Small businesses benefit from consultant’s HR expertise

Katherine Culhane of FSBDC at PBSC
Katherine Culhane

Katherine Culhane, a full-time consultant with the Florida Small Business Development Center at Palm Beach State College, has earned the highly regarded Senior Certified Professional credential from the Society for Human Resource Management. SHRM is the world’s largest HR professional society, and the SHRM-SCP credential is the most advanced offered by the organization.

Culhane is one of a team of consultants deployed by FSBDC throughout Palm Beach County to help small businesses succeed. From her base at PBSC’s Palm Beach Gardens campus, she advises north county startups and growth-stage companies in areas ranging from business planning and marketing to financial analysis and human resources.

“I wanted to get the SHRM-SCP credential because HR is changing so much,” said Culhane. “There’s so much more state-of-the-art information coming out, and the SHRM connection keeps me current and at the top of the field.”

Entrepreneurs seeking FSBDC help rank human resources as one of their most urgent needs.

“Small business owners do not have the expertise to follow and stay in compliance with good HR policies,” continued Culhane, who joined FSBDC in January 2015. “They can’t afford to hire an HR person, or they’re not ready to outsource that yet. So we move them in that direction with our consulting. In one case, the client was in this huge, accelerated growth stage where people were coming in, but the fundamental HR structure was not in place. I laid the groundwork for job descriptions and performance evaluations. Ultimately I recommended an HR consultant…but I got them to that point so they weren’t wasting their money. They had a foundation and knew what they needed from an HR perspective.”

Culhane’s interest in human resources began in her undergraduate years as a business major at Barry University and led her to earn a master’s degree at Barry in organizational learning and leadership. With the SHRM-SCP, she adds a sought-after expertise that benefits not only FSBDC clients but also her colleagues when they have an HR need. For example, as of Dec. 1, changes to the overtime rule take effect, changing the criteria that differentiate exempt from nonexempt employees. “People are grappling with that,” says Culhane. “What do I do? How do I proceed? These are questions coming up all the time.”

Culhane prepared for the SHRM-SCP exam through a PBSC Corporate and Continuing Education prep course offered on the Boca Raton campus, where she was based at the time. The four-hour exam is tough, as apparent from SHRM’s most recent global exam statistics: Only 57 percent passed in the May-July 2016 timeframe. Culhane passed on her first try.

Learn more about FSBDC at PBSC, which is part of the Florida SBDC Network, a statewide partnership of higher education and economic development organizations dedicated to helping small businesses.

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