Welcome back to In Your Business with Michael Sayre, a production of CUI Wealth Management. In this episode, we interviewed Christine Wzorek with White Label Advisors. In this interview, we talked about grit. We talked about employee experience. We talked about how that ties into company profitability. I hope you enjoy.
Christine, Can you go ahead and introduce yourself and give us a little bit about your background?
Hi Mike. Thank you so much for having me on today. It's a pleasure to be with you. It's always fun to do podcasts and have a conversation in this format. I really appreciate the opportunity. Background wise, growing up, I lived all over the U. S. My dad was a retired Lab Tech from the Navy by the time I was born and became a chemical engineer. He worked for some of the larger food industry companies and it took us around the U. S. We were in Augusta, Georgia, Chicago, and then San Diego. I moved to Utah to go to school. I loved the outdoors. I loved the opportunities here; with the Utah economy and the way that Utah runs from more of a value-based contingency perspective. I believe we're set up for success, and you can see that with the rise of Silicon Slopes and just the strength of the Utah business economy through COVID.
I went to school for Business Management and had a passion for law, specifically employment law. I really understood the financial side of things as well. I'm fairly financially literate for an HR person if you want to say that. When I started White Label Advisors, after stepping out of some corporate HR roles, which were fantastic. Due to personal circumstances with my son going into middle school, it was the right time to start White Label. What White Label does is we're an advisory group that synchronizes business finance, operations, and human capital management functions. Most often, we're all trying to achieve the same goal with business. We're all trying to map up to that CEOs overall strategy and mission, but between business functions, we do it quite differently. The overall mission for White Labels is to help synchronize those efforts and bring the executive team, the CEO, COO, CFO, and the head of HR together, so they understand where the other is coming from. [We want them to] become literate and each other's nervy edge and language and approaches programs and understand how they're all really trying to achieve that goal.
It's always fun for me to have these conversations because you start to connect some of the dots. I know that you do a lot of work in the food industry and help clients in that regard. It's interesting because it sounds like that's kind of something that you grew up with as well, with your dad being in that industry.
Yeah, it's really interesting how life follows in your parent's footsteps. My dad was actually one of the engineers that was designing these systems for plants, food processing systems. It's funny because when we were living in Chicago, he was actually designing the food processes and building those plants to develop a low fat, high protein ice cream. Now there's tabletop out there and all these different variations. But that was back in the nineties. It's funny to see the evolution of life experiences as well as products that may be introduced too earlier.
That's very true. On a personal note, I know that you are very athletic. You've trained for a lot of different events. Please tell us a little bit about some of the stuff that you've done in regards to triathlons and other athletic events.
I [would like to] preface that I am a wannabe athlete. I am not great. But I am passionate about it. I am not an athlete who places. I have maybe placed in the top three in a couple of the races that I've done. But from a personal standpoint, it's been very, fulfilling and I love to get out and work towards something, put some effort behind it, and have a lot of quiet time to think. I guess my athleticism, and especially in endurance sports, is kind of been that resource for me.
When I moved out to Utah, I became very involved with the outdoor community, learned how the backpack, and was doing a lot of trips in Yellowstone, Lake trips - had some interesting experiences there. [I] learned how to rock climb, actually because I was afraid of heights and so I wanted to rock climb just to get over that fear because I didn't like how debilitating that was and how it's holding me back. I had a couple of girlfriends that signed up for a triathlon in St George, Utah, and they convinced me to do it with them. This was two months before the triathlon, and I could not open water swim.
My brother was a swimmer and [was] trying to teach me what he could in the pool in two months. We just went down to St George, Sand Hollow Reservoir and just, winged it. But we made it through and I was hooked after that. It's funny how addictive it can be. I did the triathlon. And then I ended up having my son when I was about 27. It was actually a fairly easy pregnancy. I remember [after] having him, I was like, “Oh, really?” it wasn’t that hard to be pregnant and go through labor. I understand that I was probably very lucky. But after that, I was like, “I couldn't run A marathon. If I could give birth, I could run a marathon.“ So I started marathoning.
Back in high school, I had actually set a goal to do an Ironman. When we moved to San Diego, I remember seeing Camp Pendleton and understanding that there's an Ironman there. I [had] set the goal back then. But I wanted to give an Ironman and with life experiences and different things, [it has taken] me a little bit longer to get that done on. But that's why I started marathoning because I knew I was going to do an Ironman one day and I wanted to become very comfortable with running because it wasn't easy for me. But, I fell in love with it and during the winters, I would run 21 miles on a Saturday to just get out and run. But then I finally buckled down and said, “All right, I'm going to start training for an ironman.” I found a fantastic Ironman coach, and I did the Half Ironman at Ocean Side in 2018. And then I just moved from that half ironman training into the full Ironman training. I attempted the full Ironman in Santa Rosa in 2019. It was such a great experience working through it all and the people that you end up becoming friends with because you're kind of looking through these challenges and personal mental obstacles together As you’re training. It is a fantastic experience.
I remember chatting with me about this a little a while ago and you were talking about swimming at two in the morning and doing all this training at crazy hours. Is that right?
Yeah, it was interesting because I picked up ironman training near a time that I think most people say isn't conducive or, “I can't make time for that right now.” but I set a goal. It was time to just knock it out. My son and I, our situation is just him and I. We love it. We're a happy little family. But I had to work around my son‘s schedule so that I was still a present mom and involved in his life during all that training. Also, I was still working in a corporate head of HR job at that point. It was funny because, during full iron man training, it started in October, everything was going great. And, in January, I kind of hit that mental obstacle where you've gone through so many phases like we were talking about before they started- the build, rest, recover. I had not worked into my training schedule the time to stretch and do yoga and different things. So, different parts of my body were starting to seize up in January. I had to make a decision, “Am I going to go through with this or not?“ And I course you're not going to quit but, you think about it. So you kind of buckle down. You double down on training.
Now, the way that things were working out, I had received a job offer, to move somewhere else. I thought it was a good decision for my family. And then in the midst of that, we had put our house on the market. It was under contract within three hours of the listing, which I did not anticipate it happening that fast. We had to find a house. During that training, I switched jobs. We moved Bond, pull the home and, you know, still continue that training. So, yeah, I mean, they're oftentimes I was in the pool very early in the morning or late at night and same with rides and the runs. I had a ride, a five-hour ride as we were nearing the end of our training. And I had started it in the morning because I had attended an appointment and I needed to be there for my son during the day. So oftentimes that was in the pool or on the biker on the treadmill early morning hours just so I could fit it all in.
Tell us about your biking experience during that.
Absolutely. At the end of the day, I own it because I had purchased a used triathlon bike. And if you're from the cycling community, bikes are a science. They are very, very dialed into the type of biking that you're doing. I have a mountain bike, I have a road bike, and then I had a triathlon bike. It was a fantastic triathlon bike. But, I had had a few mechanical issues with it in the past. Nothing alarming. I found a fantastic person at the bike shop that I was going to who was also an ironman triathlete. He was helping me with it. I never would have anticipated the issues that I had with it, but, come race day, the swim went fine. The bike, within the 1st 20 miles, I started having chaining issues where we dropped the chain and I had osymmetric gearing on this triathlon bike, which it supposedly makes you more efficient. But, I felt like it was a performance kind of enhancer that way. I left that osymmetric gearing on for whatever reason.
That day my bike was struggling. On the Santa Rosa course, they had added in an extra 1,000 feet of elevation that we weren’t planning on. I think that just because of the change in elevation then having to drop chain and different things like that, it was taking a toll on the bike. So, severe chaining issues. At one point, the chain had kinked around the rear derailer twice, which I had never had that issue with. Then the break started to go haywire. I had, bike support working on those and then the arrow bar started to fall out, which who would have known. I had it tuned up that week before. You just can't anticipate that situation of the challenges during the race.
I think from a mindset perspective, there wasn't any point where I became too upset, too sad, too frustrated, because when you go through the training that's where it takes the most discipline and the most resilience. Grit is to just keep showing up every day. If most of us think about it, swimming 2.4 miles, biking 112, and then running a marathon at the end you think, “How is my body ever going to be capable of completing a race or a challenge like that?“ But over seven months when you can train for that and you just keep showing up every day and you're following the right training schedule, you'll make it. That's not the problem. Race day is an easy day. That's the fun day. It's the training leading up to that and sticking to it that's the hard part.
As I was having those issues with my bike, you know, it's just there's no reason to get frustrated with it because you've done everything that you can. Certain things are out of our control. What was super unfortunate is that after working through all of that and I had a significant lead as far as the clock is concerned with, finishing the bike in the allotted time. Ironman controls the time between events quite rigorously, and I hide a significant amount of time and padding. But as you know, the bike issues kept adding up and stocking up. I rolled in five minutes past the bike cut off so, I could not complete the race. That's where you just have to say, “I did everything I could. I worked through that mental block of the physical aspects of training.”
I worked through all these other things that came up towards the end of my training that most people weren't dealing with in my try club and I still showed up. Even that Sunday before the race, I came down with the flu and it was the worst that I had had it in years. And I was laid up in bed until Tuesday and race was on Saturday. You just have to keep that goal and that commitment that you set. Say, “Yeah, I’m still going to show up.” At that point, once the race is over, you have to be proud of what you have accomplished. I was happy that I still showed up, and I know that I'll go back and do it another day and I'll cross that finish line.
That's inspiring. Thanks for sharing all of that. Can you tell us what drives you or motivates you? You have a lot of drive to accomplish your goals. So what internally drives you? Are there certain values or principles or anything that motivates? You can kind of give us some thoughts there.
Yeah, that's a great question. I refused to resign. I personally cannot resign myself. I can't make excuses. I just can't do it. And I don't know what it is. I think I just kind of came that way. But, I had a couple life experiences. One when I was about 12, some people probably won't believe this, but I do have medical records to show. I’ve had an appendix rupture when I was 11. And medically they could not figure out what was happening. And so I was actually septic for a year and then had a point where they had to go in and do exploratory surgery to figure out what was going on. And they found my appendix had ruptured and had been leaking.
Coming through that and then another life experience later on in life. I think I just realized that I've been given two second chances and I have to make my life and not just for myself, but for everyone. My goal is to be able to make meaningful contributions every day. My son and I are focused on the bright and happy future, whatever that may be. I just I can't resign. Whatever the situation is. I had a lot of people share personally with me after I started, White Label, it's nice and interesting and kind of inspiring for them to watch. Because they didn't feel like they could make that jump from their secure day job to starting a new company and kind of trying to move into this new space and create this new space within the business industry, finance, and HR professions and really kind of assimilate those. I guess I appreciate that sentiment, and I appreciate what they say, and I just don't know how to do it any differently.
Christine, I know you have a passion for the things that you do, and I know you have a passion for employees experience. So why is that so important?
I believe it's so important because we all want to be fulfilled in life. We all want to be able to walk home at the end of the day leaving work and coming home to our family, whatever that may be. And whatever that looks like, it is important to you and feel happy to build and safe. I think that at the end of the day it will be all want. And there's so much that accompany, whether small business for a large corporation or a variation about in between can provide. No, we're employing employees to get a job done, we know that. We're quantifying we’re measuring productivity. We have our systems and processes. Yet at the end of the day, when you're walking home through those doors, you want to feel like you did something; that you contributed and that you were able to bring a part of yourself that and connect and synergize with the people around you. Whether that's just your work team. If you’re a manager, how are you helping improve the lives of your employees? Not just on the job. There's still much that goes into that, but I think it always comes back to humanity and the individual. And, I'm a very, very systems and process-oriented person. I can scale and take programs and customize them to the organization from a scaling perspective as well as business outcomes and financial strategy perspective. But it's all rooted in the individual and what that individual is trying to achieve for themselves.
One thing that I think of too is, we spend a lot of our lives in a company in some form or fashion. You think about it, even if I don’t know about you, but there are some weeks where I can work upwards of 12 hours during the day. Even if you're just doing a 9 to 5, you're putting in eight hours. That adds up to quite a bit of time, right? You spend a lot of your life with an organization, and I think that's one reason why it's so important to find the right fit. Not just to get a paycheck, but to fit the values and the experiences that you think are important. I think the point you made is great.
Yeah, I mean, it's true. It's a significant portion of our lives that we spend at work, and there's gotta be something more right?
So why do you think employee experience and culture... why should that be important to businesses?
Well, you know, it's directly linked. There are direct correlations between... we talked about the employee experience. [I call it] employee engagement, but it's the same thing. All that means is on the financial side of the operations side, that’s productivity. That is a direct correlation where we use a lot of different words, but we mean the same thing. And so within human capital management, employee engagement is productivity. Why that's so critical Is because in our financial models, we assume 100% productivity. But, most often our teams, they're not running at 100% productivity or capacity. When you think about the new hires coming on, typically you see anywhere from 60 days to six months before they are at 100% productivity- and they learned and they trained and they’ve now kind of jelled and meshed with the team so that they can be productive.
With culture, it's the same thing. As humans, and we're all experiencing this right now through COVID and the social distancing directives. Everyone is feeling a disconnect from each other, as humans. We're not built that way. We're built to be part of a team, as a group, to find commonality, shared interests, and you typically work best in groups of 150 or less from a direct kind of organizational perspective. But that's why employee engagement and culture are so critical. Because if we don't have those needs being served, then we cannot produce at optimal capacity or an optimal level. It ties into how the clients are being treated and what the output is and the quality of that output. Because the people are producing the deliverables, whether it’s a product or service,, it directly tied to what the output is. And then also financially, are we hitting those margins? Are we profitable? And we just can't keep operating disparately, because of how linked they are.
It's always great to have things that are helpful to employees and that make them happy. Don't take this the wrong way, but the bottom line matters. What they're bringing to society- the products and services that they bring to society are important. I think that's a good point. I think sometimes it's hard to link those two things- employee engagement and productivity. I think it's sometimes hard for the financial side, and the human resource is side kind of get into the zone and see how each piece impacts each other in a company. I've seen that quite a bit.
Yeah, and that's true. You know, that's true. From the employee engagement side, there's still so much discussion around, “how do we quantify this? But the people are producing work, and so I ask, “How can you not quantify it?” And if we go back to academia, if you are going through, like a MAcc program your masters of accounting and you're going through an MHR program, Masters of HR, they're not teaching any type of literacy between the two. Your CFO's leading the financial strategy of the organization and HR is doing their thing, but no one’s talking.
I presented in February on how financial strategy influences your workforce, and if you are going after top-line revenue, your growth company. What does that mean? You're trying to fit as many employees in the seats as possible just to get the work output. You're not too worried about efficiency yet. So, you're hiring a lower wage, lower-skilled workforce because if we're looking at it from a payroll expense, it's much cheaper to get a lot of bodies in the seats that you need when they cost less. But if you do that, which is fine, if that's your strategy, that's fine. But we now need to map our HR program to meet the needs of that workforce. Because if you take a workforce like that, if you're recruiting from colleges or people that have done very well but maybe not go on to college. You know professionally, you're typically hiring, that kind of talent pool. They don't have a lot of management experience, so you need to have more robust management, education selection, and training process than you would if you were a company of it going after a margin. You're looking at efficiency, so you have a higher-skilled higher wage workforce that has been around the professional arena. They have probably been trained, received management training in their career at this point. And, you may want to adjust to your company's directives and approach for management, but the management style and needs and costs the resource is going to look very different between the two companies.
I think that's we're missing things. We're not seeing that come out of academia yet. Will we get there? Absolutely. But from the HR side, most of your HR professionals are fantastic and great and they care about the employees and they're there for a reason and they're doing the right things. But they don't understand the financial side. They're not financially literate. They probably we're looking at a coordinator position or even a senior manager position. They probably don't understand how to read financial statements. Those are critical things because what's happening on the P&L is just a reflection of what the employees are doing. There's so much work to be done and opportunity there to help both your finance professionals as well as your HR professionals understand each other’s profession better so you can start to mold and help achieve and solve these problems together.
Yeah, I think a lot of this can come back to the triathlon training and all of that we were talking about earlier. Some of the things that you've done there are a lot of similarities. You can have the right training, you can have the motivation, you can have the nutrition. But if your bike breaks down, no matter how much effort you put into it, you're still not gonna cross the line and time. Do you kind of get what I'm saying?
Oh, absolutely. Yeah, because you learn through, any type of athletic training that your endurance or your strength to accomplish your final goal. And it's over some time. And like we were talking about their build weeks or rest weeks, there are different weeks that you are focusing on doing different things when you look at it from an aggregate whole and perspective. You have done what you need to do to build that endurance or build that strength to accomplish it. And yeah, I agree that ties directly over the business, not only from keeping that end goal in sight while you focus on the more temporary or immediate pieces of that as you're working through it, but also that you understand how that kind of spectrum works and those small achievements every week will get you there in the end.
So what do you think are some of the biggest opportunities for businesses? What do you see as some of the areas that businesses could grow into in terms of, you know, employees, experience, and culture?
It's been so interesting to watch them move to work from home. I'm quite delighted about it because we have had the technology, the capability to have a more remote workforce for a long time, we truly have. Yet a lot of organizations have been reluctant to allow their employees a more remote experience, which I believe has hurt these organizations in a way. Because from an HR perspective I have had employees come to my office and need to talk. HR sometimes is that support for a group. I've had employees share with me that they could get their work done in six hours- still high quality, very efficiently get that work done. But because they're expected to be in a seat for eight hours, they're just slowing the process down. And what good is that doing to the organization? Because the organization has the kind of ingrained perceptions about how work should be completed and how it should be done, that you should be sitting under the same roof and in the seat for eight hours a day.
Why would you keep someone there for eight hours a day, pay the overhead, pay the hours, and different things if they can get it done in six? I just don't understand. And we're slowing down or efficiencies as organizations if we keep this kind of old perceptions about what employment is and how work should be done. To answer that question, what is going to be kind of the next step for businesses, and what should they be looking at? One trusting your employees to work remotely. Not to say that once these stay home and orders are lifted that we won't be coming back together as groups. That's necessary. But I think companies will see that “Hey, we can still be just as productive and more efficient if we adopt and accept our capability to have remote work options for our employees.
Also, what we were talking about at the beginning. How the trimming has been healthy to help bring us around to understanding what is essential?, What is vital and how do we have contingency plans in place? I think we'll see a lot more companies, hopefully over the next couple of years say, “Okay, let's take a step back and look at our emergency preparedness from an active shooter plan. From an emergency response plan in these different things.
When I go in to meet with clients and we're doing the consultative period, I really would love to sit down first and talk about their emergency preparedness. One of the things that I recommend is if you don't have an active shooter plan in place, work with your local law enforcement because they will help you put that together. And you never know when you're going to need something like that. But the minute you need it, it's too late. Clients don't want to focus on that because they have their priorities to get employees hired in, because they're ramping up on hiring or whatever is the immediate need. And then they don't come back around to it. So I think we'll see a shift and people start to understand that, “Okay, this contingency plan, the preparedness, the risk mitigation truly is important. And let's put that in place so that if we need it, it's there and then we can move forward.” I think also, what we'll start to see from businesses is there's a lot of varying arguments on, should we focused on profitability or growth? I hope that we'll see more organizations focus on profitability and try to achieve profitability as they grow and maybe grow more responsibly.
Great advice. What are your closing thoughts? We're gonna have to wrap up here. Any closing thoughts you want to add to the conversation?
Well, again. Thank you for the opportunity to be on. Fantastic. I hope it's useful and helpful for the audience. And, if anyone has any questions about how their organization could synergize those different business functions that we were talking about, please reach out to me also. If you're looking at strategically kind of bringing, you know, your work from home workforce back into the office or if you do you want to create more accepting policies around a remote workforce. You know, I'm here to help with anything of that nature.
Well, Christine, thanks again. I appreciate it. This is great. You have had some great insight and some great thoughts that you've brought to the table and hopefully we can have you again Another time. It's been really beneficial. I enjoyed it.
Oh, I'm glad to hear that. And I absolutely love be on another time.
Securities and Investment Advisory services offered through Woodbury Financial Services Inc member FINRA SIPC a registered investment advisory firm. Insurance offered through CUI Wealth Management. CUI Wealth Management LLC and Woodberry Financial Services Inc are not affiliated entities. Christine Wzoric and White Label Advisers are not associated with Woodbury Financial Services inc or CUI Wealth Management. CUI Wealth Management is located at 5965 South 900 East Suite 150, Salt Lake City, Utah 84121.