The group at Bright + Early have been helping companies handle COVID-19 and going remote and in the past have helped create parenting playbooks and onboarding processes that expose new employees to every part of the business. We spoke with Nora Jenkins Townson for our latest featured Homegrown Business to find out more about them.
What is your business called and what does it do?
My business is called Bright + Early, and we are modern HR experts who build the world’s best workplaces. We work with companies who want to grow their teams in strategic and inclusive ways.
We do this by offering services like a half-time head of people (when you’re not quite ready to hire a full-time head of HR), and building systems (like onboarding or career growth) that focus on empowering employees. We also love working on customized projects, like a parenting playbook to help companies create inclusive policies, benefits and programs for parents.
What made you want to do this work?
I’ve had my fair share of terrible work experiences, and decided to go into HR to minimize those bad work experiences for everyone else. I was fortunate enough to help build out People Operations for both FreshBooks and Wealthsimple, two companies that prioritize the employee experience. Yet I was hearing about many other growing companies who weren’t prioritizing people operations, and this was hurting their ability to scale. So I decided to start Bright + Early to specialize in helping early stage companies become great places to work, right from the start.
What problem does this solve?
A lot of companies will only hire an HR head once they have 50 or more employees. What most startups don’t realize is that they needed HR about 40 hires ago.
Without proper people procedures in place from the get-go, a company’s culture, retention and hiring efforts will suffer. This will impact the company’s ability to scale. We’ve all heard the horror stories of a company scaling super fast and then crashing just as quickly because they forgot to worry about the one thing that would take them to the next level: their employees.
Bright + Early functions to help early stage startups build the foundational HR practices that scale their culture at the same pace they’re scaling everything else.
Who are your clientele/demographics?
We’ve found ourselves mainly working with startups in their early stages, like Mejuri, Wagepoint and Juno. But the common thread between all our clients is that they want to empower their teams to succeed as both employees and humans.
How does your business make money? How does it work?
We have project or retainer fees that differ depending on the services our client needs. We customize the work we do for every client, so it differs from client to client.
Where in Toronto can we find your profession?
What is the best question a prospective customer could ask a member of your profession when comparing services? Give the answer as well.
What do you think is the number one thing HR should bring to the business? Someone who is more old-school might focus on compliance or paperwork. Those things are important, but it’s really only the beginning. A modern HR professional designs systems that encourage trust, growth, collaboration and self-motivation. They are a real partner to the CEO in bringing their company vision to life.
What is the best part about what you do? What is the worst part?
The best part is being able to serve. Coaching folks through a tough moment or helping someone on their career journey is very fulfilling. The worst part is that, like any job involving a lot of emotional labour, you can burn out a bit if you’re not careful.
What is your favourite joke about your own profession?
Definitely not those of the “HR is no fun” variety. You haven’t been to our parties, okay?
PAY IT FORWARD: What is another Toronto business that you love?
Right now I’m obsessed with our client EM-ONE. They’re a smart, small team that stays under the radar, but they’re doing amazing things with clean energy. Right now they’re building infrastructure to sustainably power Nigerian health centres through the COVID-19 crisis.