Ariane Laird - CEO & Founder
The Short Version
The Longer Version
Why I started ConnectsUs
Simple. After providing HR consulting services for many years, I saw an unmet need. There was a serious lack of tools for implementing HR in small business. And that lack was not only causing a huge internal pain within companies, it was preventing them from competing for top talent—and from competing and winning in their industries.
So I put together a team of HR professionals, writers, trainers, and employment lawyers to create HR toolkits specifically for small business. Our clients loved them. “Instant return on investment,” they said. “Indispensable.” “No-brainer.”
What I do @ ConnectsUs
My job titles are Founder, Leader, CEO, CFO. But what I really am is CIO—Chief Improvement Officer. I’m always asking “How can we do this, that—anything and everything—even better?” Then we execute. The Japanese call it Kaizen. ConnectsUs staff call it 'Shiny Object Syndrome', aka 'Major Pain in the Butt'. I call it the Key to Better Products.
I also make sure that we do our part to support families, kids, and environmental sustainability.
The rebel in me started early. I was the kid who always questioned the teachers in grade school. I was polite, but relentless. I was sent to the Principal’s office a lot and my mother received endless phone calls from the school office. Looking back on my report cards, there was definitely a pattern. But I like to think it just made me more determined to question the status quo.
I started my work life as the proverbial mail room clerk. Those who believed in me took me under their wing. (Thank you, Jason Nyman). With their support, I steadily progressed to more senior positions in Admin and Finance.
Along the way, I volunteered to take on those dreaded HR projects that no one else wanted to do and I knew nothing about. Can you say pre-audit Employment Equity reporting? Yawn. But those projects taught me the art of ‘feeling the fear and doing it anyway,’ and I learned that execution and results demonstrate value.
I have worked with, and provided HR consulting services to, over 40 companies in Canada and the US. While most of them could be classed as ‘small business,’ I also gained ‘big business’ HR experience during my time at Avon Corporate offices, Amcor, and Glenayre Electronics. I later co-founded the HR Tech Group, and became a partner with BC Social Venture Partners, and a founding parent of Brockton School.
My HR consulting gigs provided me with the opportunity to work closely with many entrepreneurs. Through this, I acquired a great appreciation for the blood, sweat, and tears it takes to win in small business. Those engagements also showed me that the HR pains I was hired to resolve were consistently felt by most small businesses. Combine that pain with my obsession for making things better and I was a start-up waiting to happen.
In 2006, I took a deep breath and launched ConnectsUs, providing HR toolkits to small business. Our flagship product was ClearSite, a collection of templates and binders for creating employee manuals.
Today, we are an online resource center and we live in the cloud. We have thousands of customers with great reviews and we continue to grow. And yes, we’re still trying to make things better, with new products and our ConnectsUs blog where we talk about setting up HR departments. (Why not sign up? Or maybe you don't want to stay on top of your HR game?)
Competition & Winning
Those are my drivers. I view individual businesses as sports teams. Teams who are competing - to win. And that includes competing for top talent.
I want the best for business, people, and the economy, and I get jazzed by any nugget that can help make them stronger. I want them all to win.
No issue is too sensitive (PC I am not!). I’m the first to admit that I’ve got strong ideas (ok opinions), particularly about HR. But I also enjoy watching debates, and am elated when a really good argument changes my mind.
I’m still asking questions, and nowhere close to having all the answers. Even so, I'm happy to share some of the HR straight goods I have learned so that small business can better compete and win. Today, instead of getting sent to the Principal’s office, I get sent nice notes from ConnectsUs customers. And that’s music to my Type A ++ capitalist ears.
It’s not all about work though. I make time for my favorite down time activities: walking, hiking, 'porching', volunteering, and spending time with my family in downtown Vancouver.
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