By Rob Pulley

Guest blogger Rob Pulley is the President of TM Solutions, LLC, a Raleigh, North Carolina-based human resources consulting firm.

There are many ways to achieve success in business, and there are many models to follow, as you can see from the seventy-five thousand search results from  At TM Solutions, we believe that the core of any company’s success or failure is how they link strategy with their people.

What we’ve found in our many years of experience in analyzing what companies are doing right, as well as what they’re doing wrong, is that companies build a culture of excellence  by focusing on  four key areas:  strategy and planning, managing profitability, minimizing risk, and expertise and capabilities.

Strategy and Planning

Whether you’re a start-up, in growth mode, or mature, you should always act in a strategic manner and plan your success through your planning around your human resources—the people who drive your company’s success or cause it to lag in failure.  In order to plan effectively, you must take an introspective view of your company, asking the right questions to determine where you need change, what you need to start doing, stop doing, do more of, do less of.

Do you understand what success factors drive performance excellence, as well as what factors are stagnating the organization?  Do your culture, values, and management objectives align with your overall business strategy? Are you attracting top talent consistently—as an “employer of choice”—or is your turnover at unacceptable levels?  Are your employees fully engaged in your business?  Do you understand why they join your organization, and more importantly, do you understand why they would leave?

These are all questions that deserve some deep, inward searching in order to plan effectively for improvement over the near term as well as the next multi-year phase of your business.

Managing Profitability

Just as there are questions that can help to drive your company’s strategy and planning, ensuring that your people objectives are aligned with the overall strategic objectives of the business, there is a set of questions that can help to determine if your company is managing profitability  correctly.

With regard to your human capacity to meet your business objectives and customer needs, are you over capacity or under capacity?  Are there strategies in place to manage the costs of human resources? Does our talent management strategy allow you to scale up or down, as needed, to meet customer needs?  Is the organization maximizing employee productivity?  Are your company’s employees completely engaged with the company and its mission, driving productivity and customer satisfaction to highest possible levels?

The idea here is that companies should measure their performance not on the number of employees they have—often, the ones that do are incredibly bloated, inefficient, and, obviously, much less profitable—but rather how well they are meeting their main business objectives around revenues, expenses, and profitability, while ensuring to maintain the highest levels of employee engagement and productivity.  This balancing act creates a formula for long-term success—an operation that’s lean and mean in achieving results.

Minimizing Risk

Running a business, both large and small today, in today’s complex environment with limited or no focus on compliance and insurance presents significant risks in both time and money.  In addition to the potential costs, it can also distract key resources away from core business objectives.

Do you understand what employment laws and regulations apply to your size business?  Are you fully compliant with current employment laws and regulations?  Are you compliant with all federal, state and local reporting and posting requirements?  Are your employees and independent contractors properly classified?  Do your policies align with organizational culture and strategy, and more importantly, are they up-to-date?  Do you currently have corporate legal counsel?

Conduct a basic compliance review to identify appropriate boundaries within employment law based on your organization’s size, industry and growth phase.  Additionally, an effective review evaluates how current management practices stack up to major risk areas as well as identify opportunities for improvement with your day-to-day-activities.  Remember, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Expertise and Capabilities

A final foundational area for taking a look at how well your business is poised for future success is in the questioning and analysis of the aggregate and individual expertise and capabilities of your human capital.  You must question your company’s context within its competitive industry landscape, as well as take internal stock of your priorities with regard to your people.

Do you have the right talent in place to compete in today’s marketplace?  If so, how do you feel about your capabilities to meet challenges and customer demands in the years to come? Are you adequately staffed to execute operational and strategic plans?

A critical set of questions concerns your company’s ability, as mentioned in strategy and planning above, to be an “employer of choice” in order to have the highest levels of expertise and capabilities in its human capital. Do you have the ability to attract top talent?  If so, are you then actually hiring from the top 10 percent among available talent when you bring new people into the company?

Growing your expertise and capabilities isn’t just an external exercise in attracting top talent. It’s also about growing from within, ensuring that prioritizing and investing in professional development for your in-house talent. Are you utilizing professional development programs to maximize your leadership and coaching capabilities at executive and management levels?  Are your front-line people able to add to their expertise with continuing education in their respective skill areas, or flex into management positions by adding coaching skills to their already considerable capabilities in core job functions?


To arrive at the answers that are unique for your business, with regard to where you are with building a performance model for success, you need to ask the right questions. The truth is that there are a lot of right answers, based on the organizational culture and values, as well as your strategic goals and vision. In short, people define success in lots of different ways.

But once you have your own definition for success in place, you need to periodically ask yourself these questions around strategy and planning, managing profitability, minimizing risk, and expertise and capabilities.  What these questions, and their ongoing relevance in the life of a business, should illustrate to you is that your human capital needs are very fluid. Today’s highly competitive team can be too large and unequipped in its capabilities to meet tomorrow’s marketplace needs. Sometimes, you’re accomplishing much more with fewer people—obviously a desired outcome—and sometimes, trying to do too much without having enough or the right people on board to solve problems and achieve results is a fool’s errand.

There’s a fine line between success and failure, and the first thing you can do to walk on the right side of the line is to revisit these questions.

Rob Pulley is the President of TM Solutions, LLC, a human resources consulting firm based in Raleigh, North Carolina. TM Solutions focuses on small to mid-market companies, delivering customized talent management solutions, including staffing, leadership development, talent management, outsourcing, and compliance. The Forrest Firm is proud to partner with Rob and TM Solutions, leveraging over 15 years of human resources expertise in the service of our clients looking to grow new companies and remain competitive in mature markets.