I got hired at Smoothie King when I was in college because the
company needed help in accounting, which was my major at
that time. But I soon decided I didn’t want to pursue a career in
accounting, so I switched to studying liberal arts, with a concentration in history and political science. Since I was already
working at Smoothie King, I transitioned into a marketing role
at the company, and my position evolved from there. I became
the go-to person in the office—not because of the knowledge I
had, but because I would always make time for people. Employees would come to me with a question or a problem, and I’d say,
“I don’t know, but let’s figure it out together.”
Her HR Philosophy
After the company was sold in 2012, I was asked to oversee the
role of HR. Before then, the function was shared by finance and
administration. I had held positions in training, project management, administration and marketing. Once HR became my
focus, I had to figure out which aspects of the company and its
workforce were working well and which ones needed improvement. Knowing that our employees are our No. 1 brand ambassadors, I implemented an onboarding process so they could learn
about the company and meet the people they were going to work
with as soon as they were hired. I think it’s important for HR to
be a resource that all of our workers can turn to for guidance and
support. That’s why I maintain an open-door policy. I’m pretty
Her Best Boss
Miss Loretta, the owner of the day care center I worked at when
I was 11. She had high expectations. Even though I only worked
there after school, she still made me feel like my job mattered. I
try to make the employees I work with feel the same way.
What She Looks for in New Hires
Drive and determination, first and foremost. What kind of
energy does a person have? Are they engaged in the conversation, or are they just going through the motions? Are they
someone who owns their decisions and accepts accountability?
When I interview people for jobs with Smoothie King, I want to
hear what they learned from a previous work challenge [and]
whether it turned out well or not. What lessons will they apply
in the future? Are they wise enough to admit that they don’t
What Entry-Level HR Professionals Should
It’s important to stop and listen. If someone comes to you with
a question, don’t just tell them you don’t know. … Help them
to figure out the answer. They will learn, and you’ll learn, too.
That’s how you become well-rounded, and before you know it,
you’ll become an expert. You have to be curious, but more than
that, you must have a genuine affinity for helping people. You
won’t become the person others turn to for advice or information
unless you show that you care.
I admit that I tend to put others’ development ahead of my own.
One of the most impactful things I did early in my career was to
take the Dale Carnegie training course Leadership for Managers.
It really helped me gain confidence and renewed energy around
my work. Before I attended the class, I was always serving as an
assistant to other people—even though I was fully capable of
making decisions and leading others. After that course, I became
much more of my own person. My bosses asked me what happened; they said, “It’s like you took a shot of [vitamin] B12 or
something!” Apparently, I had a new aura of capability.
Where She Sees HR Heading
Everyone in business has been tasked with doing more with less,
and HR is no exception. But how we accomplish that as a profession will be critical to our success. Treating people well should
never be the area in which HR invests less—even when we have to
deliver tough messages. Often, it’s not what you say that matters
most, it’s how you say it. Retaining our humanity is key.
Leaders She Looks Up To
Smoothie King’s founders, Steve and Cindy Kuhnau, who started
the franchise; our brand owner, Wan Kim; and our franchisees.
All of these people took big risks to follow their dream of owning
their own business. They put everything on the line.
Steve was president and CEO when I started. He still serves
the company as a consultant and brand ambassador. Recently,
he came in to talk to a training class. He and his wife believed
in what they were building—stores that offer guests nutritious,
custom-made fruit drinks to fuel health and wellness—and they
made it happen. Our current brand owner, Wan Kim, built the
brand in Korea with the ultimate goal of expanding it internationally. He moved his family to the U.S. to pursue his vision of
making Smoothie King part of every health and fitness plan.
Our franchisees put their savings and their 401(k)s on the line to
buy into our brand. It gives me a tremendous sense of pride and
a passion to help them be successful. People often ask me why I
don’t open my own store. That’s not my vision, but I’m here to
help them succeed.
Her Favorite Business Book
How to Win Friends and Influence People (Simon and Schus-ter, 1936) by Dale Carnegie. It’s the book that helped me come
out of my shell.
Her Favorite Smoothie
The Lean1 Vanilla with orange juice. It’s a good meal replacement. I love it for breakfast or lunch.
Favorite Thing to Do in New Orleans
Visit Frenchmen Street in the Faubourg Marigny—food, music,
drinks … and there is even a nighttime art market.
Desda Moss is managing editor of HR Magazine.