Matt Tipton | Expert HR Secrets

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Matt Tipton | Expert HR Secrets

Many business people see their HR department as a necessary evil of a growing company. That’s all wrong, says Matt Tipton, an HR consultant who’s recently helped change my mind on the subject. 

Human resources done right, says Matt, can actually be a vital asset to keeping your employees productive and your business profitable. He talks about the true goal of HR, how to instill a sense of “mission” in your team, as well as what it takes to grow a professional services business in this day and age.  

Tune in to find out…

  • The most common misconceptions about hiring good employees
  •  What small businesses need to know about HR
  •  The biggest obstacle to good boss/employee relations
  • How HR practices inform your company culture
  • The vital importance of knowing why you do what you do

Listen now…

Mentioned in this episode:


Rick Hadrava: Hey, everybody, it’s Rick Hadrava once again, and you’re listening to another episode of the Over 50 Entrepreneur Podcast. You know, I don’t know if you’re like me, but I have never really been a huge fan of HR, or what we call human resources. Over my years in the corporate world, I found that most of those HR types or not to be trusted, more concerned with their agenda versus what we were trying to accomplish. And so consequently, I kind of gave him a bad rap. I would tell you that today our guest, Matt Tipton, kind of, he’s opened my eyes to what HR should be and can be. 

After all, we need as leaders to create a culture in our organizations. And HR is the support mechanism to doing that the right way. It supports our team members. It also helps our culture and our clientele. It helps ultimately the mission of the organization and the direction that we want to take things. Matt not only has shown us that this is possible, but he created a successful business of his own doing this work for other business owners. 

He’s a jazz musician, entrepreneur, speaker, and as I like to give them a hard time about, he’s a future author. He does love a good craft beer so we enjoy that once in a while together. He’s a husband, and guys, I gotta tell you, he’s an all-around great guy. So I’m honored and happy to have on the show today, Matt Tipton, the owner of Why HR. Matt, thanks for being on the show, my friend.

Matt Tipton: Well, Rick, thank you so much for having me. But I gotta tell you, I’m gonna take that intro on the road with me. So I appreciate that.

Rick: Absolutely. Well, I think, you know, I think, I don’t think I’m alone in my view of human resources, and how we’ve kind of looked at them over the years. And that’s why I think it’s so interesting to have somebody like you. Tell us a little bit about Why HR and how you chose to take that path as a business owner.

Why Did Matt Choose to Go Into HR?

Matt: Yeah, well, I appreciate you having me here and the opportunity to speak on this. I really do love HR. I’m, you know, I’m one of those rare breeds that I received a degree in human resources. And then I never looked back. I spent about 10 years, I guess now, now think about 10 years in the corporate world, climbing that corporate ladder in human resources. 

And, you know, for me, I always had the itch of owning my own business. I didn’t know what that would look like. But where I found myself in those last about six years, was truly being involved in the business operations of HR. You know, a lot of times the bad rap of HR is because it’s so rigid. 

It’s very, you know, just very policy, very, you know, step one, step two, step three, and we kind of lose sight of that culture aspect of HR and being able to, you know, let an organization breathe and really help define itself beyond those walls. And working with the business partners, the C suite and, you know, helping them achieve something that even in their day today, they don’t have time to really just sit back and focus on. And so with Why HR, there’s a couple of components that I wanted to step into. 

One, I wanted to fill a gap, one of the gaps and human resources is small businesses that truly need to know what they don’t know when it comes to people and when it comes to, you know, what they’re required to do, and there is a policy side to that. But then really understanding you know, when we say we want to build a culture, everything that goes into that, the intentional side of the things that we need to do day to day and ingrained in ourselves and then projecting that to our employees of what that is. 

And so there, you know, with Why HR, it was really an opportunity to see what that looked like for myself. I felt like the company I was with, I was getting that opportunity. somewhat from a corporate side, but the opportunity to take that to the masses and to multiple small business owners if that was going to be my niche, which I decided it would be.

Really is just, it’s opened the door to really, you know, prop up success with these truly innovative companies that are out there. And I really just couldn’t be happier. It’s been fantastic and, you know, still have those conversations which I can see those business owners, they kind of struggle with themselves to say, do I really want to let HR in my business?

Rick: Absolutely. And do you think that comes from the corporate? 

Matt: Absolutely, absolutely. 

Rick: So Matt, that’s the first thing that comes to my mind. Can you give us a little compare and contrast between HR in an institution or corporate environment versus a small business environment?

Matt: Yeah, so well first off, you know, when you go to a new business owner or even a longtime business owner that gets to that point that says, you know, maybe I do need to talk to somebody like myself in human resources to bring this into my business. There’s a sense you can see it on their face that, you know, am I a failure that I’ve done this? You know, I, you know, a lot of these small businesses, they’ve left the corporate world themselves. 

These entrepreneurs that they are, and they wanted to create something, they basically wanted to run the complete opposite direction of where they came from. And that included a lot of, you know, the do’s and don’ts and rules that come with, you know, just what we think of an HR. The policy people. And so it’s kind of a, I always tell them it’s kind of, you’ve overcorrected. 

Like if you’re driving a car, you’ve overcorrected going from right to left, and you need to bring it back to the center. And there truly is a happy medium there. And as you mentioned, contrasting the corporate side to what I do as an independent and you kind of started out the podcasts a little bit of distrust in HR. And I think where that comes from, and I hate it, I don’t, I wish that it wasn’t this way but I understand it is that HR, in the corporate setting, you find yourself and employees kind of look at you as like, Well, yeah, you’re my third party.

 I should be able to go to you, but I know where you’re going to go next. And that’s exactly where I don’t want it to end up. And so it’s a, there’s a struggle there with a little bit of what I do being on the outside and not, you know, truly being 100% tied to the business being independent. I mean, you still have that tie in. That’s something that’s never going to go away. But it definitely allows for a little bit more trust to enter the room for the employees. 

And then also, you know, just the business owners themselves to be able to really have a candid conversation. You know, one of the things I love is, you know, in the corporate world you work, you know, eight to 10 hours a day. Well, my eight to 10 hour to 12 hour to 15 hour day is multiplied by all the clients that I work with. And what that really does, it opens up the door to have so many stories, you know, confidentiality, obviously, being a huge part of it. But you’re living all these things to be able to share that knowledge with these employers say, you know, if you do this, here’s some things you should see what could happen. 

And I’m able to play out scenarios because I’ve lived it so many times now over. And that’s kind of one of the funny conversations, especially when I’m talking to other, you know, people that are in human resources is, you know, you always start a story like you’ve seen that before. Well, you have, and that’s not a bad thing. And you can use that to again, help out other businesses and help them kind of steer away from those, what could be pitfalls, what they’re headed towards.

Rick: So Matt, I’m curious if there’s a common thread. As you, you know, think back over the last year or so in the work that you’ve done, is there a common thread that you’re seeing with small business owners today? Or is each situation just purely different, even though you’ve seen it before?

Recurring Events in HR?

Matt: I think that with today’s entrepreneurial, today’s even seasoned business owner, there’s so much, you know, we talked about, let’s go back to HR, just in general really quick. And HR truly, it’s in the news every day. And so, I mean, if you are running a business, I mean, all you have to do is pull up whichever your favorite news station is or whichever, you know, news site that you like to go to and on the front page, there’s going to be an HR story. 

It’s not going to say human resources across it but it’s going to be a me-too story. It’s going to be a story about, you know, economics and talking about recruiting and where the, you know, best places to work and why it’s that way. All these different components are HR-related. And to be able to have that competitive edge, that’s one component of it, and to be able to stay out of trouble, there’s the other component of it. 

You know, all of these things are colliding daily and what I think because of the way news is transmitted now, because you can’t run from it, your employees see this just as much as you see this. And as a business owner today, as opposed to in the past you have to find a way okay, how am I going to deal with this? How am I going to work this into my business? How are we going to start having the conversations that will, you know, put us culturally where we want to be as an attractive company and to do things the right way? 

And that really does open up the door for somebody like myself to come in and say, Okay, let’s have that conversation. And not there to interfere with the business but to truly prop up business. I am, I always like to tell this story that, you know, when it comes to building a business, we know that it’s kind of like the house on sand. I mean, you just go and you run. You know what you know and you do that and you find somebody that wants to purchase your product or service and you find your way to make a living. 

But there comes a point, when you need to go back to the house on sand, you got to put in a foundation. If you want to, you know, build that second story and third story and depending on what your aspirations are, just make sure that you keep going right where you’re at and not get washed out. You need to come in and put in that foundation. And that’s truly, you know, what we try to do.

Rick: So what point, if I’m a business owner, I’m an entrepreneur, I’ve left corporate to do my thing, right? Like so many are doing, or I’ve been doing this a couple years, but I’m having growth. And Matt, you know what? I’ve hired three people, four people. You know, when do you advise a business owner to start engaging with you?

Matt: Yeah, a great question. You know, it really happens as soon as you decide you want to hire people. I mean, you are, you’re inviting individuals with their personalities into your house. And as soon as you do that, there’s a lot of things that come with it. There’s a lot of responsibility that comes with it. And that understanding what that responsibility looks like, the sooner that you have that conversation, the better. 

And I’ll be the first to tell you, I have worked with business owners that have you know, been managing people for 20,30 years, and then you know, I step into the picture and it’s a, you know, they’ve just gotten to that point that’s like, Yes, I wish I would have known this 20 years ago. And then there’s the groups that I mean, just within the past few months, we’ve taken on some new business owners that have, you know, just been told by another business owner, said, 

Hey, if you’re going to do this just start it out the right way and have these conversations early. And I’ve been fortunate enough to work with a couple of those that before they brought in the first one in the door, we’ve had those conversations.

Rick: So you both been in a position of dealing with a reactive type situation, it sounds like. And then, like you said, Hey, early on kind of laying the groundwork, the foundation if you will, more of a proactive to allow you to really scale and grow. Which one do you see more often?

Matt: Definitely the reactive. Yeah. I mean, that kind of goes back to nobody really just, when they decide to start a business rolls out of bed and says, You know what, I’m just gonna, I need some HR in my life. Nobody’s really doing that. They’ve, typically those companies that do come around, it’s because probably somebody in their family was an entrepreneur, and, or that, you know, just somebody close by and they’ve already heard the horror stories and said, Hey, you know, if you’re going to do this let me give you some advice. And, you know, fortunately, I’ve been part of that advice to step in and help them out.

Rick: So, you know, Matt, as business owners, we have so much on our plate. I’m listening to you and I’m thinking I know of a couple things that probably needed attention in my own organization. If you had a piece of advice to share with a business owner out there from an HR standpoint, you know, is there one thing that you, that comes to your mind that you see recurring over and over that you you’d be willing to share with us that a business owner ought to be given some thought to?

Matt: A couple of things. You know, when you bring when, first off when you hire employees, nobody takes a job to get fired. And, you know, it’s funny, but that’s so true. And what happens is with some of these with, you know, every business, really, I mean you get so entrenched in the day to day that communication can sometimes break down and you leave, you know, employees behind. 

And if you don’t really spend the time to work on your communication within an organization, you’re going to find yourself getting frustrated in areas that you really shouldn’t be frustrated in. And know that if you’re frustrated, they’re 10 times as frustrated. And that, really having a good handle on your communication and vision and being able to spend time with your employees. That’s a big part of it.

Rick: Well, if you’re an entrepreneur, let’s say you’re a 3, 4, 5 business, you know, five employees working, they’re dealing with you directly as the owner a lot of times. So how do you, you know, I always felt at some point that it was hard to have an honest conversation in the corporate environment, right? Because you’re afraid of what could come out of that, right? One misstep or things like that, as an individual or as an entrepreneur in that situation, how do you have those tougher conversations?

Simple, Consistent and Adult

Matt: Right. So keep it adult, keep it simple, and keep it consistent. And those are three things that I tell every business owner and even supervisors, new supervisors or supervisors that I get to coach for the first time because they all kind of wonder that same thing. And I always let them know to just keep it simple, keep it adult, keep it consistent. 

And your employees may not like it, but they will respect it. And that is the best thing you can do. And regardless of what size of business you are, and the better you are at communication and transparency, which is something that’s big, it’s a big buzzword these days, you know, we used to keep the books and everything. 

And I’m not here to say spill all your financial information on the table, but why, you know, being able to help your employees understand why we’re making the decisions we’re making all the changes that we’re making and bring them into that conversation as you move and make decisions going left or right that they truly see the bigger picture and they’ll go with you. And those conversations will be a lot easier down that path.

Rick: Well, and we found that when those folks we, I like to call them team members, but when those team members understand our mission, right? We talked a lot about it in the past, you know, hey, what’s the problem that we solve? What’s that ideal client look like? 

When they understand that and an operational standpoint, and we give them ownership in that, typically, we get a better response because we’re helping develop them. And what I heard you say, really is, hey, whether you’re a small business owner or just a couple people, or maybe you’ve got 100 employees, maybe 200 employees, and you have a management team that’s doing that, it’s all about the processes and how you’re attacking the development of your team.

Matt: That’s exactly right. Empowerment is everything. Education is actually one of the pillars of our business, Why HR. And not only is that one of the pillars within the employees of Why HR but that is who we are to our clients. One of the things that I mentioned to all the business owners and businesses that we work with the employees is that we will never come in and just say, we’re doing this, this is how it’s done. 

You know, that kind of that whole railroad typical corporate HR thing that we started this conversation with. We don’t do that. That’s why it’s called Why HR. We want everyone to know the why behind what we’re doing and why we’re making these changes. And sometimes it is policy-related. Sometimes it’s out of our hands, it’s a legal thing, it’s legislative. 

But even if it is that it is very, hey, you need to do this or we could get audited and get in trouble, that we still have the conversation, educate everybody in the room as to why we’re making this shift and why we need to do this. And that tends to, I think, give us this edge of what we do with our clients and they respect that and they know that, you know, anytime, you know, madness team comes in the room. They’re not, they let us talk to their employees, right? 

I think that’s one of the scary things. It’s like, Well, yeah, absolutely, you can talk to them because you’re going to put it all out there on the table and answer their questions and be, you know, somebody that is, that can inform and educate. It’s huge. And just what you were saying about, you know, business owners themselves though, in the exact same way, being able to take that whole education and communication mindset and empower their employees and let them have that better understanding as to their true impact in the business. 

That’s huge. You talked about culture, it goes back to those analogies of, you know, just the people that are working the call center, that are, you know, truly, you know, putting calm in the lives of other individuals that are having problems. And what that means exponentially, not only for the business that they work for but for the person’s life on the other end of that phone line. When you’re able to paint that picture you create so much more buy-in and just better employee experience.

Rick: Well, you said it early on, and I’ll switch it up a little bit. Your employees want you to be successful, right? 

Matt: That’s right. Absolutely.

Rick: We, but we, I almost feel like we’ve been conditioned a certain way as whether we’re management or leaders in our organization. So I like your approach. Here’s my question. As an outsource HR organization, Matt, what’s the ideal client look like for you?

Matt: Great question. You know, it’s a, it’s twofold. So we work with a wide range. You know, a lot of people immediately jumped in numbers. You know, what does that look like? And I always tell people, the industry has never made a difference to us. Where we work with all different industries. Everything from the restaurant industry to software development, you name it. It’s we’re in the people business. 

And so for us, you know, if we’re looking at a business, typically we’re looking at businesses that have under 50 employees. We have companies that have two employees, that have 150 employees. So there is a wide range there. But to better answer your question, it’s that business owner that truly wants to bring us into their business. That’s what makes a good client. I really, when it comes to the number of employees, it doesn’t matter to me. It really doesn’t. And our team and our staff, they all know that. 

We will work with anybody that has got to that point that says, You know what, this is important. And we want a team member, even though we’re outsourced and a third party but we want a team member. And that’s when we consider ourselves part of their team that will come in and be this arm of our business. And that’s a good client to us.

Rick: But it can’t be somebody that just wants to delegate it and check the box. It needs to be somebody, if I understand kind of what you’ve been talking about this whole time, it’s somebody that truly sees the value in where their vision for the company is. And they need some help, but they still have to be engaged in the process.

Matt: Absolutely. In fact, and just for your listeners out there, so many were never called me up and say, Matt, you know, we need some HR. My first question instead of just diving into what I do is a lot of times that’s the next question, what all can you do for me? I pause. And I say, Well, before I dive into all of that, tell me what HR is to you. Because the answer to that question will really set up the rest of that conversation. 

And if HR, because a lot of times, and I, look HR is guilty in this area that we truly are just this massive black hole of nothingness to a lot of people. Well, what is HR? Is it benefits? Is it payroll? Is it recruiting? Is it culture? Is it compliance? Is it the complaint center? Is it get me out of jail center? You know, what is it? And I completely understand that I never fault anybody for being overwhelmed by it. But truly, whenever somebody comes to us the first time, that’s the question we ask. You know, what is it to you? 

And you know, the answer doesn’t always mean that this is going to go sideways this isn’t going to be a good fit. But it sets up for us to have a genuine conversation of Well, that’s not what we do. But let me, you know, explain why we don’t do that and where there’s a better resource for that. But here is what we do and kind of where we fit into your business. And there’s been those conversations and you’re right, business owners, they just want to check the box. That wasn’t what they were looking for and there are plenty of companies that can check the box.

Rick: And you almost have to spend time training them to think different, right?

Matt: Absolutely.

Rick: That’s great. Let’s switch gears, okay? So I know you’ve got different affiliations. You know, you were talking about whether it’s bookkeeping or HR, what this all works, you’ve got other business interests. You go back, you say, Hey, I got a degree in HR. I worked in the corporate world for 10 years, but I always had this hankering to kind of run my own business. What was it that, you know, now you’ve been doing it for a while, what was it about ownership and being your own boss that really kind of pulled you that direction?

Matt: Wow, great question again. Mainly cuz that’s so loaded.

Rick: I’m trying to softball you here, Matt.

What Convinced Matt to be an Entrepreneur?  

Matt: No, I love it. I just love, I’ve always loved the idea of creating something. And where I don’t really feel like anything I’ve done has been just, you know, creative and inventive as far as, you know, nobody, I didn’t create HR. But the idea of this can be done differently. And there truly is a void out there for, you know, this group of businesses. 

You know, typically you could argue some of the largest group of businesses that really drive our economy, the small business owners that are there that are, you know, suspect to the exact same things as these big corporations. And to me, a lot and just the idea of business ownership is creating a solution of where I felt like there was a problem to be solved. And that was exciting to me.

Rick: And that’s the key to the whole thing, right? Well, I know you have a love of jazz music. Musician, we’ve talked about it. I love jazz music. So tell me a little bit about that. How do you find time for some of the things you do outside, right? Because we talk about freedom, right? And that’s, you want the freedom to be able to do some of that music. 

Matt: Sure, sure. I, it’s a, I’ll tell you what, music has been such a big part of my life. I mean, be honest so I went to the University of Central Oklahoma, big-time jazz school. And I was able to go on scholarship. It was really unique in that in going on a music scholarship, I was able to get a business degree. I know not everybody’s afforded that opportunity. 

And I had that opportunity and did that. And so it’s always been a big part of my life. And truly, you know, the great thing about jazz even though I don’t get to play as much anymore, it still plays a big part, I think, in life and that jazz is known for improvisation and thinking differently. And I felt like that creative side of my brain really has always played into my businesses sense in looking at things differently and not falling into, you know, that check the box mentality. That was just never good enough. 

You know, when we talk about, I guess better to answer your question in the area of freedom is that there will always be a place for music. And whether it’s, you know, an opportunity for myself to pick up the horn or if it’s just, which is more of today, you know, take a time out to go listen to some really great musicians.

Rick: And there are some really great ones in the community. 

Matt: Oh, absolutely.

Rick: Well, so what advice would you give to, you know, you with your entrepreneurial experience and your journey, if somebody, let’s say they’re a similar path. Maybe not HR, but they’re in that corporate world, and they’ve been thinking about getting out. They really like the idea of ownership. What advice would you share with them based on what you’ve been through to this point?

Know Your Why

Matt: Three things. More than just that one that comes top of mind is if you’re going to step out into business ownership, know your why. Know your why of why you want to do this. Why do you want to step out there? And then from there as you’re developing that product, you know, obviously know your product and know your numbers as you’re trying to set yourself up for success. But it’s amazing to me how many people don’t know the why or, you know, why they started this and sometimes it’s a family hand me down business of some kind and they just kind of fell into it. When you don’t have the passion for it, it’s, you know, it’s a higher degree of failure.

Rick: Yeah, it’s not going to last. You got to be willing to get out of bed when it’s tough.

Matt: But that’s why it is huge because as soon as you step out, everybody’s going to ask you, you know why you decided to do that. That hesitation or that lack of passion behind your answer will tell the story. 

Rick: That’s good. That’s great. And I appreciate it. Matt, so, where do you see this journey taking you, you know, 10 years from now a year from now, three years from now? What’s on your agenda?

Matt: So a few things, you know, with I continue to grow the company, Why HR, so that is something that continues, I think, to find a place in the community and as an abroad regionally as we grow. But for me, it’s definitely speaking. What I’ve found, and the reason I put that out there is I found that there’s so much opportunity having speaking engagements, and I’m not talking about speaking to the HR community. 

There’s a lot of HR conferences that are around. I’ve done Disrupt HR. That’s a popular one. I had the opportunity of doing that. And it was New Orleans last year, and a fantastic opportunity. But I do very few what I would call HR conferences. And the reason for that, and kind of this is the long story to get there, but the reason for that is that, to me, that’s educating the educated, you know? It’s HR people talking to HR. It just, it’s to me, it’s just not fun, I’ll just be honest. 

Rick: It’s more academic.

Matt: It is. It’s very much more academic. And in what we do and the way that we’re designed, I want to talk to the business owners and I want to talk to that community of individuals where I’m feeding off of them  and they’re feeding off of the information that I’m able to bring to the table. And a lot of what I do now is creating material. So I’m doing a lot more writing. That can be transferred. That can be, you know, put out to the masses that I know I can’t be everywhere at once. 

But just simple basics when it comes to when you decide to bring people into your house, those employees and just everything and what that looks like type of material, just kind of one on one type stuff. And even, you know, growing and advancing from there. But that’s what I see doing for, you know, here on out, you know, the next 30, 40, 50, I don’t care years. I think that’s the good stuff.

Rick: Perfect. So somebody’s listening today, and we’re coming towards the end of the show, if somebody is listening and they want to learn more about Matt Tipton, Why HR, maybe they want to ask you some questions. Maybe they’re a business owner listening today. What’s the best way for them to learn more and to contact you?

Matt: Absolutely. So and I will just so your listeners know I will talk to anybody. I love having conversations about this stuff. And the best way to get ahold of me is to go to my website. That’s www.why HR, that’s WHY HR dot Guru, GURU. That’s important. And when you go there, there’s a contact me box. So just shoot me an email. It goes right to my inbox and I’ll be happy to get in touch.

Rick: Alright, that sounds wonderful man. Well, you know, the thing that I got out of today, and I want to make sure our audience is thinking about this as business owners, as we, it’s a struggle sometimes. It’s not, I always joke, it’s not always wins. But that’s just part of it. But when you get to a point, and I think today, it’s different than it’s been, when you get to a point that you need help, right? 

HR, or maybe it’s bookkeeping, it’s whatever the case may be, there’s so many resources out there today in a community of business owners themselves willing to step in. I think that’s a resource that sometimes we discount but I’m going to tell you, I’ve seen it firsthand the ability to grow and scale and get freedom for yourself. As an entrepreneur, you’ve got to move away from certain things, delegate certain things. And I think you’re a prime example of you created a solution here. 

And I hope people will take that to heart and maybe give it some thought, opportunity for themselves. Alright. Well, guys, this is Rick Hadrava. You’ve been listening to another episode of the Over 50 Entrepreneur Podcast. Be sure to check out our website, for this show information as well as other resources. And until next time, remember, we’re only getting started.


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