How RIGHTSLEEVE eased its HR anxiety with Collage A paperless vision come true
Customer Stories

Catherine Graham may be an MBA graduate, leader of two successful Toronto startups, and one of Canada’s top female entrepreneurs. But when it comes to managing the people-side of business, she gets just as overwhelmed as the rest of us.

To follow-up our first interview about the importance of employee benefits, we spoke with Catherine about the reality of managing HR for two companies, and how Collage is helping advance her vision of a paperless business.

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RIGHTSLEEVE and commonsku are sister companies with an unusual origin story.

Founded in the late 1990s, RIGHTSLEEVE is a promotional product agency that creates beautifully branded merchandise for leading companies in North America (think Shopify, McDonald’s, Ubisoft and Freshbooks, to name just a few.)

After over a decade of steady growth, RIGHTSLEEVE’s team found itself struggling to keep up with client demand due to a common culprit: paperwork.

RIGHTSLEEVE was struggling to keep up with client demand due to a common culprit: paperwork.

“Creating promotional products is a remarkably complex industry, with a lot of moving parts and logistics,” explains Catherine.

Rather than sink under the weight of file folders and spreadsheets, RIGHTSLEEVE developed its own in-house software to manage their sales and distribution from end-to-end. That software is now a standalone product and company: commonsku.

Coming to terms with HR anxiety

What Catherine wasn’t prepared for was how much more paperwork she would face as the people manager of two companies totalling 36 employees.

“I was finding the management of information to be very challenging,” she told us.

“I was finding the management of information to be very challenging.”

“Every time someone was onboarded, there were five different Google Docs that had to be updated. Then our computer and phone directory. Then capturing all of the right data, logging their banking info…and each of those processes is different for each company, so everything was being duplicated to meet the unique needs of each one!”

Hence, that creeping sense of anxiety she began to feel around HR paperwork and not knowing if she was doing right by her employees.

“Having employee information scattered across different places creates such a level of stress and anxiety,” she told us. “You’re always wondering ‘did I forget to update that?’ or ‘where is that document stored?’”

“Having employee information scattered across different places creates such a level of stress and anxiety.”

A paperless vision

Coincidentally, we also launched Collage with the vision of a paperless world. Specifically, HR papers, like employee records, banking information, time off requests, and benefits forms—i.e., some of the most tedious yet important documents in your office.

“The experience is very analogous…the way that we were running RIGHTSLEEVE before commonsku was with Quickbooks, Word, Excel, paper, paper, paper,” says Catherine. “And I was running HR much the same way.”

“We’d had a previous HR platform, but it was really a solution for employee records and time off management as opposed to an entire employee experience,” she continued.

“The notion of being able to wrap your arms around your employee from the moment you put an offer out smoothed out the entire process.”

“Once you know that everything is in one place, it’s easy to find, and you can access it from anywhere…it completely changed the way we ran our business.”

“Once you know that everything is in one place, it’s easy to find, and you can access it from anywhere…it completely changed the way we ran our business.”

Focus on culture, not paperwork

Arguably, the most challenging (and exciting) part of being a small business owner is that you’re always learning, no matter how much experience or education you’ve got under your belt.

For Catherine, the learning curve has included developing new strategies, navigating the complex world of employee benefits, and now, maintaining not one, but two distinct company cultures.

“Everybody assumes that [because we’re in the same building and have the same leaders], both cultures are the same, but it’s not the case at all,” she explains.

“When I was in business school, so much emphasis was placed on finance, marketing, strategy etc,” Catherine explained in another interview. “Nobody tells you the hardest thing about running a business is the people-side of the equation. There is no class on how to hire the right team, keep them engaged and build an amazing culture.”

“Nobody tells you the hardest thing about running a business is the people-side of the equation.”

Luckily, a close-knit team, great perks and benefits, and a renewed focus on hassle-free HR are helping to keep both RIGHTSLEEVE and commonsku’s cultures strong.

“Talent is the lifeblood of a tech company. Getting the all of the pieces that go into creating a great employee experience is utterly critical to our success and our continued growth. […] Having software that can streamline all of that that has really helped bring everything into one place.”

“Having software that can streamline all of that that has really helped bring everything into one place.”

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Thanks once again to Catherine, RIGHTSLEEVE and commonsku for their story! To read more from Catherine, check out her thoughts on offering great group benefits.