Creating A Culture Of Inclusion Helps Employees Realize Their Importance And Thus Motivates Them To Do Good Work
By: Jilea Hemmings
I had the pleasure of interviewing Rona Borre, CEO & Founder, Instant Alliance.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
I graduated from the University of Arizona with a Bachelor’s in Business Administration and Marketing. I discovered my niche in technology and recruiting about 20 years ago, after meeting my mentor and previous boss while waiting for cab (I’m not making this up) in downtown Chicago. I went to work for him in recruiting, and simultaneously spent evenings learning the technology business from him. After several successful years in sales at a global competitor, I decided to go out on my own and founded Instant Alliance (previously Instant Technology) in 2001. I started my company in the second bedroom of my condo. Since that day, I’ve built an extensive network in and around Chicago and cultivated a strong team, leading to increased revenue year over year and a 97% client return rate. I truly believe that human capital is the biggest differentiating factor in any organization’s success. My range of experience has helped me develop a unique point of view in human capital and ultimately create a unique recruiting style that sets us apart from our competitors.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
I remember this story like it was yesterday. I was still in the staffing business, so we were interviewing people all the time. I was placing an SAP implementation for the city of Chicago, and my team came into my office saying I had to meet this amazing candidate. I walked into my conference room and remember thinking the candidate was very tan. I started asking him technical questions related to the job, and he couldn’t answer anything. I was furious, wondering why my staff would have me interview this candidate with no relevant skills. As we were talking, he bent down like he was getting something from underneath our conference table. Before I knew it, loud music began to play, and he jumped on top of the table. This “candidate” was stripping in the middle of the conference room, and everyone in my office was crowded around watching. Wow, I will never forget that!
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
The things that make my company stand out are my amazing executive team, the unique recruiting process we follow and the quality of work we deliver. I have worked extremely hard from day one to ensure Instant Alliance fosters a collaborative and hands-on environment, through which all of my employees can take pride in the work that they do. I believe in having at least one member of the executive team involved in every search, so we ensure consistency with our creative and agile recruiting methods being implemented. I prioritize the trust of my clients, and I stand behind each and every placement that Instant Alliance makes. Years ago, before I started Instant Alliance, I made a placement who ended up making a big mistake on the job. My employer wouldn’t cover our client’s expenses that came as a result of this employee’s mistake, so I ended up paying $25,000 out-of-pocket to split the cost with my client. If a placement isn’t the right fit, I fix it. I want my employees to feel empowered to do the same, and this level of dedication has helped us find success with prestigious mid-market and fortune clients.
What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?
At the beginning, I tried to do everything myself. This company was my baby, and I wanted to ensure everything was perfect. As we grew, I realized I had to let go and empower the people I worked with.
I provided my staff with individual goals and challenged them to step up. I look for the expertise and strengths in each of my employees and set clear objectives that we needed to achieve. I made a lot of mistakes along the way, but I continue to try new things to challenge my staff, help them grow and push them out of there comfort zone. My leadership is very hands-on, and we aim for a “no ego” environment. Either we succeed, or we fail, but we do it together as a team. This leadership style has helped me connect with my team, and it allows them to achieve personal, long-term goals while nailing company objectives.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?
The one person that stands out for me is my father. He has always been my biggest cheerleader and is a constant role model in my life. He really is the one who pushed me to start my own business. He has an extensive background in buying and selling companies, as well as operational excellence and efficiency, so I leverage his expertise all the time. Additionally, I have always worked very hard to seek out and build relationships with people who inspire me. While getting started with Instant Alliance, I was fearless about contacting people I did not know and networking with them over coffee or breakfast. I learned from them, gained insight on the industry and have continued to follow up through the years. One of my goals for this year is to hire a board of advisors. I have been talking about this for a while, and I am finally going to execute on this goal!
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I grew up with severe learning disabilities. This proved challenging for me through college and is something I actively manage to this day. As a teenager, I was determined to succeed despite my high school counselor telling me I shouldn’t plan on attending college. When I was admitted to the University of Arizona’s SALT program for students with learning challenges, I continued to advocate for myself and finished my freshman year with a 4.0 GPA. This experience as a whole taught me that, with hard work and dedication, I could achieve anything I set my mind to regardless of obstacles. I bring this principle forward in my everyday life, as I am more sensitive to looking at each person’s unique characteristics when placing them in the correct role. I believe that finding the right fit is key to a person’s career success, and everyone offers something different. It’s just a matter of finding their niche and the place where they will feel empowered to challenge themselves and add value. With this message in mind, I remain really involved in the Chicago community. I mentored at a women’s co-op through Chicago Innovation last year, assisting women with setting and achieving their career goals. I also hold leadership positions with the Economic Club of Chicago, the Young Presidents Organization and The Chicago Network. Through all of my work in the community, my hope is to set an example that many others — especially women — can follow.
Can you share the top five ways that increased diversity can help a company’s bottom line.
- One of the key drivers in an organization is diversity of thought. Having employees with varying backgrounds, views and perspectives is what leads to innovation and idea development.
- When a company becomes complacent, they fall behind. In this digital era, things are changing SO rapidly and having a diverse workplace forces us to challenge ourselves and constantly improve, allowing us to maintain a competitive edge.
- Diversity promotes thought leadership and creating a workplace that fosters out-of-the-box ideas at all levels.
- Empowering employees and letting them pursue their strengths will create an atmosphere they want to stick with. Employees want to see an organization invest in their personal and professional growth and development.
- Creating a culture of inclusion helps employees realize their importance, and thus motivates them to do good work. I learned from my own negative career experience that every employee plays a role in the success of a firm, and they deserve to feel good about their contributions.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”?
“The true measure of your success is how many times you can bounce back from failure.”
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this 🙂
The one person I would do anything to meet or have a meal with is Oprah Winfrey. She came from nothing and is a true inspiration to women everywhere.