Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in human resources but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Alphonso "AJ" Cheponis, Business Consultant & Chief Solutions Officer of Straightline Consulting Group, located in Colorado Springs, CO, USA.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

We help businesses solve their hiring, retention, and communication problems. We give companies the tools, education, and framework so they can reduce attrition, increase profitability, reduces errors and rework, improves culture, and perhaps more importantly, shift their focus from always stressing and putting out fires to enjoying their jobs and growing their business.

Tell us about yourself

After years of trying to figure people out in the workplace, I made a commitment and built a small team within my own company, which was tasked with answering two questions: How do we consistently make brilliant hires? How do we keep those great hires happily engaged, so they don’t leave? Through years of trial and error, countless books, consultants, testing concepts, and spending way too much money, we started to get traction. That traction gave us the energy to keep pushing forward to answer our two questions.

After several years of frustration, hundreds of interviews, and briefly thinking, “it’s impossible,” we cracked the code. We finally had the framework and formula and knew how to attract, hire, and keep great people. We even learned how to achieve happiness, positive energy, respect, and understanding of each other in the process. Culture thrived, and performance and profitability soared.

Our framework was a game-changer for our business-- and for other businesses whom we started helping. We learned that we could not only help companies perform at a much higher level by eliminating the all-too-common “people problems” – we realized that we were having an unprecedented impact on the lives of employees. It was a serious Win-Win-Win. That realization was enough to change my life direction and commit to helping companies go from good to great while positively impacting employees’ lives.

It’s painful to see companies struggling with finding, hiring, and keeping good people when we can show them how to thrive in these areas. We also show companies how to assemble and grow teams that can crush their goals. Moreover, it’s heartbreaking to see people in roles that don’t fit who they are as a person; that’s like watching a fish try to climb a tree. These are the employees who give all that they’ve got, only to go home at the end of the day feeling exhausted, stressed, defeated, and spent. These employees either give it their all and still underperform, or they may disengage. Or they quit. And the employer? They don’t have the best person in the role, so all the money invested in any employee—in salary, training, etc.—it’s all a poor investment if the employee was never the right fit, to begin with. The cost of all of this is lost money, underperformance, eroded culture, and wasted time…? We can change all of that.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

Over the years, there have been many accomplishments, but the most impactful is our ability to change the lives of business owners, executives, and all the people who show up to work every day. When people are in the right “seat” or role, their lives change from surviving to thriving. Being able to guide organizations so they can finally start putting the right people in the right roles and seeing thousands of people finally thriving validates that we are changing the world for the better – one business at a time.

What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?

Many business owners think their business is completely unique in all ways, or their sector is totally different than every other, so therefore they should not dig into certain fundamentals, to learn certain common truths. Making the shift from thinking you’re unique in the world and thinking that you, therefore, have to create everything from scratch to understanding that certain fundamental problems are common to all businesses— this is a crucial shift in thinking. It will lead to greater, faster success. Knowing what to do next and how to execute that step is probably the most challenging aspect of growing a business.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. Understand who you are and how your brain is hard-wired so you can set yourself up for success. If you’re naturally risk-averse, don’t start a business that has an overwhelming amount of risk. If you are naturally a low-detail, big-picture person, don’t get involved in an overly complex business – or address this potential weakness and hire a highly detailed person to run that portion of the business.
  2. Understand that you don’t have to keep growing to be successful. Find your sweet spot, perfect your operation, and be the absolute best at what you do. You may find that you have a better quality of life, highly engaged, happy people, and delighted clients.
  3. Hire the right person for the role. There’s nothing more important than knowing exactly what you need and finding the right person who naturally fits the role and will excel in the role—vs. The fish trying to climb the tree. Stop hiring people based on knowing or liking them (personal bias) or based on their having industry experience and an impressive resume. Develop a bulletproof unbiased evaluation & interview process. Add validated science to the process to ensure you’re making the right decision. No matter how successful and passionate you may be, your gut, a “perfect” resume, or a fantastic interview are not the best tools to use for something as high stakes as making a hire. There’s a better way, and the stakes are high indeed.

Where can people find you and your business?


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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