Entrepreneur’s Advice: Hire The Best, Treat Them Like Family

By Dan Voorhis The Wichita Eagle.

Christie Summervill isn't afraid to admit she's been fired four times.

To her, it just means that she wasn't the right fit for the rigidly defined jobs.

She's gone on to have a successful career in corporate human resources, with nearly 10 years at Wichita-based human resource consultancy Koker Goodwin & Associates. In 2010, she capped that career with a leap to start her own human resources/technology company, BalancedComp.

BalancedComp, 727 N. Waco, Suite 580, serves the banking and credit union industry, providing customized online salary ranges for the jobs as they are practiced in each company.

Revenues have doubled every year, she said. She now has 111 clients, this year expects revenue of $900,000 from new customers and $500,000 from customers renewing previous years' contracts.

Summervill has been able to build a company that mirrors her philosophy of human resource management: Hire the best, pay them well and treat them like family.

She believes that a company's culture is the single most important aspect. If you hire the right people and treat them like gold, everything else will follow, she said. They'll take care of the company's clients and, by extension, the company's bottom line.

She doesn't just have an open door at her office, she wanders through the offices to chat, pick brains and solve problems. Ideas aren't just welcomed, they're expected.

"They work hard," she said of her employees. "If you want to get people to give you 110 percent, even when you are not there, you have to get beyond business and make it personal."

She concedes that such a collaborative approach works with eight employees, but might be harder as she grows.

She spent a lot of time trying to recruit the right people. ("They're all geniuses," she said.)

Her first and most important hire was Jarrett Green a Wichita tech legend and former owner of Blink Interactive, in what she dubbed "my greatest sales success." Green is chief product officer, and he runs the technology side of the business.

From there she has recruited people with high-level human resources or technology experience.

When BalancedComp is hired by a bank or credit union, she or one of her staff will visit, collect information on job titles, job functions and pay. Their analysis is superior, she said, because they figure out what skills each job actually requires rather than just what the title says it is. This provides a more accurate job description and fairer compensation recommendation. The salary recommendations are based on multiple wage surveys with data specific to region and industry.

All the information then is put in the cloud so clients have access to it during the year.

"Everyone says they want pay-for-performance," she said. "This makes pay-for-performance rational and transparent to employer and employee."

Summervill said the business fits because she likes people and is good at dealing with them.

"Ever since I was a Girl Scout, I was the best salesperson at everything I every did, and it got harder and more intellectually challenging as I went along, and I loved that," she said.

"I like relationships," she added. "I like relationships, and I like people who take my advice and pay me well for it."

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