Jada Willis is a business owner, podcaster, author, and HR professional. When she’s not helping small businesses create scalable HR processes, Jada is usually listening to a podcast or spending quality couch time with her wife. When COVID isn’t a thing, she travels, enjoys the spa, and other adventures. Jada is passionate about being a problem-solver and helping others succeed.
Cool! We have a few questions…
What jobs did you have before you landed where you are today?
I’ve been working in Human Resources in some way, shape, or form since 2001. I started as an HR Intern at Ponderosa Steakhouse working for chicken wings and mashed potatoes. I begged an HR Director for a chance to learn. By 18 years old, I had participated in sexual harassment investigations, attended corporate strategic planning meetings, and interviewed and hired managers in 3 different states. I didn’t receive any money, but the experience was priceless. The chicken wings were pretty good, too!
Prior to Willis HR, I have been a:
Human Resources Business Partner
Human Resources Manager
Target Store Manager
Computer Lab Assistant
I believe that every experience has led to Willis HR, an opportunity to help small business owners reach the goals that have previously been unobtainable.
I have this passion for helping others. It’s what I’ll be doing for the rest of my life.
What do you wish outsiders knew about your job or industry?
Everyone should know that, without the right HR partner, a company of any size is like a boat without a rudder. At Willis HR, our team is typically providing guidance, stabilizing or implementing new processes, and chartering the path for growth. A business has the greatest chance of succeeding and reaching its people, purpose, and profit goals with relevant HR systems. HR can be much more than just payroll, benefits, and filing.
What’s the #1 question clients or customers ask you?
Initially, our clients usually want to know how an outsourced HR firm can really get to know their company quickly and customize HR solutions. (That’s actually one of our strengths)
Initially, our clients usually want to know how an outsourced HR firm can really get to know their company quickly and customize HR solutions. (That’s actually one of our strengths).
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned the hard way?
There are a few that I could list, but one worth sharing is that everyone isn’t a potential client. It’s okay to have an ideal client.
Our ideal client has a true desire for an HR partner, sees the value of their employees, and has less than 50 employees. We build partnerships with our clients, and that’s how real results occur. This is our sweet spot. But, it took a little while to get to the point where we weren’t working with clients that just wanted to check a box.
I have learned not to compromise my (our) values for money. We want to be a good fit for the right client. We even state on our website “We don’t say yes to every prospective client.” That’s one of the great perks of being an entrepreneur, the freedom to choose who you serve. As HR professionals, we terminate employees—it’s just the nature of our work. But, I naively didn’t think about the fact that I had to terminate clients. Ugh!
What’s one book, podcast, series, or movie you’d recommend…and why?
I’m going to say, “The Big Leap.” Once someone operates in their zone of genius, lookout. This book helped me realize what a zone of excellence and zone of genius really was for my company and myself. It was life-changing. My fulfillment level went up and revenue increased!
What’s one way the SOCO community has shaped your life?
SOCO was the community that I searched Columbia for. A space to be a game-changing entrepreneur with vulnerabilities, mistakes, and insecurities. The members are insanely smart, generous, down-to-earth, and truly embrace others in the community. I’m thankful to be a part of it.
What improvement do you hope to see in your own life in the next 12 months?
I have learned that when I am taking care of myself and refilling my cup in the ways I need most, I am a better HR, leader, wife, daughter, friend, and stranger. I am structuring my morning routine and self-care to be able to fully make a positive impact on the lives I get to interact with on a daily basis.
What small steps will you take regularly to create momentum toward your goal?
If you’ve got big plans for 2019, you don’t want to miss out on setting goals. Last month, I had the chance to work with a small group of entrepreneurs, creators, and dreamers to help them map out their plans into actionable steps.
In case you missed it, here’s a quick recap of how to turn your big picture plans into actionable goals.
Step 1: Cast a Vision
Take just a few minutes to dream about how your life will look three years from now. Specifically, consider the areas of livelihood, wellness, creativity, connection (relationships), and money. Don’t worry about making this part perfect, just jot down a few phrases that represent what you hope will be happening in each area three years down the road.
Step 2: Write REAL Goals
Take each area, one-by-one, and write a REAL goals for where you’ll focus in 2019. REAL goals are like SMART goals but better. Why? Because they include feelings. What does REAL stand for?
(R) Realistic, but challenging
(A) Aligned with your vision
(L) Linked to success
An example from my own life in the area of creativity: In 2019, I’ll switch up my morning writing practice so that I’m actively working on an article, short story or poem to share; the sharing will take some courage.
Step 3: Create a Habit
Think of things you can shift in your environment that will support you in taking action toward your goal. Do you need to expand or limit your access to resources? What small steps will you take regularly to create momentum toward your goal?
Step 4: Set Your Intention
An implementation intention will help you start and protect your habits helping you actually accomplish your goals. To help you start a new habit, use a when/where statement. To help protect your habit, use an if/when statement.
Here are examples from my own goals setting strategy:
Weekday mornings from 5-6, I’ll write at my dining room table.
If I miss a day, then I’ll add a weekend writing session.
Step 5: Make it Stick
Learn more about your own tendency when it comes to expectations and leverage it to set up accountability systems that truly work for you. To learn more, take this quick assessment by Gretchen Rubin: quiz.gretchenrubin.com.
If you’d like to learn more about these topics, check out these books that have been truly life changing for me:
Better Than Before, Gretchen Rubin
Atomic Habits, James Clear
The Desire Map, Danielle LaPorte
Want some help getting your plan out of your head and down on paper? Reach out to me for a free laser coaching session: jeanniesullivan.com/laser.
It’s a familiar cycle. We set a goal, tape it to our desk, and think real hard about it for a few weeks (or minutes, if you left email open). Then something happens. Whether it’s a move, a kid, a layoff, or lack of willpower, most of our goals derail.
Since this is such a shared pain point, SOCO figured what better time to chat about it than in January.
For the first Slack Session of 2019, we met up with a group of members in the #slack_sessions channel to chat through setting and achieving our 2019 goals.
Picking a target for the new year
Some members had big targets, others had small habits they wanted to improve. Things like:
Get into digital illustration
Cut out (gasp!) caffeine
Plan a few snowboarding trips
Bulk up various savings accounts (have you read through the Personal Finance session, yet?)
Coach a child to a basketball championship
Go through the mail every day
Take a full month off for vacation
Finish a book
Figuring out how the heck to get there
Once members know their goal, it’s less of a matter of what they want to achieve, and more about how. And a lot of members think small steps are the way to go.
How NOT to hit your goals
Just like you can set yourself up for success, you can also set yourself up for failure. If you want to ensure you don’t hit your goals, here are some foolproof ways to do that.
Members’ recipes for nailing goals
Thankfully, members have just as many ideas on hitting your goals as trashing them. When we asked what’s tipped them toward “nailed it” and away from “failed it” in years past, here’s what they had to say.
To reach a goal, you have to put in daily effort. And you want to make sure you have the kind of support system that encourages you to do that. Because doing the work day in and day out? That’s far from easy.
Hey you, don’t miss the next Slack Chat!
If you’re already a member, make sure you’ve joined the #Slack_Sessions channel. It’s where we post updates about topics, times for the next chat, and other related info.
If you’re not a member, how about scheduling a free tour? You’ll get to check out our space, meet a few members, and see for yourself why we rave about SOCO.
“I love data no matter where it’s from. I take it as my mission to make sure you know what it can do for you if used correctly.”
What do you love about Soda City? What don’t I love? I’ve lived here my whole life and still find amazing things I never knew existed in my own back yard.
What is your favorite part of being in the SOCO community? SOCO gives me the chance to work near people that are smarter and more creative than me. I’m hoping some of it rubs off.
How do you take your coffee? The way God made it. Black.
Brag on yourself, what is the coolest project you’ve worked on recently? An advertising company wanted to place ads on semi trucks. I was able to take highly trafficked routes and find all potential advertisers in proximity to the planned routes, increasing ad revenue.
Last book read or podcast listened to? Surprised by Joy, C.S. Lewis; The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaimen; The Hyperion Cantos, Dan Simmons.
In 5 words or less, what do you professionally? Make data useful.
I’m a people connector, problem solver, avid listener, social media junkie and huge foodie. I come from Florence, SC (but born in NJ so I’m a very southern yankee). I am SOCO’s Community and Sales Manager and will be helping with the day to day businesses at our coworking space.
What do you love about Soda City? I love the people that I meet here and the close community that exists here. Plus, the gorgeous rivers, the Soda City market and all the fun festivals here make it hard to want to live anywhere else!
What is your favorite part of being in the SOCO Community? Getting to know everyone and the community vibe. Everyone is super helpful and the Slack Sessions are really cool + engaging.
How do you take your coffee? Iced with a shot of caramel.
Brag on yourself, what’s the coolest project you’ve worked on recently? Helped bring together the first ever Columbia Food & Wine festival.
What’s the last book you read or podcast you listened to? Girl, Wash Your Face — by Rachel Hollis
In 5 words or less, what do you do professionally? SOCO Community Manager
For countless marketers, copywriters, and agencies, storytelling is a powerful business tool. It connects businesses to customers, builds brand (personal and business), and boosts sales. It’s a pretty darn persuasive thing.
The best part is, you don’t have to be a storyteller, creative, or writer to craft and tell your business story. If you have a business, you have a story to tell.
At SOCO, we’re focused on helping every member’s business succeed. That includes helping them explain what they do and why. In October’s Slack Session, a diverse group of business owners joined us to talk about their story and how they’re using it in their business.
Stories Inspire and Motivate
We kick off most Slack Sessions with a warm up poll, but we broke the rules this month and asked a warm up question instead. We wanted to know what stories (of any kind) have really stuck with our members.
With inspiration like this, it’s no wonder our members are successful.
Beginnings, Middles, and (Really Cool) Ends
Most stories—in real life and in novels—have beginnings, middles and ends. Since everything big starts small, we asked our members what kind of humble beginnings they’ve experienced in their own journeys.
The middle of everyone’s story is what they’re living and working on now; it’s the ground between how they started and where they’re headed. Speaking of where they’re headed, SOCO members have some seriously cool end goals in mind:
Talk about stories worth telling and sharing!
It’s Not Easy Though (We Need Each Other)
While every one of our members has an awesome story, finding and refining those stories isn’t always easy.
Some of us work in complex spaces or in industries that are traditionally seen as “boring.” Good stories also involve vulnerability, and it’s not easy to open up. As we’ve seen from other Slack Sessions, running a business is damn hard and none of us get it right all the time.
Lastly, as Bill pointed out, it’s easy to forget that it’s not about us. At least, not totally. The most persuasive stories of all position our customers (not ourselves!) as heroes.
One of the things we love about SOCO, though, is it gives us a chance to constantly tell our stories. As we work alongside other members who are wrestling with their business, we have the chance to refine and grow our own.
Don’t miss the next Slack chat!
Already a member? Join the #Slack_Sessionschannel in Slack for details on the next hangout. They’re typically the second Friday of every month at 2pm.
Not yet a member? Schedule a SOCO tour today—it’s free and you’re guaranteed to meet a few of our rockstars. Once you sign up, membership at SOCO gives you full access to conversations like these and the people who participate.