Helen Chao is a Grade A recruiter, who is also from Macao. A small country off of the coast of China which was conquered by the Portuguese in the mid 16th century. It was the last European colony in Asia in 1999 when it was returned to China. When she was 17 she moved to the United States, per her parents request to attend American schools. During our conversation she compared herself to a roach, “I am going to be the one that always survives.” This is a great analogy considering that roaches have been roaming the earth for over 280 million years, can live without their heads and have been rumored to survive the nuclear blast of Hiroshima. When she moved to the U.S. she didn’t have any friends or relatives so she did what she knew best: work hard. She spent a lot of time with her teachers to better understand the curriculum, she enrolled in AP (Advanced Placement) classes, attended leadership courses and volunteered at school. She did all this while having four jobs. Yes, four. Her philosophy was exposure.
She wanted to expose herself to every kind of opportunity to see what might come of it. As we all know, exposure is key. Even Justin Bieber wasn’t discovered by hiding in a cave somewhere. Exposure is key. Though, sometimes exposure isn’t about being discovered, but about discovering. In Helen’s case, with just a couple months left to start college she realized that studying business just wasn’t what she wanted to spend her time doing. She discovered this one day at work. One of her jobs required her to shadow young children with special needs. She discovered during this role, which exposed her to people she had never spent time with before. That she didn’t want to just be rich. She wanted more. One day while at work she realized the impact that she could make in the world, rather than just in her bank account. Through her interactions with a little girl that she shadowed and her classmates, she was able to change the perception that her classmates had of the little girl. To the point that they defended the little girl if their parents encouraged them not to play with her because she was, “crazy”. It was from that experience she realized that as long as you do the right thing, you will positively impact the people around you. It was from that experience that she realized she wanted to be a teacher.
“Sometimes it’s not about to you trying to plan every course and every action. As long as you do what’s right you will make an impact to the people around you.”
After college she pursued this desire to teach and was very successful. She was effective at teaching children the curriculum, teaching parents how to help their kids and made great relationships with the other teachers as well. After becoming comfortable in the role Helen decided she wanted to challenge herself and pursue some further personal growth. Helen took on a role at a nonprofit as a program manager; she’d be responsible for recruiting teachers and then teaching them how to teach. This was a great experience for Helen. Through this she was really able to learn about the political side of education. She got a lot of experience with public speaking, organizing events, networking, maintaining industry relationships and most importantly. A lot of experience with recruiting.
After a little over four years she decided to continue her growth. As we all know, or at least we should all know. It’s really important to continuously evolve. The days of staying with one company your entire life and specializing in one skill, are over. In fact, having only one ability can be a weakness. Say hello to the days of being multifaceted and being comfortable wearing multiple hats. Helen’s next move was the one that would set up her current success. Of all her roles as the program manager, the one she enjoyed the most was recruiting. So she decided to get into recruiting at the next level, corporate recruiting and to put on all the hats that go along with that role. This was the first time that she had serious quotas, had to do "cold calling". The work environment was very intense. To the point that her boss would literally yell at her. Though the work environment was a bit much, it was a great experience for her and taught her some great lessons that she has brought in to her work today.
During a normal day on the job which required that she analyze someone’s resume and make an assessment of whether or not the person would be a good fit she had a revelation. She was making a decision that would ultimately control someone’s destiny. Also, being employed at someone else’s company meant that she too had a destiny that was out of her control. In this moment she realized that she didn’t want to be at the hands of some else’s assessment of her and her abilities. She didn’t want to have to rely on someone else to decide how she’ll progress in the world, anymore. Helen decided that she wanted to have control over her own destiny and be self-reliant. From that moment she began the transition into entrepreneurship.
Sometimes when people start their business it’s because they have to due to a loss in employment or some other event that creates a need for additional income. In Helen’s case, her company went through a period of massive layoffs and she was on the chopping block. About a week afterwards, she put her resume online. When she spoke to the first person to contact her about an opportunity, instead taking a job she worked out an offer to take him on as a client. From there she started Hire Right Consulting and the rest was history.
Availability is more important than ability.
“Sometime’s you don’t know that you have the ability until you try.”
Maintaining a high level of quality in the services provided has been important to Helen’s company brand. Though maintaining the quality of her own personal brand has been more important.
“Relationships are really important, but also self reflection is really important too.”
Lastly I’ll leave you with Helen’s advice for any aspiring entrepreneurs. It’s precise and to the point: “Just start.”