizer in 2007, after having laid off thousands of people, including my husband. I was just done with it. They gave me a severance package. They were glad to see me go at that point.

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

The past 13 years has really been a career, trying to figure out, how do I monetize my passion around work, and helping people marry their skills and their passion and their ability? With also telling some truths about the world of work. I've done everything from writing, to ghostwriting, to speaking. To just starting a business.

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

I've gone in other directions as well during that time period. I started a tech company, and I worked at a marketing agency. All of these different little journeys have made me better, I think, at the core thing I do. Which is write. I primarily identify as a writer.

 

Chris Russell:

Yeah. Because you took the package.

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

I did.

 

Chris Russell:

Did you think about getting another job at that point? Or did you say, "Okay. It's time to go into working for myself"?

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

You know, so I will say this. I took this package, and my husband had full expectations that I would go back to work. I played it like that for a little bit. Like, "Yeah. I'm going to look for another corporate job". The one mistake I made in taking that package, is that I wasn't honest with myself, and I wasn't honest with my partner. I didn't put together a plan to monetize my business.

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

I slid into self employment, and that's a terrible way to do it. I should have sat down with him, really looked at our finances, and done all the hard work that I now advice other people to do. I could have gone to Score. But I didn't do any of it. I just lied to myself, and maybe to him, like, "You know, look".

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

But the whole time I knew, "There's no way I could go back. There's no way I could do it". I regret that a lot.

 

Chris Russell:

Yeah. When did you, do you remember the first moment where you realized that, "I can do this"? Do you have that a-ha moment?

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

Yeah. You know, I'm going to say something. There are moments throughout any entrepreneurial journey, where you think you can do it. Then the next day you're like, "Oh fuck. This sucks". That doesn't go away. We have this myth in our society that you'll just have this moment of great realization. "I can conquer the mountain". It's like any career. It's full of self doubt, and full of complications.

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

Even now people are like, "How are you going to continue on, Laurie? As a writer and a speaker, during this new recession?". I find myself trying to pivot again, once again, in this journey. I don't know what I would pivot to. A full time job? That makes no sense for me, right? 13 years later, I am still trying to figure it out. I think that's what self employment is all about. It's not a linear path. I don't think any of us ever feel truly confident in what we're doing.

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

I mean, I'm confident in my mission. I'm confident in my voice. But I'm not always confident in the marketplace.

 

Chris Russell:

Yeah, that's a great point. I have those doubts too sometimes. I've been self employed for probably 18 years. Even through all that time, every year is different. This year is certainly no exception to that. It's really something that you have to constantly work at, in order to keep your business afloat. I'm always taking multiple revenue streams, and not putting all my eggs in one basket around that.

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

That's exactly right. Also, a community really helps. You've all met my girlfriend, Jennifer McClure. She and I are friends because we love one another, and it's great. But we're also sisters in this journey. Having someone who has my back, and really understands what it's like to have no backstop, and to have to do this. It's really important to have that person by your side.

 

Chris Russell:

Laurie, talk to me about personal marketing. You're a great personal marketer. You do podcasts, blogging, speaking. Any thoughts around, just advice around that for the lancers here?

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

Yeah. I'll say this. When I first started this journey, I fell into this mistake of thinking my effort should be 90 percent marketing, and 10 percent actual content. Because I just needed to get my name out. I was out one night in DC, with my friend, Ryan Estis. This is 2009, 2010. Ryan said to me, "All this marketing is great. But who are you?". Being HR famous is stupid if you're not helpful. If you're not constantly learning, and if you're not leading.

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

Sometimes leading means getting out of the way, and letting other people do their marketing. Letting other people have the stage. It was really one of those moments in my early career of being a freelancer, where I thought, "He's right". Marketing without substance, without personal growth, without leading within a community. Just as if I were back at Pfizer, back at Monsanto, is kind of pointless.

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

Thanks, Chris, for saying I'm good at marketing and podcasting, and doing all of that. But I've really had to challenge myself over the years, to make sure I don't do too much of it. It's just, it could be all encompassing at times.

 

Chris Russell:

Yeah. Have you had a viral moment in your career, where something took off on you? Whether it was a blog post, or a video or something?

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

I don't think so. I mean, can you remember anything about me? I can't remember anything about me, right? I think there was a moment in my career, where I was out there talking about, so this is 2011, 2012. How my cat, Scrubby, could get a job before you. That video got a lot of plays. My cat, Scrubby, was in People Magazine, which is weird. So yeah, I guess I have had some of that. But it didn't result in anybody writing me a check.

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

I think that's the other weird thing about being a freelancer. All this publicity, all this marketing, doesn't matter if nobody writes you a check. People Magazine was glad to run a photo of Scrubby. But nobody gives a shit, you know?

 

Chris Russell:

Right. Well, how do you get clients? What's the effect of the personal marketing? As far as getting a client. Do you have any thoughts on that?

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

Yeah, I do. All that personal marketing is out there, just to show people that I have ideas and opinions, and I'm somewhere in a pack of other people. Maybe ahead, and maybe behind. But I'm trying, right? But almost all of my clients, whether it's consulting, coaching, speaking, content marketing, come through referrals. That is the lifeblood of my business. Because I'm only one person, and I can't scale, I've really spent a lot of time thinking about, how much time can I spend writing? How much time can I spend on the road?

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

Knowing those boundaries, when my inbound inquiries come in through friends, through colleagues, I can take a look and see, is my bucket full? Or do I have capacity for this? If it is full, I pass that on to other people like crazy. I'm constantly farming out work. That's why I'm happy to be here as part of this community. If there is something that you do, and do it exceptionally well. Content marketing, workshops, whatever it is that you offer the marketplace, I'd love to know. I have a list, and I would love to get you on that list, and be able to send opportunities your way.

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

I created this ecosystem, Chris. I guess I'm lucky enough, because I was out there early. I have a name, I have a reputation. All of my stuff is inbound. But I think that's harder these days, and a little unrealistic for people who are just starting their freelance career.

 

Chris Russell:

Yeah. I had one registrant ask me to ask you a question. Which was, how do you know when it's time to leave your full time job, and venture on your own to do freelance work exclusively? Do you have any thoughts around that?

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

Yeah. I don't know one person who has had, who has quit their job and left it in an organized way, and then started a business. I wish I knew those people. Most of the freelancers that I know, who have gone on to have great careers, have had a moment of frustration, or disappointment in their career. They maybe quit out of panic. Who knows? Maybe they were laid off. But it was never a smart, planned moment.

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

Maybe Sharlyn Lauby, who's the HR Bartender. I think she had some rigor around the way she left her last full time job. But the rest of us either made an impulse decision, or took advantage of an opportunity. Pfizer was having all of these layoffs. In retrospect, I wish I would have spend more time in that full time job planning, while I had a paycheck. Because what happened is, all of my earnings from that severance check became my seed money.

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

There could have been a smarter way to do this. I could have tapped into all the really brilliant people that Pfizer hired, either as consultants or in the finance department, and asked them, "How do I launch a business? How do I make sure I'm doing this properly?". Especially during a recession. But I didn't do that, stupidly. It's like I got my MBA in real time, and the hard way. Although, Chris, school of knocks is not nothing. It's something. Hard knocks teach you.

 

Chris Russell:

Yeah. In 2001, after the recession started after 9/11, I got laid off. But at the time, I started my first job board, so I had a second income. When I got laid off, I was like, "Oh. I have this other income here", at that point. I'd been running the site for about two years before I finally got laid off. I'm glad I did it that way, because it worked out.

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

That's awesome. Wait, dude. I had two streams of income. I had my severance package, and I had my unemployment check.

 

Chris Russell:

Very nice. Unemployment. That's a whole other story, right?

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

Oh, yeah. Absolutely.

 

Chris Russell:

We need, I don't know, a whole system for everybody.

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

Do you think? Like a -

 

Chris Russell:

Well every state is different, and they all suck.

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

They're terrible, and they're all running on these old mainframes that my father in law used to have. Back in the '70s and '80s, when he worked at AT&T. It's just terrible, the system that we have. You're right, we need one federal system. Except, we're not governed that way. That's the other complexity. I mean, it's just, it's a mess. Until we really rethink our social contract, it's difficult to rethink even the function of work.

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

Because in some states, like California, in certain parts of California we have this elitist approach to work. Where we think work is about passion and purpose and thriving, and contributing. Then where I live, in North Carolina, work is about ethic, and what you do to get in heaven, you know? It's a different approach to work. Until we reconcile that, and have a shared view across the country of what work means, and what we're trying to do, we're going to continue to struggle. Down to the micro level of our state unemployment systems.

 

Chris Russell:

Yeah. We should let Google built it, or something. Somebody smart. Anyway.

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

Yeah, but Google's terrible. I mean, all these companies are terrible, right?

 

Chris Russell:

Yeah, I guess so. All right. Let's see here. Talk about pricing, and charging yourself. I know a lot of people struggle with, "What do I charge per hour? What do I charge to speak?". How did you come up with your pricing over the years? Just talk about some of the guidance there.

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

Yeah. You know, one of the weird things about being a freelancer is, nobody wants to talk about how much they earn. Yet we want to know what other people earn. It's messed up. Because when I went into the marketplace, A, I didn't have a community like this. I just had my friends. We had to form this circle of trust, where we were like, "We're going to talk about money among us. But we're not going to talk about it anywhere else". I soon started to violate that, because I just think you don't know until you know.

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

Early in my career, when I was a freelancer, I would say, "I'm going to charge X amount of dollars for this". I would hear back from clients, "What do you think you are, a lawyer? My marriage counselor charges that". So I also had that. Where I was being compared to other industries that didn't really make any sense.

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

I will, Chris, do you want to know what I earn now? Would that be helpful?

 

Chris Russell:

Sure.

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

Okay, all right. Right now, for speaking, I do a keynote speech for $15,000 a speech, plus travel. I have to travel first class, because I have hip issues. I get a nice first class ticket, and 15 grand a speech. That's actually pretty low, and I'm writing a book only because I want to increase my speaking fees to $20,000 to $25,000 a pop. A hardcover book will do that for me. That's my goal.

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

All of that is attainable for all of you as well. You can write a book through Wiley. You can write a book through SHRM. If you ever are curious about this, I'm now part of your community. Just ask me, and I will talk to you about this. I'm happy to do this. When I -

 

Chris Russell:

What's your book going to be about?

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

Oh, my book is about demystifying the world of human resources for consumers, and really encouraging them to run their lives like a business. To put themselves first. Because so many companies don't give a shit about their competitors, right? Pfizer never went, "I don't feel real good about myself, so I'm going to let Novartis have this quarter". You know? They don't have imposter syndrome. They just go out in the marketplace and they dominate.

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

When they have a problem, you know what they do? They throw money at it. But instead, people like you and me are like, "I don't know. I don't feel good about this", and we don't invest in coaching. We don't learn. We don't fix our money. We don't do it right. So I'm trying to take all of those lessons that I learned from the global corporations, and just break them down into snackable chunks, and give them away. For $25 in a hardcover.

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

Will I make any money on the book? Maybe, maybe not. But that book will help me make more money, and speak at scale. So that's my -

 

Chris Russell:

Are you self publishing? Who's the publisher?

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

No, the publisher is Henry Holt. Which is a division of Macmillan. One of the top five publishers in the world. I went out. I hired a coach to help me write a book proposal. That coach helped me find an agent, and that agent pitched me to the major publishing houses. I got a $75,000 advance, which is very good for a first time author. Then I get a bonus if I sell a certain number of books. I get a $20,000 advance on top of that.

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

I don't have to pay this money back. It's all performance based. If my book doesn't perform, it's mine to keep. Then I make royalties on top of that. This is a real thing for me. But that initial investment, of getting a coach to help me write that book proposal, was $10,000. But the return on investment was pretty good.

 

Chris Russell:

Yeah, that's pretty cool.

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

Yeah, yeah. That's the book piece. That's what I'm doing, and that feeds into the speaking piece. But if I were to go do a webinar, for example. If I do a webinar for Ultimate Software, or Success Factors, or Work Human. Any time I show up, it's 15 grand, per day. But if I do a webinar, it's 10 grand.

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

You can use me as a comparison. When I started out, I would ask for $1500. If I got that 50 percent of the time, I thought that was pretty great. A webinar is 10 grand. If I show up anywhere to do consulting, it's anywhere between $10,000 to $15,000 a day. I do a lot of free stuff, because I like people. That way when I charge, I can charge and say, "Look at all the free shit I did for you". You know?

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

I wrote a white paper for Ultimate Software that's out right now. I got paid 10 grand for that.

 

Chris Russell:

Not bad. Not bad. This is probably a loaded question, Laurie. But how would you change HR today, if you had a magic wand?

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

Okay. Here we go. I believe that what, I'm not going to break any news here. I'm going to copy Marshall Goldsmith. I believe that what got us here today won't get us there in the future. If it were up to me, I would burn every HR department down. We went through Me Too. Not a lot has changed. We're going through this movement around racial equality. Am I optimistic? Not really.

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

I would be happy if we burned, just like we're talking about defunding police departments. Because they're part of the problem. I would defund the HR department, and really go through a process where employees got involved, and employees did their own HR. Because if you run your life like a business, and if you take care of your shit, you don't need an HR department. Because there are enough systems and programs out there, from a technical standpoint, to really help you do the day in, day out, people related stuff.

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

Then we could bring in experts like your community. People who are experts in behavioral science, organization sciences, to come in and do SWAT analysis, and really deliver programs that are important to the organization in that moment. But the traditional HR department is terrible. It's complicit, and it's propagated a lot of these sexist, homophobic, racist, misogynistic problems that we have today.

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

Don't tell me that the person who's head of people, and was head of people two weeks ago, is suddenly going to solve the problem that we see today. It's just not going to happen. That's how I feel. I don't know. Chris, what do you think?

 

Chris Russell:

I mean, I think all employees want is to be cared about, respected. Have a flexible schedule overall.

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

They want to get paid.

 

Chris Russell:

You give them that, they're happy. Right? I've worked for too many companies who did not do that. Which is why I'm no longer working for corporate. But to me that's, just treat people nice, and they'll come back to work for you. It's not that hard.

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

Also, listen to them, if something is going wrong. Don't force them into ... Part of what I think has happened in our society, is that people, there are all sorts of social issues that we're not addressing. Drug abuse, depression, anxiety. We have this at record numbers. People come to work looking for worth. I'm here to say, and I just, I have conversations with my friends like this all the time. If you don't work another day in your life, you have worth.

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

You are worthy. You are an important person. It doesn't matter what you do for a living. You deserve respect. You deserve love. You deserve admiration. You deserve to thrive. To eat. To live in good housing. We deserve this, just because we're born. The fact that we have this weird system, where we go to work, we earn money for other people. We never get rich for our jobs, right? We never feel secure through our jobs. We're forced to compete horizontally with other people, for scraps. It's dehumanizing.

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

Then we're told, "You're a 3.2. You're a 4.5". What the fuck is that? It is just antithetical to being a human being. I think this system that we have just has to be dismembered. Disassembled, right? We just need to take it apart. The idea that this modern human resources department can meet the needs going forward is false. It's fake. It's wrong. I don't know, I'm super passionate about that. It doesn't earn me a lot of friends in HR. I don't know, I have friends other places, so I'll be fine.

 

Chris Russell:

Do you get a lot of backlash for your views? Because you're pretty outspoken about this stuff.

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

You know, a lot of people want to say, "Laurie, HR is a department of influence". I'm like, "Well you're doing a terrible job". It's a department of compromise. Sure, you can compromise on where you hold the employee meeting. You can compromise on all sorts of shit. But compromising on paying people fairly is not a compromise. That is complicity. I do get a lot of backlash, but I'm okay with it.

 

Chris Russell:

Yeah. All right, we've got a couple questions here from the audience. Jeff says, "Thanks for saying so about the emotional rollercoaster of entrepreneurship". Laurie, how did you come up with that speaking fee? Did you start out charging an amount based on your known brand at the time?

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

Good question. Very early on when I spoke, my husband and I had an agreement, that I had to be carbon neutral for our finances. In 2007, 2008, 2009, as long as my basic fees were covered, I could go. That came out of a lot of really hard discussions with my husband. Where I'm like, "I have to spend money to make money". He's like, "No you don't". It was tough, those early days of entrepreneurship.

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

Eventually I made enough friends to understand who earned what. Any time I hear somebody's speaking fee, I'm like, "Where do I compare? Where do I rank?". That's how I came up with this number of 15 grand. I know some of my friends who are on the market, doing 50 to 75 events a year, what they're earning. I now know that I can earn $25,000 a speech, with a hardcover book.

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

It's really just making friends, and getting them to tell you how much they earn.

 

Chris Russell:

All right. Audience, I'm out of questions. What do you guys got? Let's hear from people on the call. What would you like to ask Laurie? Feel free to talk to her directly. Who's going?

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

Nothing? I can talk about my cats -

 

Kerrie Obermeyer:

Hello?

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

Oh, hey.

 

Kerrie Obermeyer:

Can you hear me?

 

Chris Russell:

Yeah.

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

Yeah.

 

Kerrie Obermeyer:

Oh, hey. I just want to, if you don't mind, just going back -

 

Chris Russell:

What's your name?

 

Kerrie Obermeyer:

I'm sorry. My name is Kerrie Obermeyer.

 

Chris Russell:

Okay.

 

Kerrie Obermeyer:

Just going back to how the traditional HR department, how you're feeling it's complicit. I know you said that might cause a little shakeup here in the HR. But I guess my concern is that, sometimes it's not the HR. Sometimes you're dealing with companies that, HR is only as good as its leaders. Sometimes your hands are so tied. I guess I would love to see how to break that barricade down. Because HR shouldn't be complicit. If anything, we're the ones sitting here going, "We need to change this. This needs to change".

 

Kerrie Obermeyer:

But sometimes you can't. I'm wondering if you have any advice on that?

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

I do. I wrote an article about this in Vox online magazine. Because my girlfriends in human resources were like, "What do you expect me to do? I've got two kids, and cats, and dogs. My CEO is sexist and racist. What am I supposed to do? Quit?". It's like, "F yeah, quit". The only way in a capitalistic society you make change with a brand, is to take your time, attention, and dollars elsewhere. Why would that be any different for human resources?

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

A lot of people would say, "Why is the burden on HR? Why is it us?". Because it is on us. Because we are the moral gatekeeper of an organization. That if you see something in your organization, and you lack the ability to influence change, why would you stay there? Why would you do that to yourself? Why would you be a part of it?

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

I know, because our health insurance is tied in. Because the job market sucks. All of that. But I'm here to say, I quit. I didn't like the way Pfizer was being run at that time. I didn't have a boatload of cash sitting behind me. It was tough, and it was terrible. I missed PTO, and I missed my 401K. But I just could not sleep at night.

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

I think there's just something to be said, for consumerism and capitalism being used, the power of that being used within the modern HR and TA department. I just, I stand by that. I know, not everybody can quit right away. So don't quit right away. But if you see something, and you don't act on it, there is no other word but complicit. Either act on it actively, or make a plan to get the hell out of there. I'm sorry to be aggressive, Kerrie. That's not directed at you. That's directed at -

 

Kerrie Obermeyer:

No, I get it. Thank-you.

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

... the world. Yeah.

 

Chris Russell:

Yeah. I've worked for that company, Kerrie. It was not fun. That company I worked for as my last corporate job ever, which was back in 2015, they had no HR department. The owner and his three sons ran the company. They just ruled completely out of fear. They did not care about employees at all. They thought they were disposable. In fact, their whole business model was built on temporary employees. That whole mindset just permeated through the whole company. It was just a horrible place to work. They fired me, thankfully. I'm glad I never went back.

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

Kerrie, if you currently work there, I want to help you get out of there. Because you don't deserve that in life. You don't.

 

Kerrie Obermeyer:

Excellent, thank-you.

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

Yeah, you're welcome. You're welcome. Isn't that interesting though? Because HR departments are always often anti-union. For good reason. I mean, unions can be terrible. I have many family members, including my mother, who's part of a union. They serve a purpose, because people can't just organize themselves, and stand for their own values. They feel disempowered. They feel like they don't have any power.

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

But the ultimate power is your presence, and your attention. If you're not part of a union, or if your union is terrible, you still are not necessarily a victim. You can leave. A lot of people say that's awful. But research out there says it never gets better.

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

My good friend, Bob Sutton, is a professor at Stanford University. He advises people who are in toxic work environments to look around. Because chances are, you're going to be like the people you hate, and you're not going to convert those people to be like you. You have an option. Stay there an just be miserable, or make a plan to get the hell out. Bob Sutton advises, get the hell out.

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

If you haven't read The No Asshole Rule, I love that book. It's just such an important book. It never gets old. It's one book I recommend to people who are really stuck.

 

Chris Russell:

Nice. All right. Who do you follow, or look up to? Give me some names of people you admire.

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

Well, I read a lot of stuff outside of the world of human resources. I'm always, I read Time Magazine. I'm always reading fiction. I read The Atlantic. I've got my anti-Trump, progressive people that I follow.

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

Within the world of human resources, there are the constant evergreen people. Like a Tim Sackett, or a Chris Dunn. But there are some emerging authors I like, like Katie Augsburger.

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

Katie is a consultant out of the Portland area. She's lovely. She's really talented. She writes on Fistful of Talent. What I love about Katie is that, she's a hardcore progressive feminist. But she can speak the language of business. Which is what all of us really strive to do, right? The earlier question of, "What do you do if you can't influence an organization?". Katie is like, "Hell no, I can influence an organization". Katie is someone I really follow.

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

I like Torin Ellis, on diversity and inclusion in the world of talent acquisition. I have recently discovered a girl, a woman named ... Everybody's a girl when you're 45 years old, right? You just think everybody's young. But Kirsten Greggs. She's been doing this 20 years. Full grown woman. Kirsten is just amazing. A real strong point of view. Entrepreneurial thinking, and just pretty fantastic. Those are three names of individuals that I like.

 

Cyndi Henderson:

How do you spell her last name?

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

Kirsten Greggs, G-R-E-G-G-S.

 

Chris Russell:

Yeah, I threw your website up there, Laurie, as well. Who else? Any other questions here? Now is your chance to talk to Ms Punk Rock HR.

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

By the way, I'm so glad you mentioned -

 

Chris Russell:

I'm glad you brought the name back, Laurie.

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

Are you?

 

Chris Russell:

Because I missed that name, yeah.

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

Oh, that's nice to hear. There's nothing like being a middle aged lady, and calling yourself punk rock. I went away from it, because I got that feedback. Right around the time I was pushing 40. That, "Laurie, you live in a nice home in Raleigh, North Carolina. There's nothing punk rock about your life". I took that a little too hard. I was like, "They're right. I'm not very punk rock".

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

But it's more about attitude and ethos and perspective. I think that really definitely applies to my podcast. That's what I'm trying to bring. But that name of Punk Rock HR came out of an insult, when I was a kid. I was 20 years old, in my first human resources job at Leaf Candy Company, in St Louis, Missouri. When I was going to school. I was going to college down in St Louis.

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

I show up at this HR department with a shaved head, and Doc Martens. They were like, "Who do you think you are? Punk Rock HR?". I was like, "Yeah. Yeah, I do". Then my friend, Chris Dunn, when I was thinking about outing myself as a blogger. He said, "If you don't buy the domain name, Punk Rock HR, right now, I'm going to buy it and sell it back to you for a lot of money". It motivated me, so I bought it for $12 on GoDaddy, back when GoDaddy was affordable. I've had it ever since.

 

Chris Russell:

Nice, nice. No, appreciate that. There's one company I've always wanted to work for, which is a great name, called Big Ass Fans.

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

I know them.

 

Chris Russell:

They make fans in Tennessee somewhere, maybe.

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

Yeah, they're huge. Yeah.

 

Chris Russell:

I just want to work there so I could say, "Hey, why don't you come to work for Big Ass Fans?".

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

They are, we have a local restaurant who just installed some of those Big Ass Fans in their pavilion. They're insanely huge. They're awesome.

 

Chris Russell:

Okay. Andrea asks, "What's being done within companies through HR, for self care, health, stress, etc? Or are companies bringing in consultants?". We are seeing some new mental health benefit type platforms pop up as well. But any thoughts around that area, Laurie?

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

Yeah. You know, one of the interesting things is that wellbeing was trendy before COVID. By trendy, I mean that HR departments were implementing it through their benefits platforms. Companies like Plant Source, LimeAde, I mean a million. Any benefits, Aetna, all of them were bringing in wellbeing consultants to work directly with brokers, and then work directly with companies as well.

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

I think there's still a lot of work going on with that. But unfortunately, it's kind of ... So, it's weird, being virtual. I'm not sure the volume of it anymore. But at least back in 2019, it was kind of superficial. People were talking about sleeping, and eating right. Taking advantage of your EAP. But they weren't getting to the root cause of what was going on in a lot of these corporations. Which is an excessive push towards productivity, and a dehumanizing way that we ask people to work, and be attached to their mobile phones all day long.

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

I think there's a real opportunity for consultants who want to have deeper conversations. Who want to push and prod, and also want to have a conversation about wellbeing being adjacent to some of the civil unrest that's going on right now. Racism is toxic, sexism is toxic. All of this is really degrading our quality of lives, and shortening our lifespan, and making us less productive at work.

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

The freelancers who are interested in that conversation, and have something to say, I think are going to kick butt in 2020 and 2021.

 

Chris Russell:

Yeah. Daniel says he works for a company that has a whole team for wellbeing. They have a partnership with a company called Headspace, for employees to use for help with wellbeing, so that's cool.

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

That is cool. I do have to say something about Headspace, Calm, and a lot of these apps. There is no reliable and valid data that using these apps makes the workforce more productive. You're going to spend money with Headspace, and you're going to spend money with Calm. Sometimes I think when you buy a solution like that, it's the easy way out. I would love more freelancers and consultants to talk about that.

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

I would rather give money back to the workforce, in terms of more PTO, more programs, better benefits, than to give money to a corporation like Calm or Headspace. I like that they're ... Talkspace. Talk Therapy is another one. The verdict is still out on whether ... The efficacy of regular therapy is pretty low. When you use Talkspace, that app, to talk to a therapist, there's no reliable data on whether or not that's a really good benefit for employees. Or consumers in general. Buyer beware.

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

But companies really want to spend money on solutions, instead of sometimes doing the things that they need to do. Like getting rid of racist, sexist, and homophobic managers, right? The hard work is always going to be hard work.

 

Chris Russell:

Yeah. All right, we've got a couple more questions here. Let's see. Laurie, how do you manage clients with unreasonable expectations?

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

Don't they all fucking have unreasonable expectations? I wrote a white paper, not the one I recently wrote that I told you about earlier. But not too long ago, I wrote a 16 page white paper in four days. Because they just had a production schedule. The money was there. "Do you want the money or not?". It's like, "Yeah, I want the money". Because we're in a recession. Trying to gird the coffers here.

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

But yeah, I think it's just, do you want to do the work or not? Do you like the people enough to put up with their unrealistic expectations?

 

Chris Russell:

Well, another way, has any company come to you and said, "Okay. We want you to do this", but you're really uncomfortable with it? Has that ever happened?

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

Yes, and so I say no. It's uncomfortable for a lot of reasons. Because I don't like their management team. I don't believe in what they've asked me to do. I've also had people say to me, again, I live in North Carolina on the east coast. "We want you to fly in". It's Monday. "We want you to fly into a city on Friday and do X, or do Y. We're going to pay you this. We're only going to give you one night of a hotel, blah blah blah". Just real unrealistic parameters.

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

The question becomes, why me? Why do you need me to do this? Because if you need me to do this, I can not do it, for what you've just offered me. I say no to work all the time. I think that's the way you deal with unrealistic expectations. Excuse me, I'm about to sneeze, so you can ask your question.

 

Chris Russell:

No problem. Let's see here. We can do a couple more. Do you work more or less, now that you're a freelancer? That's one question.

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

I work more. Absolutely. I dream of -

 

Chris Russell:

What's more? How many hours are you talking about here?

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

I just had this conversation with my husband. Since COVID, I feel like all I do is work, take care of the cats, and do housework. Because he's working. I feel like I work all the damn time. At the beginning of 2020, I gave myself a rule that I take Fridays off. I have not honored that. I honored it two Fridays. It's stupid. Tomorrow, I'm taking off. It's funny that we're talking about this, because I just need a day -

 

Chris Russell:

Okay, I'm going to check.

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

... away from the computer. Yeah, you should. Because I feel like any time I'm on the internet is work. It's never, because all people do is talk about work, right? Or want advice. Or want to talk about their jobs. Because we're so identity heavy. I even feel like some of the political stuff is work, because it intersects with the world of work. There's no break. The only break I have is when I'm scooping cat litter, and that's not a break. I am terrible these days. I'm working on it. Tomorrow is my first attempt.

 

Chris Russell:

I hear you. I do the same thing too. I probably work 50 to 60 hours a week as a freelancer.

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

Right. But you know, when I worked at Pfizer, I really felt like, "Okay, I make ...", what did I make at Pfizer? $110,000 starting there. "If I divide that by 40, here's my hourly rate". It was real easy for me to calculate, "Oh, I'm working too many hours. My hourly rate is going down". Because I was raised in a working class family, where we really relied on that hourly pay.

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

I have moved away from that, and so I work a lot of hours. It degrades that amount of money. I need to work on that.

 

Chris Russell:

Jeff's asking, "When companies approach you for consulting work, are they clear on what they want?". He finds that often a lot of work on his part is required on the front end, to even quote them on the project. How do you recommend handling that?

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

Well, I have a standard list of questions that I ask, to make sure that I understand the scope. I still find that the scope is not necessarily easy, as you're dealing with human beings, who are not buying a regular and repeatable process from you. Or they don't think it's regular and repeatable. Or they're multi-site, or they're multifaceted. Or they think they're unique, and they want to have a meeting on top of a meeting, and get the other stakeholders involved.

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

For me, I try not to have meetings unless all the stakeholders are there. I'm real clear about it. I think it's just getting real clear about your own internal processes, and then sticking to them. Letting your client know, "I'm asking you these questions. I'm asking you to do this work up front, because it saves time later down the road".

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

Those checklists that you develop for you, so important.

 

Chris Russell:

Yeah. Jenn is asking, "Do you feel like you have more purpose in the work you do as an entrepreneur, versus corporate?". I would assume that's a yes.

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

You know, my mom once said, when I was working at corporate, that I was built to deliver bad news. Which is terrible. I'm petite, people think I'm perky, even though I'm not. I'm blonde. I used to be young, I used to have energy. I did have a sense of purpose when I worked in these terrible jobs. I felt like I was the good guy. If bad news had to be delivered, it was better to be delivered through me.

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

Then I thought, "What kind of weird, fucked up, narcissistic thing is that?". You know? They don't care who delivers the bad news, and I'm not some special martyr. That's not my purpose in life. I definitely feel like what I do now is just so much more worthwhile. Maybe not the Twitter shit. But the work that I do is more worthwhile.

 

Chris Russell:

Right, nice. All right. Well actually, I have one last question for you, Laurie. Which is, out of all the jobs you've ever had, what was your favorite, and why?

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

All right. So my favorite -

 

Chris Russell:

You can go back to your teenage years too, if you want to.

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

Yeah, I was just thinking that. Because my very first job ever was, when I was 14 years old, I lied, said I was 16. I got a job scooping ice cream as Baskin Robbins. The owner knew I was lying. He said, "All right". Minimum wage was $4 an hour back then. "I'm going to pay you $2.35 plus tips". We didn't get many tips, right? But I so enjoyed scooping that ice cream. For a lot of reasons. Ice cream makes people happy. I love ice cream. There was always music playing. It was just a fun environment.

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

Flash forward six years. I'm in college. I get a check from the Department of Labor. It turns out, somebody busted him. The Department of Labor came in and looked at his books, and they paid me retroactively for all the money, plus interest, that he didn't pay me. I like that story for a lot of reasons. But scooping ice cream is super fun.

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

By the way, Barack Obama's first job was scooping ice cream at Baskin Robbins. A lot of people have that experience. It's just a good, wholesome, awesome job. I really enjoyed it.

 

Chris Russell:

Nice.

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

How about, wait. Chris, what was your favorite job? We can't leave until I know this.

 

Chris Russell:

Well my first job ever was, I was a parking lot attendant. But that wasn't my favorite. My favorite was probably, I worked at a company called Stew Leonard's. Which is a pretty famous grocery store chain here on the east coast. I worked there for many summers in my high school years. I worked in dairy. I worked in grocery. We used to eat all the food in the back room, so that was my favorite.

 

Chris Russell:

I got busted multiple times for opening up the Hostess Cupcakes box, and downing chocolate milk, on top of the rafters back there.

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

But wait. Wasn't the box damaged? Weren't you entitled to do that with the damaged -

 

Chris Russell:

Yeah, probably. Yeah, it was always damaged stuff, we were picking up and eating.

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

Totally.

 

Chris Russell:

We were always getting busted for that. That was fun. Trying to outrun the managers in the warehouse and stuff.

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

You were punk rock back then, Chris. Pretty impressive.

 

Chris Russell:

Yeah. You could film these.

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

That's right.

 

Chris Russell:

All right, guys. Well again, Laurie, thank-you very much for doing this. It was great to see you.

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

I hope it was helpful.

 

Chris Russell:

And chat with you here. LaurieRuettimann.com is her website there in the chat. Any last words of advice, or a sendoff here?

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

Well I have to say, I love people who are in my community. So please, connect with me if we're not connected. If there's anything I can do individually to help your careers, I'll do it. Because so many people have been good to me. I really owe a debt of gratitude to all the men and women in my life, who put up with my bullshit when I didn't know what I was doing, and still do to this day.

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

I want to do that for other people, so please don't hesitate to reach out. Don't feel like you would be bothering me. Don't feel like any question is weird or intrusive. Because if it is, I'll just tell you. That's how that works. Please, I encourage you to reach out.

 

Chris Russell:

Awesome. Well everyone, I hope you guys have a great day, and a nice weekend ahead. Thanks for coming today, everybody. We'll put the replay up on the HR Lancers blog, probably tomorrow. You can go watch this again. Again, Laurie, thank-you very much. It was just awesome talking to you.

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

Thanks for asking. Everybody, stay safe. Bye.

 

Chris Russell:

All righty. See you everyone. Oh, hey, Laurie.

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

Yeah? I don't know why I waved, by the way.

 

Chris Russell:

Who should I have on -

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

Why am I waving?

 

Chris Russell:

Who should I have on next, on this?

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

Oh, well I mentioned Ryan earlier on. He would be a good one. Ryan Estis. I like Time Sackett. I mentioned him. Chris Dunn would also be very good. But why don't you ask Katie Augsburger? She's also amazing. Have her on. Yeah.

 

Chris Russell:

Okay, yeah. Nice. Would you do an email intro to her?

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

Yeah, absolutely.

 

Chris Russell:

That would be great.

 

Laurie Ruettimann:

Happy to do it.