“Do what you love, and love what you do.”
With a satisfying career on Wall Street behind me, I turned my attention to my family and a part time HR leader role, growing a New Jersey middle market financial services company.
As this firm grew from 8 to 250 employees, I was spending more and more time away from my family and when we were ultimately acquired, I found it the perfect time to exit in 2010. I wanted to spend time with my dying father and young children while doing some HR projects.
“Crothers HR Consulting” was born in the summer of 2010 with a small
dream of having more balance while doing the kind of work I loved. I focused my mission to be helping small- and middle market firms with mergers and acquisitions, or with strategic HR projects.
After a few years of working with friends and family I joined the Morris County Chamber of Commerce and Association for Corporate Growth (ACG) and spent lots of time in New York City with private equity firms meeting target clients. I worked a lot of rooms, collected a ton of business cards, and my net revenue was sorely lacking.
The next couple of years found me doing HR projects while having that balance with my family. I also started subcontracting under another HR consulting group as an executive coach and M&A expert. This suddenly gave me significant projects to talk about at the networking events and the phone started ringing. When I let my imagination run wild, maybe I would grow enough to hire an assistant!
By 2016, I could see that the marketplace had a need for different services - while I intended to do mostly M&A and HR leadership work, small- and midsize organizations were looking for more general support in addition to HR project work.
I responded to the needs of the market and realized some of this work was not what I loved, so I reached out to connect with our first four part-time HR consultants who did love that work, including Annette Matheny and Patty Gallagher, who are with us today. We saw our average HR project size start to grow and my leadership coaching practice was growing and giving me high satisfaction.
The following year brought significant growth as we strengthened the consultant team - and learned a few lessons about pricing! Through a new relationship, I became a NJ chapter chair of the global Women Presidents Organization (WPO), an organization for successful second stage entrepreneurs. The relationships there are not only special but inspiring, and I started to seriously think about growth.
Watching the market trends, by 2018 I shifted the business to include more coaching – hoping for a 60% HR/40% coaching blend. We re-branded, taking the HR out of our name, and rolled out a new and improved website focusing on three target markets: Organization, Teams and Individuals / Leaders.
Through another relationship, I hit the speaking circuit on Leadership at the Sobel Executive Women’s breakfast for a few hundred people, which opened the door to more speaking engagements - can I tell you I was floating on clouds after each presentation. I felt my passion for helping leaders be the best they can be, kicking into high gear.
Our project size continued to grow, and we grew to seven HR consultants and three coaches, added 13 new HR clients and 12 coaching clients, and conducted four “Design the Life You Love" training sessions for women looking for what fulfilled them. We were making progress on that 60/40 mix by numbers, but not revenue.
Our revenue continued to increase in both categories, and referrals were pouring in: I had settled into a few more intimate networking/mastermind groups and my initial year of networking everywhere was still paying off with relationships I had built along the way. We had more proposals than I could handle! It was time to invest in a support structure, so I could work on the business versus the day-to-day administration. We hired both an admin and a bookkeeper.
In 2019 we continued with positive growth as we ramped up communications with current and potential clients. I also took on the chairmanship of a second chapter for the Women’s Presidents Organization, adding Morris County as well as Monmouth County, and won the President's award as one of the global WPO chapter chairs of the year.
Remember that life balance thing I was trying to obtain? Well it was really feeling out of kilter - I realized I had to release control or have a heart attack! One of our uber-organized, wonderful HR consultants, Isabelle Brennan, agreed to join us full time as our Operations Manager to help me run the business - what a game changer.
The year ended on a high note achieving more than 30% growth again (for the 6th year in a row), and Crothers Consulting once again was able to donate two percent of our revenue to local organizations during the holiday season. And then it was time to look ahead to 2020 and the tenth anniversary of me hanging out my shingle.
With growing expertise in designing custom leadership development programs and new manager trainings, our leadership development and coaching practice was now running on all cylinders.
But… 2020 had different plans for all of us, and COVID happened. We regrouped quickly, took a pivot, and decided to double down on marketing and resiliency programs, once again adding new people to the team.
We are creating video and webinars, sharing information in monthly newsletters, offering free trainings, hosting two weekly forums for our clients, and participating on COVID panels throughout New Jersey to help as best we can. And together with eight other thought leaders, we created a new company, Business Innovators Alliance, and held an all-day virtual summit attended by over 300 people!
Currently we find ourselves in the hard work of learning, as we become allies to address the systemic racial injustices in our country. Once again, we took a hard pivot from what was comfortable and known - we have been heartened by the positive responses and actions that our clients are making, knowing we are in this for the long haul.
None of these recent pivots could have happened without the foundation of the strong relationships Crothers Consulting enjoys - among our own team and with our clients and the community. We have been able to tackle and impact difficult situations.
I never expected to create a 'real' company, but here we are - revenue is up 70% already in the first six months of 2020. However, my proudest moment came when my 17-year-old son recently said that he may want to join the family business after college. Holy moly!
It took a minute to register - that’s my business! It’s no longer just a shingle, but potentially a legacy - a family business to hand down through the generations.
He has a journey ahead of him to see if this is the right decision, but just the fact he thought of it as a possibility reflects that I continue to love and espouse passion for what I do, and the difference we can make for the organizations and individuals we work with.
It’s fun. It’s challenging, I love it. I am so grateful for the relationships I have - both old and new - and I look forward to the relationships that will be made in the future. Thank you!
As I look back over the past ten years, I’d say “Go for it, stay nimble, cherish relationships and 'do what you love!'”
Stephen Osborn - the potential
'heir apparent' to the Crothers Consulting family business!
The Crothers team, circa summer 2019 - we'll need another couch to hold us all this year!
One of those special relationships
over the past ten years - Sally Glick and I
at an ACG-NJ event. She gave me my start
as a speaker.
I found this document file with my
favorite saying, and knew I had to have it
for my office.