Real Talk for Women in Business

S2. E8 - Interview Melissa Langton - Why business is about choices and trust

June 22, 2022 Real Talk for Women in Business Season 2 Episode 8
Real Talk for Women in Business
S2. E8 - Interview Melissa Langton - Why business is about choices and trust
Show Notes Transcript

Welcome to the Real Talk for Women in Business podcast.

On this weeks episode, Leeha is joined by Melissa Langton the Director of Exceler8, a Brisbane-based HR consultancy that helps business owners get real with their HR.  Referred to by her clients as the people paracetamol, Melissa helps business owners say goodbye to HR headaches and hello to the perfect people formula to support their business.

In this episode, Leeha and Melissa chat about:

  • The moment you realise you want to and can start a business
  • Why there's no such thing as 'work-life balance', it's 'work-life choices'
  • There's no right or wrong in business, it's about choice and trusting your intuition, your research and your people
  • The importance of systems and processes when bringing new people into your business and setting them up for success
  • Using people data to make the right choices for your business

Unlocking the Code for a High Performing Business
Management in the Spotlight

Social media links :

Instagram: @exceler8hr or

Thanks for listening


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Melissa Langton is a sought-after HR coach advisor and strategist.

She's also the director of exceler8, a Brisbane-based HR consultancy that helps business owners get real with their HR referred to by her clients as the people paracetamol, Melissa helps business owners say goodbye to HR headaches and hello to the perfect people formula to support their business.

Melissa is also our very special guest for this episode of real talk for women in business, 

Hey there, welcome to the real talk for women in business podcast, a podcast, all about helping women entrepreneurs take off in their business. We share real truths, real insights, and really practical tips when it comes to juggling all things, life and business.

 My name is Leeha Debnam and I'm the coffee-loving founder behind Meridian Digital, where I help the owners of growing service-based businesses connect with clients through my all inclusive, digital marketing support packages.

Normally my soulful friend and cohost Nichol Stark would be joining me. But today we have a really special guest Melissa Langton from Exceler8. As a business owner herself, Melissa knows firsthand the mix of pleasure and pain business owner's experience. When it comes to launching, scaling and planning the future of their business, it's an emotional rollercoaster ride, and ongoing or unknown HR issues only add to this pressure. Through her unique data-driven processes and models, Melissa's approach to uncovering the right HR solution is holistic and person. She's a certified HR practitioner with AHRI and holds a bachelor of business focusing on human resources from CQ University. Melissa combines her formal qualifications with over 20 years of experience in all aspects of HR, she brings an unrivaled enthusiasm and provides useful insights and learnings to business leaders and audiences that are striving to empower their people and achieve greater business. Today, we're gonna chat with Melissa about Exceler8, including why she started her business, why she keeps doing what she does and some of the challenges of being a business owner and a mom, Melissa is also gonna give us some insights into the challenges other business owners face when it comes to people in their business. Hi, Melissa. Welcome to real talk. Ah, thank you, leeha. It's lovely to be able to be talking.   That is quite some bio you've got there.

Let me just say that. Well, thank you. 

Well, look, thank you so much for making some time to chat with me today. , You know, real talk was started by Nich and I to really give other women in business insights, into what it's like running a business, but to do it from the perspective of, you know, no bullshit. This is actually what it's like.

And,  you started your business, I think in 2013. And, I guess I just wanna get some insights from you as to. , why did you start Exceler8? And  what motivates you to keep doing what you're doing? Why I started my business, I was made redundant for the third time.

So working with clients that have to do redundancies, I can appreciate how that actually looks from the other side, but made redundant for the third time. And I discovered these amazing tools that I wish I'd had as a HR manager. , But if you want the, the real answer, cuz it's real talk and all I started because I didn't want people to be like my dad now it's not a matter of, I don't want people to be my dad.

My dad is an absolutely amazing individual, but he had his own business for 40 years, an accountant and his biggest headache and biggest stress was people. . And I realized that I've got a skill and tools that small business owners need not just want, they need to have access to. So I made it my mission to become their people paracetamol, so that, that's why I started my business.

  You said you were made redundant three times, so was it just a, you just sort of woke up one day and went, that's it, I'm gonna do this. I've got these tools. I really wanna start my own business. What was that process like for you? I dunno how often you've heard this when talking to business owners, but it kind of just a door opened.

Um, you can't plan for some of these things. I being a daughter of a small business owner, there was no way I was having my own business. I saw what it was like. Um, and. I was made redundant and I applied for a job as a HR consultant, just thinking it was a job. And it was actually an opportunity to become part of a network that have all these tools.

And when I saw them, that's when sort of the neurons started firing and I went, oh, I could do this. And. As a daughter of an entrepreneur, I went to the entrepreneur himself and said, Hey dad, I think I could start my own business. And what should it be? I dunno what to call it. He said, well, why does an accelerate?

Which is my dad's business was my dad's business advisory firm. Why does an accelerate offer HR services? And I went, that's a great idea. So that's, that's the logistics behind it. , and why I actually started. Or how I started it. So through what you said there about having a door open, cause that's exactly how my business started and it didn't.

in that initial form where I went, okay, I'm gonna be a copywriter. I actually, , started my business thinking I was gonna do some virtual assistant stuff because I had this door open where they said, can you help us with a PowerPoint presentation? And I'm a legend when it comes to PowerPoint presentations.

, it just evolved from there. So it sounds like, you know, you went through sort of a similar, you had that opportunity, that moment where you. Holy shit. I can run a business. That's what I'm gonna do. Mm, absolutely. And sometimes people have very distinct, this is how I'm gonna start. This is what I'm gonna do.

But when you see the journey that they actually take, it's this just, something comes along and they assess it and look at it and go, actually, this is a really good opportunity. We either need to ready. Wait for it later. We need to pivot or we need to diversify. Um, and yeah, it's, you don't necessarily sometimes have to plan for those so well, you don't plan for those things, so, yeah.

Yeah. And it's a profound moment, isn't it? When you decide on your business name and you, you know, you get a logo done and it makes things kind of  feel like it's real, like I'm really doing this. I,  I was shitting myself. Like, I'd be really honest. Um, cuz I had to pay for it cuz it was all about money.

And then with the work that I've done, just even from my mindset, looking at what my relationship with money was now I get it. But, there was this real view of. I probably actually the journey that you're talking about probably happened for me about 18 months ago. Would you believe, and you were a part of that journey.

So when I started with Exceler8, all of that stuff was done trademarks and logos and colors, and all I had to do it was just like, just to slip into it and. I realized 18 months ago. This is not me. This is not my brand. This is, and we hadn't done anything other than HR for years, it had all been just HR.

So when we took the official director, I took all of the stock, all of the one piece of stock that it is in the business, um, and became the director of the company. I went, you know what, I think I need to really own this. So that journey that you're talking about happened for me  only 18 months ago.

Right. Um, and so now I can appreciate that emotion and journey through colors and fonts and that brand journey and live and breathe it now. And it it's me. And you feel so much more connected don't you to your business and to, I guess, the pathway that you're setting for your business when you're invested in it from a branding perspective, but, you know, All the other elements that make up your business as well.

It's um, yeah, it's quite profound. The connection you can have with the business , and how that changes over time as well. Mm. And it's all of that brand brings the human into it, which is ironic given I'm in human resources. Right. But, , that I had lots of clients when they saw my amazing new website and I got emails saying.

This is you, this is just your personality in it's you. But I think the other interesting thing is people buy people. They don't buy things. So especially for, for my line of work. Um, so that was really important for me to make sure that that brand story was there as well. Yeah. A lot of our listeners,  are also mums who run businesses.

And I know you have little kiddies as well. Cuz we are often sharing stories.  about our kids with each other. Oh yes. Um, and I guess what I wanted to talk to you about there is, I mean, I know what my frustrations are. Trying to balance, , the business, trying to balance time with the kids and feeling those push and pull emotions that you get with both of them.

So, you know, what I guess is your biggest challenge when it comes to running exceler8 and, and growing exceler8, but also knowing that you've got all that other mom and family staff, and other commitments that you've got. Yeah, I think it's a real fallacy for people to think that there's such a thing as work like balance.

There's not it's actual work life choice. What choice am I making? And the biggest struggle back to your question. The biggest struggle is being comfortable with that choice. So if I'm choosing to go to a networking event, when I' miss out on something with the kids, or I have to ask for help, , to do this, that's the choice I have to be comfortable with.

And. Feel guilty while I'm doing it. , and being in the moment.   I spoke to you just before we started recording, I've got my four year old sick home today. Um, I still wanted to chat with you. I know how hard it is to try and get time in. So again, asking for help and being comfortable. To accept that help.

, I have an amazing mother-in-law so that's another thing that in looking at what makes me able to do what I'm doing is that support and help, , and an amazing partner. , so there is no right formula. It's just a choice that works for you right now. And it may not work for you in a week's time. It may not work for you in a month's time and be okay with that.

, and it's a really hard. It's hard. I love that work-life choice.  yeah. It's yeah. It's just, it's exactly what it is. Isn't it? It's um, and it's the same for me, like making those choices, , like my kids are getting home a little bit earlier now as well, and I'm sometimes I'm not quite finished up and just.

Being able to make that choice. Well, okay.  I'm gonna put this down now and focus on the kids or you make that other choice, which is I'm gonna wrap this up because once I'm done, I know that I'm gonna be fully with the kids, you know, through dinner time and bath time and bedtime.

And I'm not gonna be stressing about what's going on in the business, but, um, it's, there's certainly different challenges every single day, every week, every month, when it comes to being a business owner and balancing. All that comes with that.  that's right. And I think it's also, we suffer from it probably more now than we ever have.

Is that comparisonitis , how can people do that? And  the people don't see what I do. They don't see what I don't do. They don't see what I choose to do and what I choose not to do. I see other choices that people make and then I have to catch myself judging go, oh God, I never, oh, hang on.

That's awesome. And the question that I ask is, are you happy doing that? And absolutely. That's awesome.  That's all we can hope for as a, as a human and as a parent. Cause there's also fathers out there that have to make the same choices and we sometimes they to think about that as well, but holy crap, it's hard.

yeah. You know, it's what you're saying about comparitis as you know, I've been sort of going through a bit of a flux and some challenges in my business at the moment. And, , when you first start a business, I feel like there's so much pressure on you to, to grow and scale. Like you're always gonna be going up.

You, you know, it's from you get your first client and you get your second, your third or whatever. It's always that, that traction to get moving and to go up. And I've felt that pressure on me from, from day one, you know, it's, you're starting copywriting business. Okay. What's next. And that comes from me being  never happy at just one level, even in my day job in my career, I'm always looking to go the next level.

And I read a, a quote or I saw a quote on social media a few weeks ago, which talks about. When , you're scrolling through social media and there's all this, , become a six figure business or, you know, become a million dollar business. And there's all these coaching and training courses and all that can help you get there.

But somebody who put on there, what if, what I'm doing right now is what my business is meant to be. What if my business is only meant to be three clients a month, or, , what if I'm only meant to make 50,000 a year mm-hmm . And for me, that was a real awakening. You don't always have to be trying to scale whatever your, you know, your bandwidth is now, particularly what we are just talking about with children and with other jobs, like maybe that's okay for now, or maybe that's okay.

Forever. Like you need to, I guess, grasp what your version of success is for your business. It's a choice. Like what choice and you have to be comfortable with that choice. , and if, when you're not comfortable, then say, well, I need to make another choice and it, that's not bad either. Like it's, it's, there's just no right or wrong.

It's just, it's when people start to it's that gut intuition that they start to not trust. , and that's where that's where I've fallen over. , is I haven't trusted my gut to go hang on a minute. Is this the right thing to be doing? It's bright. I have bright and shiny syndrome. There's something else.

That's what I should be doing. And I don't actually, and  I have fallen every time I've done that. I have fallen over. It's never worked for me when I've just gone. Well, someone said I should do it. I don't think I should. I don't think I should. Yeah. Okay. I'll do it because someone's telling me it's a good idea.

Cause everyone else is doing it and it's just not working. So trusting that gut and trusting your choice, , and trusting that you can do something different is really where it starts to be almost free. It's huge. Isn't it? Like I can, I can look back at the times, , when the projects that I've taken on, when I've had that little red flag go up and my, my stomach has turned and I've had to work out, is it a good stomach turn, you know, the butterfly kind or is it.

This isn't right. Yeah. And every single time that I've taken it on with the, this isn't right feeling, it has just knock gone smoothly. Mm-hmm  so, you know, I would say to other business owners out there that if you're getting that feeling, trust it. And that's what I'm hearing from you as well. Absolutely.

And I've, I've been on a bit of a. Fan girl moment. I went to a summit a couple of weeks ago , and in every single session, the underlying element was trust.  Trust in your people, trust in your advisors, trust in yourself, trust in the process, trust in all of the trust stuff. Um, and especially with what's been happening, it's not faith. So don't get that with both the hope like there's, because Hope's not a business strategy as they say, but it's the trusting that you've gathered enough information to justify or to get feel comfortable in your choice.

I think that's what we really need to start. Going with, because what has worked previously won't work now. , because everything's just so different. It's not a bad thing. It just is. It's scary. Sometimes some people are better with it than others. And the change fatigue that we were all suffering right now is real.

, so. If we need to take the time to just consolidate retract, , plateau, whatever it is we need to do. , cuz there's also the conundrum that some of my clients have got is there's so many opportunities out there. We just dunno which ones to take. So there's too many choices. So we're paralyzed by that.

Or we can't do it because we can't find 'em the right people or we don't have the right capital there's just so much. Out there. So you've mentioned they're trusting your people. , now you work a lot with business owners, from different industries who are at varying different stages of their business from perhaps introducing their first team member through to experiencing the challenges of developing a larger team, or even exiting a team member who is no longer the right fit, perhaps wasn't the right fit to begin with.

Mm-hmm  so, um, Can you talk us through, I guess the stages that business owners go through when it comes to their people in their business. Regardless of if you've got people or not question, whether you actually need.  because that's actually the last thing you should be doing is employing people to grow your business.

, it's not the wrong thing. It's just explore all other options first. , this is where I, I really stick to my zone of genius, which is having people involved in your business. , I don't proclaim to know margins revenue or how to develop that. So having all of those. Sort of ducks lined up is really important.

I can remember talking to someone, they said, look, I'm really busy and I need someone to come in and start doing sales for me. I was. Okay. Great. Fantastic. So what's your sales process? Oh, it's me. Okay. So how do you get business? Are they know me? Okay. So what about new business? Oh, referrals. Okay. So you want someone completely external to your business and.

Come in and just start doing what you do. And it's a real, it's such a danger, cuz there's this assumption. I'm people, they're people that we're the same thing. Right. I'll just tell them what I need. And that's, that's a whole nother podcast really around personalities and working styles. But um, so the first question should be, do I need someone or can I automate as much as I possibly can?

Can I outsource it when I say outsource, it's not a matter of. Letting someone else do it, having the resource, a contractor, um, you mentioned before VAs, they're fantastic. ,  but what I find is finding that alignment of fit is still the same, whether you're bringing them on as. An employee or as a contractor, because they still need to have the same values as you, they still need to understand your customer journey.

So when you're introducing 1, 2, 3, 5, 10, doesn't matter how many people into your business. If you can't have a system and process to help them understand your business and work within your business, you're gonna fall over and it's gonna be D. Even a fantastic operator won't succeed. If you don't have systems and processes for them to be able to, to work with.

So they're my first two. Do you need people and then have the systems and processes in place before you need someone? I put my hand up here. That's really hard because you are just busy and now you need someone cuz you're too busy. , but even. Subcontracting someone to help you systemize your business.

And there are some amazing individuals out there that are specialized in business processes and that's, that's fantastic. So when you talk about systemizing your business, I'm just sort of thinking,  somebody who is just sort of getting to that point like that, that person you're talking about, I'm just getting to that point, but I'm really.

Would an example of that be creating standard operating procedures, like, or just getting, even just doing a workflow and understanding how your business operates. Yep. So all of the above, but the one thing you need to ask is what does a person or resource, so let's just call them a resource. They can be a person or whatever, what do they need in order to be successful in this job?

Because. In order to be successful in this job, they need to know how to do this process. So can they do it, get someone who doesn't know your business at all and just ask them to look at if I gave you this, do you think you'd know what to do? No. , and that's where even, that's almost a free process with a friend to say really smart friend.

Um, but someone who can actually sit there and look at it and. I don't know how to do that job because that's essentially what we should be doing when it comes to businesses. Obviously, there has to be an element of understanding, whether it be industry understanding, or there might be qualifications involved, but they should be able to take that, , knowledge and skill and be able to apply it to your business.

Following workflows, , standard operating procedures, , how to manuals, whatever you wanna call it. , the concept of them is great. It's just what starts to happen. We start to have an economy of  a paper warfare, and people just start to focus on that. , and that's flawed too. And I guess there's an element there of if you've got those systems and processes in place, and they're easy to follow, easy to understand that you're setting that new team member or employee up for success.

And I imagine that that would lead to greater retention as well. Absolutely. And let's just bottom line, your frustration as a business owner reduces and hallelujah to frustrations being reduced. I mean, the whole point of what I do is just try and reduce the headaches. That can be a headache down the track because you've got a person they're not performing.

Okay. Have you spoken to them about. No, they should know what they're doing. Why, why should they know what they're doing? They've had seven news in industry. How long have they had a new business? So, and that that's not good, bad or indifferent.  Business owners will never think like employees and employees will never think like business owners.

That doesn't mean they can't. But when they're in that relationship, it's just really difficult to have that, , perspective. So trying to find that common. Elements of knowledge of process of. Expectation. And that's where it all comes back to. So back to the original question of stages, if your stages of engaging people, there's understanding expectations, and really knowing that they get it.

, a lot of people think, well, I explained that to them. I said, you gave it to them in three sentences. When what you are talking to me about is about 17 paragraphs of explanation. , so that's why I've got a really privileged position to be able to see it sort of almost hover over it, to. \ , I didn't get that.

Oh, really? Okay. Well maybe I need to change something. Hmm. Let's change it.   We've talked now, but  about bringing team members on setting them up for a success. What happens if you are an established, , business owner you've already got, a team of 50, you've been doing the same thing for the last 10 years, but you're starting to see those cracks.

What kind of challenges, I guess there are you having as a business owner and how would you be working with those businesses to help them? Well, if you've gotten 10 years, we've only just seeing the cracks good on you. They should need, need to write a book.  um, but really what I ask is what's your data and people look at me if go, what are you talking about?

People, data, what? Like leave and, um, Retention. That's all actual lag. I call it lag data. It's all in the past, like exit surveys. They're great. But how helpful are they actually? So at that stage in the business, it's trying to understand what are we dealing with? , I don't like to walk into businesses and just start giving them all these things that they need to change.

Cuz you know what, it's not my business. I have no right to do that. As much as the business owner, I would love to just take their word for it. They're only one part of the business. There's a whole heap of other people delivering on their strategy that we need to hear from. So it's really important to gather the data in your business, whether it be through a culture survey, whether it be through a business benchmarking survey or even retention surveys, are your key people.

So someone at that stage might be going, I'm really worried about losing Mary, the whole factory. Depends on Mary. , and I go, well, first of all, you haven't managed that risk very well, cuz it goes back to managing risk. Um, so let's get Mary's view on this. , another interesting thing is when people talk about engagement versus retention, Engagement is actually a collective voice, whereas employee retention's an individual voice, so don't try and listen to one person and then go, well, that's how everyone feels.

And rightly just because everyone feels a certain way or thinks or talks or is giving feedback doesn't mean the individual. What it gives you is a perspective that you can build on. And that's what I do is building on perspectives to get a whole picture. And it's not even just about the employee's perspective.

And that's one of the things I found really difficult when it came to surveys, you survey all the, , employees and they'd be sitting there and talking about, look, I need more training. I want better pay. I. Better coffee and better uniforms. Business owner would see that and go, well, we can give 'em better coffee and uniforms.

The other two are too expensive, so there's really no point to that. And we know, I mean, it doesn't take genius, but , what I like to do is actually get the business owner's view on the business. , and that's really powerful

awesome. Well, we are almost at the end of our time, so thank you so much.

But before I let you go, we have a few quick questions that we ask all our guests. So are you ready, Melissa? I am. . So what is your top piece of advice for other women in business? Trust your gut. . What do you absolutely love about being a business owner? Choice. I think we've spoken about that before. , it's hard. It's not, there's no thing as freedom, but there is a choice in, I can choose to do this.

It's all the choices are hard. I just wanna put it out there. It's all hard, but, it's worth it. So, yeah, it's just, that's what I love about having my own business is choice. 

And what is your special power?  special power would have to be, um, Talking so, but I, I don't know if that's unique to me. But my superpower would have to be, , really looking at the holistic view when it came to people and giving people just something different. , and it not being forced on them because I use all their data. So it's, it's really easy to convince someone cuz they tell me and I go, well, this is what it's telling me.

Yeah, you're right. So yeah. It's awesome. 

And the last one that we have is, do you have any special offers or anything that you can share with our wonderful audience today? Absolutely. I have this really fantastic website, , which I'm sure will be in the show notes there are four different giveaways on there.

, one focused. Pretty boring, but HR framework, , another one bling bling, bling retention, and the tips on employee retention, how to unlock the code for a high performing business and the number one thing that makes a business high performing. Is management and management culture and leadership culture.

So I've gotta give away on that one as well. So head to the website, cause it's on that.

  Well, thank you so much again. , it was so lovely to have a, a chat with you, and I'm sure we'll get you back on, , at some stage in the future, because I really would love to hear your perspectives on, , personalities and teams. .

So thank you so much. My pleasure, and have a fantastic day, night, evening, morning, wherever you're listening from. Thanks again.

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