“You must answer the question: What really turns me on in life? And then start doing it. When we build our career on what we love, we always succeed.” - Karolina Latus’ motto not only makes her a good boss, adored by her tam but also a woman who is aware of the challenges and opportunities provided by running one’s own business, all while not forgetting about moments only for herself - with a book or during a spontaneous trip.
Has work in the field of Human Resources always been your passion?
Karolina Latus, owner of the agency CRAFTS: HR wasn’t always my cup of tea because since I can remember, some strange force pushed me rather towards marketing. At the beginning, when I was still in college, I even worked in advertising agencies and marketing departments in an international corporation, but HR always accompanied me due to the major I chose. I had heard from loved ones many times that I was too distracted by working in one and studying issues related to the other line of business, and logic told me that I should finally decide on something. And so I did... Combine two seemingly disparate sections and create a completely new employment agency specializing in creative recruitment and actions in the scope of building the employer’s brand, Employer Branding. It turned out to be a bull's eye decision.
What priorities is the agency CRAFTS guided by?
Our number one priority is to make CRAFTS the best employment agency in Poland! Every day when working on this I try to make the agency work according to the same principles that I go by in life. My company in some way mirrors me. Our priority is above all broadly understood consulting and education of both clients and candidates in the area of opportunities that cooperating with an employment agency gives them. Few people know that the activities of the agency is not only offering jobs, but also an opportunity to meet with a certified coach or assessor. Thanks to such meetings a lot can be contributed to the further development of our career paths, you can get to know the most common techniques used by specialists in recruitment or examine one’s strengths and weaknesses. Our work is a bit like a jigsaw puzzle, with the difference that our task is not putting the puzzles together, but connecting candidates and employers in a perfectly functioning whole.
What were the beginnings of running your own business?
Should I answer truthfully or diplomatically? (laughs)
Truthfully of course...
The truth is that - at least in the beginning - things were not very great. Studies prepare you well for life in a corporation but not for things that a person encounters when starting a company. In fact, when I look back and remember the beginning of my adventure with my company, on the one hand, I see how many mistakes I made and how much time and energy it cost me and, on the other hand, I’m glad that they happened because I had the chance to draw many conclusions that are very useful to me today. Sometimes I think it's even a good thing that I didn’t always know everything because thanks to my ignorance I did a few things that would be classified as "impossible". In a way, this took away my fear that something may go wrong and caused me to simply set a goal and then carry it out. The foundation of CRAFTS, however, has always been people who create a unique soul of the company and it is enough walk through the door of our office in Kielce to feel it for yourself.
Over the years, your company has grown a lot, because you not only offer recruitment of employees but also deal with large HR projects. What else does CRAFTS offer?
Along with the development of the company, its offer also expanded. At the beginning, we offered only outsourcing of recruitment and temporary employment services. In time, of course, following the expectations of clients, we added trainings, human resources and payroll outsourcing, Assessment and Development Center, the service of an hourly recruiter, the mysterious candidate, and my favourite area - Employer Branding and creative recruitment. All this allows us to offer a potential client anything they need in the field of HR.
What positions do your clients most often apply for?
In a sense, our clients are not only companies but also candidates who, by visiting our office, most often ask about work abroad, but also about the possibility of finding a permanent, casual or temporary job in the country. It is actually difficult to specify what kind of inquiries are most popular, because it changes along with the dynamics of the labour market. Of unchanging interest, however, are positions of welders, assemblers of steel structures, carers of the elderly, employees of airports but also for office work or positions related to customer service.
What causes the most difficulties in running this type of agency?
I always say that there are no difficulties, there are only challenges that I have to face. I try not to value anything in this way, I don’t divide problems into hard or easy, possible to solve, or obligations as more and less enjoyable or interesting. In my opinion, with the right attitude, everything can be dealt with. I think the biggest challenge in running an employment agency is time - in some sectors - finding a qualified specialist and keeping him in the country.
Unemployment in Poland is relatively declining. Still, it is common to hear of problems in finding a job, especially from young people after graduating university. How do you, based on your many years of experience, assess the situation?
Like with everything, this stick has two ends. Yes, many young people have difficulty in finding a job right after leaving college, but many employers cannot find suitable candidates (also among them). Let's set one thing - a diploma from a university is not enough to find a well-paid job, one from the “dream-job” category. Young people, even during their studies assume that a diploma will guarantee them a job, make “work find them”, but these assumptions are soon verified by the labour market. That’s why it is important to do everything while studying to be among those who consider themselves well prepared for the start of their career. Don’t wait for what will be but tend to your experience and content of your resume early on. Studying is a kind of buffet, and what we take from it for ourselves only depends on us.
Have you come across the saying that "business has a gender"? What are the differences between management by a man and a woman?
Usually I avoid answers to such questions, because in my hierarchy, first I am human, then a woman. On the one hand, our culture shapes us in a particular way, resulting in expected patterns of behaviour. Another issue, however, is how we manage our own roles in life, and how we create our own "self" in the context of management. I know of cases in which women held a firm hand over an entire company in the casting of metals industry, but also men who approached everyone in the company very relationally in an attempt not to offend anyone. It doesn’t matter what our management styles are in terms of gender, it's important to be consistent and effective. People recognize this and if we are consistent with ourselves then they can appreciate it.
What business principles are you guided by, as a leader, in running a company?
I don’t know if these are strictly business rules, but rather my own that I’ve developed for several years in running a company, partly discovered by trial and error, and partly inspired by authorities. First of all, I try not to pretend to be someone I’m not. I try to be consistent, because if I do not feel good in some role it shows at once. My team sees me sitting cross-legged on the floor much more often than “under suit and tie”, because the typical corporate outfit is just not my cup of tea.
The so-called “following the dots” is also important for me. This means that I don’t do anything by force, I don't make great plans and visions, I don’t rigidly stick to a path once chosen. I know that business requires flexibility, which is why I go after opportunities, follow market needs, or simply the individual needs of my clients. I just don’t shut my mind in the rigid framework of HR.
Another principle that is very important to me is the ability to admit to mistakes, confess to the fact that I don't know something and I need help. In our daily work and running a business, humility is very important, so everyone at CRAFTS knows that the ability to ask for help is appreciated just as much as finding a solution to some problem or completing a entrusted task on one’s own.
The last principle that comes to mind now is the matter of feedback. Over these few years I have learned to humbly accept criticism. Every one of my colleagues knows they can simply reprimand me if I’m doing something wrong or if something can be done better or easier. Of course, there will be a discussion, but I always appreciate it. We praise successes and celebrate even small victories on a daily basis.
I’m listening to your answers and very often - in the context of your company's team - you use the word colleagues. Where do you get your partnership approach to employees from?
I get it from the belief that leadership is not power and that a person is always a person but only sometimes a president. The success of any organization, and particularly one in which business revolves around personnel departments of companies, depends on the people. As a rule, I don’t use and do not like the term “employee”, I try to make people feel that success in something we do depends on them as much as it does on me.
CRAFTS cooperates only with proven companies, which is a big asset to your company. What does this cooperation consist in?
First of all, I’m guided by the opinion: don’t force anything and not at all costs. It is very important to me is that the job offers proposed by us come from reliable employers with a good reputation, and that the working conditions they offer were at least satisfactory. I intend to demystify the perception of an employment agency in Poland.
You conduct recruitments in many cities. Are there plans to expand activities?
Our clients believe that one of the main advantages of cooperating with CRAFTS is our mobility, which is a result of - as I mentioned earlier - not closing anything in a rigid framework imposed by a determined plan. In the near future we will probably be expanding our business to countries such as: Belgium, France and the Netherlands, but this is related to the needs and expectations of our clients whom we always strive to satisfy.
It is noticeable that from year to year female entrepreneurship is growing?
What is surprising is still how few data there is on companies managed by women or which are owned by women. Especially that Polish women are considered some of the most entrepreneurial in Europe. In 2012, in the Świętokrzyskie Voivodeship alone, the founder and head of every third company was a woman. This shows that we, women have great potential and I am glad that its resources are constantly being discovered. The good news is that the number of initiatives related to promoting entrepreneurial attitudes among women is steadily increasing. I, myself, am happy to participate in many of them, and some of them I’ve had the opportunity to support and co-create.
Exactly. More and more women are choosing to start their own business. Why do you think that is?
One's own business gives a certain autonomy, flexible working hours but also the possibility to fulfil oneself in various fields, strive to realize one’s own dreams and passions.
What would you advise all those women who dream of creating their own business?
Honestly, I try to distance myself from counselling because giving someone a ready recipe, especially for running a business, rarely does any good for them. Another issue is the fact that a recipe and golden mean for being an entrepreneur simply does not exist, because every one of us - even from the same line of work - encounters different challenges and tasks in running a company. That's why I try to ask questions and thus discover with the interlocutor what priorities they have in life, whether they are able to sacrifice something, what their goal is and how and where they see themselves in 5, 10 years, what gives them happiness and satisfaction? The decision to open a business is only seemingly simple, but if it has always been someone's dream, then it’s worth following it and make it come true as soon as possible, because although dreams don’t have a use-by date, our lives do.
What are you interested in outside of work?
In my spare time I read a huge amount of books. I have this feeling that I experience much more than one life. It's my only addiction. Aside from that, I like to be on the move, so I exercise many individual sports that let me cleanse my mind after a day's work, relax and get some distance. I love traveling, especially those spontaneous trips. Spontaneous to the extent that once, while at the airport in Frankfurt and holding a ticket to Warsaw, I changed the direction of travel to Venice. It was quite a crazy move, especially since I had gotten lost in a city I didn’t know then, but thanks to this I got to meet new people who I still keep in touch with regularly.
Now a very professional question. Your strengths and weaknesses.
At length is the fox brought to the furrier... During trainings I often urge to give examples of weaknesses that can be also treated as an asset in certain situations. I generally give the example of punctuality, which is only superficially a strength, especially that if one has the tendency to arrive at arranged appointments 30 minutes early for fear of being late. Of course a person who comes 30 minutes early is punctual, but on the other hand they are wasting their time.
But back to the question.... If I were to list my strengths, then they definitely include pragmatism, responsibility, honesty, consistency, and showing respect to others. According to my team (so on the topic of feedback), I’m meticulous (it should be done properly or not at all), I have good intuition, passion, enthusiasm, common sense, I can analyse and predict. It seems that my colleagues know me better than I know myself (laughs). My weakness is still probably naivety and belief in how the world works, the above-mentioned extreme punctuality and a binging appetite for chocolate (laughs).
What gives you the feeling that you are boss to yourself?
I already mentioned the fact that one’s own company means independence, unlimited earnings, endless possibilities and satisfaction that cannot be achieved by working in ordinary time. Running your own business is being your own dream boss, who understands you perfectly, always gives you time off, never complains. But the most important is that I do what I like, I surround myself with trusted people, I implement my own plans in life. There are plenty of pros that say being your own boss is very convenient, but let’s not forget that it is sometimes very demanding.
CRAFTS agency is also a whole team that you employ. How do you recruit your employees?
Some of the people forming my team were recruited intuitively at some other occasion. It happens that when I’m talking to someone I feel that they would be perfect to fill in some role in my company and I simply offer cooperation. If not now, then in the future. The second method I use is assessment centre or its components. It is important that every new person for our main office is recruited by the whole team, because we all want this person to fit in perfectly. We value competencies such as communication, teamwork but also interests related to future obligations. Our new team member can develop substantive knowledge during our trainings, courses, conferences and everyday performance of their duties. Every new person, regardless of the department they are to work in ultimately, goes through a training in the recruitment department, in order to get to know the heart of our company.
I learned that you're an extraordinary boss and the employees really value you. However, not everyone is so lucky. What should the “perfect” boss be like?
I’ve had a few bosses, so drawing on my experience with superiors I wanted to be a friendly boss, empathetic, loyal towards my colleagues, but also consistent and principled. Being the perfect boss - as you have termed it - is made up of many components: from the timely payment of remuneration, through turning a blind eye to being late on a Monday morning, to supporting employees in difficult moments for them, or making sure they can grow in the given company.
I was intrigued by the publication "A world without employer branding" of which you're a co-author. Is the employee's sense of belonging to a company the guarantee of job satisfaction?
Among the many publications in the field, this one about the company's functioning without Employer Branding is especially close to me since it came about on the basis of activities from the field which we use in practice. The conclusions contained in the article are our inner observations, which actually confirm that the sense of belonging of an employee to the company has a huge impact on the perception of job satisfaction. Every one of us would like to feel they are an important part of something bigger, that their work has a purpose, that they are appreciated by their superior and the rest of the team. It is widely known that it is the company's employees who are its best flagship, so it's worth focusing part of your activities around employer branding, if not for one’s own satisfaction of having a satisfied team, then at least because competition does not sleep.
What gives you the greatest satisfaction in the professional sphere?
I can definitely mention two things here: the opportunity for continuous development and the ability to offer others jobs.
Knowing that I'm living my own life, I’m fulfilling my dreams, I travel, get to know new people, learn from them, but also the fact that I have the opportunity to help others. But my greatest joy is my parents’ smile and knowing that their effort was not wasted.
Is there a recipe for finding the dream job?
First of all, you need to cut off from the expectations of the surroundings. What should and should not be done. What the trends are. You must answer the question: What really turns me on in life? And then start doing it. When we build our career on what we love, we always succeed.
A happy person is one who...
Every day does something for the first time in life.