Tonie Snell Interview for “30 Days – 30 Voices – Stories from America’s LGBT Business Leaders” [Podcast] Skip to the content

Tonie Snell Interview for “30 Days – 30 Voices – Stories from America’s LGBT Business Leaders” [Podcast]

Tonie-Snell-30gayvoices-300x300Expert Interview with Tonie Snell of 925 Hire

Cleveland, Ohio

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AUDIO TITLE:  30 Days, 30 Voices – Tonie Snell

Jenn T Grace:

Welcome to 30 Days, 30 Voices: Stories from America’s LGBT business leaders.

Intro:

You are listening to a special edition of the Gay Business and Marketing Made Easy Podcast. Tune in for the next thirty days as we interview one business leader per day, each day in June to celebrate LGBT Pride Month. That’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender pride month. You’ll learn insights around business and marketing from those who know it best. And now your host. She’s an entrepreneur, a marketing maven and an advocate for the LGBT business community. Jenn, with two N’s, T Grace.

Jenn T Grace:

Hello and welcome. Thank you for tuning into this special Pride Month episode of the Gay Business and Marketing Made Easy Podcast. Information about today’s guest and links mentioned in the show will be available on the website at www.JennTGrace.com/30days30voices. If you like what you hear in this interview, please be sure to tell a friend. And now, without further ado, let’s dive into the interview.

I am pleased to be talking with Tonie Snell today. She is the CEO of 925 Hire, which is a staffing firm headquartered in northeast Ohio, whose focus is dedicated to creating a more equitable workplace. Her firm specializes in building cultural diverse staffing, and training solutions throughout the United States. She is also known as a job mingler which can be found on her business card.

So Tonie, I’ve given the listeners a really brief overview of who you are, but why don’t you tell us a little bit more about yourself and what your path looked like that led you to where you are today?

Tonie Snell:

Well I am first and foremost a mom and a grandparent of nine. I’ve been in the recruiting industry for about fourteen years. I started 9 to 5 Hire about three years ago because of an encounter that I experienced with an internal recruiter. I had just probably been out for about maybe six years, and I was really, really sensitive and she was going on and on about how glad she was to see me. There was another recruiter who was just there trying to solicit business from this company, and he happened to be gay and she went on to berate him and I said, ‘This has to be a better way.’ So I actually- at that moment I decided I’m going to do something a little different with the staffing industry, so my community- specifically the LGBT community, African American women, don’t have to go through that. I decided to create a full service staffing firm to be the forefront of those communities.

Jenn T Grace:

Wow, that’s really interesting. And especially because as most entrepreneurs you see some sort of problem and it’s just your natural inclination to want to fix it. And for this to have been the case, and it being so personal to you, to have had to sit there and have somebody be berating this openly gay man and then you sitting there thinking like, ‘Oh my God, I can’t believe this person doesn’t know this about me.’

Tonie Snell:

Yeah, exactly. And of course I didn’t want to work with her anymore because then the people- I’m very clearly open and diverse. The people that I send to her may encounter that type of attitude, so I decided again just to be the forefront, and all of my clients know that we have- we’re LGBT focused. So nine times out of ten, our candidates are going to be LGBT, that’s not exclusive. Of course we’re women-owned and African American-owned and actually Latino-owned; so it’s really a diverse company and I’m happy about where it’s growing.

Jenn T Grace:

That’s really excellent. And so we’ve already started off with some really good content, and I typically like to start off the interviews with some sort of fun fact, or something that’s just really random about yourself that very few people know or would expect from you.

Tonie Snell:

I’m shy. And a lot of people don’t believe me when I say that. But in my business, you can’t be. So I put that to the back burner and go for it, but I am shy. I think I’m really a lot more of an extrovert now than before when I was in the closet. Because I thought I was hiding something. But it still takes me a minute to warm up around people. Another thing that as I mentioned earlier is that I have nine grandchildren. A lot of people don’t realize that. I have six grandsons, three granddaughters. The oldest is nine and there are six under- three and under.

Jenn T Grace:

Oh my, that is a lot of grandbabies.

Tonie Snell:

It’s a lot. And I know one of them is going to be a part of my community, so again this is something I’m doing for them as well.

Jenn T Grace:

That’s awesome. That’s such a great mindset to be creating that generational environment where they can eventually become a part of this, and what you’re doing is certainly going to benefit them as well; that’s really cool. So my next question, you may have already answered this, but perhaps you could elaborate on it. But did you have an ‘ah-ha’ moment, or perhaps it was a series of ‘ah-ha’ moments when you realized forming your company was what you should be doing?

Tonie Snell:

I think it was after my first successful placement as a company. It was just a really good fit, the clients were awesome, the candidate was spectacular. She’s still there, and in the staffing industry if you’re doing a direct placement you’re waiting on day 91 because that’s when officially the deal closes. And when day 92 came around and I walked around in my office and she called me- the candidate that I had placed, called me and said she loved her job, and she thanked me, and told me to keep doing what I was doing, and it just felt right, it felt good. Even with all of the no’s that I get, it still doesn’t dissuade me at all, it just feels right.

Jenn T Grace:

That’s awesome. That’s really cool. So along those same lines, what inspires you and keeps you motivated to continue doing this every day?

Tonie Snell:

Because it has to be done. Someone has to do it, and why not me? With the candidates that I work with and the emails that I get, just from all over the country- actually I just got an email from the UK saying, “Oh I just love what you do, it’s so needed.” That keeps me going even when the days are gloomy; I’m not just doing this for me, there are a lot of people that 925 Hire assists in regards to finding stable employment and reaching their potential in the workplace. So that keeps me- that gives me the push every day.

Jenn T Grace:

Yeah, I would imagine. That’s awesome. So I want to switch topics over to marketing for a moment.

Tonie Snell:

Okay.

Jenn T Grace:

And ask you about marketing yourself to the LGBT community, and what type of advice you might give to another company who might be looking to do that as well? Do you have anything in particular that you feel might enable a company or business owner marketing to the community to just do it in a successful way?

Tonie Snell:

One of the biggest things to me is just be real. I think we can- especially those who have been having to mask who they are in the workplace in that. I think we can distinguish fluff. So just be authentic and understand that we’re people just like everyone else, and we want to be valued and appreciated. And if you keep that in the forefront of your mind, you definitely have our attention. We might not necessarily buy your product, but we’ll support your endeavor if you include us.

Jenn T Grace:

That’s really interesting. And it’s so true with the piece about just being authentic and being genuine. Because I think there have been many companies out there who have just thrown a pile of money at marketing to the LGBT community, but then they’ve never actually done the back of the house things that need to take place. So essentially that money is just out the window.

Tonie Snell:

I totally agree. One of the ways that I approach companies, potential clients, is of course I look for that diversity page on their website, and then I read it. And then my follow-up question is, ‘What are your diversity hiring initiatives?’ A lot of companies have the mindset, especially with the LGBT community being so much in the media these days, that we can attract them and we can recruit them. Well that’s workforce diversity. 9 to 5 Hire goes a little deeper into workplace diversity. You can attract us, you can recruit us, but can you retain us? And your workplace environment is going to dictate that, not your workforce.

Jenn T Grace:

That’s really interesting. And do you have any other insights perhaps? Because I feel like this may be the first interview people are listening to, where we’re talking with somebody who is focused on that really- a really internal component of diversity in the workplace. So I’m curious if there’s any other information you might have that somebody listening to this might think, ‘Oh wow, I never would have thought to be doing that internally.

Tonie Snell:

Well I believe personally, it may be flawed but it’s still my belief, that you can’t just spend dollars marketing. I think that in regards to our specific community, we need to see people who work there that are us. Your workplace should mirror and be reflective of your consumer base. That brings about brand loyalty, that brings about brand recognition moreso than an ad campaign to me.

Jenn T Grace:

I think you are spot on with that. That’s really important to be able to see the faces of the community. Because if you are marketing to any diverse group, not even just LGBT, and then you don’t see any employees who actually fit the mold of that diverse group, then it kind of shows that something’s not connected.

Tonie Snell:

Exactly. And you want to be- especially when we’re so digitally connected, and you’re trying to expand your consumer base, you want to be connected with all groups hopefully as a business owner to increase your bottom line. And just be a company on the right side of history.

Jenn T Grace:

That could sum it up right there. Just being a company that’s on the right side of history. That is really, really important. And to bring us to a separate but very similar question, for you as a member of the LGBT community, and actually a couple of other diverse communities, have you been able to leverage that status of being an LGBT woman, or of being an African American woman, or even with your business partner being a Hispanic woman; have you both been able to leverage that in the business world itself?

Tonie Snell:

Yes. We- again these are marginalized groups that we represent. And it goes back to what I was saying about the client company. You want your workforce, your workplace, to be reflective of your consumer base. Our company is reflective of our candidates. We actually are who we serve. And with that, our candidates do wonderful things with promoting us because we connect to them. We’re not just hidden entity that’s just like rolling in the dough, and we work with them. When I go over- for example, when I go over job search tips on Facebook, I’m telling the candidates exactly what I would do step by step. And I actually do it to a larger extent, but it’s still the same, it’s still job searching.

Jenn T Grace:

And are you talking about LinkedIn? Job searching on LinkedIn?

Tonie Snell:

Not just job searching on LinkedIn, just everywhere. I am all over the place. People joke because at any given time I probably have about seventeen windows open. To search for a job is a job, and it starts with the beginning of the morning and you’ve organized your day, and you go over your resume, and you go over your personal branding, and you go over interviewing; I do that every single day with a client when I’m researching, I’m looking for the hiring manager, I’m looking for the decision maker, I’m looking for their job openings, I’m looking to see if I have a candidate who fits. So it’s pretty much the same thing, just on a larger scale.

Jenn T Grace:

That’s very interesting. And I feel like you kind of outlined just a couple of strategies for people who might be looking for jobs which is really important. And my next question to you is around business advice. Have you received some sort of business advice that’s just kind of been that guiding principle for the way you operate?

Tonie Snell:

Never let anything supersede my integrity. Not money, not my maternal instinct, not anything. Let nothing supersede my integrity.

Jenn T Grace:

That’s a really good one. And now I’m going to go rogue off of our questions and ask you what is the best piece of advice you feel that you give your clients when it comes down to helping them search for jobs?

Tonie Snell:

The best piece of advice that I could give my candidates is to treat the job search like a job. And then understand what makes you stand out. You can either be the cure or a problem. When you approach a company, any company, it’s  the same thing again with 925 Hire. We’re trying to understand how we can help them. So that’s how you market yourself. Not on what you’ve done, but what you can do for that company.

Jenn T Grace:

That’s really good. I feel like that’s something that people could really, really take away. Because I don’t know that everyone necessarily thinks of what their unique selling proposition for them themselves as a potential employee. I feel like it’s one of those things that as a business owner you think about what makes you different, but are you really thinking about that in terms of if you’re actively trying to find employment?

Tonie Snell:

I go a lot on our Facebook pages and Twitter accounts; I speak a lot about personal branding. I really, really- I didn’t know twenty years ago I was already branding myself. There are just things that I won’t do on the Internet, things that I won’t say on the Internet, because that’s all a part of your brand. And if the job seeker understood how much information a company could garner just by your Twitter name, or just by your Facebook name, or by an email address. When we talk about personal branding and how much information people put out on the Internet. One of my favorite websites is www.Snitch.name.

Jenn T Grace:

Interesting, I don’t know of this.

Tonie Snell:

It’s a really, really cool website, a lot of recruiters use it, and we’ll just plug in your Facebook name or your email account and we’ll pull up every account that you have.

Jenn T Grace:

Wow, that’s awesome. Well it’s awesome for people who aren’t hiding anything but maybe not so great for those who are trying to bury things under the rug.

Tonie Snell:

Which is the reason that I’m always talking about personal branding.

Jenn T Grace:

Yes, absolutely. That’s a really great resource for people and every one of these interviews I do have a blog post that goes with it. So if anyone is interested in anything that you’ve been talking about so far on this interview, I will make sure that that is included on that blog post. And of course I will make sure that I include the www.Snitch.name address as well. And you giving me that name actually goes perfect into the next question, which is about a business book or a program or a tool, and in this case this could easily be a tool of yours, that has really just transformed the way that you go about your business, and you know streamlined the way that you do business. Is there any particular thing that just stands out to you that really helps you succeed in your business?

Tonie Snell:

There are actually three things that I live by. Crain’s Cleveland Business is an excellent resource in regards to finding out who’s going places, what companies are doing in our local area. Of course the Internet, and I love Google, I use Google for everything. All my entire company is based on a Google business application platform on a Cloud. In regards to testing our candidates, I’ve partnered with Guy Halfteck, he owns a company called www.Knack.it. Knack It; and they do testing based on soft skills as opposed to your hard skills. If you’re a natural leader, if you’re curious, if you’re a team player. And our clients can actually set a baseline on what particular candidate they’re looking for for those soft skills; where they want them to be. And then we can actually just zero in a little bit more. And what makes this software, or this application so incredible is it’s game-based and it takes only fifteen minutes.

Jenn T Grace:

Oh wow, that seems really interesting.

Tonie Snell:

We’re loving it.

Jenn T Grace:

That’s great, those are some really good tools and I am a big fan of Google apps as well, so I use Google Docs and GMail and the Google calendar and a whole host of other Google related products. So I hear you about being in the Cloud. So I have one more question for you and then we will say goodbye. That question is what is one thing right now in your business that is just really exciting for you?

Tonie Snell:

We’re growing and that’s always great. We are now just opening offices in- an office in Texas and an office in Louisiana. We just brought on a large contract based out of southwest Louisiana so I’m really excited about that. And we’re their go-to, so there are going to be a lot more job postings in that part of the country. And just our- the partnerships that we’re creating with other companies to grow our business just with a collective mindset and collaborating, like I said with Knack It; those things are exciting to me.

Jenn T Grace:

That is really exciting. Any time your business is expanding that is certainly a good thing.

Tonie Snell:

Absolutely.

Jenn T Grace:

So before I let you go, I first thank you so much for taking the time out of your day today, this has been a fabulous interview and we’ve gotten some insights into the recruiting business which is always interesting. But for somebody who’s listening to this, and maybe they want to know more about your company because they have recruiting needs, or perhaps it’s somebody who is looking for job placement. How would you recommend that they get in touch with you?

Tonie Snell:

They can either go to- if it’s a candidate they can go to our website, www.925Hire.com. That’s www.925Hire.com, and hit ‘Job Seekers’ and see a list of the jobs that we have available. If there’s nothing that’s available there for them then, we actually have a tab where they can actually register with us so we can have their information on file should a need become available. With the clients there is a form to fill out at the website as well, all they have to do is click ‘Employers,’ and it will go over the form on working with us. I would suggest everybody, client or candidate, join our talent community on Facebook and that’s www.Facebook.com/925Hire. We’re really interactive there, we like to engage and talk about various topics; it’s not always about jobs, it’s about things that affect our community, specifically again, the LGBT community, that are interests to me. So definitely come there and visit us, like our Facebook page, and if you need some help or you want someone to look over your resume and give you some pointers, the tips are always there but feel free to inbox us and we will engage and get you set on a path where you can find a company to work for where you can have sustainable employment.

Jenn T Grace:

That is excellent. Thank you again, it has been great talking with you and we will stay in touch.

Tonie Snell:

Thank you so much Jenn, I appreciate it.

Jenn T Grace:

Thank you again for listening to this special Pride Month episode of the Gay Business and Marketing Made Easy Podcast. To see a full lineup of the thirty guests featured throughout this series, visit www.JennTGrace.com/30days30voices. And if you liked what you heard here, consider leaving a review in iTunes or telling a friend or colleague. You can do both of these easily by visiting www.JennTGrace.com/iTunes.

Thanks again, and stay tuned for the next interview by another amazing LGBT business leader.

Want to see who else is being interviewed for this Pride month project? Check it out here – 30 days – 30 voices – Stories from America’s LGBT Business Leaders

This podcast episode originally aired in June 2013.

 

About Jenn T. Grace

Jenn T. Grace (she/her/hers) is an award-winning author and founder and CEO of Publish Your Purpose (PYP), the acclaimed hybrid publisher of non-fiction books. Jenn has published 100+ books written by thought leaders, visionaries, and entrepreneurs who are striving to make a difference. Jenn T. Grace’s work elevates and amplifies the voices of others—especially marginalized groups who are regularly excluded from traditional publishing.

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