HR Strategies and Entrepreneurship

Hosted by Chris Dyer, the CEO of PeopleG2 – TalentTalk Radio features engaging conversation with CEOs, thought leaders and HR executives.  TalentTalk connects professionals who care about talent-related issues and having the cultural mindset to embrace the needed diversity of the workplace.

Today’s guests are Sonny Tosco, CEO of Limelight Mobile, Inc. and Lori Almeida, Chief Talent Officer at Siegel+Gale. To hear the entire show, click here. The first guest is a passionate entrepreneur with a decade of experience with the U.S. army while the second guest is a seasoned HR professional.

Sonny Tosco HR

Sonny Tosco had an entrepreneurial mind early on. In grade school he would do people’s homework for money. After graduating from college with a degree in psychology and systems engineering, Tosco joined the US Army but continued to work on the side. In 2012, he decided to get back to the civilian world and eventually started his current company Limelight Mobile, Inc. last year.

The idea for this company germinated during his deployment in Bahrain. According to him, all they got to know about the country was through television news. But when they went there they realized it was a misrepresentation because people were going about life as usual, unlike what they saw from the media. He felt that knowing the actual day to day reality of life in Bahrain would have been much more beneficial for planning purposes. This led him to conceive of the idea of creating a social platform that helps people see what is happening in real time through the eyes of any user in the world. Their platform officially launched this past May and has already garnered roughly 1,350 users, growing organically.

Tosco is also the brand ambassador for the networking app, Weave. The app has Tinder functionalities allowing users to connect with other professionals in the area. It connects with the users’ LinkedIn profiles and allows them to look at profiles of people within a 10 mile radius. All you have to do is swipe right if you’re interested in connecting with a particular professional or swipe left to move on to the next profile. Since the app is proximity based you can meet up with professionals in your area immediately.

Entrepreneurial Advice

Having spent a huge chunk of his career in the army, Tosco realized that he didn’t have a strong professional network when he started his own entrepreneurial journey. He had lost a decade where he could have been building contacts. He believes that in Silicon Valley people want people whom they know. This worked against him. He recalls a story from his earlier trip to LA where he was in the same green room as Daymond John. He asked John what kept him going during the dark times of a company’s journey. John’s reply was a lifetime of strategic partnerships! Whether it’s your spouse, your team, your crew – people who believe in you and the mission you are trying to achieve. These people help you keep going during the trying times. “When you associate yourself with entrepreneurial, independently driven people it sets you up for success,” believes Tosco.

Leadership Style

After his second deployment with the Armed Forces, Tosco knew he wanted to be an entrepreneur. He bought books on entrepreneurship from Stanford’s MBA program and read them while he was deployed. There were some things that stood out. He took strategies that seemed good in theory and started experimenting with them in his job to figure out if they matched his leadership style and personality. This helped him figure out what was working for him and what wasn’t and ultimately leading him to develop his own leadership style.

After having deploying his own entrepreneurial and leadership style at Limelight, Tosco says he likes to hire great people with their own experiences and leadership style. Currently his team has seasoned software professionals with more knowledge of the technical side of their solutions. His gives him the confidence and them the autonomy to make decisions and have a sense of ownership in the team’s success.

Tosco cites the ‘window – mirror’ principle from a book he read called “The Front Office.” This principle is based on self-reflection, effectively looking in the mirror when something goes wrong in the organization, and asking yourself what you could have done to get it right. In turn, when things are going right you look out of the window and recognize the accomplishments. Tosco says he has practiced this in uniform and as a civilian and it has yielded the best results for him.

What Are You Reading?

Sonny Tosco is currently reading “The Next Hundred Yearsby George Friedman.

How Can People Connect With You?

Connect with Sonny via LinkedIn and learn about his company on Twitter and Instagram.

Lori Almeida HR

Lori Almeida is the Chief Talent Officer at Siegel+Gale which is a global brand strategy, design and experience firm that helps clients reach their full potential with simplicity. She’s been with the company for four years and with Omnicom which is the holding company for about 11 years. She’s been leading HR initiatives for nearly two decades and is also an attorney with a background in employment law, immigration and leadership. At Siegel+Gale her focus is on developing their corporate culture and instilling the company values which are smart, nice and unstoppable while hiring people who live these values every day.

HR Strategy at Siegel+Gale

At Siegel+Gale, each local office has an individual goal because cultural considerations in one country could be useless in another. While devising global HR strategies they take a look at the long term needs of the business to determine whether they need a contractor or a full-time employee. Each market needs a tailored approach. Another reason for adopting strategies for local markets is that not all job markets are as robust as New York or San Francisco. Some of the areas where the company has offices do not see much traffic and volume. Thus, a customized local strategy is inevitable when it comes to talent acquisition.

Almeida says they leave no stone unturned when it comes to finding talent. They rely heavily on networking and LinkedIn to find the right people and to keep an open dialogue going with potential candidates. They use Twitter to follow thought leaders that they would like to hire or would like to connect with. The company also has a really good employee referral program. “Great people refer great people. We get the bulk of our referrals from our employees. They wouldn’t refer people they didn’t think would be a great fit for the organization. It’s a reflection on them and so they take it very seriously,” she explains.

Retaining Talent

Almeida believes that they are successful in retaining talent because Siegel+Gale is a great place to work. They take care of the employees’ growth and professional development. “We help people balance their professional obligations with their personal ones. We have a backup child care, back up elder care, a host of volunteer programs and so on to make sure we keep the balance. If they’re happy they perform better which translates into top notch deliverables to our clients,” she elaborates. They measure employee engagement annually and list three things that they are doing well and three things they need to improve on. “Employees are your most important assets and should be taken care of,” she says.

Employees as Brand Ambassadors

At Siegel+Gale, HR and marketing work very closely with each other. Almeida works closely with the company’s Chief Marketing Officer to collaborate on extending their internal brand ambassadors. Marketing would host sessions on how to use and maximize social media tools for employees which results in them writing blogs, developing content and showcasing their work to their own personal networks. This helps the company develop connections with future hires that happen to come from an employees’ personal network. Thus, the employees are the real brand ambassadors of the company. Even when people leave the firm they often continue to refer great people which is a strong endorsement of a positive experience they’ve had with the company, according to Almeida.

What Are You Reading?

Lori Almeida is currently reading What if I Fly?by Jayne Conway which is about two families in Rhode Island. It’s a fun read for Almeida since Rhode Island is her hometown and the references and things mentioned in the book make her nostalgic. Another book she is reading is Work Rules!by Laszlo Bock that talks about Google’s unique culture.

How Can People Connect With You?

Connect with Lori via Linkedin or Twitter (@LoriAlmeida).