“We embrace the notion that you can work a regular job or you can help transform our community. Even when COVID took 75% of our team out of the office in January, that didn’t stop us from our mission,” says Rylan Kean, Head of Business Development and HR Administration at Millan Enterprises. In fact, during the pandemic this real estate investment and property management business doubled down on its support for its team and for its community in Clarksville, Tennessee.
Headed by Leo Millan, a second generation immigrant, Millan Enterprises has grown from 3 to nearly 30 since 2018 all on the premise of shared commitments to WIGs — Wildly Important Goals. And those WIGs are building so much more than a business or a bottom line. In 2020 alone, the company built: a marketing group, a private equity investment fund, an REO service division, a community co-working “incubator” space, two local business scholarships, renovated three downtown businesses, and presented a local non-profit that supports people impacted by homelessness and lack of resources, with a surprise new office.
Between a growing organization and the complexity of a diversified business portfolio, Millan Enterprises needed a more streamlined operational backbone.
“Why was there a paper check on my desk?’ We had nothing in terms of automation; we were still hand writing checks. I saw the need for an HR platform,” said Rylan.
“We demoed a few solutions looking for something that made sense long term to grow into. The best fit for us was Zenefits. It delivered on our initial goal for a smoother payroll process. But our ‘ah-ha’ was how easy it is to use for our staff, from one-stop onboarding to our new performance management process.”
Building Back from a 2008 Flatline
“Today, Clarksville is one of the best places in the country: there is a new Amazon warehouse, a military base, and it’s convenient to Nashville,” adds Rylan. “We flatlined in 2008 with the recession. That would typically be soul-crushing. But Leo used that learning to create a new model: building a network of side businesses that could supplement his core business and his community.”
The focus: people over profit. And patience for connecting the right people. In fact, Leo is known to nurture relationships with good people that would be good for the WIGs that drive him, versus “just” being good for a certain role.
“He waits for the right people,” says Rylan who met Leo when he was bidding on a property a few years before he joined the company. “Leo advised me: ‘that’s not a good investment, I’ve owned that property before.’ And from there, he became a mentor to me.”
You can work a regular job or help transform a community. Zenefits helps us deliver on our ‘wildly important goals’ with a team experience that is vastly more professional—from onboarding to offboarding.
Director of Business Development and HR
Powering Wildly Important Goals
Commitment to change is a core value at Millan Enterprises. In fact every week each member of the team takes a commitment toward advancing one of the company’s Wildly Important Goals such as: be a better community member, build a better presence in the community, increase net promoter scores among our staff and our tenants.
“For example in 2020, as part of our commitment to be better community members, we bought and distributed a lot of gift cards from local small businesses to help treat people, individually, as we’d want to be treated.”
In fact the company actively engages the whole team on what’s next. “We did internal surveys, and a retreat in February, to look at where, collectively we want to go, what we want to be known for and how we empower our team’s health and wellness in order to deliver on our goals.
To maintain that culture of caring, Millan is in the process of supplementing its team’s annual development plans with quarterly coaching sessions. Devotees of internal mobility/promotion, this will be a more tangible way to build on shared goals, personal passions and behaviors to help employees explore new opportunities.
“We are always looking to make connections between what people enjoy doing and new opportunities—even if that is outside our company, says Rylan. Our staff is diverse in terms of roles and skills from office manager to construction team, but we don’t want that to limit people.
“We’re not afraid to blow up what might be considered a ‘standard practice.’ We leverage what works for us from what might not work at all in the corporate world.
“Last year showed us we can pull through tough stuff. The impact of the pandemic has been a wild ride and is still mentally exhausting. But through it all our business has been a safe and creative outlet, and we’ve all stepped up, grown our revenue, our team, improved our business metrics and helped build our community. This work is a joy.”
Most of the company’s staff is in Clarksville, but in the past year it has added team members in St. Louis and supported another valued team member who moved to Texas. So, ensuring smooth onboarding, compliance, time tracking and payroll for the growing, distributed team has been seamless with Zenefits help.
“With Zenefits we have been able to substantially reduce payroll time and effort. We’re planning to loop in PTO tracking, 360 performance reviews and 1:1 coaching through the platform next. And benefits management is also in our plans. Overall, the image and experience we deliver to our employees is vastly more professional, from onboarding to offboarding, thanks to Zenefits.”
“Our whole team believes in our mission and we work hard to build the culture—and community—that we want.”
Another great example of that culture: the whole Millan team converged, Sharpies in hand, to write individual well wishes on the beams of the new coworking space the company is building for the community’s next entrepreneurs. Paying it forward at every level.
At Zenefits, we are proud to work with small businesses like Millan Enterprises that power their people and so much more. In fact, the company was recognized with Zenefits’ 2021 People Operations “POPS Star” Community Award for the powerful impact they achieved in their Tennessee hometown in 2020.