Nicole Martin: A Passionate Innovator at the Forefront of Merging Human Resources and Business

Nicole Martin

HRBoost offers small and midsize businesses HR services on an ala carte, project, or retainer basis. The company meets its clients wherever they are on their journey to be an employer of choice and also encounters them at their pace and budget. Its Shared Services approach allows the client to build HR departments from scratch and align them to business strategy. While the company sees great value in the middle market, it also does have some larger players that augment its internal HR teams with strategic project initiatives from its team. Software is not HR and HR is more than payroll and benefits. Building a high-performance culture that drives innovation and profitability requires leaders at all levels. HR infrastructure can uphold the Culture Invitation and once it is strategically aligned and reinforced, a company can create workforce alignment, empowering leaders to innovate amidst even the toughest climate in business.


A Trailblazer with a Growth-Paced Trajectory

Nicole Martin, the CEO, and Founder of HRBoost®, identifies herself as an accidental entrepreneur. HRBoost was not something that Nicole had in her mind, rather she simply followed her passion for helping clients understand the importance of human resources in developing a strong business. Today, Nicole is a successful entrepreneur and an HR industry innovator who is dedicated to helping small to midsize businesses realize their potential through their employees.

Nicole grew up in Montana. She says she feels lucky to have her mother by her side as a mentor who is highly spiritual and raised her with the philosophy of being happy. She expresses how her mother believed in her and ingrained in her that she is capable of anything.

At the age of 18, Nicole was ready to start proving her mom right. She left Montana and moved in with her godmother in Libertyville, Illinois. Right out of high school, she got a job as a receptionist at a pre-Y2K firm where she found her passion quite by accident. “They were hiring all these computer experts from overseas, but when they arrived, the company just put them in the reception area because they didn’t know what to do with them,” recalls Nicole.

During the same time, Nicole was working on a training program for a college human resources class. She wanted to help the guys out in the hallway, so she just marched into the director’s office and asked him if he wanted to see the training program she created for school. When Nicole was finished with her presentation, the director created a human resources department for the site, hired a manager, and moved 18-year-old Nicole from reception to human resources.

Nicole has been building HR departments from the ground up ever since. What makes her approach so unique, she says, is that she begins with the business’ vision and creates HR programs that are completely integrated with that vision. HRBoost supports employers at every stage of the employee experience and small businesses deserve to compete for talent in today’s market. Its Boosters create programs designed to further the business, boost productivity, and help employees understand why and how their contributions are meaningful. Nicole credits her team for all the success the business has accomplished. Today, she is proudly a woman that has built a seven-figure business from scratch, and knowing only 2% of women-owned businesses do this is alarming. Women remain a business opportunity everywhere.


Bequeathing Excellence with a High-Performance Team

As the CEO, Nicole mentions that she is honored to lead a high-performance team of HR leaders who partner with the business clients to meet them wherever they are on their journey, to being the best place to work. The whole team along with the company has experienced tremendous growth where nearly every client has been sourced through word of mouth. The appeal and success of the company are due to the personal dedication of the team to every business the company partners to serve.

She claims that she feels blessed to have truly conscientious and driven people on her team, who have taken peer reward recognition to be a strong reinforcement.


Success is Relative, Says Nicole

According to Nicole, the initial challenges of being a CEO are many. One is needing human capital and financial capital to scale and grow. Many will not grow because they are not investing in talent and often it is the CEO’s job to bear debt. Nicole reveals that she made a calculated risk to invest in her talent and invest in her bench strength. In the early years, as a mother and wife, it can be a challenge to orchestrate work-life integration. She realized that when a process is executed, capable talents are hired, and let them work, the process proved through; and now, this can be done again and again. She highlights that it is important to trust the people hired and also to trust the process and then “when it is time to take a calculated risk, you invest and do what you can to increase the odds.”

In Nicole’s words, success is relative. She expresses that many people would read her resume or some printed article about her but the real success comes in the joy of doing what one loves every day. She feels it is amazing to see many others who work for her with joy through shared work and creation. “Work and Life should be integrated, not compartmentalized. I love that there is no real dividing line between work and play for me,” she adds.


Learn, Unlearn and Relearn: Keys to Successful Leadership

Nicole presumes that it is imperative to get hands-on experience on things that people seek to learn. Every leader must ensure that the work he or she does brings joy before investing time, energy, and dedication to it. She asks them to enjoy the journey and be prepared to learn, unlearn, and relearn. One must surround herself with people who inspire and support her but also don’t patronize her. Adding to this, she says, “Even if it gets harder, or takes longer, stay diligent. Anything you love will be worth it. Overcoming fear and the ASK are key to where I am today. I also feel everyone deserves a coach as accountability to self is paramount in achieving your goals”.


HR Expertise at the Heart of Business Growth

Nicole believes that HR expertise is essential to any business as they grow their enterprise. The company’s shared services approach allows businesses to access strategic HR at their pace and budget all while taking a holistic approach to integrating a culture plan that enables their strategic and operational plans as a business. She adds that HRBoost delivers skilled talent to its clients. It is also believed by the team that the clients need both strategic and tactical resources at the same time. One human is not ideal as there are various cognitive abilities to optimize HR strategically. It is presumed that the company’s shared services approach to the middle market is the PEO Alternative and the middle market needs an alternative.

The company serves businesses spanning multiple sectors; these include Professional Services, Non-Profit Organizations, High Tech, Manufacturing, Staffing firms, Hospitality, and Healthcare, claims Nicole. She adds that the company’s clients are typically high-growth businesses with 50-250 employees. Its model is to meet the clients wherever they are, thus it provides full-service embedded HR support, a project to project support, culture design and management training, employee programs and assessments, virtual support, and phone support.


The Power of Joy and Purpose is the Secret Essence of Success

Nicole shares about her two published books that speak to women, which are also equally enjoyed by men. “The Power of Joy and Purpose is my personal story and I share my 7 Presence Principles as I get asked nearly every day, ‘how do I do it all so joyfully?’ I don’t do it alone. I also co-authored a book with John Tinghitella last year. We named it, NO FEAR Negotiation for Women, a book where we set forth a process that women can add to their list of abilities for the greater benefit of our country. Men are about results and Women are about effort. We need both in business” she added.

Nicole states that her number one responsibility is to empower her team of Boosters and invest in ongoing education, tools, and resources to optimize her team. She has faith that they will in turn delight the company’s clients. She expresses how she felt when after years of serving on the Advisory Board and being part of a winning organization in her prior roles, her own company took the stage of Best & Brightest ®Companies to Work For in Chicago in 2020. Her philosophy is that leadership must live at every level in a business. Adding to this she said that the hierarchy is a thing of the past, people must be invited to live leadership from wherever they stand. The language of what makes a leader in the creative space where teams can create their reality for shared leadership in their space.


Over the Horizon

Nicole reveals that the company has always been treated with growth year after year, however, amidst the pandemic it was hit hard like many. But HRBoost has successfully returned to pre Covid-19 revenues levels and this is something the team is pleased with, given the level of uncertainty in the market. She adds that the company has divulged some new innovative ways to reach its clients and as talent shifts occur, the company is ready to help the businesses that seek to retain talent.

Nicole believes that the biggest threat to the marketplace is talent, even now. Only the truly forward-thinking companies will make winning moves even in the downturn of the economy.


Motivation as a Trigger to Good Captainship

Nicole avows that women remain an opportunity and can develop teams that foster collaboration. If there is no positive work culture, talent will not tolerate it for long. Creating a cultural conversation takes rigor where a two-way exchange is fostered and upheld. HR Boost was recognized as a Best & Brightest® company to work for in Chicago before the pandemic. Regardless, any organization committed to excellence knows culture can change with every promotion, hire, or termination. Put separation and a pandemic in the mix and more conversations were needed. If there is no common language for how leadership lives across the organization, morale can suffer. The company implemented pulse Covid Surveys in addition to its standard culture surveys and metrics. She adds that an anonymous pulse is important, but the team also began more company check-ins across peer levels. “We have kept Monday Motivation, Happy Hours, and Wellness Wednesdays with the long term in mind as we feel we created a deeper connection during these tough times. We also had Chaplains in the workplace before Covid-19. I was thrilled to see them working more proactively to connect with our team in a virtual world and we had high utilization these past 12 months. I feel proudest of what we discussed, exchanged and shared. The subject matter has not been around easy subjects. We had a team meeting to discuss racial unrest and while it was emotional, I was touched that my business has a culture that feels psychologically safe. Where I can hear and see my team sharing and beyond without fear of peer judgment but rather seeking to learn from one another,” she concludes.

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