Rick-and-Sandy-Super-heros-300x211Dynamic duo saves manager from dire problems

When managers in New Mexico have a problem to solve – a big problem – they call Resources for Excellence.

Like Wonder Woman and Batman in suits, President Sandy Cody and Chief Operating Officer Rick Draker save the day for companies, organizations and government agencies grappling with challenges ranging from system inefficiencies to human resource issues to dealing with rapid growth.

The 11-year-old consulting firm has developed a reputation for helping manager run their businesses or organizations more effectively and more profitably. Drawing on Cody’s human resources and management background and Draker’s extensive experience in urban planning, project management and government re-organization, the two married principals – with the help of two employees and a small cadre of associates – can do everything from computer system updates to land-use planning.

“Personally, I don’t know of any who do the combination of things that we’re doing.” Cody says.

For one client, Resources for Excellence helped clarify and streamline policies for employee travel and reimbursement, putting in place a process that allowed employees to receive reimbursements in a timely way and also ensure that employers knew what they were paying for. For another, a national nonprofit association working on American Indian education issues, Resources for Excellence helped smooth some internal management problems.

The firm’s current projects include helping a health care organizations human resources department improve its leadership and aiding the city of Deming with urban planning. Most of its work involves business and organization in New Mexico, although it also has tackled projects in Canada, Draker’s native country.

Alissa Rutherford, human resources manager for the New Mexico Heart Institute, credits Cody with helping the institute attract and keep employees, and with improving morale.

“We have a much better managed staff now, and we’ve decreased costs by improving our retention and recruitment,” she says.

Cody continues to work with the organization.

“They’re able to help managers because they’ve been there, they’ve done it,” says Jean Gibson, owner of Resource Interlink, who has partnered with Resources for Excellence on several financial projects. “They’ve got broad experience in management, and they are able to translate their experience into helping companies succeed.”

Among consulting firms, Resources for Excellence stands out for its roll-up-your-sleeves approach to improving performance, Gibson adds.

“A lot of consultants you hire, they come in with big talk and hand you a report and they’re out of there,” she says. “That’s not Rick and Sandy. They get in there and really find out what changes the company needs to make.”

The firm opened in 1997, when Cody, who had worked in the health care industry for two decades, struck out on her own to train assisted-living facilities to comply with state regulations. Her first two projects were providing human resource consulting to Heritage Home Healthcare and helping an entrepreneur establish a new assisted living facility. The same year, Cody met Draker, who was working with governments and businesses as an urban planning and project management consultant for clients in his native Canada as well as the United States.

The couple, who married a year after starting the firm, says it got off to a “bumpy” start. They spent the first three or four years making contacts and building a portfolio of projects.

“It’s tough making inroads starting a new business,” Draker says. “Sometimes work came in drabs and dribbles. It’s a matter of keeping your name out there, keeping your face out there.”

Today, after more than a decade of hard work (each regularly puts in a 60-hour work week), the couple find themselves in high demand. The firm, which has two employees, brought in $200,000 in revenues last year – a 27 percent increase over 2006.

The couple’s work has also brought them recognition. In 2005, Cody received the New Mexico Human Resources Excellence awards from the New Mexico Society of Human Resources Management. That same year, Cody was selected to be an examiner for Quality New Mexico.

Cody and Draker attribute their success to their diverse and extensive business experience, their ability to tap into the needs of managers, and their successful track record. The firm also brings in outside consultants with expertise in communications, accounting, law and insurance.

“We have both worked with nonprofits, public-private, large and small businesses, and that gives us perspectives on the challenges that all types of businesses go through,” Cody says.

“I think it’s also our honesty and integrity that we bring to the job,” adds Draker. “We tell businesses what they need to hear, not what they want to hear. I think they’ve appreciated that kind of honesty.”

The couple’s excellent interpersonal skills are crucial to their line of work, Gibson says.

“Owners don’t like to be told they’re not running their businesses successfully,” she says. “So you have to be very understanding and careful about helping them see where they can benefit from improvement, and guiding them through change. That takes good people skills.”

Those people skills also help in spreading the word about the firm. Resources for Excellence does very little advertising, relying instead on word of mouth. Draker says. Both Cody and Draker serve on several boards, including the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce, the Northern New Mexico Chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners, and the New Mexico Alzheimer’s Association.

“My Colleagues had said that in New Mexico, networking, who you know, was more important than advertising. So I made a point to belong to organizations that not only have the potential to bring us business, but also suggest how our communities are changing,” Cody says.

These days, much of Cody’s time is spent honing the firm’s newest venture, the Institute’s for Applied Business Practices. The Institute’s half-day seminars are designed to provide new managers with the skills they need to be effective supervisors.

“I realized that my clients’ requests for employee/manager training were outstripping our ability to provide such services to small groups in a cost-effective manner,” Cody says. The April and May seminars will cover such subjects as decreasing risk in hiring and firing, increasing visibility, public relations basics and employment law.

Cody and Draker say they’re not ready to retire any time soon, although eventually they would like to cut back on their workload a bit.

“We have a couple of good employees and, as time goes on, maybe they can take on a little more,” Draker says.