Monthly Archives: March 2015

DIY vs. Outsourcing

DIY vs. Outsourcing

Abigail and Bob started their business five years ago after being downsized from corporate jobs.  Until recently they were the only employees, working long hours and outsourcing specific tasks to free-lancers (a/k/a independent contractors).  Now they want to add employees to prepare for several new customers.  They believe replacing the free-lancers with employees will allow them to streamline processes, speed up response times and become more profitable.

Refugees from corporate America, Abigail and Bob want to avoid bogging down in bureaucracy, but they also know they need some administrative structure. They are smart, educated individuals, so they begin researching HR issues and employment laws. They quickly feel overwhelmed and confused.

As small business owners, they know how to change tack quickly when something isn’t working, so instead of becoming HR compliance experts, they take a phased approach.  First, they decide on their philosophical approach to employee and HR issues. They want their policies to have a positive spin, rewarding employees for initiative and good performances as opposed to punishing them for mistakes. Next, they identify all the tasks to be performed by each newly hired employee so that accurate job descriptions can be created.  It’s impossible to hire the “right” employee if no one knows what skill set that person should have.

With this initial phase completed, they are ready to move to the next phase which is to select an HR consultant to assist with implementation.  By hiring an HR consultant who is a subject matter expert, Abigail and Bob will get solid HR assistance while freeing their time to run their business.

These types of issues arise every day for small business owners who must weigh the pros and cons of DIY versus outsourcing.  Is your company growing? Are you making changes and facing this kind of decision?  For those who decide to outsource, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor helps small business owners like Abigail and Bob to create HR policies that are appropriate for their company’s size and then serves as a resource to their staff as the policies are implemented.

About Norma Shirk

Norma started her company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, to help employers create human resources policies for their employees and employee benefit programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to have structure without bureaucracy. Visit Norma’s website:

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Birding and BBQ, Perfect

Bates Birding hobby Jan 2015

Birding has been a hobby I have enjoyed since my late teens.  I thought that leaving our countryside home in 2007 to move into a dense city neighborhood would mean leaving frequent bird sightings behind, but I’m happy to say there are many birds here and I have even seen new varieties to add to my life list.  For instance, this winter I have seen a Golden Crowned Kinglet two different times near my bird feeder. I’m still waiting for a Rose-breasted Grosbeak to visit our yard, however.

For those wanting to see many bird varieties including the migratory 4’ tall Sandhill Cranes, and other birds whose habitat is in or near the water, I recommend going to Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge. Just an hour and forty five minutes down I-65, in Decatur, AL,  I’ve been told it has better viewing than the Soddy Daisy, TN site, and it’s a half hour closer.  I went to Wheeler on January 10th of this year and was thrilled to also see a pair of Whooping Cranes.  Most cranes are gone by mid-March, but with so many other birds to see, I think it would be a good place to visit at any time.  There is a good visitor center and an indoor viewing room where you can be out of the elements when needed.  It has walls of glass, a microphone mounted outside bringing the bird sounds in, and bleachers to sit on to enjoy the view.  We had a special treat as we watched a pair of bobcats on the far shore through a scope, soaking up the winter sun, playing and grooming.  Wheeler has walking trails and if you like to check out the local flavor, go into town about 3 miles and visit Big Bob Gibson’s BBQ Restaurant.  BBQ is my favorite food group and they did not disappoint with an extensive menu of sides as well.  For dessert they have delicious lemon meringue pie, among other sweets.

I’d love to hear what you are seeing at your feeder.

About Renee Bates

Renee is an artist focused on growing a newfound ability to express herself through oil painting, recently leaving her role as executive director of the non-profit Greenways for Nashville to pursue art and product development. Renee likes being in nature, hiking, birding, and working in the garden. Married to David Bates of Bates Nursery and Garden Center, she appreciates that the legacy of the 3rd generation business was begun in 1932 at the height of the depression by a savvy woman, Bessie Bates.

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Photo:  Sandhill Cranes,

US Fish and Wildlife Service

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The Other Side of the Couch – Letting Go


I received the news yesterday that one of my dearest friends, one of those friends that has touched your life in a thousand ways, unexpectedly succumbed to pneumonia.  She had been battling cancer for some time, and she had started on a new kind of chemotherapy.  I knew that she had been struggling with side effects, but the news that she had not survived was both shocking and so very sad.  As I face this grief, I notice that is a familiar experience now – the weight in the chest, the tears that lurk behind the eyes, the feeling that nothing much matters.  I have been here before.

Any loss recapitulates all the other losses – and as we live life longer, those losses indeed pile up.  I believe that one of the lessons that all human beings are called to face is that of how do we let go.  When a loved one has moved beyond us, as will happen if we live long enough, how do we go forward?

Perhaps one way of looking at this is NOT to go forward, but to stay still. The shock of loss is immobilizing at first, and for good reasons.  We are not thinking clearly; our rational mind has been overturned, and we are living in – swimming in – the emotional sea of grief.  I would wish for all space, quiet, support, time.

David Whyte, a poet and author whose work has been very meaningful to me, has written a wonderful book called Consolations.  He chooses 52 words and writes essays on each.  One of his words is Heartbreak.  Below is an excerpt.

David Whyte


“…If heartbreak is inevitable and inescapable, it might be asking us to look for it and make friends with it, to see it as our constant and instructive companion, and even perhaps, in the depth of its impact as well as in its hindsight, to see it as its own reward. Heartbreak asks us not to look for an alternative path, because there is no alternative path. It is a deeper introduction to what we love and have loved, an inescapable and often beautiful question, something or someone who has been with us all along, asking us to be ready for the last letting go.”


The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words.

© David Whyte and Many Rivers Press 2015

Now Available

As I think of my friend, and experience the heartbreak that comes with my loss of her, I am asking of myself the opportunity to sit with my heartbreak, to be with it and with her, to remember, to regret, just to be with the precious moments that we did have, to grieve those that we will not have, as I allow that piece of my heart that belonged to her to open, to grieve, and to let go.

About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP:

Susan is a communications and relationship specialist, counselor, Imago Relationship Therapist, businesswoman, mother, and proud native Nashvillian. She has been in private practice for over 30 years. As she says, “I have the privilege of helping to mend broken hearts.”  Contact Susan at

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Considering George Washington

George Washington

At Presidents Day for 2015, radio host Barbara Dab interviewed attorney and historian Norma Shirk.  Enjoy!

About Barbara Dab:

Barbara Dab is a journalist, broadcast radio personality, producer and award-winning public relations consultant. She currently hosts two radio shows locally in Nashville, TN. Check out her website at

Barbara is also creator of The Peretz Project: Stories from the Shoah: Next Generation. Check it out at If you, or someone you know, is the child of survivors of the Shoah, The Holocaust, and would like to tell your story please leave a comment and Barbara will contact you.

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Build a Team of Leaders

Building A Team

One of the most effective team leadership outcomes you can facilitate is for everyone on the team to end up thinking and acting like a leader. It may seem counterintuitive, especially if you’re focused on making your mark by asserting your own unique version of leadership. Therein lies the paradox that alludes many leaders: Your ultimate success will be based on the success of those on the team you lead, not on your solo contribution.

But why should you have to foster a leadership spirit in your team? What keeps people from exercising leadership on their own? I once heard John Lachs, a Vanderbilt University philosophy professor, explain it by describing how passivity creeps into organizations, sapping them of leadership, energy, and ultimately, performance.

Dr. Lachs told the all-too-familiar story of trying to return an item to a retail store, only to be stymied by a passive clerk who cited the rules and regulations restricting her ability to help him. She missed a great opportunity to be exceptional at her job by making a positive difference to a customer. She could have solved another person’s problem, represented her organization well, and made a good impression on her supervisors. Still, accomplishing all of that would have required more effort and responsibility on her part. It would have required she act like a leader by taking ownership of finding a solution. She would have had to take the customer’s request to a higher level and lobbied on his behalf. Instead, she took the easy way out by telling Dr. Lachs she could not accept his return.

If you’re not vigilant, that passivity may show up on your team. Despite what we might like to think, we’re all vulnerable to the temptation to operate more as a dispassionate role or title than as an engaged human. That’s because professional roles are circumscribed, neat, and we can often hide behind them, just as Dr. Lach’s clerk did. Interacting as our real selves requires more from us. It demands we invest ourselves emotionally and take responsibility for outcomes, without any clear indication that we will benefit from doing so. No wonder, “that’s not in my job description,” slips out so easily when one is grousing about having to do too much.

Obviously, you want your team to resist the siren’s call of passivity. These are the behaviors and attitudes you want to foster:

  • Take responsibility.
  • Take obligations seriously.
  • Try to outperform your colleagues.
  • Reach beyond your role.
  • Embody this statement: “I’m ready to serve and will do the absolute best I can.”

Just how do you foster these behaviors and attitudes? Here are some ideas:

  • Make your expectations known.
  • Model these same behaviors and attitudes.
  • Recognize and call them out when you see them in others.

Make it clear that you value leadership and expect it from your team. If they are up to the challenge, you will see the effects in their overall performance, and, instead of your raising the bar for them, they may just start raising the bar for you!


About Dr. Debra Fish

Dr. Fish is a consulting psychologist whose writing and work focus exclusively on helping individuals and teams lead more effectively. Her firm, Fish Executive Leadership Group, LLC, counts among its clients everything from Fortune 50 corporations to small, privately-held professional service firms.

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Photo credit: iStock_team meeting_rawpixel.jpeg

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