7 Tips For Leaving Your HR Job — And Creating Your Own HR Business That Serves A “Higher Purpose”

by Alan Collins

Many HR people dream about it.  But few have the courage to follow their heart and do it.

Mark Griffin did.

Mark is a former colleague of mine at Quaker Oats and I recently contacted him because I was so inspired by his “unique” story.

You see, I’ve never thought of HR as a job.  Or even as a career.  And it’s certainly not as something that is owned by the company you happen to work for at the moment.  I regard HR as a calling. A calling because, as HR professionals, we are in a unique position to make a difference in people’s lives and help create inspiring work places.

Mark, in his new HR role, is clearly doing all of this…and more.

Here is his story.

Last April, Mark decided it was time to leave the corporate HR world and launch his own HR business consulting firm.  Many of his closest friends and colleagues thought he had completely lost his mind.  With 20 years of HR leadership experience, including a stint as Vice President of HR at Valco Companies, Inc.  Mark could have easily followed the traditional path of continuing his career in HR at another large organization with the comfort of a steady paycheck and benefits.

However, he decided that it was time do something different.

It was time to follow his own calling.

So, he decided to start-up his own business:  In His Name HR.

Said Mark: “Sometimes God puts things in your heart…and although you try to fight it off, it remains and you must yield to his power.  So, after several months of developing, creating and refining my model on how Christian owned businesses can build ‘Kingdom Minded’ companies, I set out on my own to do just that.”

Here is a short, 9-minute interview with Mark as he explains his “unique” new HR business, the challenges and naysayers he’s encountered and the opportunities he sees ahead…

Interested in leaving the comfort of your HR day job and carving your own unique “niche” in HR?  Ready to follow your own HR calling?  Obviously, this is a lot easier said than done.

However, if you’re considering making this kind of HR career move, here are 7 tips directly from Mark that he’d recommend that you follow:

1. “Be clear and specific on the HR value you provide to your clients…and stick with it.”

In my case, what I offer is simple.  “I provide HR services to Christian owned companies with 50 employees or more while building faith into their HR practices.” That’s it.  That is my 30-second elevator pitch.  It’s easy for people to remember.  A clear, understandable 30-second elevator pitch enables people to help you.  No one can help you, if they don’t understand what you do.  If you want your network to refer business to you, you need to give them a good pitch that they understand.

Oftentimes when people strike out on their own, their focus is too broad.   It’s like someone opening a restaurant and serving Vietnamese food as well as pizza.  Such a broad offering just confuses customers and people just won’t gravitate towards you.  And if you are a one-person shop, your potential customer will know this.  Offering 8 different HR services won’t impress them.  They will know you can’t be good at everything.  So keep your offerings narrowed.

2. “Network with many – but take advice from a few.”

In other words, seek wise counsel from a few of your very closest people once you have framed what it is you think you are going after.  Never, ever seek counsel for ideas and concepts from your broader network.  These are the people that you want to help you network to find your clients once your strategy is in place.  Going to them while you are “finding yourself” is harmful to your image.  Even the two or three closest people that you will seek advice from should only be brought into your strategy process until you are 90% complete on what it is you are doing.

3. “Start planning and strategizing long before you get downsized or decide you want to move on.”

The time for creating your new HR career is not the day you get downsized or you decided you want to move on.  You need to plan this type of transition months in advance.  This planning is mainly because you need to grow your network.  When I developed my strategy for starting my HR firm, I thought out years in advance.  I started networking 18-24 months in advance to my potential audience and potential clients.

This meant connecting through social media with Pastors, Christian business owners, Christian HR professionals, and Christian business consultants.  I did this well in advance of the start up.  These same people who got to know me when I was a “VP of Human Resources” now know me as an “HR Expert for hire.”

4. “Find your strength and build on it.”

Many HR practitioners are good at accessing and helping others.  Few are good at doing it to themselves.  I spent a considerable time looking inwardly the past several years.  I have delivered many assessments on executives and teams helping them to understand their strengths.  I have used Marcus Buckingham’s materials in the delivery of many of these programs.  Marcus promotes finding your strength and developing it to higher levels.  He goes so far as to say to not focus at all on your weakness, because they will drain you and you will more than likely never get good in those areas.  I agree with Marcus.

Where I am weak I have the resources to get the help I need, I don’t try to be all things to all people, and you should not either.  I know my strengths and that has helped me grow at a much faster pace even in an economy that is the worst in our history.

5. “Balance your life.”

If you want to be successful you must balance your life.  Sounds fairly easy to grasp but many people just don’t do it, especially when they have a start up.

One of the main reasons, quite frankly, is people that do the same thing 24/7 with no variation, lose creativity, becoming extremely boring to their families, contacts and potential clients.  These people think they are doing the right thing but are emotional train wrecks waiting to happen and will experience a certain failure if not balanced.

I always ensure balance with my family even when it is difficult to do so. No one can maintain an insane schedule and have the support of their family indefinitely. Grow closer to your families, love them harder and more often, they will love you back!

6. “Find a Church home if you don’t have one.”

Invest in helping people through a ministry there.  I have been helping with a career network that I helped launch at my church for six years now.  That helps me stay balanced, it helps me stay connected with the community and most importantly it touches the hearts of people that desperately need help in their job loss.

7. “Find a hobby you enjoy and do it!”

I started backpacking a few years ago, so I maintain a work out routine at the gym that keeps me in shape for my next adventure.  If you don’t vary your life and balance it- I guarantee you success will not come your way.

In summary, Mark clearly has found his calling and is actively pursuing a “higher purpose” in his HR career.

Have you found your HR calling?  If so share it with us by commenting HERE.

Want to learn more about Mark Griffin:
Mark is currently Chief Consultant at In His Name HR LLC. He has over 20 years of HR experience. You can follow Mark’s journey and his growth by subscribing to his updates HERE. You can also read much more about why Mark took his approach to HR HERE. In addition you can also follow him on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.


About the author: Alan Collins was Vice President – Human Resources at PepsiCo where he led HR initiatives for their Quaker Oats, Gatorade and Tropicana businesses. He is now Founder of Success in HR, Inc. and the author of the HR best seller, UNWRITTEN HR RULES . His new book, BEST KEPT HR SECRETS is now available on Amazon.

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11 Responses to “7 Tips For Leaving Your HR Job — And Creating Your Own HR Business That Serves A “Higher Purpose””

  1. Creating Your Own HR Business That Serves A “Higher Purpose” | In HIS Name HR Says:

    […] Here are my 7 tips- Read the article in it’s entirety here: 7 Tips For Leaving Your HR Job […]

  2. Nancy Hess Says:

    Nice work Mark! I admire your focused approach and willingness to put it on the line. I am sure you will continue to inspire many!

  3. Oscar Says:

    Wow! What an eye-opener! I have always had this burden in my heart to do a certain thing using my HR experience and skill as platform, was comfortable initially, but after reading this piece, I am more than reassured that I have to heed the call and make a difference.
    Thanks to Alan for creating the platform that Mark used to open my eyes more.

  4. Alan Says:

    Thanks for the comments – the most difficult step is TAKING ACTION. That separates Mark from the 99% of other HR folks that just talk a good game. Kudos to Mark!

  5. Jennifer Says:

    Your story confirms what I should be doing. I am working with church to create our HR handbook and it is something that is my passion. I am so inspired by your article.

  6. Jennifer Says:

    Thank you for the inspiration. I am working on an HR manual for our church.

  7. Jagadish Says:

    It was an inspiring article which really motivates. Thanks for sharing this alan.

  8. Hilda Says:

    This has inspired me a lot.

  9. Sahaj Joshi Says:

    Dear Alan,

    Many thanks for such a great story.

    Do keep posting like this.

    My Best Wishes….

    Sahaj Joshi

  10. 20 Brutally Blunt HR Career Tips For You To Ponder Over Labor Day… | Success in HR Says:

    […] need to grow your network first. In my case, I started networking 18-24 months in advance.” -Mark Griffin, founder InHisNameHR.com and former VP-Human […]

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