Profile: The Heddeka Group

Hazel Piacentini

The Heddeka Group offers personal and professional growth workshops, we sat down with owner Hazel Piacentini in her peaceful, out-of-the-way location in Bolton to talk about the importance of training, her business journey and what she wants to offer to the community.

Tell us what you do at The Heddeka Group.

I run business training workshops, consultation and coaching services, along with other personal development workshops and gatherings.

I worked a lot of years in the corporate world focused on education and training. In the last 10 to 15 years I focused on leadership development.

I wanted to bring what I had done corporately to small and medium-sized business. Things like: the role of a leader, dealing with change, how to deal with conflict, how to get your team to be high performing… those types of things.

Small businesses don’t necessarily have the resources to hire larger companies for that type of training.

From what I’ve experienced entrepreneurs have a lot of skills and ideas and have not necessarily been given leadership or employee development knowledge. To grow a business it’s important to learn to be a good leader and how to talk to your customers and develop your staff.

And, when you get consultants, they speak consultant-ese, just like government people and many “experts.” I don’t do that; language should be kept simple because people want to hear language that they can relate to and understand.  I love to use the KISS principle….Keep it Short and Simple!

Why did you start your own business?

I worked for Bell Canada for 20 years, then moved on to Deloitte for 3 years, then IBM for 10 years. My time ended with Deloitte and IBM due to downsizing. Then I worked with AON Insurance as their National Learning and Development VP and then they downsized and the type of work we were doing was moved to the U.S.

I focused on training and development in the HR field.  Areas such as team building, leadership and employee development.

So, it was 2013 and I was deciding what to do next. I had worked with a lot of smaller business when I was with Bell and IBM and it led me down this path. I had some clients come in, it was going okay, then I was approached to take on a contract working with a chronic pain company as a Learning Consultant.  When their HR VP, left they asked me to take on the role of VP, HR and Marketing, and then, the company ended up being sold and that was the end of my contract.

That led me back to Heddeka and to develop this business.

How did you get into HR in the first place?

It evolved really. Right out of school I started working for Bell Canada, early on I was being tapped on the shoulder to do presentations, and I liked it – so I went back to college for adult education.

Then I got interested in dealing with change, cultural change, and how people deal with that.

Often when a corporation is making a technological change or process change they don’t think about how that affects their people.

I did a lot of research, especially when I was with Deloitte – they helped me understand the human side of change.

It was really my passion… how to develop teams and leaders to address and help people dealing with the changes that help a company grow.

So, you’ve made an entire career of helping people.

Yes, and I want to do that with entrepreneurs, small business and young people too – getting involved with the schools. We so often focus on the technical side but don’t provide any training on the interpersonal side.

That’s not taught in school. In school we are trained to achieve as individuals. Getting along with others and working as a team is left to the playground.

We need to equip our younger people, and older workforce too, with just how to get along, how to communicate, how to give feedback, and how to deal with change.

What about you, how did you end up in Bolton?

I was born in Northern Ireland and moved to Canada when I was seven. We left to get away from, as my parents called it, “the troubles” in Ireland. It was either Canada or Australia and my dad had two brothers here, so they chose Canada.

We moved around a bit when we first got here, and settled in North York, where I grew up.  When I got married, we moved to Bolton in the 70s.  We left after my first child, and I came back when I got divorced because I had two sisters that live in Bolton, that was in 1992 and I have been here ever since.

What’s the best business advice you can give?

Planning. You HAVE to have a plan. 

I worked with someone once that told me her accountant told her she didn’t need a business plan… You always need a plan!

What’s the purpose of the business, what is your “why,” then how are you getting the word out, how are you going to finance it – you can’t expect to have a clientele immediately so how are you going to deal with that.

Then, you need to work the plan, if the plan needs changing, don’t be afraid to change it, and you don’t need to change the goal!

Some people write a plan then put it on the shelf and leave it.  You, as a business owner, have to go back and review and review, at least twice a year.  

When I have done focus groups with business owners, the biggest piece of advice was to get someone, like a coach, to help them stick with the plan.  If you don’t continually monitor how you are doing, then you won’t be able to make adjustments to help you grow your business.

The other piece of advice is customer service.

If you are not serving the customer, and I’m not saying that they are right 100% of the time,  if you are not meeting the needs of your  customer you won’t survive.

If you don’t give the customer a positive experience, then you may not get the most important marketing interaction — word of mouth — which is the best way to get more customers.

So, are you working your plan? – is the plan focused on the business side, the community side or both?

It’s both, and I’m working it.

I underestimated how long it would take to get people here to take some of the interpersonal and business classes.

Sometimes, entrepreneurs and business owners don’t think they need interpersonal training because they are so focused on building the business. 

Sometimes, learning how to communicate more effectively helps you to build relationships so that you are building your network and help to grow your business.   And, if you have employees, then learning how to give feedback is one aspect that helps you to build your business from within.

Most of the time I think people get it, they just need a little help, and everyone should have a coach. Whether it is a business coach or a life coach, we all could use someone that helps us to see different perspectives and helps us to take action.

Something else people need to think about: if your core business isn’t paying you yet what are you going to do.

We’ve been doing other types of workshops here with a holistic health focus and we rent the space for yoga and other gatherings. I have an interest in providing other types of events and it also helps pay the bills.

On the community side, once a month there’s a women’s group that are coming together just to talk and support each other. Which I’d like to do for people that are caregivers as well, this is a group that is not given a lot of support. 

It has been said to me, that when you are a caregiver, then going to the grocery store is like a mini vacation.  I want to provide a space that can give some respite to a group that puts others needs in front of their own.

I’d also like to get a mentoring group going, a group that could provide mentoring to our youth.

There’s a not for profit organization in Halton Region called Halton Industry Education Council.  They run a yearly event called Women as Coaches that I want to bring to Caledon.

It brings high school girls together with women in various professions, white collar and trades, to mentor and create understanding around what they do, the opportunities and how to get there. It would be great here!

Happy with your decision to start your own business? No regrets?

No regrets. I do believe the universe sends you signs. Transitioning from job to job let me know it was time to do something on my own. My location is out of the way, it is peaceful, and the word is getting out about what we provide here.

I’ve been in this space for a year. I had some pictures come up on my Facebook feed the other day that reminded me how far I’ve come in a year with this space.  I was amazed where the space was and where it is now!

Everyone should celebrate accomplishments and getting over the hurdles.  That is another piece of advice for business owners, recognize where you are now and celebrate your successes and how far you have come. 

The Heddeka Group is located at 25 Mill Street, Bolton (at the back of the building)