WTP Founder & President Interview in Native Business Magazine

Choctaw Founder of ‘We The People’ Talks Developing Leaders & Growing Small Businesses

Kendra Wilson-Clements (Choctaw) charted her career path “in reverse,” she explains, starting at Fortune 100 and 500 companies in the transportation industry as a human resources professional. From large organizations, she moved to mid-size businesses in the technology industry. Eventually, she left the corporate world to stoke her entrepreneurial spirit by starting her own small business, We The People Consulting, LLC.

Clements counts 20 years of experience in human resources (HR) and operations across sectors— transportation, entertainment, technology, manufacturing, aerospace and defense, and private equity. In one of her latest roles prior to launching We The People, Clements served as the vice president of global HR and the HR lead for the mergers and acquisitions division of an Oklahoma City-based private equity firm, managing approximately 15 portfolio companies. “During that six-year time frame, I did a lot of international travelling—buying, selling, and turning companies around,” Clements told Native Business Magazine. “We were focused on acquiring companies who were working in the government contracting, services, and manufacturing sectors. The majority of our portfolio companies did a lot of work with the Department of Defense. We helped small businesses to transition to medium-sized business, to hit revenue goals, improve their value, and position themselves for growth and change—inevitable with the sale of any business.”

While with the private equity firm, Clements fell in love with entrepreneurs and small businesses. “Small businesses are really the heart of America. They drive so much of our economy and create so many jobs. It took me back to my roots,” said Clements, the daughter of an enterprising Choctaw businessman.

Those experiences advising small business owners inspired Clements to found We The People in 2015. Her business solutions consulting firm focuses its energy and expertise on developing entrepreneurs and senior leaders, and growing small businesses and non-profit organizations. Specializing in mergers, acquisitions and turnarounds, We The People works with companies positioned for high growth. The Choctaw, woman-owned company has a passion for Indian Country and working with tribes, tribal enterprises and Native-owned small businesses.

Providing C-level solutions is the firm’s bread-and-butter. “A medium-sized or large-sized organization has the capacity and the financial resources to hire CEOs, COOs, or Chief Marketing Officers, or Chief Financial Officers. Small businesses don’t necessarily have that capacity, nor do they have the financial resources to enable them to do that,” Clements explained. “One of the services that my firm offers is that we have CFO-for-hire services; we have a CHRO [Chief Human Resources Officer]-for-hire; our COOs help clients build their operations; and we also have CEOs-for-hire.”

If the entrepreneur wants to become the CEO, the CEO-for-hire plays somewhat of a mentoring role, Clements explained.

Clements serves as president of We The People. Seven partners with very specific areas of

expertise help meet clients’ needs. For instance, one of her partners is a CFO and a CPA by trade. “She oversees bookkeeping and all levels of finance and accounting projects, depending on what an organization needs,” Clements said.

A consistent theme or trend that Clements has identified among entrepreneurs and business owners is a fear or disdain for all things finance and accounting. “I want to teach entrepreneurs and small business owners the importance of the numbers. The numbers tell a story,” Clements said.

We The People also boasts internal and external human resources consultants and professionals. “We have marketing, PR and communications [teams]. I’ve got a holistic consulting firm that really fills every functional area of the business,” Clements continued. “Strategic planning, operational execution, and mission, vision and values is our strength.”

Her firm begins each client engagement with a half-day assessment of the business, product, service, and existing staff. “Then we get intimate about the owner, founder, entrepreneur, or whoever is running that business. I really want to understand who they are and what their mission or values are. Then we pick it apart further and look at their culture—what kind of culture do they have or what kind of culture are they trying to build? All of those answers will help me identify what type of leadership training is needed,” Clements explained.

Many of the services that Clements’ firm offers are “a la carte” and tailored specifically to the organization. “Leadership theory is leadership theory, but not all of it applies to a particular business. It’s not really a ‘one size fits all.’ I like to tailor leadership development programs to the business that I’m working with,” Clements continued.

When Clements isn’t helping Native-owned businesses expand, she’s strategizing ways to help create sustainable companies and jobs in Indian Country. For instance, she’s currently working with a non-Native client who is interested in doing business in Indian Country. Clements shared: “He has called on my firm to help him do business with the tribes. I am serving as a liaison between those two worlds, non-Native business and tribes, which requires me to intimately understand his business model, his product, who he is, and where he might be best served in terms of working with a tribe. I’m targeting tribes that have a commitment to economic development—and specifically tribes that have a really high unemployment rate. I really want to bring businesses to tribes and help them create jobs and stimulate their economies.”

Clements underscored her concern about the scarcity of jobs on reservations. “People are getting a high school degree and they’re leaving. People who go to tech schools are not sticking around the reservations, because job opportunities are scarce. I want to partner with tribes, tribal enterprises, Native-owned businesses and entrepreneurs to help create an atmosphere where the money is being made on the reservation, jobs are being created, and employment conditions are improving. Strategy, attraction and retention is the name of the game,” she said.

Beyond her consulting business, Clements is a co-founder of a nonprofit organization called Matriarch. This organization cultivates a deeper relationship with Indian Country. Matriarch advocates for Native women and children. The three-year-old nonprofit provides direct services and resources for indigenous women. The organization offers a 9-month program with specific curriculum with courses being led 100 percent by Native women. The organization now has chapters in Oklahoma City and Tulsa, and is currently expanding.

When Clements envisions the future, she sees herself further entrenched in helping Indian Country. “I live for the betterment and improvement of Indian Country. I live to serve my people, and protect our culture, language and traditions,” she said.

Clements also plans to grow We The People, so that she can serve more. Her greatest mission is to empower Indian Country. “I want to continue to impact and positively affect the living conditions and economic conditions of our tribes and small businesses,” she said.

Kendra Wilson-Clements (Choctaw), President of We The People Consulting, LLC, a Native-owned management consulting firm, will give one of her trademark impactful speeches during The 2018 Master of Ceremonies at The Gathering 2018 Business Summit, the fifth annual summit hosted by the American Indian Chamber of Commerce of Oklahoma, October 7-9, 2018, at Choctaw Casino Resort in Durant, Oklahoma. (Read Native Business Magazine’s article “AICCO: 25 Years of Building an Entrepreneurial Community in Oklahoma.”)


The Misunderstood Millenneal

On any given day, I find myself directly or indirectly involved in conversation about Millennials. There is an unfortunate misconception and stereotype about this generation. Overwhelmingly, the terms I hear used to describe this generation: lazy, entitled, disloyal, distracted, narcissistic, Generation WHY, Generation I, Generation Degenerate – the list goes on and on. Now, there may have been a time or two I joined in on the name-calling (years and years ago of course), but today I stand to defend, and pay homage to, the Misunderstood Millennial.

As a former HR executive, I was the ‘keeper of company culture.’ Meaning, it was one of my duties to help create and maintain a culturally sound and thriving workforce. Not always an easy task especially when you’re dealing with multiple generations – 5 of them now to be exact: G.I. Generation, The Silent Generation, Baby Boomers, Gen X, and Gen Y, aka Millennial. Generationally speaking, the US workforce has never clashed like this before.

Being the keeper of company culture, I had to understand generational differences, what makes each tick, what motivates them, what matters to them, communication styles, and how to blend them all together. The Millennial was a challenging group to understand, but once I studied the psychology and make-up of this generation I now find myself defending them. They have so much to offer and teach us. And, whether we like it or not, they are dominating the workforce. At last count, there are approximately 80 million Millennials in the labor force. They just surpassed the Baby Boomers who are now at 79 million.

Other than the obvious tech-saavy / breathing in of technology, what exactly does this generation bring to the conference table?

1. Millennials are Motivated by Meaning.

What?! Meaning, like emotion? There is no time for emotion in the workplace, says the work-centric Baby Boomer. News flash! and one we must embrace, Gen Y’ers derive a sense of meaning by helping others and making a positive impact on the world. They need to know the work they are doing and services they are performing are in some way changing the world. This is more important to them than professional recognition. Find a way to draw the connection: Their work + the product or service = what positive impact on the community, state, nation, or globe. They will love you for it. And, it just might breathe some fresh air into your Mission and Values statement.

2. Millennials Challenge Hierarchy.

This trait is a real put-off especially for the G.I. and Silent Generation where hierarchy and protocol is King. I’m not suggesting Millennials disregard hierarchy or protocol, but this generation believes in the power of collaborative and inclusive thought. They believe we

can accomplish more, better, faster through transparency and access. When I say “access” I mean access to the Boss. Yes, Millennials want to have a relationship with the Boss. Collaboration and Inclusion: Not such a bad concept. “Group Think” anyone?

3. Millennials Crave Constant Feedback.

Millennials don’t want to wait for mid-year or annual reviews to know how they are performing. They want feedback in bite-sized morsels on a more regular basis. Wait, does this mean we have to communicate transparently more than one time per year? Yes, it does, but make sure the feedback counts. Millennials are goal setters and whether you know it or not, they are success driven.

4. Millennials Have a Hankering for Learning.

Their favorite question is “Why?” Millennials are highly inquisitive and are often motivated to work harder when they understand the importance of the task in the context of the ‘big picture’- company goals. They want to expand their skill sets and amass knowledge. Intellectual stimulation is a top factor for this generation so share the smarts. Be the teacher and mentor they so desire. Isn’t that our role as ‘elders’ anyway?

I have to give props where props are due, and in this instance they are due. If it weren’t for the Millennial I may have never revised my approach on the traditional annual / semi-annual performance review. I may have never experimented with new approaches of internal communication. I may have never looked at new ways to attract and retain the best talent. The same goes for employee engagement, benefits, incentives, all the way down to the performance management process. I applaud the Millennial for forcing cultural change. This generation gave my previous organizations a much appreciated and well deserved facelift. We are more “hip” because of them.

I celebrate now, but these changes did not happen overnight, and yes I had to fight some pretty nasty battles. I knew that if we were not open to change and could not appeal to the generational mosh-pit called the 21st century workforce then we were going to lose as a company. The bruises were well worth the fight.

Understanding the Misunderstood Millennial was indeed a journey. The task of blending 5 generations is quite a tall order, but at the end of the day I owed this to every member of every generation. Growing and maintaining a strong workplace culture is no walk in the park, but thanks to the Millennial and what they bring to the conference table we are all better for it. The next time you hear a slam on this generation, try and highlight what they truly represent: Aspiration, Confidence, Entrepreneurial, Service Oriented, Determined, Lifestyle Centered, Inclusive, Diverse, Optimistic, Hopeful, Open to Change. How can we poke holes in these characteristics? Better question, why would we?

All of this to say, it is critical to the continued success of our businesses that we understand and embrace the Millennial. At the end of the day we need them and will not survive without them. This generation represents our future and will carry us into the next evolution of business. So, let’s understand them, embrace them, learn how to attract them, and grow them. This is how we build our legacy.

LEGAL ALERT: Federal Judge Blocks Overtime Rules

10 days before the implementation date, a federal judge in Texas suspends the Department of Labor’s (DOL's) new federal overtime rules.

The overtime rule was scheduled to take effect December 1, 2016 and would have raised the salary threshold from $23,660 to $47,476 annually. The rule also provided for adjustments based on the 40th percentile of weekly earnings of full-time salaried workers in the lowest-wage Census region.

What’s Next?

For now, the overtime rule will not take effect as planned December 1st, but it could still be implemented later down the road. Employers may continue to follow the existing overtime regulations until a decision is reached. It is important to know, the DOL released a statement confirming they will likely challenge the decision.

HR’s Role

Many employers have already taken action and either raised exempt employees’ salaries to meet the new threshold or reclassified employees who are still earning less to nonexempt status.

Employers will likely want to leave decisions in place if they have already provided salary increases to employees in order to maintain their exempt status. Reversing salary increases or reclassifying employees again could be risky for employers.

Employers may want to hold off on reclassifying exempt employees to nonexempt until a final ruling is made.

Employers shouldn’t assume, however, that the overtime rule will be permanently barred. You should still have a plan to move forward if necessary in the future.

Confused? Frustrated? Concerned? Give us a call and we'll chat about it!

We The People Consulting Published in Indian Gaming Magazine

We are thrilled and honored to have been published in the October 2016, G2E Show Issue of Indian Gaming Magazine: "The National Magazine Of The American Indian Gaming Industry." 

We The People Consulting was selected to submit an article covering the Department of Labor's (DOL's) new overtime rules, which take effect December 1, 2016. 

The new rules are complex and require a significant amount of footwork and organizational analysis. I would encourage businesses to get a jump start on this process as the December 1st deadline is fast approaching. 

Not all businesses have the time, resources, or expertise. We recognize that some businesses operate with a lean Human Resources staff, or with a staff lacking the expertise these new rules require. If you find yourself in either position, please don't hesitate to contact us. We know what needs to be done, and we know how to get it done. Don't go at this alone. Give us a call. We will get you there.  

Ready Or Not! The DOL's New Overtime Rules

This week, We The People Consulting hosted a series of webinars covering the Department of Labor's (DOL's) new overtime rules. We discussed the implications of the new rules, provided a HR checklist, talked about policy and procedure, and even provided examples on 'how to' calculate the impact. 

We had very good attendance and an inquisitive audience, which in our minds equals a successful and meaningful webinar! 

A big Thanks to all that attended. So that the message remains fresh and consistent, we have included the presentation below. To access, please click "OIGA DOL Webinar." 

As always, we encourage questions so please do not hesitate to reach out to us. We are here to help!