Kim Shepherd, CEO and Philanthropist, Talks People Over Profit and Dispels Myth of the Lazy Unemployed

If you are looking for job or looking to fill a job position in Orange County and haven't heard of Kim Shepherd, time to listen up.
Shepherd is the CEO of Decision Toolbox, a recruiting company based out of Irvine and conducted almost entirely virtually in several locations across the country. In addition to helping people get jobs in this shoddy economy, she spends a substantial amount of time giving back to local charities. 

Shepherd is on the executive board for Girls Inc., an organization striving to empower young girls to reach their career goals, and recently joined up as a partner with Impact Giving, which gives women entrepreneurs the opportunity to donate money to worthy causes affecting females nationally and globally. Through her "Vetted Vets" program at Decision Toolbox, she helps veterans re-join the workforce after service.  

In Shepherd's book The Bite Me School of Management, the
Laguna Beach resident details her unconventional - and sometimes quirky- ways to manage and engage employees. Since she doubles up as a CEO and a recruiter, Shepherd knows the ins-and-outs of management and how to deal with an ever-changing workforce and workplace environment.   

As a CEO for over 20 years, Shepherd has harnessed a concept that many tend to forget over time: it takes putting employees first to survive long-term and successfully, which is something lost in the myriad in routine layoffs and micromanagement in modern corporate culture.   

Perhaps many small business owners and managers could learn from her insightful bits of wisdom - before their short-sightedness runs their business into the ground! If it hasn't already.   

Here is a Q&A the Weekly did with Shepherd after a recent talk at an Impact Giving fundraising luncheon in Costa Mesa.

In your book, you talk about transforming corporate culture in very unconventional ways. How does being a woman impact the way you run a business and how important is it for there to be more women-run companies to help keep the "cultural glue" of a business together?  

I belong to a CEO roundtable of 18 CEO's in Los Angeles and I am the only woman. Recently we had a meeting recently where everyone went around speaking about what was keeping them up at night. Some of them talked about KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) and ROIs(Return on Investments) and they came around to me, and I shared a very personal experience.   

I'm gay and I was going through a palimony (domestic partner separation). So after I revealed what I was going through, the CEO's started to open up about what was really keeping them up, like problems with their wives or daughters. It was like they were dying to have permission to talk about their personal life...and I was technically talking about a business issue! So I think women are perfectly suited to run a company, and it's because we run it with our head and our hearts.   

Right now with my age group, there is a lot of talk about putting people over profit. As a CEO, how important is it to put employees (people) above the bottom line in order to sustain your company long-term?  

If you empower your people and people come first you are impenetrable. You have got an army of soldiers and if you're the general and you rule with an iron first, your soldiers are going to run away, commit mutiny and everything that comes with it. I believe to sustain profitability these days, you have to empower your employees.  

In one chapter of your book, you attempt to dispel the myth that the unemployed, specifically long-term unemployed, are no longer employable and in fact, are the "cream of the crop" of talent. As a CEO and recruiter, could you please elaborate on how you came up with that conclusion?

This is a topic I am passionate about. Here's what happened: In the fourth quarter of 2009, businesses across the board took 10 to 15 percent of their workforce and they tossed them out. They threw them into the garbage to keep their powder dry for what was to come with the economy. I actually asked the CEO roundtable if they cut about that much of their workforce and it was a resounding "yes." Then I asked them, did you cut by skill set or by salary? And all of them cut by salary, just because they wanted to be safe if they had to weather a big storm. 

So they put a lot of talented people into this big garbage can, and now they're saying "I don't want to interview anybody that's not gainfully employed." But you're the ones who put them there! They assume everyone that's in that category is not talented and that's simply not the case.   

What is the recruiting situation like at this moment?  
We have a talent drought, a candidate-rich and job-rich environment right now -- and it's the perfect storm. We fill about 600 positions per month. Things have been improving.  

With the presidential elections coming up, what are your concerns about who gets elected? In other words, what do you think your business will be like under a President Obama re-election or a Mitt Romney election?  

Personally I'm an Independent voter, so I think the bigger question might be - what is the political landscape right now? Do people trust the government anymore to get things done? We don't trust our politicians anymore, and we haven't in a long time. I think it's the whole landscape that's important -- the respect in government is gone and it's going to be hard to ever get it back.

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