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Meet Stephanie Hodge of Essex Consulting

Today we’d like to introduce you to Stephanie Hodge.

Stephanie, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I have wanted to be a professional businessperson since I was a young girl. I used to pretend to go to work and shuffle papers around in my “office.” That was the beginning of a dream and vision of my future self as an entrepreneur. I have realized that young girl’s dream and now own my own HR and business professional services consulting firm, Essex Consulting, LLC. The name “Essex” stems from the street I grew up on where the dream of owning my own business began. I have been successful in my career by working to understand the business and putting an emphasis on people and engagement. I absolutely love what I do!

My progressive HR career from HR Manager to CHRO has afforded me the opportunity to manage International HR, work with start-ups, and lead HR teams. After twenty years of supporting HR in other organizations, I started to get the stirring to start my own business. Being an HR consultant was something I always thought I would do 10-15 years down the road as part of my retirement plan (because I never thought I’d truly retire and stop working). I decided to put together a business plan and register my LLC, what would be the harm in that? Once I started that process, though, my business was all I could think about! My 10-15-year plan turned into right now! I broke the news to my husband that I was ready to leave my stable job to start this business. Thankfully, he took it well and has always been my number one supporter. I started to have conversations with those close to me, and other consultants to bounce my ideas around and get advice. One of those conversations led to a lunch meeting with a former executive I had worked for who needed consulting for his growing business. I truly feel like once I made the decision to focus on this goal, God started putting things in place. Within six months, I had my business plan developed, established my LLC and started supporting my first client. It was scary to leave a corporate “safe” role as a Chief HR Officer, but the excitement of doing things my own way won out.

I started Essex Consulting to work with different types of companies and help them find solutions when it comes to people management and programs. I have a great team of HR professionals who share my passion and desire to deliver excellent service. At Essex, we pride ourselves on being a partner with the businesses we serve and helping these businesses achieve their objectives. I’ve also learned a lot about myself over these past few years. I’ve learned that I truly enjoy facilitating training and now provide training to employers, via live training and webinars. I currently serve as a faculty member for the Georgia Center for Nonprofits, Nonprofit University, facilitating courses in strategic HR management and strategic talent management. I also serve as a guest lecturer at Georgia State University.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Growing a small business is no easy task! Some of my toughest decisions are around how many people to hire and when (do you hire before the clients come, or scramble to get the right team in place when the clients come?). Getting exposure has also been challenging. I’m always trying to figure out how to get in front of the right people who are willing to give us a chance because they understand how we can add value. I also quickly learned about scope creep, when you agree to do a thing and end up fixing everything… even those things the client hasn’t paid for! I’m thankful for these lessons (and for the lessons I have still to learn) because they make the next client experience and my business savvy stronger. We’re always trying to be better and provide a deeper level of service. When running a small business, you are doing everything from accounting and finance to sales and marketing. I love how that challenges my mind, but it’s definitely not easy. I wouldn’t trade it, though.

Essex Consulting – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
Essex Consulting is an Atlanta based, minority-owned HR and business consulting firm. We are a proud, certified Women-Owned Business Enterprise, that provides human resources consulting and project work by utilizing senior-level business and HR expertise, and talented HR professionals to resolve business challenges.

Our consultants are informed professionals, with a focus on providing excellent customer service. At Essex Consulting, we pride ourselves on being responsive and building strong relationships. We provide tailored HR support to meet business needs. We help small to mid-sized companies build their foundations through policy and handbook development, and for all clients, we provide complete HR outsourcing, special projects, compliance support, training and development and recruiting. We consider ourselves to be our client’s business partner there to help advance the organization and assist with the achievement of strategic goals.

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
I am most proud of taking the leap to start this company. I’m proud to be the owner of a professional services firm and every completed project and satisfied customer is a success. I’m also proud of the team I’ve built. Finding dedicated and experienced individuals who saw my vision and demonstrate our values daily. I can’t say it enough… I absolutely love what I do!

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