The Small Business Advocate
by Christine Hansen for MDBizMedia
As a small business owner for 12 years, Deborah Stallings understands the challenges small business owners face.
“I joined some professional organizations like the Howard County Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Women Business Owners,” she said. “I used those organizations to mentor me and teach me how to do business, how to network and how to build relationships with people who were successful. And I grabbed on to their coat tails and asked them to guide me and give me advice.”
Since graduating high school, Stallings worked in various administrative positions in the healthcare industry, first in Chicago where she lived at the time, and eventually in Maryland, where she moved in 1986. Recruited by a former boss who worked with her in Chicago, Stallings uprooted her life and relocated her and her 6-year-old daughter. Her first job in Maryland was working at the Greater Baltimore Medical Center.
A few years later, she landed a job at Harbor Hospital as a nurse recruiter – her first taste of full-time human resource work. She worked at Harbor Hospital for a few years and moved to a few different area hospitals, including Doctors Community Hospital and Prince George’s Hospital Center working her way up and learning more about the human resources industry.
In 1998, when her daughter graduated high school and went to college, Stallings directed her focus on her personal goals – to start her own business. Using the contacts she had already made in the healthcare industry and her reputation of doing good work, Stallings built her client list. She joined business organizations and took advice from as many as she could to get her business going. In 1999, from an apartment in Columbia, Stallings established HR Anew.
“My grandparents had been entrepreneurs – they always taught us if you can be an entrepreneur and have your own business, you should,” Stallings said. “My grandparents were farmers. My grandmother was a mid-wife and also a seamstress. She made soap and sold soap. So entrepreneurship was in the blood.”
Today, HR Anew, located in a business complex in Columbia, has 27 full-time employees and contracts close to 100 part-time employees, and is a full service management consulting human resources and professional services firm. Stallings’ client list has expanded to non-profits, government agencies, including NASA, and private sector companies. HR Anew helps companies recruit top-notch candidates, provides training and professional development programs, and provides compensation and workforce studies, among other services. In 2010, the company reported $3.2 million annual revenue, up 14 percent since 2003.
Stallings’ small business experience helped to land her a role on the Governor’s Commission on Small Business, which she was named to earlier this year. Chaired by Ackneil “Neil” Muldrow, the commission’s task is to provide a forum for small business to articulate and address barriers to business growth, recommend economic policy development measures to the Governor and General Assembly and identify permitting, licensing and regulatory areas for review. The Commission meets quarterly and is expected to submit a report to Governor and General Assembly by the end of 2011.
“What I see as my role on the Commission is being able to participate in discussions about policy, legislation, programming and opportunities for small business,” she said. “I believe my active role in the business community will help me provide feedback to the members of the Commission so that the State can look at opportunities to build capacity for small and medium-sized businesses.”
Stallings hopes that her experience as a small business owner will help the Commission develop recommendations for the State so that businesses can get the assistance they need to get from one level to the next. She also hopes that the Commission can work to develop workforce programs for the underserved and underrepresented.
“As a commission member, I think one of my responsibilities is to help bring business to small businesses,” she said. “Whether that’s through procurement opportunities or working with the State to have a more proactive approach in communicating opportunities to businesses — we can look at the systems and processes for how things are communicated so that we can make it better for small business owners.”