Maveriqs Profile: Alexander Hinojosa, President, HCRM CORP
By Lamin Turay
Alexander (Alex) Hinojosa is an experienced IT, creative, and digital industry professional, with years of experience helping businesses solve some of their greatest problems. He's spent time as a consultant, Help Desk manager, and is now the president of his own recruitment agency, HCRM CORP. Throughout the course of his life he's learned some powerful lessons about building a business. I was able to sit down with him recently to discuss his story, and what he believes makes a successful entrepreneur.
What does your current company HCRM do, and what problem do you solve?
HCRM CORP stands for Human Capital Resource Management. We provide recruiting services within the IT, web, software, and mobile development space. We also provide those services within the creative space, and by creative I mean mostly digital agencies. We’ll help with the staffing of designers, producers, content marketers...etc. Our job is to help companies find the talent they need to be successful, and that fits within the culture of their organization. That’s a difficult thing to do.
As I’m sure a lot of people reading this will know, there’s a shortage of good talent across the board nowadays. Whether it be IT, creative or development. Especially in development. If we find a good developer, we can get them a job in like two days! (laughs). That’s just how the market is right now.
So that’s the problem that we solve for our clients, and we do it on a contract, contract-to-hire, or direct hire basis. We have a number of different solutions that can fit a company’s needs.
What is unique about your approach to business that has made you successful?
Being someone who was previously a consultant, and who really enjoys the creative, development, and really the nerdy side of it all, has made me very invested in the success of my clients and our candidates. I look at our job as being, the act of helping people manage their careers. When we talk to people we like to make sure that their moving in the direction that they really want to. We don’t try to push someone into something that, ultimately they don’t want to do.
A lot of recruiting agencies will just find candidates, and try to get them to take any job because it will benefit them. We’d rather work with you to review what fits best, and then find that opportunity for you. In the long run that works better for our clients, and the candidate. Then everyone is happier.
No employer wants a candidate who’s mentally only prepared to be at their company for six months or a year. They’d (the employers) prefer to have candidates who will be a long-term fit for their business. Having the experience of being hands-on and doing the jobs that we staff for, gives us the ability to review and screen candidates in a way that most staffing agencies cannot. That allows for the provision of candidates that fulfill the long-term mentality, which employers are looking for. Most people don’t come from the industry that their recruiting for. For us that’s a huge plus.
How did you get started with entrepreneurship?
I managed a Help Desk team before I started my own company. At that time I really didn’t have any experience running my own business or understanding anything that went into doing that. When I did get into it, it was kind of trial-by-fire.
I had decided that I wasn’t 100% happy where I was, and it was time for a change. Entrepreneurship was the direction that I went in. I was always kind of a hands on IT person and developer, but I made a choice to really focus on helping other companies reach their goals. Then it just happened! (laughs)
I started off in Chicago. My business partners and I owned a small IT consulting firm. We helped small to medium sized businesses reach their goals through using the right technology. Typically these businesses couldn’t support, or didn’t require full-time IT staff, and that’s where we came in. We would manage their technology remotely or go on-site when needed.
Was there an “Aha!” moment that drove you toward starting your own business?
When I was in my twenties, I think about 25, I resigned from my job at the Help Desk, and I took about a month off. I took time to decide what I wanted to do. A buddy of mine worked for a small company that needed some help. So I went in and helped them implement a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) solution. That’s when I realized, “Hey! I could do this on my own.”
There were definitely some bumps and bruises along the way, but it allowed me a lot of flexibility and freedom to do the things that I wanted. I began to naturally pursue that path, and never looked back.
In what ways has entrepreneurship changed your life?
Millions of ways! It’s amazing! It’s been a great learning experience, you meet some really amazing people, and it gives you a lot of flexibility. There are also some very explicit challenges.
They always say, “You don’t know, what you don’t know.” That’s never more true than when you start your own business. They’re so many things that go into the management of it, and getting it up and running. There’s legal, there’s finance and accounting, there’s payroll, and even the systems you’re going to use.
I’m fortunate enough that in my industry I can work from anywhere. If I need to travel to see family, and work from Michigan, I can do that. There’s no one there saying, “Hey! You need to be in the office!” Within other industries there’s still kind of an “old school” mentality where, if they don’t see you, they may not trust that you’re getting the work done. There’s a cultural shift now that’s happening slowly, but it’s getting to where more industries have distributed or remote employees.
Since I’ve become an entrepreneur the level of flexibility, freedom, and income in my life have all changed. You’ll never have as high an earnings potential as when you work for yourself. I can’t recommend it enough. If you have a passion for something, you should definitely follow it.
What’s something unique about your industry that you wish more people knew about?
Great question! So most people’s jobs are not to review and write resumés - ours is! Anyone who comes to us, we’ll help review your resumé, we’ll help rewrite it, we’ll put it in a format that will get the attention of hiring managers or HR directors. And it’s free! That’s a service that we offer at no charge. We’ll try to help you get a job, but if we don’t, and you find one on your own, we’re still happy for you.
That’s the cool thing about it. We help people get jobs, which is a great thing to do. That aspect of our work can get lost a little bit, because sometimes recruiting can get a bad name. I wish our free resumé consulting was a service that more people knew about. Especially those who are in the military. It’s very hard to translate what you do in the military, from a leadership perspective, into the outside world. This is due to the acronyms, and the fact that if a person was not in the military they may not understand certain terminology. We really enjoy helping people in those circumstances to translate their experience into other realms.
To give you a quick example - A person came to us, who had been looking for a job for six months. I looked at their resumé, and said, “Ya, I know why you’ve been searching for so long.” After consulting with this person, within a week, we had found him two job offers and he had found two of his own. That was just from doing simple things with his resumé, and making it much more approachable from a hiring manager and HR perspective.
What are some challenges that you were previously unaware of, but have had to face as an entrepreneur? How have you overcome them?
Well, one challenge is that your clients are sometimes going to pay you in their own sweet time. When you're funding the company with your own cash flow that’s a big obstacle. For instance, when we staff a project that has a number of consultants on it, and we have to pay them every week, sometimes the client doesn’t necessarily pay us every week for the work that is getting done. I wouldn’t definitely advise beginning entrepreneurs to manage their cash flow very well. Spend very little money in the beginning. As little as you can. That money becomes very important later on.
Also, do your research, and find tools that will make your life easier. It’s gong to be hard enough without having a system that helps you. Sometimes you’ll have to spend a little money on it, but if there’s a free version you can leverage...all the better. Keep in mind that you should not do long-term commitments to software products. There are enough options out there nowadays, that you don’t have to make one-year or more commitments.
What’s some of the best advice that you have received about entrepreneurship?
The best advice that I have received is to not give up. Unless they’re exceedingly lucky, everyone is going to struggle with starting or running a business. There will be ups and downs in any industry or business cycle. There will be times when you say, “Hey! I’m not making enough money to do this. Maybe I should go back to working for someone else.” Those are the times when you’re going to have to believe in yourself.
It’s definitely happened to me. It’s the natural cycle of business that you will go through those tough times. The best thing you can do in those instances is believe in your own ability to push through.
How do you increase your industry knowledge, and self-educate?
I go to a lot of networking events in a lot of different industries. As recruiters, we don’t focus solely on one industry. We focus on talent. We’ll work with the D.O.D. (Department Of Defense), creative agencies, IT firms, and consulting organizations among others. I personally do a ton of networking in really interesting industries, and I get a lot of unique perspectives because of that. For instance, things that are happening in the creative space may have nothing to do with the D.O.D., but the D.O.D. has really good processes in place, which creative agencies could benefit from. Then there are IT firms that have their own strengths as well.
Getting that swath of the business world as a whole has been really beneficial for me. Every space has interesting things going. That’s where the knowledge comes in. Network with lots of people. Network with people outside of your industry. There are probably some companies or people out there that are not in your industry, but are doing something that can relate to your space. Whether it’s a system they’re using, or a process they have in place, there’s always something to be learned outside of your own industry.
If we’re talking inside your industry, again, networking events are very powerful. You should also reach out. LinkedIn is a great tool for connecting with others. Meet-Ups are always good too.
What’s the future for yourself and your company?
Long-term growth plans include offices in Los Angeles and Chicago. We’re also exploring the development of some products for our industry. There’s a lot to be excited about. I think it’s a great time for our industry as a whole. The economy has been ticking up, and the tech and creative industry will always have a need for talent.
What’s something that you would tell aspiring recruitment or staffing entrepreneurs that they should learn right away?
Be able to find talent. Anyone can find a company that needs employees. The trick is to be able to find that great talent. If you’re out on your own you’ll need to be good at both recruiting and business development. We call that “Running a full desk.” There aren’t a lot of people that do that really well. Your usually either a salesperson or you’re a recruiter. It’s hard to be both. So if you are starting off on your own, you have to learn to manage your time very well, because it won’t matter how many job orders you get if you can’t fill them.
Where can we find and follow you?
I can be reached at the following outlets.
Company Twitter: @HCRMcorp
Company Facebook: facebook.com/hcrmcorp
We would like to thank Alex Hinojosa for taking the time to discuss his entrepreneurial journey and advice with us. We appreciate the opportunity to learn more about the IT, development, and creative staffing space. Do you have any questions or feedback for Alex? Please feel free to sound off in the comments below.