Venturing Forth into HR

Grand Chute woman finds plenty of room for talents

By Pete Bach. Originally printed in the Appleton Post Crescent, May 21, 2009

GRAND CHUTE -- If there was one lesson Mary Felton learned over and over as a human resources professional, it's how much one needs to know to stay ahead of challenges in her chosen field.

Now, after working for successful and award- winning firms some 20 years, she has ventured forth on her own to help companies lacking their own HR departments to navigate the myriad of regulations affecting employees and employers.

Q: What decided the timing of your March 17 startup this year?

A: It was the day I spoke to the Fox Valley SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management). So it was a good opportunity for me to launch at that point.

Q: How it is going so far with your own firm?

A: I sure am enjoying the balance it provides for me.

Q: So you're in an assistive mode, so to speak?

A: I started this to help other businesses succeed. Help them save money. Take them to the next level and expand their time to work on their business. Let the person with the executive-level experience handle your human resources.

Q: What are the most common pitfalls firms without HR departments face?

A: All the employment laws. Navigating the hundreds of regulations affecting people in the workplace.

Q: I would think that's dangerous with everything from health risks, sexual discrimination cases, racial discrimination risks.

A: It is dangerous. Age, race, sex, national origin, disabilities status. All of those. The Americans with Disabilities Act. You have to be careful what questions you ask. People ask, "Well, why can't I ask them how they're going to get to work? They live in De Pere? Well, I don't know. That's not a question you can ask." Things you think are not a big deal are a big deal.

Q: And you mention more?

A: There's the wage and hour laws. OSHA. Workers comp. HIPPA.

Q: So these are places where you can bring your talents to bear on issues?

A: I feel like I can offer a lot. I can offer compliance on issues. Audits. Projects. And handbooks. Training and health care. Creating a health care culture. And recruiting and selection.

Making the Switch

Who: Mary Felton, Grand Chute
Age: 45
Current occupation: Owner of her own business, HR Business Partners, since March
Former occupation: Vice president of human resources for Tidi Products, Neenah; preceded by lengthy stint in HR for Miller Electric Mfg. Co., Appleton
Phone: 920-419-2014

Pete Bach: 920-993-1000, ext. 430, or